I’m Not Special

The righteousness of your decrees is everlasting; grant me understanding, that I may live. Psalm 119: 144  Once I started a new job and for days I asked God for mercy that I may make it through; that my days would be light and without issue. Initially the mercy I asked for was granted. Then one day someone complained about my work and I asked God, “What happened to the mercy?” After a while, things neither got better or worse. Even though the work was hard and ultimately it wasn’t what I wanted to do, I had settled in to the job along with everyone else.  I realized in this situation I wasn’t special. We were all deserving of mercy. The job was what it was; some days light and some days heavy. It changed from day to day. God had no more taken the mercy from me than he did from anyone else. I stopped asking for mercy and began to thank God for giving me strength and the strength of my co-workers.

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Shoulda. Coulda, Woulda,

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Luke 9:51-62  If we spend too much time looking back at what you should have done, could have done, would have done – you are not ready to move forward. In the emotional sense we’re not fit. One day I realized that every moment I spend thinking about what I could have or should have done is a lost opportunity. I can’t change what’s already happened. Today is always a new opportunity. The strength of our faith is enhanced by our willingness to put our hand to the plow and move forward as we prepare for the seeds of God’s blessings everyday.

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.  Luke 9:51-62

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing; from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness. For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens. Psalm 89

Breathe On Me

…he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  John 20:19-31  The Holy Spirit within has feelings. Sometimes our spirit mourns. Other times our spirit rejoices. The Good News – we have a great high priest who has felt the gamut of those emotions, Jesus Christ. We are reconciled with Christ by each an every one of those emotions but now rather than use them as a hindrance, we must use them as our strength to do the work to which God has called us. As we proclaim his death, proclaim his resurrection, and proclaim his coming again;  in the hearing, our very breath becomes an extension of his life.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Psalm 150:6

 

All Things For Good

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:28-39

What ever it is, strive to use it as a learning experience to strengthen your resolve to love God more and receive the mornings with joy!

3 Places

I had a very troubling experience yesterday which for a short period left me in a difficult place. I wasn’t there very long because by the grace of God I was able to recognize and accept the reality of the situation. Stepping back from the event and not running from it, I was able to find a place of peace and when I awoke this morning I found myself in a place of strength with the ability to say “no” to a familiar situation, which in the past, would have left me struggling. Today however, there was no struggle. I didn’t have to think about it. I had no feeling of guilt and no worry about the impression I may have left.

We often find ourselves in very uncomfortable places. The good news is that God is in each and every one of them. Where are you today? Seek God while he wills to be found (Isaiah 55:6). He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Let all who seek God rejoice and be glad and be confident in your salvation!

Psalm 118: 1, 5-6  O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His mercy endures forever…In my constraint I called to the Lord; the Lord answered and set me free. The Lord is at my side; I will not fear; what can flesh do to me?

Staying Focused

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 2:11-22). Prayer is always a good way to sustain the spirit and this one from Ephesians I believe is particularly good to embrace. The writer commends the readers and encourages them to focus on their relationship with God in order that the gift of the spirit of God within will continually guide and strengthen them.

Often the issue we have in this journey is whether or not we will allow God’s love to guide and strengthen our resolve to do the work God has called us to do. Our focus on the spirit within will help us stay a course that is pleasing to God. This is not to say that the course will be perfect by human standards. Rather it is a course that involves praise and thanksgiving for our blessings (including hardships & lessons learned), confession and repentance for our mis-steps (including disobedience to God’s word) and our testimony to the glory of Christ to which God in his grace heeds. Thus, when we lose focus (as we sometimes do) in this journey, God’s discipline and mercy will help us regain our focus on his spirit within and move us forward.

Here Am I

Lent: Day 29 – Christians, God has given us ears to hear his voice, eyes to see his face (in the image of each other) and a mouth to proclaim his Word, which reveals his faithfulness and his steadfast love for us. In doing so we give praise glory and honor to his name. Christ continues to be lifted up and is revealed so that those who have not heard, seen nor speak his truth will come to believe. This is all that is required of us, our bodies. When we think of the benefit of peace, strength and courage that we are enduring as we journey in this life lived through Christ we can and will be assured that it is the one sacrifice worth making. Don’t be fooled by what the world values (burnt offerings). To give up material and physical pleasures means nothing, if we are not also willing to live for Christ in our bodies to the glory of God’s name. Praise be to God!

Luke 1:26-38 ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’

Psalm 40:5-11

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.

Burnt-offering and sin-offering
you have not required.

I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

Hebrews 10:4-10 ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me’…

Sufficient Grace

Lent: Day 24 – If Jesus had waited for perfect disciples, he wouldn’t have any. If Jesus had waited for circumstances to be perfect 4000 people would have gone hungry. Do you think Jesus will wait for you? God will move in those who allow themselves to be moved. Even when we aren’t ready, God is always ready. Indeed, our faith in Christ is sufficient! Today and everyday we must trust God and move forward in faith!

Mark 8:1-10 ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven.’ Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people.

Psalm 94   For the Lord will not forsake his people;
  he will not abandon his heritage; 

Finish The Race, Receive The Victory

Lent: Day 21 – Who among us has not felt afraid? Our emotions, particularly fear overwhelms us. While trusting God is always an option it is usually the furthest thing from our irrational thinking. Even though God hears our cries, the reality is that there are storms, famines and turmoil we will just have to endure. But rest assured, take heart, when it feels as though Christ is not with us he is always waiting for us at the other side.

Mark 6:47-56 When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. …they thought it was a ghost and cried out;…. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

When God Seems Silent

Lent: Day 15 – In our country, households needing food can go to government and local food programs. However, lands in other countries, where food has become unavailable, depend on outside programs to reach out to them. Over time and with persistence many of these programs have been very successful. There are times in our own spiritual life when we are simply hungry, when we go for a quick bite of the Holy Spirit with a song or scripture reading and it sustains our strength in this journey and gets us through every day trials and circumstances. Then there are other times when we find ourselves, in fact starving, when the usual nibbles and the regular meals are available but the usual resources we reach out to don’t seem to strengthen us and the resources that usually reach back to us don’t seem to have much affect. God in fact seems rather silent. The first time this happened in my own life I began to understand what it must be like consciously, at least to some effect, what starving children in severe poverty might experience. I am hungry. Why am I not being fed? Why is it that the food I have doesn’t nourish my need? Why is there no food? If we fill our selves with so much of the world around us, we may find our bodies full and yet still be hungry and to some extent spiritually starving. Over time and with persistence we must continue to discipline ourselves to eat of the spiritual food. It is inevitable that in our busy lives today the spiritual famines will come and we’ll unknowingly enter into physical storms. The good news is that we can have peace in knowing that starvation does not have to be our fate. We learn to sacrifice the tangible for the intangible and continue to reach out to God and allow God to reach out to us one morsel at a time and in time our strength is restored. Thanks be to God!

Genesis 43:1-15 Famine

Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, ‘Go again, buy us a little more food.’

Mark 4:35-41 Storms

A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 Sacrifice

Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.