Looking Up

“While we look not to the things we can see, but to the things that we cannot see. For the things we can see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18 Do you ever get overwhelmed with the craziness of the world we live in? It seems to get crazier every day. And if we are not looking to the right source, this crazy messed up world could get downright depressing! Every day the newscasts show us scenes of warfare and terrorism somewhere on the globe. Even in our own country now, we see unprecedented scenes of violence, racial tension and disregard for authority on a daily basis. Our nation that once shined as a beacon of hope to the entire world is now often the source of international news with shameful scenes of rioting and looting, not to mention, in my opinion, what is the most embarrassing political race for the White House in the history of our nation. Truth be known, we are no different than the rest of the world, and the world now sees that too. We’re a mess! And we need help. We are in need of a strong leader who can turn everything around, a Leader who can put our messes in the past, illumine us today and inspire us with vision and hope for bright tomorrows! That need is not limited to our times or to our hemisphere. It is an ongoing global need. As much as I love this nation and still believe her to be the greatest nation on earth, our nation is not the answer to all the world’s problems! For that matter, with the election looming just in front of us, it would be nice to think that one of these candidates when elected will “lead our nation back to greatness” again. But if we are depending on the one who sits in the White House to make us “great again”, we have put our hope in the wrong place. A new President is not the answer to the issues of our day. Sometimes our biggest problem is that we actually think we can help ourselves so we try to put temporal band-aids on an eternal problem! The root of the real problem our world faces is mans’ own sinfulness, individually. It has affected every life, on every continent, in every society throughout history. It is THE eternal problem we each face. Eternal problems require eternal answers and there is only One in all of history who is eternally qualified to fix a people who cannot fix themselves and the good news is He does it one life at a time! Why is that such good news? Because even though you, as one person, cannot change the world, Jesus can change YOUR world in an instant. And not only will He change you in this world, He will change the way you look at this world. He will change the way you look at tragedies and disasters, at hunger and war, at love and loss. He will change the way you live your life and even the way you view death. Even the greatest of nations will eventually fade away but He never will and the life He brings, one heart at a time, is NOT a temporal band-aid. He is the Eternal Answer for anyone who will call on His name. That includes you. If you are discouraged, disgusted, depressed, overwhelmed, without hope, filled with anxiety, aimless, tired or longing for peace, stop staring at the world and look to the right source! Jesus said “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) “Cast your cares on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Jesus told us that this life is temporary, even referring to this body as a tent. One day these tents will be folded and those who have answered the call of Christ will follow our Eternal Leader home! But until then, set your eyes on Him, live your life to the fullest and join the Psalmist in boldly declaring “…I will offer IN THIS TENT sacrifices with shouts of joy!”(Psalm 27:6). “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith!” (1 John 5:4) So set your eyes on Christ, give Him your life, your undivided attention and watch Him change your perspective on your world and your life right before your eyes! Live!

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Moving Targets-How “good people” fall. 

