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Archive for July, 2012

PWYP!

If you are a regular reader of my blogs, Daily Bread Crumbs or Reclamation316, you that that I frequently write about Sabbath Rest, slowing down, being still, etc.  As a recovering workaholic, I have this sermon down pat.  I can preach all the how-to’s and where-for’s of not resting.

When I write about sabbath rest, a few of you chime in and said, “Preach it pastor!  I love this encouragement.

If I listen for the still small voice of God, I hear Him saying, “Rus, practice what you preach!” (PWYP)

When I began writing my devotionals, I committed myself to posting them daily.  Good writing requires daily discipline and practice.  This is a discipline of reading and writing which soothes my soul.

But even the daily writer needs sabbath rest!

Thus, for the next 16 days, until July 31, I will be PWYP about Sabbath Rest and take a break from writing these daily devotionals.

Come back on August 1.  I will have a word of encouragement for you.

Until then, remember, “God loves you!”


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Faith grows during storms (1)

Why is it that some people’s faith only grows during storms and crisis?

Can’t faith grow in quiet daylight?  Grass does!

Rarely does anyone call me and say:

“Pastor, life is good!  Do you have guidance for scripture I should study or books I can read during these good ol’days, so I can grow in faith?” 

When life is good we are convinced we do not need God.  Since there are no pressing afflictions or infections that need supernatural healing, why bother God.  Isn’t He busy with others?

I learned to sail in calm seas, when the wind was gentle and the water waved gracefully below the hull of my boat.  If I had not learned to sail in calm seas, I would have never been able to sail through storms.

Perhaps this is why we panic and are afraid when the storms of life come our way.  We cannot hear God in the storm, if we have not dwelt with Him during the day.

While we draw on our faith during difficulty, we fail to build up our faith during prosperity.  You only have money to withdraw on a rainy day, if you made deposits before.

David’s guidance “be still and know that I am God” (2) is spoken when life is in an upheaval.  Yet his wisdom should be heeded when we are wandering in green pastures and drinking from still waters.

Lois Cheney asks:

Does anyone ever meander with God, sharing fun, thoughts, and silences?  (3)

Our best friendships are built on lazy days, when we simply spend time with others, chatting, talking, listening, and loving each other, letting time pass in the quiet breeze

Friendships built during days of leisure are the friendships which sustain us during seasons of difficulty.

Your fair-weather-friendship with Jesus, will sustain you during a gale.

+ + +

  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 269). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. Psalm 46:10.
  3. Cheney, Lois A. (2005-03-01). God is No Fool (pp. 185-186). Midpoint Trade Books – A. Kindle Edition.

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Bitterness has a tenacious way 

of taking root deep within the soul (1)

The root of a stalk of corn can grow up 6-7 feet deep if it finds a worm hole to run down deep into the earth.  This is one reason corn grows so fast and can withstand a mild drought.

If a root of bitterness finds a worm hole to run down deep into your heart, your whole life will become entangled in its disease.  

The root of bitterness yields a harvest of weeds and thistles.  

A lush lawn of green grass, watered and fed well, will crowd out weeds and prevent them from taking root.  Yet during droughts and extended heat waves, the green grass fades to brown.  As the grass fades, weeds begin to find their strength and will take firm root and repopulate.  

Days of comfort and prosperity tempt us to ignore seeds of bitterness which might take root in our lives.  We carelessly let anger and bitterness take root, rarely noticing their presence while we luxuriate in health and happiness when life is prosperous.  We grow confidant that these mustard seeds of bitterness are incapable of consuming our lives.

In every life, we have seasons of prosperity and difficulty.  When the season of difficulty comes we begin to see the effects of our lawn care during the season of prosperity.  If we had been careful not to let bitterness take root during spring, then we will not be afflicted with a harvest of weeds and thistles during summer’s heat.

When Jesus teaches us about forgiveness, he is relentless.

If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you. (2)

How many times do I need to forgive them?  Seventy-seven times! (3)

If you do not forgive others, your Father in heaven who has forgiven your debts, will cast you into jail until you pay your debt in full(4)

If your brother sins against you 7 times in a day and turns to you for forgiveness each time, you must forgive him all 7 times. (5)

Jesus taught us to forgive, not only for us to model the grace we received from God, but to protect us from sowing seeds of bitterness in our hearts.

