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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Listen

Jesus assigned the early church the mission of making disciples. He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” Jesus’s “Great Commission” can be understood to mean, “as you are going about life, make disciples.” Making disciples is the assignment of every Jesus follower. He intends that EVERY follower would talk about His work in their life when they are with their families, around the fire warming themselves, at the market, cleaning fish or selling their wares. Telling others about Jesus’ work should be part of the everyday flow of life. Imagine someone shares a struggle they are going through and as you listen to their words, heart, and frustrations, an opportunity presents itself for you to share how Jesus brought peace and wisdom to your own struggle. Listening is one of the greatest gifts a person can give to another. Listening does not come naturally to most of us. Listening is not the same thing as not talking. Listening is engaging the ears, heart, and brain. Listening takes work. Listening takes self-denial and a serving heart. Next time you are in a conversation, listen. Listen to the other person’s words, hurts, frustrations, and insecurities. When you listen, you send the message that you care. After you’ve listened, ask questions, and then listen some more. You will be surprised at the opportunities Jesus will create for you to share about how he’s worked in your life! The Apostle Peter told the first century disciples, “if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.” 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT) Pray that Jesus will teach you to be sensitive to the people he brings across your path. Listen to their story. Ask questions. When approappropriate, about Jesus’ impact, help and work in your own journey.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Hope in Chaos

Nearly 60 years ago, Bob Dylan released the song “The Times They are a-Changin” on an album by the same name. Bands and artists such as Burl Ives, Billy Joel and Simon & Garfunkel have covered the song. In 2004, Rolling Stones listed the song as number 59 in the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Dylan wrote the song as describing the turmoil of the early 1960s. 60 years later, we are in a significant time of turmoil. Yesterday September 11, was the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack. The anniversary of the unforgettable events of that day falls amid chaos in every community in America. The chaos our world faces is too vast to describe. The turmoil springs up in political, racial, religious, regional, medical, friends, work, families and finances. The turmoil has turned friends into foes, divided families, churches, businesses, schools, and nearly every community group. As a follower of Jesus, I find peace, assurance, and confidence anchored to Him. In the ancient letter of Hebrews, the author describes Jesus as “the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) God spoke through the Old Testament prophet Malachi saying, “I am the Lord, I do not change.” (Malachi 3:6) If “the times were a-changin” 60 years ago, the speed, nature, and breadth of change today in exponential in comparison. Weekly something new arises to challenge existing structures, forms and sensibilities. The nature and speed of the changes raises the stress level in almost every one of every age. The follower of Jesus need not lose hope, stability, or their footing. God neither “sleeps nor slumbers.” (Psalm 121:4) God doesn’t change. (Malachi 3:6) Jesus is the same today as he was 2,000 years ago will be 2,000 years from now. “The Times They are a-Changin” but Jesus is “a-samin!” You can trust in him!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Doing Life In My Own Strength

I have been reading through the Bible this year from the New Century Version (NCV). King Jehoshaphat appointed Levites, priests, and leaders of Israelite families to be judges. They were to settle problems between people who lived in Jerusalem. They were to serve as arbitrators and judges to settle disputes and conflicts. The king commanded the “judges,” “You must always serve the Lord completely, and you must fear him.” The king also commanded the judges, “Watch what you do, because you are not judging for people but for the Lord. He will be with you when you make a decision. Now let each of you fear the Lord. Watch what you do, because the Lord our God wants people to be fair. He wants all people to be treated the same, and he doesn’t want decisions influenced by money.” The king’s commands to the “judges” challenged me. I was challenged and reminded of the need each of us has for a Savior. I like to think that I “fear the Lord,” and I am “fair,” and “treat all people the same,” and I don’t let decisions about people and relationships to be “influenced by money.” But I know me! I can’t faithfully live out my role as a leader, without a Savior. I am prone to fear people and situations instead of fearing the Lord. I often fail to be “fair” and “treat all people the same,” and I have allowed money to influence decisions about people and relationships. I am prone to failure in each of those categories. My “prone” to failure nature is why I need a Savior. I need Jesus to save me and others from me, just as much today as I did 40 years ago when I first walked with Jesus. I need His forgiveness, power, grace, direction, and correction. It is only when His power and life are flowing in me, I can faithfully lead. I bet you have similar feelings and experiences. When you are leading in your strength, things are rough. When you are leading your family, a team at work, a community group or a local sports team, with Jesus’ strength, wisdom and grace flowing through you, leading is different and results are different. Jesus, teach me/us to lead in your power, life and strength. Remind me regularly – “Don’t do life alone, do it with ME!”

