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Archive for March, 2012

It is better to walk in the dark with God 

than to walk alone in the light. (1)

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How can you be in the dark with God when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world and whoever follows with me walks in the light.”  (John 8:12)

God’s light dispels the darkness of the world!  The world’s light seems bright when it stands alone, yet it is a nothing more than a dim shadow at dusk when compared to God’s light.

Light and dark are antonymic symbols representative of goodness and evil, hope and despair, God and godlessness.

To walk in darkness means we are living in despair, trepidation, and fear in the presence of  evil.  We have all lived through seasons of darkness frightened and alone longing for God’s companionship.

To cope we often will flea the presence of God under the false impression that living in the dim light of the world’s way and wisdom if the better place to be.

The world’s wisdom is a false-positive.  It looks like the answer.  Others will tout its powers to us as the way of truth and light.  Yet, in time the world’s way only leas us into deeper darkness.

The world’s light is temporal and leads us downward into greater darkness, rather than upwards to Him who is the light of the world.

Children cling to parents when they are afraid.  They instinctively know that is is better to remain with the one who loves you when in difficulty.  The one who loves you will protect you from all evil.

It is only when we remain with God during difficulties that we realize the blessed truth of Psalm 23:4-5

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 

I will fear no evil, for God is with me; 

His rod and His staff, they comfort me. 

He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies; 

He anoints my head with oil; my cup overflows.

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 135). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
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The jewels of a Christian are his afflictions (1)

We tend to believe that the most Christ-like people are those who love others graciously and generously.  A Christian’s love for others, always receives the praise of the world.

However, the most Christ-like people are those who suffer unjustly because of the sins of others.  In the eyes of the world, we call these people fools, if they suffer quietly and do not seek revenge.

Jesus suffered unjustly because of our sins.  He died on the cross, not to get revenge, but to secure the forgiveness of our sins.  This is suffering love.

Most Christians refuse to suffer.  If suffering comes to us unjustly, we seek to throw it off and we whine to God about the injustice of it all.

Jesus suffered quietly because of our sins.

Jesus considered suffering unjustly and quietly for love’s sake to be the best:

Blessed are those who suffer for righteousness sake.  

Blessed are those who suffer when falsely persecuted.

There is no greater love than to lay down your life for others.

The glory of Jesus is revealed not in His resurrection, but in His crucifixion.

God proves Himself, not by flexing His muscles and revealing His death-defying powers, but in His willingness to suffer, to die, as an innocent man.

In his great hymn about Jesus, Paul writes:

Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him. (2)

As you move into Holy Week, remember that the most holy day is not Palm Sunday’s Parade, Passover’s Feast, or Easter’s Resurrection.

The crowning jewel, the most holy moment of Holy Week is on Good Friday when Jesus cries out, “It is finished!”

There is no greater … anything ….  than a crown of thorns.

The crown of thorns is a Christian’s halo.

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  1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Philippians 2:8–9.

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The Bride of Christ isn’t a very good mother!” (1)

This is one of those accusations that gets my attention and causes my hair to stand up on my neck.  The charge is clear, “The Church does not take care of her own!”

It is bad enough when the church does not take care of anyone in need, but to ignore her own is an abomination.

Too frequently the church, Christ’s bride, is guilty of withholding a helping hand.  

A story remains impressed upon my heart.

One day after class when I was teaching in a Men’s Recovery Program at a local mission a student asked if he could talk with me briefly after class.  I had been teaching for 6 weeks wondering if anyone was listening to my lectures about Jesus and being faithful.  

After everyone left, he closed the classroom door and told me about a burden on his heart. 

One of the other men in the program who had overcome his addiction and committed his life to Christ had a problem.  The roof of his house was leaking and winter was coming.  A contractor had agreed to provide free labor if someone else would provide shingles.  They needed $3200 to purchase the shingles.  He wanted to know if the church I served would help.

When I told him I would ask the church board if they would help with the expense, this middle aged gentleman began to cry. 

I quickly clarified that I would ask the board, but that did not mean they would agree to help.  He shook his head acknowledging what I said as tears continued to roll down his cheeks.

He then explained, ”Your willingness to ask has saved my faith in God!”  

He went on to explain that the previous two Sundays, after the men in the recovery program had sung and testified to their faith in Christ at the two largest and wealthiest churches in town, he had approached the Pastors of those churches for help.  Both Pastors told him, “We do not do things like that.  It’s too much money for us!” Without another word they both turned and walked away from him.

Their responses crushed his heart and weakened his young faith.

He was grateful I was willing to ask the church I serve to help.  “This was all I needed to know, that a minister cared enough to ask.  I know it’s a lot of money.  I am not expecting you to provide all we need, anything will help!”

I was thankful when the board of the church I serve said “YES!”  Two weeks later, immediately prior to the first snow, the roof of his friend’s house was replaced.

How would Jesus answer you, if you asked Him this question?

“Lord, when did I see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” (2)

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  1. Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Start Devotionals (Fresno, CA: Willow City Press, 2009).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Matthew 25:44.

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God honors stubborn faith that looks to Him alone.

Faith which honors God is honored by God.