The best way to prevent bitterness from taking root in your life, it to forgive freely, graciously, and generously.

+ + +

  1. Blackaby, Richard (2006-12-01). Experiencing God Day By Day (Kindle Locations 3348-3349). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 
  2. Matthew 6:15
  3. Matthew 18:21
  4. Matthew 18:35
  5. Luke 17:4

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Dare I really let God be to me all that He says He will be? (1)

Most of us want God to be a half-god to us.  

  • We want Him to be present in our lives, but not ever-present, because then He will interfere in our plans.
  • We want Him to be all-powerful, but not when credit is being given for a job well done by us.
  • We want Him to be holy and just, but not when we are enjoying an adventure in darkness and sin.

In 1952 J. B. Phillips published Your God Is Too Small.  His book became an instant devotional classic, from which comes this quote:

We create God in our own image, resulting in an anemic deity no more wise or powerful than we are, and certainly incapable of creation, maintenance, or salvation.

A small god begins with the misreading of Genesis 1:27: God created man in his own image.  

Our greatest sin is that we create god into our own image

Yes, this is idolatry:

The re-creation and re-imaging of God as a deity who meets our every need, desire, wish, and concept of how to best run the world.

We create idols because God is too much for us in all of His God-ness.  Thus, we prefer to slice and dice Him into palatable bits and pieces.  

We prefer to encounter God in small doses.  This is why we insist on worship being an hour long and assume worshipping Him twice a month, except on vacation and during the summer, as commendable for any believer.

We prefer God to give us a daily baby aspirin, rather than be our heart transplant surgeon.  Yes, we want Him to place a new heart in our enemies, spouses, and kids, but as for us, we simply want Him to give us a God-vaccination, just enough to save us in times of tribulation.

However … 

If you are tired of your god, whom you have made far too small, then pray to Him and ask Him to be all He can be for you.

You’ll be glad you did

+ + +

  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).

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Release of the Captives

July 8, 2012

Philemon

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.  Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.  I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.  I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it, to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.  At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

I.  WHEN WE ARE OFFENDED

Let’s start off with a bad memory today

Who has offended you recently => difficulty forgiving

Claims of inability to forgive

Declarations of unwillingness to forgive

When we have been hurt … we seek justice

The deeper the wound … the more difficult to forgive

If you have forgiveness issues, the book of Philemon is for you

Onesimus, a runaway slave is being sent back to Philemon by Paul

II.  LOOK AT GOD’S WORK RATHER THAN THE OFFENSE

God has changed Onesimus … he has confessed and repented

Three changes in Onesimus

He is a convert and a changed person

He desires to make restitution (repentance)

He was of value in service to Paul while in prison

Paul gives God the credit for conversion and repentance

Calvin:

To renew a soul of man and form it anew to the image of God—is not a human work, and it is of this spiritual regeneration that he now speaks

This is where forgiveness has it’s birth

When someone comes seeking forgiveness, they have been sent by God

To deny them forgiveness is to deny God what He desires

This is the theological root of Paul’s appeal

III.  PAUL’S APPEAL TO PHILEMON

Based upon their relationship as Christian brothers

They were co-workers in the Gospel

One of grace and charity

Invites him to forgive, rather than commands him

Luther:

Paul empties himself of his rights to compel Philemon also to waive his rights

Again

A man is more easily drawn than pushed, and compulsion brings with it a rebellious will

Genuine forgiveness flows from the heart, is not forced by command

John 3:16 … For God so loved the world

Romans 5:23 … While we were still sinner, Christ died for us

Love and grace are free acts

Corinthians 9:7 –

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Forgiveness can be neither demanded nor commanded

We teach the opposite with kids to siblings

IV.  DOES GOD HAVE A PLAN WHEN PEOPLE HURT US?

Joseph and his brothers … remember Joseph’s declarations

Genesis 45:5  

Now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Genesis 50:20

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Paul points to the work of God and God’s will

Philemon lost a slave

Paul gained a servant

Philemon gains a brother

Our obsessive focus on the offense blinds us to God’s redemptive mercy

Are we going to follow the work of the Holy Spirit or Satan?

Luther:

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to lead to confession of sin. On the other hand, it is the work of the devil to make the sin worse.