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Control is an Illusion

“This is my Father’s World”, written by Maltbie Babcock in 1901, is a beloved hymn. The hymn declares the sovereignty of the Father over all creation. “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.” “This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas – His hand the wonders wrought.” Too often people cling to the illusion of control. You realize that control is an illusion, don’t you? We don’t control, we can’t control the simplest aspects of life. The beating of a heart, breathing, digestion, healing from wounds, are all involuntary processes. Just try to stop your heartbeat, or breathing, or digestion by choosing to do so … you can’t. Jesus taught the disciples to pray “Our Father, who is in heaven.” He taught them to pray to the Father because this is the Father’s world. He also taught disciples to pray to our Father since “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Matthew 6:8 (NLT) He taught the disciples to give up worrying (I’m not very good at this one!) because “Your heavenly Father already knows your needs” and “Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” and “Your heavenly Father will give good gifts to those who ask Him.” Jesus’ brother James reminded disciples under his care that “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17 (NLT) You have a Father who knows your name, knows the details of your life, knows your fears, knows your needs and cares! You can call upon Him, rely upon Him and rest in Him. Remember, “Control is an illusion!” Embrace the Apostle Peter’s instructions: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

Monday, August 30, 2021

Anxiety and Worry

Very few people travel through life without moments of worry and anxiety. Worry and anxiety are part of the human experience. If you are not a worrier, count yourself fortunate. Someone said to me recently, “If I don’t worry about these things, who’s gonna?” During Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5, 6, and 7) He challenged the disciples and the crowd about worry. “So I tell you not to worry about everyday life …” and “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” and “Why worry about your clothing?” and “Why do you worry about these things?” and “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.” Jesus’ admonitions and questions were for those that followed him physically and they are for us who follow him spiritually. The Apostle Peter knew about worry and he was familiar with Jesus’ teachings. He also knew worry was a struggle for the followers he led. In a letter, he instructed worriers to not just invite God into the circumstances that generate worry in person’s life, but to surrender or “give up” the act of worrying itself. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) King David wrote similar instructions in Psalm 55. “Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you.” Psalm 55:22 (NLT) David’s word burden illustrates the weight of worry. Sometimes we say, “He has the weight of the world on his shoulders.” That statement describes the weight of worry. We are told to “Give your burden,” and “Give all your worries and cares,” to God. How do we do that? You might say something like this in prayer to Jesus: “Jesus, I give you the burden, worries and cares about my son or daughter or parent or job and finances. I give you them and ask that you intervene. On top of the situation, I give you the burden and worry and care. I can’t continue to carry this weight of worry. I surrender my worry to you. You worry about it.” Then every time you pick the burden back up and start worrying, say it again. Say it over and over and over. Pray it over and over and over.

Amazed by Grace

Recently, I read slowly through Galatians, the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia. Towards the end of the letter, Paul uses phrases such “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives” 5:16; “Directed by the Spirit” 5:18; “Living by the Spirit” 5:25; “Follow the Spirit” 5:25; and “Please the Spirit” 6:8. Galatians 5 describes the tension that we live in. We want to please the Spirit, but our sinful nature tempts and pulls at us. Living in the Spirit, following the Spirit, and pleasing the Spirit is life in the tension between sin and grace. Grace frees us from sin and calls us to live in, follow, and please the Spirit. Sin taunts us and pulls at us. Sin “wants to do evil, which is the opposite of what the Spirit wants” and the “two forces are constantly fighting each other” according to Galatians 5:17 Sinclair Ferguson describes the tension this way: “The spiritual life is lived between two polarities: our sin and God’s grace. The discovery of the [sin] brings us to seek the [grace]; the work of the [grace] illuminates the depths of the [sin] and causes us to seek yet more grace.” I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful that when I sin, grace is available. I’m thankful that when grace illuminates the depths of my sin, it causes me to see yet more grace. Grace “teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright godly lives in this present age.” Titus 2:12 NIV The words of an old hymn are playing in my mind right now; “Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all my sin!” Jesus, thank you for grace, I’m still amazed by it!

My Truth, Your Truth and The Truth

Over the last few years, there has been considerable usage, discussion, and controversy around the terms “My Truth” and “Your Truth.” Oprah Winfrey’s use of the phrase “your truth” in her Golden Globe speech in 2017 moved the phrase from the sidelines and onto the playing field. Traditionally, “truth” has been thought of as a group of shared common facts. Society agreement on common facts is important for cohesion and peaceful living. Common facts were the ideas that correspond with reality and are true. Ideas and facts that don’t correspond with reality are not true. The terms and concepts behind “my truth” and “your truth” are most often used in “philosophical and moral” discussions. People can and do debate and judge philosophical issues, moral viewpoints and positions using my truth, your truth labels. Seldom are the terms used in practical life application. My truth/Your truth shifts the idea into a different arena. An idea, thought, perception, belief I hold, is my truth even if it doesn’t correspond with reality. It is my truth when it corresponds with my reality. It is your truth, but not mine, when it corresponds with your reality. When I pay my mortgage, purchase gas, or stop in to grab some donuts, I don’t argue about my truth and your truth. The businesses and I agree on “reality” for the product or service. I’ve never argued “My truth” tells me “Your truth” about the price of gas is too high. I’m only paying “My truth” for the gas! Here’s $X for the gallon of gas. My truth wouldn’t get me very far when the sheriff showed up for stealing. When I served on a jury for a criminal trial, the judge didn’t instruct the members of the jury to interpret the “victim’s truth” verses the “defense’s truth.” The judge instructed the jury to listen to all the evidence and testimony and then determine guilt or innocence based on the facts. Jesus said: “I am the truth.” John 14:6. Jesus, his life, the way he lived life, his teachings and his relationships reveal a way that corresponds to reality. No one has ever lived, died, risen and impacted the world like Jesus. He is TRUTH. S. Lewis famously said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”