Archive for September 2014

Stewardship

A while back I came across this interesting observation: before the year 1800, no product, no message, no idea could travel faster than a horse. Think about that for a moment. Geographic separation was an impenetrable barrier to quick communication. For we who enjoy instant communication with nearly anyone in the world, such a severe limitation is almost unimaginable. Cell phones, email, internet, jet planes – geographic separation is no longer an insoluble problem. But this has been reality for only a few seconds of our race’s history.

Consider what it was like for business owners in biblical times. Unless the owner lived within daily travel distance of his business – a handful of miles either by foot or by animal — he had to have someone on site to run his business for him. Travel and communication were too slow to allow the owner to have any say in the daily decisions. Absentee owners were common. They had to rely on a manager, a steward, someone they trusted completely to run their business as they wanted it run. The steward made all daily decisions on behalf of the owner. He was to best use the owner’s resources for the owner’s good.

That is the biblical concept of stewardship. God, the source of all that is, has entrusted some small portion of His property to us, His stewards. We are to manage His property as He would manage it.

For that reason, we must know God personally, thoroughly, intimately. How can we manage His property as He would manage it unless we know what is important to Him?

No business owner wants his or her precious resources wasted, and God is no different. But if you think penny-pinching and financial profit are the ultimate in biblical stewardship, you don’t know your Boss. He created all the physical universe with a word, out of nothing. He simply expressed His will, and the universe appeared.

Such a Being never runs short of resources. He has no need for more money. He could create such things with a word. If He needed them, He wouldn’t have to tell us.

So what is important to God? As His stewards, managing His resources as He wants them managed, we need to know.

More next time.

Christ Is Our Feast

In Matthew 22, Jesus told a story:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again, he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ 

“But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 

“Then he said to his slave, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’” (vv.1-9, NIV)

Jesus’ story reminds us of what Isaiah had said many centuries before: 

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
(Isaiah 55:1-2, NIV)

Jesus Christ is the banquet our Father spreads for all His children.
His life,
His love,
His holiness,
His truth,
His peace,
His Spirit, and
His relationship with the Father
are the nourishment we all need and crave.

Come daily,
hourly,
constantly, and
feast on Him by simple faith.
Don’t look past His provision and
spend yourself chasing what can never satisfy.
Jesus Christ is the Bread of Heaven.
He is the Water of Life.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Feast Is Spread
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Hindered by Unbelief

[Jesus] came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son?”…And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:54-55, 58, NASB)

Jesus, how often have You longed to do wonderful things among us,
but You were not able because of our unbelief?

How often have we, Your own people,
hindered You by our lack of faith?

Lord, what wonderful works would You do in my life
if I were only willing to trust You more simply and constantly,
in the face of each concern?

Jesus, You are my Lord.
You are Messiah.
You are Mighty God.
You are my Savior,
my Redeemer,
my Holiness,
my Rock,
my Life.

Help me to trust You step-by-step.
Work Your beautiful, loving, perfect will in me.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: As I Trust You
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Having the Truth Within

It is not enough to know the Truth.
I want to live in the Truth.

When pride starts to creep in,
I want to continue to live in the Truth about
Who You are and
who I am.

When lust calls,
I want to continue to live in the Truth about
what is best and
what pleases You.
I want to pursue true pleasure and true love.

When anxiety starts to gnaw on me,
I want to live in the Truth of
Your love,
Your sovereignty, and
Your presence.

My mind so easily forgets the Truth in such moments.
I need to be filled with the Spirit of Truth.
My life is hid with Christ in God, and
I want Christ to be my living, constant
wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption
(1 Corinthians 1:30, NASB).

I want to walk always, second by second,
mind, heart, and body,
in wisdom from above
which is pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable,
full of mercy and good fruits,
unwavering, without hypocrisy.
I want to daily sow the seed whose fruit is righteousness (James 3:17-18, NASB).

O Lord, my loving Lord,
be that wisdom in me always, forever,
from here throughout eternity.
Be that righteousness, that sanctification.
Be the Truth in me,
setting me free to be and do all that You desire.
Constantly breathe in me the mind and spirit of Christ.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: I Have the Truth
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

The Immensity of God

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
(Psalm 8:1, 3-4, NIV)

Have you ever had the experience that the psalmist describes above? Have you been out under the clear night sky and looked up at the stars and the vastness of the heavens? Have you marveled that the Creator of all this has any interest in you? Here are some facts that may stimulate your imagination.