When we withhold forgiveness or fix conditions to earn forgiveness, we play into Satan’s hand

V.  PAUL ASKS PHILEMON TO WELCOME HIM BACK

Paul could have kept Onesimus => thwarting the work of God

Philemon had the right to punish and demand justice

Paul did not deny this or argue against civil law

Paul even offers to cover Onesimus’ debt to Philemon

Paul is willing to make the sacrifice … he becomes the Christ

When we freely and graciously forgive other … we become Christ

Practical theology from the Lord’s Prayer

Forgive us our debts as we forgive others

Paul invites Philemon to live out his faith

VI.  WHEN OTHERS TURN TO US 

When we side with others justifying NO forgiveness …

Often done is sympathy and empathy

Often done as a stand against sin

We are actually standing against God and His grace

Paul teaches how we ought to take care for and restore those who sin

Luther:

The kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of mercy and grace, while the kingdom of Satan is a kingdom of murder, error, darkness, and lies.

Forgiveness is providing sinners and sinned against a new start.

I started by asking you to remember pain

Now I ask you to remember grace => taught you about forgiveness

Art Ross’ grace to me and my high school buddies

The Pope forgiving the man who attacked him

When someone honors your confession and repentance with grace

=> is always a great day for you

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it


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Think of the enormous leisure of God! He is never in a hurry. (1)

The dog-days of August have come early this year.  It’s hot and dry.  The air conditioner labors to cool down the house, while the body longs for a fresh breeze.  No one is in a hurry these days.

We are use to being in motion.  Rest and leisure are sins in our culture, especially when businesses are cutting back and pushing for more productivity.  “Be busy, stay busy, act busy” has become the workers’ mantra.

Yet, God is inclined to idleness.

After creating the world in 6 days, God created the Sabbath, and has rarely pressed the pedal to the metal since then.  A thousand years in God’s sight is but a day! (2)

A constant cry of God’s children is, “How long, O Lord!”

God proceeds at a resting pace as we run frantic, begging for rest.

Perhaps A. B. Simpson was correct when he wrote:

Often there is nothing as godly as inactivity on our part, or nothing as harmful as restless working, for God has promised to work His sovereign will. (3)

Like most Americans, I was raised on the Puritan work ethic.  Simpson’s counsel does not seem right.

If God is for us, as Paul asserts, and if God wins, as God reveals in His revelation to John, then perhaps we need to trust God, be content in His provisions, and slow down.

If we would trust God more fully, would not contentment and rest come more easily.  When we trust God we drop the entanglements and perplexities of life into God’s hands and leave them there. (3)

He is the Creator of heaven and earth.

Perhaps it is time to Let God be God, and place your life into His hands.

+ + +

  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).
  2. Psalm 90:4
  3. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 263). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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Don’t calculate without God (1)

I have always been a whiz with numbers.  In school I could add, subtract, multiple, and divide with the best.  Word problems and algebraic equations were my soul mates.  

Arithmetic was home base.  I consistently made A’s in math until I hit trigonometry and calculus.  My guaranteed A’s turned into hard won B’s.  After completing my second semester calculus class at Chapel Hill, I had enough.

Life is like calculus, it’s hard to figure out.  I was never able to look at a calculus problem and know the correct answer immediately.  Life is the same.  Just when I think I have life figured out, reality steps up to the plate and throws me a sinking curve ball.

When I became a Christian and began to include God in the equation, life did not necessarily become easier, but the answer became clearer.  With God in the mix, I know how the story ends, thus I know where I am going and can more easily find my way.

Because God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts (2) my greatest error in life is to make plans, do my life calculus, without considering God.  

I am a list maker.  My favorite is a list of pros and cons.  I will consider every obstacle and possibility while completing this list.  Once my list is complete, I weigh my options and make a decision.  Once a decision is made, I move forward.

Periodically I will show my list to a group of leaders in the church or to the men in my Covenant Group, to help them understand that I made a wise and careful decision.

One day, a friend who was reviewing my list asked me, “Where’s God?”  

I stumbled and stammered, I was struck dumb, silenced with nothing to say.  God was not considered.  I had not calculated for God.  I had planned for opposition, deficiencies, sin, evil, rainy days, surprises, and a host of other potential problems the world might throw down in my path.  But I had not planned on God.

My friend said,”Without God, your plans will fail.”

I hate it when my friends are right and I am wrong. 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (3)

+ + +

  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).
  2. Isaiah 55:8.
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jeremiah 29:11.

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