Archive for December 2014

Let Life Come to You

“Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34, NASB)

Even when outward circumstances are at their best,
I find myself with an underlying tension,
a subtle uneasiness about the present and future.

On one such day, the Lord stopped me short and said:
“Quit chasing life.
Let it come to you.
You know that I will lead You at all the right times.
I’ve shown you that I will.

“I will provide all your needs.
You know that.
I’ve freed you to fully enjoy the present moment.
Live in it.
Enjoy it.
Be thankful for it without worrying about the future.”

Thank You, my Lord!
You are so good!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: A Life of Thanksgiving
Printed Music & Lyrics

Grace and Truth

John 1:14-18

When God describes Himself to us, with all His infinite qualities,
what does He highlight as most important?
He says that His essence is this:
Grace and truth—
that is, unfailing love and absolute dependability.

When we look at Jesus and His human life among us,
what do we see?
Grace and truth—
unfailing love and absolute dependability.

Jesus was and is always good, always compassionate, always gracious.
His mercy is never strained.
It never gets tired.
It is never pushed too far.
Even as they tortured and killed Jesus, He forgave them.

Jesus was truth.
Every word was true.
Every action was true.
We could absolutely depend on
everything He was, everything He said, and everything He did.

Jesus is unfailing love and absolute dependability.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Jesus, Full of Truth and Grace
Printed Music & Lyrics

Which Is More Valuable?

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 

For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:8-13, NASB)

Imagine how our society would rank the following in value:

  • an intelligent person
  • one who could foretell the future
  • a loving person

It’s obvious. Highly intelligent people are put on a pedestal. Those who can foretell the future are almost gods. Being loving is “nice” and admirable, but it’s not highly sought or greatly esteemed.

But read the scripture above. Knowledge is partial and temporary. Is anything more riddled with error than an outdated science textbook? True prophecies are rare. But even they, once fulfilled, simply become part of yesterday’s newspaper.

Love is the one treasure that time and change will never supersede. It becomes more precious as the years pass.

Kind to the Unkind

If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:34-36, NASB)

Most of us treat others the way they treat us.
We “give them what they deserve.”
That only seems right…

But that’s not what God is like (thank goodness!).
He gives lovingly and generously to His enemies.
He is lavishly, ridiculously kind to the most undeserving people.

And He wants us to be the same.

Jesus, help me to be kind to the unkind.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: As You Love
Printed Music & Lyrics

Son of Man

Hear these words from Daniel 7:

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon,
Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind
as he was lying on his bed.
He wrote down the substance of his dream. 

“As I looked,
thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. 

“In my vision at night I looked,
and there before me was one like a son of man,
coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power;
all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away,
and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
(vv.1, 9-10, 13-14, NIV)

Daniel 7 records Daniel’s dream, his visions of the future. Four fantastic beasts arise from the sea, each representing a different kingdom that would come and exercise authority for awhile, then pass away.

As the fourth beast is ruling and raging boastfully, the scene changes. Now Daniel sees a vision of the throne room of the universe. God, the Ancient of Days, is ruling in unearthly splendor, surrounded by vast multitudes.

Then Daniel witnesses a stunning, almost unbelievable sight. Into this highest, holiest heaven, a human being, a “son of man,” arrives on the clouds and is led into the presence of the Ancient of Days. He is given glory, sovereign authority, and eternal power over all people on earth.

Imagine: a “son of man”, a human being, a member of our rebellious race, is gloriously escorted into God’s holy presence and given sovereign, universal authority that will never pass away.

While Jesus walked this earth, what was His favorite designation for Himself? It was “Son of Man”. This eternal, glorious, divine Being, who had been in the Father’s presence from the beginning, chose to refer to Himself as the “Son of Man”. He gladly embraced His humanity. He willingly shared our suffering and our curse of death, knowing that when He returned to the Father’s presence, He would bring a countless train of redeemed human beings with Him.

When He is finally crowned, we will be there. We will reign with Him and share His magnificence and His glory. Never again will anyone say, “I am only human”. Our curse will be gone forever.