Light travels so fast that a beam of light can circle the earth more than 7 times in a second. The moon is a quarter of a million miles away, and its light reaches the earth in less than a second and a half. The sun is approximately 93 million miles away, and its light arrives in approximately 8 minutes.

Our own galaxy or group of stars is called the Milky Way. How long do you think it would take light to travel just across our own galaxy? 100,000 years! Light travels around the earth 7 times in a second and 93 million miles from the sun in only 8 minutes. But our galaxy is so vast that even light takes 100,000 years to cross it.

Galaxies are vast beyond our imagination. But ours is only one galaxy. How many galaxies do you think there are in the universe? Estimates vary, but in 1999, data from the Hubble space telescope led scientists to estimate that there are 125 billion galaxies in the universe. Some estimates run much higher. Try to imagine that: 93 million miles in 8 minutes; 100,000 years to cross our galaxy; 125 billion galaxies.

We are so very small. Reality dwarfs us. It dwarfs the human race. It dwarfs the entire earth.

But here’s something else to consider: this vast universe is only the smallest taste of the Living God. He overflows the physical universe. Job 26 talks about God’s mighty works in creation, then in v.14 says that in all these we see only the fringes of His robe. We hear only a faint whisper of Him.

What’s more, the gap between God and us is far greater than the size of the universe. The real gap between God and us is in the essence of who we are.

  • He is all-powerful and all-wise, unbounded by matter and time. We are weak and blind, living momentary lives, consumed with the here and now.
  • He is holy and pure. Without Him, we are corrupt and sinful.
  • He is unlimited love. We are proud, small-minded, and selfish, wrapped up in our own comfort and narrow interests.

But now for the most amazing truth: God’s love has bridged this gap between us. This immense chasm of time, space, and character has been closed by God’s all-encompassing love. All the immensity of God, all the eternity of God, all His glory and power and holiness have been embodied in a human being: Jesus Christ. We are united with this immense God in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10).

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Fullness of God’s Glory
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Can We Reasonably Trust the Bible?

Can we trust everything the Bible says?
Does it contain any errors?
Can a book that is so thoroughly human in its origins reasonably claim to be completely and timelessly accurate?
We claim that it is inspired by God, but does that make it any more accurate than all the other writings that God has, in some sense, inspired?

Without pretending to give complete answers to these questions, let me share these thoughts.

First, I find it meaningful to look to Jesus Christ. John 1 refers to Him as the Word – that is, the Word of God. He also was fully human in every way, yet fully divine. His thoughts, His words, and His life were uniquely, beautifully, flawlessly true.

If we affirm that the Bible is the Word of God, we find confidence that it also can be uniquely, beautifully, flawlessly true. Just as He was one perfect, human-but-divine life among many righteous-but-flawed lives, so we can reasonably believe that the Bible is one perfectly inspired, human-but-divine book among many inspired-but-flawed books.

The perfection of the Bible is thus driven by the same energy that drove the life of Christ: God’s loving desire to be fully known by His people.

We also must take seriously what the Bible says repeatedly about itself, or at least portions of itself:

  • Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB). 
  • All Scripture is inspired [margin: God-breathed] (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB).
  • The law of the Lord is perfect…sure…right…pure…clean…true (Psalm 19:7-9, NASB).
  • The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times (Psalm 12:6, NASB).

I trust the Bible because:

  • Both history and experience have proven it to be completely reliable.
  • Its perfect truthfulness is in keeping with the perfect truthfulness of the life of Christ.
  • Both the written Word of God and the living Word of God flow from the God of perfect wisdom, power, and love who longs to be fully known and understood by His people.

I trust the written record God has given us because I trust Him.

Hard Changes

Confrontation:
The Big Showdown.
I know I am right!
So much seems at stake.
The opponent is tough,
but my cause is “just”.
Everything within me strains forward,
strengthened by fear.

Yet the object feels more and more immovable,
so large that I can’t even see around it.
Righteous indignation fuels my frustration and anger, and
confusion sets in.

Then I remember that You, Lord, are here with me,
and I turn to You for solace and direction.
In Your presence, I begin to see the situation in a new light.

