Archive for December, 2011

28
Dec
11

Promises…Promises…Promises!

For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says.  For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.  It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us,  and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. – 2 Corinthians 1:19-22 (NLT)

Commitment.  It is not, by definition,  just a legal procedure by which someone is involuntarily placed into a mental institution.  The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary’s second definition for the word commitment says:

 a : an agreement or pledge to do something in the future;especially : an engagement to assume a financial obligation at a future date b : something pledged c : the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled <a commitment to a cause>

We live in a society and culture where words like “integrity” and “character” and “promise” and “pledge” are made to seem old-fashioned and outmoded.  I remember hearing the story of a friend of mine who made and agreement to buy a parcel of land from an old fellow, on which he wanted to build a home for his family.  When they came to agreement on the price, my friend asked the old man if he’d like to have a legal document drawn up to seal the deal.  The old man’s response was, “My word’s my bond.”  And, it was!

Today, it seems that all too often there is not much bonding to our word.  Pledges are made, only until it no longer suits us, for whatever reason, to keep them.  We legislate laws in this country that are binding unless some loophole can be found to circumvent them.  We pay big bucks to lawyers everyday to enable us to get out of contracts and agreements.  We establish our families in a church and so long as the church does to suit us we stay, but if another one offers something more enticing or entertaining, or convenient to our own self-established needs and desires, we depart for greener pastures.  And the most glaring of all evidences of our waning attitude toward promise keeping and commitment is the staggering statistic of more than a 50% failure rate in marriages.  Perhaps even worse than the divorce rate, is the number of  young couples who never enter into a marriage, preferring to live together and thus avoid any legal or moral commitment at all.  I could go on ad infinitum as to the examples of modern society’s diminishing willingness to let their “yes” be yes and their “no” be no (James 5:12), but I think you get the idea.

In God’s economy, there is no “maybe.”  There is either yes or no.  God’s attitude towards His promises do not imply or express that the promise is good until something better comes along, or until He changes His mind.  The promises of God…that to which He commits Himself to…are harder than diamonds and as lasting as all eternity.  God’s commitment to keep His promises have been proven in the sending of His Son to put on flesh and dwell among us and to suffer the Cross and shed His blood for us to be free from the results of sin and death.  The resurrection of Christ is a symbol of the promise of God for eternal life to all who will place their trust in Jesus as their one and only Savior and Lord.  The indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit within every believer is a guarantee…a pledge that seals His promises, which will be eternally kept.  When we may ask God if He will be true to His promises, He simply points to Jesus and allows Him to be His “YES.”

What promises have we made that we have not kept?  What promises might we lightly make today, that in our minds will be kept unless it becomes a matter of inconvenience or discomfort?  Will we promise to serve without having an actual servant’s heart?  Should we vow to stay, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” only to find that we are unwilling to stay through the “worst,”, the “poorest,” or the “unhealthiest” of circumstances?  Is there true faith apart from faithfulness?  Will we choose to be “promise makers” without also being “promise keepers?”  Integrity… Character… Commitment… Dedication… Resolve… Trust… Loyalty… Truth.

Lord, let these not be simply words that describe what we ought to do, but define us as what only You can make us to be!

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22
Dec
11

Christmas Spirit = Christ-like Attitude

 

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

 Though he was God,
      he did not think of equality with God
      as something to cling to.
 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
      he took the humble position of a slave
      and was born as a human being.
   When he appeared in human form,
  he humbled himself in obedience to God
      and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
      and gave him the name above all other names,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.  – Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT)

This passage of Scripture is not usually thought of in terms of Christmas, but to me it perfectly epitomizes, not only the reason for celebrating the season, but also describes what our attitude should be at Christmas and everyday of the year.  When we speak of “getting into the Christmas spirit,” it seems to me that as Christians, the attitude should be defined by the attitude of our Savior.  The Apostle Paul perfectly communicates this to us by telling us, not only how, but why Jesus came into the world (John 1:10), and plainly says that this should be the standard and model for the way we live.

As followers of Christ we believe that the entrance of God as Emmanuel (God with us) into the world as a tiny infant, born to a virgin, as Messiah and Savior, is the greatest gift in all of history and indeed in all of eternity.  It follows that the greatest gift we can give to others, is the same…JESUS!  As for Christmas spirit?  The second greatest gift we can give to others this season can’t be purchased from Wal-Mart or the mall.  It is the gift of ourselves, and when we give that gift it should be expressed as being the image of our Lord.

 

14
Dec
11

Old Dog

Old Dog

‘In the last days,’ God says,
      ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
   Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
      Your young men will see visions,
      and your old men will dream dreams.'” – Acts 2:17 (NLT)

I’m 57 years old. Hold on to that for a minute…. I’m not young or even “middle aged” anymore. If I were middle aged that would mean I was about to live to 114! I guess that makes me what people call an “old dog” and you know what they say about old dogs…you can’t teach ’em new tricks. Thank God, I am finding out lately that old adage isn’t necessarily true.

In my 57 years, 41 of which have been as a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have no way of counting how many times I have read in and through the Bible. It seemingly doesn’t matter, because each time I pick it up and read, the Holy Spirit seems to reveal something to me, just as though I had never seen it before and even as though it had only recently been inserted there, just for me to read. Similarly, this old dog is being taught some new tricks that are useful to me and thus to others in ministry.