Sovereign Savior,
thank You for all that we are becoming in Jesus Christ!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: See All That Human Can Be
Printed Music & Lyrics

Keys to Happy Relationships

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32, NASB)

Good relationships within the Church aren’t automatic. They require effort: compassion, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness. Good relationships in the Church require the same effort as good relationships in the home:

  • Remember to think of the other person’s feelings and welfare first, and yourself second.
  • Be willing to “go the extra mile” again and again and again.
  • Give of yourself freely, without keeping a balance sheet.
  • Even in their weakest moments, when they seem the most annoying and unreasonable, even when you are absolutely positive that the blame is entirely theirs, go out of your way to understand them and care about their feelings and see the situation through their eyes.

Father, Only You

I love You, O Lord. (Psalm 18:1, NASB)

In all my thinking,
all my needing,
all my trying,
all my trusting,
all my dreaming,
all my doing,
all my hurting,
all my hoping,
Father, only You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Only You
Printed Music & Lyrics

The Christ of Epiphany

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2, NIV) 

During Epiphany, Jesus is the Light of the Father, drawing all people to Himself.

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness will cover the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you.
Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.
(Isaiah 60:1-3, NASB)

Among the very first people to be told of Messiah’s coming,
among His very first worshipers,
were visitors from a far away land and a different religion.
Jesus did not come as just the Jewish Messiah or the Christian Savior,
but as the Light of the World.

I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
(Isaiah 49:6, NASB)

Jesus is the knowledge of our universal God shining out to
every people and culture, to
every individual, for
every human need.
He is understanding in our profound ignorance.
He is wisdom in our foolishness.
He is God’s glory in our darkness and shame.
He is pure, beautiful, living truth.

During Epiphany, Jesus is the Light of the Father.
Come to the Light.
Walk in the Light.
Lift the light so that
all can see Him for all He is.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Light of Every Nation
Printed Music & Lyrics

It Doesn’t Matter

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11, NIV)

For many years I played volleyball or basketball almost daily. I was a mediocre athlete on my best day, but I wanted to play well. When I didn’t, when I made stupid mistakes, I was frustrated.

But eventually I realized that what was bothering me was of no real consequence. I realized that If it doesn’t matter to me, it doesn’t matter. Once the game was done and life had moved on, no one else cared. No one around me was affected one way or another. If I released the question, it would be gone forever.

Lord, how many of my concerns still fall into that category: If it doesn’t matter to me, it doesn’t matter. Help me to set aside these meaningless concerns. Free me from self-centered fears, and let love guide all my concerns.

Individuals, Not Issues

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (James 2:8, NIV)

I remember when my brother first told us he was gay. For a while, homosexuality itself was the issue. He was anxious for us to understand him and be open to his viewpoint. We wanted him to know that we didn’t read the Bible that way.

But eventually, we moved beyond dealing with homosexuality as an issue and got down to personal relationships. The real question for me became, “How do I treat my brother who is gay?”

The answer soon became obvious: I love him like a brother. That’s my sole responsibility toward him. It’s really that simple.

Then the broader question for me, and for all of us, is, “How do we treat our ‘neighbors’ who are gay?” And again the answer is simple and obvious: we love them like neighbors. We love them as we love ourselves. We love them as Christ loved us.

The natural concern may be, “But aren’t we obligated to let them know we don’t condone their life-style?” Believe me, gays are deeply and painfully aware that many of us don’t approve of them. They don’t need reminders.

The real question for us is, “Have we shown them that Christ likes them and loves them, personally and unconditionally?”

When Jesus was on earth, He was accused of being a friend to those considered morally repulsive. “Religious” people wouldn’t get near them, but He spent time with them, went to their parties, and in general seemed to like them and care about them. And they liked Him and gladly listened to Him.

While we tend to focus on issues and overlook individuals, Christ did the opposite. He looked past politics and concentrated on persons.

In that spirit, my point is not political or social, but personal. Our responsibility is not to try to change people. We are not responsible to try to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals. Our challenge is first and foremost to be Christ-like so that people are attracted to Him. And we can’t do that as long as we are fearfully shaking our fingers in their faces.

Nothing should ever distract us from showing that genuine, face-to-face love of Christ. Nothing. He is the force that changes hearts, not laws.

Do I pray for my brother? Of course. Daily. I pray for him just as I pray for all those I love: that he would enjoy all the riches and fruitfulness of the living Christ.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Prayer of Intercession
Printed Music & Lyrics