Throughout my life I can remember hearing the news of the “fall” of many people who stood in places of spiritual leadership, even some who were highly respected and well thought of. Pastors, teachers, and leaders who, in my eyes, had never been anything but exemplary. I remember my shock, and thinking “how could they do that”? Were they phonies? Were they just not real? I felt like I had been deceived, and betrayed, and at times felt very disillusioned. I was also concerned for others who might become disillusioned. These sorry guys were dragging the name of “my Jesus” through the mud after claiming to be a Christ-follower. How could they stoop so low? Then one day in the early 2000’s a guest evangelist was preaching in the church we were pastoring and I heard him say that every time God begins to use a man, every time someone began to take a stand for Christ and eyes begin to fall on him in larger numbers, that man becomes a bigger target for the enemy. As he spoke I had a visual of a literal target being placed on his head and on his heart. It’s not a physical target, but a spiritual one. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers,…….. against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Then one day while preaching through the book of Romans I stumbled across this text; “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true, and every man a liar….” (Romans 3:3-4) Simply put, sometimes we put too much stock in people. Sometimes we put people on a pedestal as if they were untouchable, and we forget that people in leadership are still just people, susceptible to the same weaknesses and temptations that have plagued the human race since the fall. On top of that, our enemy knows that if he can take down a person of influence, he can affect a great number of people, so that is exactly who he sets his sights on. Men and women of God who are taking an effective stand for Christ, shakers and movers in the Kingdom of God, become high priority moving targets. What am I trying to say? Are some people more prone to stronger spiritual attacks than others? It is absolutely possible! The intensity of temptations that come upon a man or woman of God who is in leadership, or who is becoming increasingly more effective in reaching more and more people, may far exceed what any of us would expect. These temptations, I believe, often come through the most unexpected sources and in the midst of great “successes” when one’s guard is often down, and confidence is running high. So, before you pass judgement on a leader who has had a moral failure, or even one who merely stands accused of such, remember how Christ has instructed us to respond through the Apostle Paul. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourselves, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1) God would not have given us instruction in His Word on how to respond to these situations if He did not know that they would be a regular occurrence in a fallen world. This in no way excuses sinful actions, or lessens the necessity of consequences that result from sinful choices. But I would hope it would serve as a reminder to PRAY FOR YOUR LEADERS, especially those in spiritual leadership. And if you are one of those whom God has chosen to place in such a position, keep your guard up. Never assume that you are beyond moral failure. Know that the enemy is a trickster, and a liar. The greatest of failures often start with the smallest compromise. Thank God for the promise that we are NO LONGER SLAVES TO SIN! So don’t buy the lie that says you’ve got to have it, or that it’s okay. I am not suggesting that anyone who is in Christ should ever live in fear of moral failure, because the Spirit of Christ in you is much more victorious than that! I am merely reminded of what we learn in 1Cor 10:12, “let anyone who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” . Now, more than ever before, I am keenly aware of the fact that anyone on this planet, even the most respected pastor you may know, is capable of anything, and so are you. When those “falls” happen, help, don’t hinder. Do not attack, but pray for the fallen to be restored, for the kingdom to be advanced, for the necessity the Gospel to be magnified, and for God to receive glory.  

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Day 3! SURPRISE! SURPRISE!

Third thought, The element of SURPRISE! HA! They were surprised by something BRAND NEW. Look at these words as Mary hears for the first time in her life, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you….” WHAT!?! That doesn’t happen to just anybody, only the prophets of God and then it’s only temporarily right!? But never just an ordinary person, never just little old me! This must be what Mary thought.   Then when Mary went to visit Elizabeth, as Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary “the baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed….”. Again when John the Baptist is born, and the tongue of his father Zechariah was loosed so that he could speak again, Zechariah was “filled with the Holy Spirit and he prophesied”! Gabriel had also told Zechariah that John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit “ from his mother’s womb. All this was so brand new to them and can you imagine the surprise when the Spirit hit them and suddenly He took over! What a precious gift and a WONDERFUL picture of this thing God was about do. He had already told his people through the prophet Joel “in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh….”. Do not take for granted the unspeakable gift we have of the promise of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God Almighty. He is the Spirit of Holiness, the Spirit of the Resurrection, and the Spirit of Life! You can do nothing without Him and when he comes, He comes to take over! And when He takes over, He changes everything. John the Baptist declared “the One who comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”! He is still doing just that today. No longer do we have to struggle to act like believers, putting on the external form of some religious faith, because now HE HAS COME to write His law on our hearts, changing from the inside out those who surrender to Him. YOU CAN’T DO IT! No one ever could. So Jesus came to do it for us, and now HIS SPIRIT works in us to do it every day! Do not quench the Spirit. Have no faith in yourself BUT BELIVE WITH EVERYTHING YOU ARE in HIS ability to BE HIMSELF in you. Submit to him, over and over, every day! And hang on for the ride, because every day is CHRISTmas when He’s in charge!

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Nuggets from the Narratives day 2