I serve on a church staff at Lifepoint Church that is manned by folks, some of whom are more than half my age.  In fact I am older than some of their parents!  I watch them go about their jobs, their ministries, their lives and with their families, and honestly sometimes I think to myself, “Why couldn’t I have been more like them when I was their age?”  To restate the previous sentence more clearly and more purpose, I deeply admire them.  I admire their integrity and  character and I want to learn from them.  I see their hearts for Jesus and His Church and others, and I find I want to be more like them.  Each day I am around them, I am able to see and to catch the vision and passionate desire God has given them to “Love God, Love Others and Serve the World,” and I learn from them.  Their love and devotion to the Lord and to their callings is contagious and it affects me profoundly and it makes me desire to be more like them, because each day I see them following hard after and becoming more like Jesus.  I am grateful that God is using these young pups to teach this old dog new tricks and re-teach him some old lessons that he needs to relearn.

Most of all, by teaching me these lessons even as I grow older, the Lord assures me that He is not yet done with me.  I am not too old… I am not too weak… I am not unusable as long as I continue to be teachable and only He can enable me to do and be all of those things.  Maybe… just maybe this “old dog’ still has a few tricks left and if God will allow it, still use him to teach His way to some “new dogs” along the way toward Home.

03
Dec
11

The Way Home

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20

Many of us are compelled and moved by the story of the “Prodigal Son” in Luke 15.  If you’re not familiar with it I’ll simply ask and allow you to go and read for yourselves.  But, it is the story of a young man who became dissatisfied with living in his father’s home and doing things his father’s way.  He thought his own way was better and would probably be a lot more fun.  So, he asked his father for his share of his inheritance (which normally could only be received after the father’s death) and he went out to find his own way in the world.  The young dude lived it up and had a high ol’ time for a while, until the cash dried up and all his so-called friends took off.  The end result finds him homeless, and grubbing in the mire, competing with pigs for just a scrap of food.  It finally occurs to the son that maybe it wasn’t so bad living in his father’s house after all.  I mean even the field hands and servants on his dad’s ranch fared better than where he currently found himself.  So, he devises a plan and rehearses a speech and sets out (with his tail between his legs) to ask his father’s permission to return home, even if it means he’ll have to live there as one of the hired hands.

Now, that is when we come to the verse in the story (V.20) that is most intriguing to me.  It says that while the young man is “still a long way off” his father sees him.  How!?  I mean, it is very likely that quite a time has passed and it’s also very likely that the son’s appearance was probably very different from when he left so even from a not so great distance he could have been hard to recognize.  Could it be that day after day since his boy’s departure, the father may have stood out by the road waiting and staring off into the distance, watching and hoping and praying for his son’s return?  And then, as he sees him in the distance, the father does an even more dramatic thing.  He takes off sprinting up the road to meet him and when does he throws his arms around him and embraces him joyfully.  Somehow, we might imagine he could have had the attitude of, “He made his own bed, let him lie in it.”  And when he saw him coming back the thought might have occurred to him, “Yep.  I knew it!  Just as I thought.  Here he comes.  Let’s see what kind of excuses he’s got to offer now.”  Some of us in the father’s position may have stood there drumming our fingers on the fence post, tapping our foot, with a raised eye-brow and waited for the boy to come walking with his head bowed, so we could say, “I told you so.”  And frankly, I feel sure this was what the young prodigal expected, because that was what he deserved.  Instead, the father expressed in his actions and in his attitude, everything other than what was expected.  What he did from the this point in the story on was precisely why Jesus felt the need to tell it.  What the father showed was the model of the mercy, the grace and the love of our heavenly Father… the Perfect Father!

The prodigal son is a picture of each and every one of us.  We think our way is better than The Way.  We believe our truth is better than The Truth.  We struggle to discover a way of life that is better, easier and more fulfilling than The Life.  And our good, Father allows us to explore the boundaries of our will and our plans, patiently waiting until each of us discovers that our own hearts have lied to us.  Each of us in our own way find ourselves eventually scrapping with the hogs for a morsel of happiness and self-fulfillment.  Oh!  That all us could inevitably come to a place, like the prodigal son, when we finally “come to our senses,” (v. 17) but sadly many of us never do.  Too many of us though, filled with pride, and thinking that God is waiting to rub our faces in it and say, “I told you so,” stubbornly refuse to get up and turn our faces toward home.

Our Father is waiting by the fence post at the end of the road down which we originally departed.  He is not waiting to give you a butt whoopin’.  He is not waiting to say, “I told you so,” or to say, “Sorry, you had your chance and you blew it!”   He is patiently waiting…watching intently…looking expectantly, with a pail of clean water and a towel to wash away the grime of this world from our feet and faces.  He has the ring and the robes of sonship waiting for us to come home.  If only we would pick our heads up from our shame long enough to look down the road toward where Jesus is, we’d see Him running to meet us with His arms out-stretched.  Do we deserve such a reception?  Could we possibly earn our way back into our Father’s kingdom?  No!  But, that is what makes His grace so everlastingly amazing.  That is what makes His love so infinitely immeasurable.

The road home is not so long as we may think.  Perhaps it is only so far as it might take to turn around and take that first step.  Maybe you think you’re so lost you don’t know the way home.  Or maybe your waiting for a special invitation.  Well here it is…

 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” -Jesus (John 14:6-7)