Faith is not intelligent understanding it is deliberate commitment to a Person! (1)

Everyone is a person of faith!  If someone tells you that they are a person of faith they have not told you anything about themselves which you did not already know about them.

The object of someone’s faith is what defines them.

I know people who can wax eloquently about the power of faith.  Faith in and of itself has no power.   It is the object of faith which has the power.

If someone has faith in evolution then he believes in the prevailing power of evolution and stakes every bit and portion of his life on evolution.

If someone has faith in an institution, then he believes in the prevailing power of the institution and stakes his life on the institution.

Christians have faith in Jesus, not in the church, not in the Bible, not in their pastor, and most importantly not in their own faith.

Christians received their name Christians because they believed in Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26), not because they had faith.

Christians were taught to honor Jesus, not faith, because it is Jesus who saves:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (2)

No matter how intense your faith is, it is no stronger than the object of your faith!

Who is the object of your faith?

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 10:9.

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Not only must the inner sanctuary be kept right with God, but the outer courts as well are to be brought into perfect accord with God. (1)

In these words Oswald Chambers states the obvious, your outer life needs to match your inner life.  In many cases it does.

However, we have become so adept at constructing facades and wearing masks that our outer shell glistens while our inner being is decaying.

How many times have we heard individuals use these words to report astonishment that their neighbor was a the mass murderer?

    • He seemed so happy!
    • He was always friendly!
    • He never yelled at his kids!
    • His yard was in immaculate shape!
    • He’d have neighbors over for a cookout 2 or 3 times a summer!

Beauty and fame on the outside, ugliness and shame on the inside.  This is a curse.

I am frequently surprised by the people who are hurting the most.  Their external life shines and encourages others, while they weep and struggle on the inside.

Why do I miss seeing their agony?

I have a friend who is always smiling, always laughing, always thinking of others.  Inside he is weeping and wailing.  I would not have known this, but I kept watching him, I kept listening to him.  I eventually realized that he was uncomfortable smiling and laughing.  The smiles and laughter were meant to cover his pain.

His outer courts are in order, while his inner sanctuary is a mess.

He has yet to tell me what is tormenting him.  It breaks my heart to see him hurting so happily.  What can I do to help him?

Jesus said,

Come to me, 

all who labor and are heavy laden, 

and I will give you rest. 

Take my yoke upon you, 

and learn from me, 

for I am gentle and lowly in heart, 

and you will find rest for your souls. (2)

I will go to my friend with Jesus at my side.  Perhaps he will open the door and let Jesus in while I am there.

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Matthew 11:28–29.

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“God made me this way!”

“Really!  Do you really believe God made you a grumpy, self-centered, impatient clod?”

… the conversation paused.

Now, I would understand if someone who believes in evolution and unintelligent design said this.   I would also pity the person who was so resigned to wallowing in their emotional DNA, that they were willing to be miserable and force everyone else to endure their miserableness.

“God made me this way” is not an excuse a Christian can use neither should it be one a Christian accepts from another believer.

Paul wrote:

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God! (1)

If you ascribe to the theory that “God made you this way” then as a Christian, you must affirm the truth and promise of God’s declaration through Paul in Second Corinthians, “In Christ you are a NEW creation!”

Which way do you want to play the game?

Blaming God for the way you live is a game.  It is a game which you will never win!  It is a game which becomes a burden to those around you. 

I am not sure what I am suppose to say to a woman who uses this excuse, but to a Christian brother, I would say, “Man up!”

As a Christian, the teaching of Paul in Titus 3:3-5, is a glorious promise, which frees us from the “Blame God Game.”

Paul writes:

We were once … foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 

But now … when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us. (2)

Note the contrast at the beginning of the two sentences:

“We once were …”  becomes  “But now …”

The “once upon a time …” becomes a new “now and forevermore …”

The old ways have died and the new have come alive within you.

It’s the beauty of the movement from winter into spring.

It’s your new life in Christ.

The old has past away and BEHOLD the new has come!  

This is from God!

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Corinthians 5:17–18.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Titus 3:3–5.

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A horse trainer once told me, “You have to break a horse before you can make it.”

It sounds harsh, but it’s necessary.

“Jesus wrecks a life before He saves it.” (1)

If everything in your life is falling apart, God may be in the process of remaking you.

The first step in remodeling is to complete the demo, which is short for demolition.  The old as to be removed.

Have you ever tried to remove wallpaper?  The wall does not yield the paper easily.  Neither does your life release the ways of the flesh easily.

God’s demo work is never painless.

So how do we survive God’s remodeling.

I always return to Hebrews 4:14-16.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus knows suffering.  His life fell apart. He was betrayed.  He experienced the hatred of others.  His friends deserted him.  His clothes were ripped off His back.  He cried out to God.

Jesus understands what you experience when your life is torn apart.  This is why He is the one to come to in your time of need.

What will you find when you turn to Jesus during times of difficulty.  Hebrews 4:16 promises that we will find mercy and grace to help us in the time of need!

The mercy, grace, and help is more than simply walking with you through the valley of the shadow of death.  The mercy, grace, and help is the resurrection and the life.

When you are broken God can and God will make you, you will be a new creation.

Paul always talks about running the race to completion.

The broken horse is the one who wins the race.

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(1)  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).

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