As you reflect on the Christmas narratives this year, notice how personal God is in revealing Himself. Over and over again he sends an “angel (messenger) of the Lord” on a personal call to bring a message one on one. Gabriel confronts Zechariah in the temple (Luke 1:11), An angel visits Joseph in a dream (Matt 1:20). It is Gabriel again who appears to Mary (Luke 1:26), Three other times an angel delivers messages to Joseph through dreams mainly (Matthew 2:13,19,22), and also brings a warning to the wise men the same way. Finallly we see a host of angels appearing to the shepherds in Luke 2. This was not second hand information for Joseph and Mary, Zechariah, and the shepherds. They heard God’s message, from God, God’s way. God is still His own P.R. man, because public relations is His specialty. He does His own advertising and outreach, because in truth, He is a self-revealing God. The only way to have a relationship with God……is to have a relationship with God. That requires some personal interaction which, according to what God has shown us in the Bible, is initiated by God. And thank God it is! Those messages from God through the angels included comfort, information, instruction, or warning. What this means for us is that God knows what you need to know, and he knows when and how you need to come to know it. If someone can talk you into something, then someone else can talk you out of it, but if God does in you what He did in me, no one on the planet will ever be able to talk you out of it. It’s got to be personal, and God is just as able to communicate as He has ever been. Jesus said “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” (John 6:44). That sounds pretty personal. Don’t panic about the people in your life that are running from God. Pray that the One who alone can totally light up the sky, will surprise them personally and make it real. It can happen no other way. And don’t be tempted to be an amateur providence, or to help God out. Simply listen to the One who gave the gift to you and do whatever He says, even if it is nothing. Trust Him, believe Him, wait for Him, and be ready to go to Bethlehem when he says go!

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Nuggets from the Narratives

When I read through Luke’s account of the Christmas Narratives several very encouraging truths jump out at me. I’m going to try to share one each day this week, as we celebrate the advent of Jesus!

First, God does the most extraordinary things in the lives of ordinary people who are being faithful to do what He has given them to do. Consider Zechariah. He was just being faithful to his duties in the temple when he was surprised by a visit from Gabriel (Luke 1:11). The shepherds were just out in the field doing the ordinary things they do everyday, watching sheep. They were just being faithful to do what God had given them to do when suddenly God chose them to be the ones He surprised with a word that changed everything. (Luke 2:8-20) We could say the same about Joseph (Matthew 1) and Mary (Luke 1), and many others in this story and throughout history. They weren’t trying to become some spiritual superheroes, or trying to make history, but by His choice God suddenly surprised each of them by pulling them into HIStory, and each of them in a moment when all they were doing was the same old sometimes mundane task of daily, faithfully doing what God had given them to do.

What has God given you to do? Are you a Pastor? Convenience store worker? A Mother? A serviceman? Are you a servant? An encourager? A card writer? An intercessor? Are you a student? A mechanic, a homemaker, or a peace officer? If you are uncertain what God has given you to do, ask him, look, and listen. But whatever He has given you to do, do it! Do it with excellence, do it when its boring, do it when its challenging, and even if it’s not, just do it and do it faithfully. Just like Moses tending his father-in-law’s flocks on the backside of the wilderness, (He probably wasn’t even praying for a burning bush that day!) be faithful to do what God has given you to do and you will be amazed how God uses that to put you at the right place at the right time. God does extraordinary things in the lives of ordinary people when they are simply faithful to do what He has already given them to do. We get surprised, He gets the glory, and the world gets changed one life at a time.

Go be faithful,………and smile while you’re t it.  Everyday is Christmas when you live like this!

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Hunger

This is my Wife’s thought for the day…………..now you know who really writes all the good sermons!

lovematters7

HUNGER

“There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread” Mother Teresa

The very word to many Americans often brings the image of children’s sad faces with bloated bellies, guilt or avoidance at the atrocity, or a distaste of advertisers constantly begging for money. Do we as Americans really understand TRUE hunger?  I know that in America there are people, often next door, who go days without food, shelter, and the daily needs that many of us take for granted. Yet still, even though we have poor and homeless, we are considered to be one of the  wealthiest of nations. However,is food the real issue?

The world is starving, but not merely for food. We are starving for something greater, and that is the presence of what we were created for. We were born lacking the sustenance needed to satisfy our very soul, the sustaining Presence and Righteousness of a Holy Creator.

While listening to a popular radio…

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Making Hard Decisions

Do you have a hard decision to make?   There are so many voices in our lives pulling us in so many directions, and sometimes when it comes down to making a difficult decision it is hard to know which one to listen to. Proverbs 11:14 and 24:6 both speak of the wisdom and the benefits of having an abundance of counselors. But what do you do if you are still unclear on what to do, or if those you are seeking advice from do not agree? It is in those times that you might have to really buckle down and wait on the Lord. Ultimately He is the only one who can give you a sustained peace about what His will is. 1 Cor 7:17 says “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him, this is my rule in all the churches.” We are first and foremost accountable to God for what we do with opportunities and convictions. You always have to listen to what you know He is saying even above all the noise to the contrary. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)

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