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Archive for April, 2013

Give to God what is God’s

Matthew 22:21

Thomas Kempis puts a unique twist on this phrase which is from Jesus.

Kempis’ twist is: Give to God what is God’s and ascribe to yourself what is yours.” (1)

What do you have that is God’s? 

Perhaps, asking the question in the negative is more illustrative and to the point: “What do I have that is not God’s?”

On one hand, everything I have is God’s because it comes from what God has provided me.  There is nothing I have which I can truly claim is mine.  But I must ask, “Does God really want all the junk in my basement?”

No!  God does not need nor does He desire all my junk.  What he wants is my heart, your heart.

God wants our first love, if He has that, He has all of us.  If He does not have our first love, there is nothing we can give Him of value.

Jesus’ original response to the inquiring and savvy Pharisee who hoped to get Jesus arrested by the Roman guards was: “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” 

Jesus made clear that God neither needed nor desired our worldly stuff. 

God wants what He deserves. 

God wants the one and only thing we have which is of value to Him.

God wants our grateful and humble hearts, our first love.

Does he have yours?  If not, go read Revelation 2:4.

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(1) Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 83.

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“Do you seek great things for yourself?”

Jeremiah 45:5

 

There is a difference between striving for greatness and striving for great things for yourself.

 

The difference is divined when the heart is examined.  

 

Jesus achieved greatness because He did not seek great things for Himself.  

 

Have you read Philippians 2:6-11?

Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men … He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

 

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (1)

 

People who seek great things for themselves are always promoting themselves.

 

People who succeed in striving for greatness empty themselves and become servants.

 

Great things perish.  

 

Greatness is remembered without effort.

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(1) The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Philippians 2:6–11.

 

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If I asked a million people from across the world this question, 

“What do you want the most in your life?” 

I am certain these would be the four top responses:

Joy, peace, abundant life, and contentment

 

Whether rich or poor, well or ill, single or married, able or disabled, all people seek these four things.  

 

Perhaps this is why our forefathers wrote into the US Declaration of Independence, these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

Through out much of our lives we remain anxious for the things of the earth that we need for survival, security, and comfort.  We routinely ask ourselves these questions:

Can we afford to get married?

Can we afford to have kids?

Can I pay this week’s bills?

Do I have enough saved for retirement?

Even the rich worry about hanging onto their worldly wealth.

 

Eventually we learn that the things of the earth will not provide us with joy, peace, abundant life, or contentment.

 

The Bible promises that if we seek God first we will have these things added to our life:

Your joy will be complete.  (John 15:11)

You will have peace which passes all understanding.  (Philippians 4:7)

You will have an abundant life.  (John 10:10)

You will find contentment in all things.  (Phil 4:11)

 

This is why Thomas Kempis tells us:

“He who finds Jesus finds a rare treasure. 

The man who lives without Jesus is the poorest of the poor.” (1)

 

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(1) Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 75.

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“The flowers appear on the earth; 

the time of the singing of birds is come, 

and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” 

Song of Solomon 2:12

 

The other day I mowed my yard for the first time this Spring, which has been a long time in coming.

 

Spring is a great blessing for those of us who live in northern habitats.  

 

Yesterday I commented to my wife, “I do not understand why everyone says Minneapolis is such a great place to live.  They just had another blizzard.”

 

Today a friend told me, “You will love Minneapolis in their Spring, which runs from their last snow to their first.”

 

Spring is the season which lifts our spirits, as we see tangible evidence of resurrection and restoration.  Life can and does come from that which is dreary and appears dead.  

 

The farmer’s seeds are dead in the air, but become life when planted in warming damp soil.  Flowers hide their colorful petals until a warm sun coaxes them out from winter’s cover.

 

What about your soul, your faith, and your spirits.  Has your heart been wandering through a long winter’s night, lost in a maze of darkness and shadows?

 

If so, bring life to your heart by exposing yourself to the warmth and sunshine of God’s grace and Word.

 

Charles Spurgeon offers this prayer to coax a wintering heart into jubilant faith:

O Lord, if it be not spring time in my chilly heart, I pray Lord make it so, for I am weary of living at a distance from You.  Bring an end to the long and dreary winter of my heart and soul.  Come, Holy Spirit, and renew my soul, live in my heart, restore my faith, and have mercy on me! Amen. (1)

 

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(1) Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

 

 

 

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“There is nothing better than to rejoice in our work 

… for we are God’s fellow workers.”  

Ecclesiastes 3:22

1 Corinthians 3:9

 

At the beginning of my senior year in college one of my favorite professors died.  He taught biblical studies at a large public university back in the day when a professor could openly profess his faith in Jesus without fear of ridicule or scorn.

 

Dr. Boyd was a man who loved teaching.  His sudden death was a huge loss for me because I was enrolled in his Seniors Seminar with 11 other students who would meet in his home to learn about living the Christian life.  He died the day before our first class.

 

When I went to his funeral, my heart was heavy, drowning in grief.  The service began with his widow and children processing into the church, as we all sang “For All The Saints.”  My grief was lifted as we sang these words:

 For all the saints, who from their labors rest,

Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;

Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight.

     (Click here to listen to this great hymn.)

 

As a Pastor I find peace and joy in my labors for God, especially when I see the fruit of our labors.  I seek to offer God my best.  My desire is to please Him and to serve in such a manner that He can use me to accomplish His heart’s desire.  

 

All of us are called to labor for God, whether we are a teacher, nurse, farmer, engineer, or the low-one-on-the-totem poll.  There is no greater position in life than to labor with God, to be His co-worker.

 

If your work today seems laborious, remember that God is laboring alongside of you.  Look to Him and rejoice in the task that is before you. 

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My Grandmother’s constant counsel was: “Do the right thing!”

Doing the right thing is easy when it brings immediate joy and blessings.  

Doing the right thing is more difficult when it is no more than a seed, which requires planting, watering, feeding, and waiting for the bloom of blessing to come.

Doing the right thing is most difficult when it brings immediate suffering and difficulty.

Peter wrote: “It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17)

Peter encourages us to accept suffering while doing the right thing as part of God’s wise and sovereign plan for our life. 

“Our peace in life is found in humbly enduring suffering rather than in being free from it.  He who knows how to suffer will enjoy the greater peace.” (Thomas Kempis)

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Does the burden of urgent matters press upon you day and night?

Most of us would say, “Yes!”

A businessman recently told me that the most pressed value at his workplace is to complete a project on-time!  Completing work on-time was more important than getting it done well.

If your life is filled with “I have to do … before …” you will never be at peace because you will always be distracted by things of the world. 

A spiritual person never has worldly business that cannot wait.  

A spiritual person never puts God on-hold, instead they put the world on-hold.

If you seek the world, you’ll never find God.  

If you seek after God, the things of the world will always be fine. 

Seek first the kingdom of God 

and all these things will be added unto you.  

Matthew 6:33

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