Lord, if the change should be in me,
if the real obstacle is my ignorance, and
the only things at stake are
my ego and
the comfort of the status quo,
soften my heart;
pull down my pride.
I open my clenched fists and
spread my arms to You,
bowing in Your presence.

In Your mercy, grant me
a trust that is willing to turn loose,
a humility that is gracious and joyful,
a Spirit that ever longs to give and heal.

But the lingering unknowns?
The hurts and unresolved fears?
I release them to you, my Savior, resting in
a wisdom that is always selfless and patient, and
a justice that overflows with mercy.
I know You care for me –
for me, Lord,
and that is more than enough.
I love You, my God!

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8, NASB)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Glorify Your Name
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Eternal Life is Knowing God

John 17:1-5

Facing torture and His own death,
facing the climax of His entire ministry,
what was pressing on Jesus’ heart?
He longed for the world to see Father & Son
in the full light of reality,
in all their greatness,
their beauty,
their magnificence, and
their love.

Why?
When we know and respond to God
for all He is,
the world is put right again.
When God is thus glorified in our hearts and in our lives,
then our relationship with Him is put right, and
He is All-in-all in us.

Picture your heart and life seeing and responding to God for all He is.
Picture your family and loved ones seeing and responding to God for all He is.
Picture the Church and our world seeing God for all He is and
responding in joyful faith.

That is why Jesus taught us to pray every day:

Our Father in heaven,
may Your name be glorified and exalted,
may Your Kingdom come,
may Your will be done
on earth, just as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:9-10, paraphrase)

 Listen and sing:
Hymn: Your Kingdom, Your Power
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Work While It Is Day

[Jesus said,] “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” (John 9:4, NASB)

While we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10, NASB)

On Friday morning, December 13, 2013, here in Kansas City we had one of those times when a thin layer of ice coats everything. I hadn’t been out yet, so I wasn’t aware of it. But my wife went out to a real estate appointment that morning. When her car slid backwards all the way down the driveway, she called me to go out and apply ice melt.

I thought I was being careful. But I got to one particular point of the driveway where there is a slight ridge and the angle of the drive steepens just a bit. While facing down the driveway, my feet slipped, and I feel straight backwards, hitting head first on the concrete. I felt my hands flash numb momentarily. Then when I gathered my thoughts, I felt the back of my head and came away with a handful of blood.

I came inside to our daughter, a missionary to Ecuador who was visiting for the holidays. She called our son, a doctor who lives nearby and who happened to be home that day. He came over, checked me out, told me what symptoms to look for, and left my daughter to keep an eye on me. At first I only had a headache, but it wasn’t long before I got very nauseated and weak, tell-tale signs of concussion. I was completely laid up for a week, and it was a number of weeks before I felt normal.

Within just a few days, the Lord seemed to tell me that this was just a dress rehearsal. This time I would recover, but someday I wouldn’t. I was left with a greater desire to work while it is day.

The first thing that came to mind regarded our hymns website, LNWhymns.com. I had gone already through all my devotional writing and had assembled a list of companion devotional pieces for most of the hymns on the site. A meaningful context is the most important tool for effectively introducing a new hymn, and these devotional readings were designed to provide that. I had considered loading those companion devotionals onto the site as another free feature, but I had decided against it. Surely those devotional pairings would come in handy somewhere along the way, perhaps in a publication for sale.

But with “work while it is day” ringing in my mind, I knew now was the time to act. Within weeks, those “lead-in devotional readings” were available free on LNWhymns.com. (You’ll find them at the end of the printed music pdfs for those hymns that have them, which is most of them.)

What “someday” ministry opportunity has the Lord pressed on your heart? Don’t put it off! When you hear that still small voice prompting you to do some small deed of service, respond. The Lord calls, but usually He whispers. Listen and obey. The night is coming when no one can work. Such opportunities are precious, and they don’t last forever.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: I’ll Sing of You
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Growing Me to You

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…
This is smaller than all other seeds,
but when it is full grown,
it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree.”
(Matthew 13:31-32, NASB)

God, You are growing me to You.

Sometimes I want to leap to You.
Sometimes I want You to lift me up to You.

But You just keep growing me –
through all the pain,
the joy,
the mysteries, and
the discoveries that growing brings.

You are God Most High,
perfect and complete.
You cannot grow.

But You are growing us all to You.

O God, my God,
how majestic is Your name in all the earth (Psalm 8:1, NASB).

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Bless This Seed
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

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