12 Dec 2017

A Friend Of God

A Friend Of God

“The whole meaning of prayer is that we may know God.” –Oswald Chambers

The Bible directs us: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

Our reason to rejoice is not just because our future salvation is sure, that we’ve been delivered from eternal punishment by the finished work of Jesus Christ—although that would certainly be enough!

But we also have cause to rejoice and to continue rejoicing in the present—where we are today—in a new and wonderful relationship with our God.

He’s called our Heavenly Father.

This is a term of endearment. It’s not some distant acquaintance but an intimate closeness which is in view.

Just as in assuring our future salvation, it’s the finished work of Christ which removed every barrier standing between us and our God.

He has reconciled us and restored our relationship so we can be close to God.

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11).

God’s ultimate invitation to a friendship with him was in sending his Son to pay the price for our sin so we who believe could be called his children.

To seal his presence in us, he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.

God continually invites us to respond to his love and desire for fellowship.

He longs to love us as only he can, and he wants us to know him in all of his fullness.

His commandment to us is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Relationships are a two-way street. Our Heavenly Father has removed all the barriers in Christ so we can be close.

He invites us to come close.

For our part…

  • Are we investing in the relationship?
  • Are we moving towards the Father?
  • Are we getting to know him in prayer and by reading the Word?
  • Are we rejoicing in our friendship with God?

 

My prayer this week – Father, I do rejoice in my restored relationship with you! I recognize it’s all because of what Jesus has done for me. Will you draw me closer to you? In our closeness, Father, will you reveal more of yourself to me? Will you fill me to overflowing with the joy that such friendship with you brings?

How Firm A Foundation?

 

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!”

–Unknown

 

They call it the “leaning tower of Pisa” for good reason. The campanile—or freestanding bell-tower—of the cathedral in the Italian city of Pisa, leans noticeably to one side.

Prior to some restoration efforts in the early 2000s, the tower listed to an angle of 5.5 degrees. Today it leans at 3.9 degrees—meaning the top of the tower is displaced some 12 feet from where it would be if the structure were perfectly vertical.

There has been a great deal of controversy over the years concerning the identity of the architect. You have to wonder if the tower’s lean has anything to do with that. The tower’s tilt began during its construction, caused by an inadequate foundation, and ground too soft on one side to support the weight of the structure.

What architect would want his signature on that project?

The leaning tower testifies to the vital importance of a solid foundation for any construction endeavor.

The great old hymn How Firm A Foundation testifies that, in God’s Word, and more particularly in the faithfulness of its Author, believers have a firm foundation.

His promises to be our refuge, our supply and our deliverer—you can absolutely build your life upon them.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God spoke of the One who would be the cornerstone of this foundation: “So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic’” (Isaiah 28:16).

Jesus is this cornerstone. He teaches: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

He painted a contrasting picture, as well: “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:26-27).

May we give thanks this week for the solid footing our God has given us in Jesus Christ. May we give thought to our part in the construction of his dwelling place—our lives.

How well are we hearing and putting into practice Christ’s words?

 

My prayer this week – Gracious Heavenly Father, I’m thankful you chose me before the creation of the world to be your child. I am thankful for the foundation of your Word in my life. Will you help me to be more firmly established upon it, hearing and practicing, that my life would stand straight—an example for others to see?

 

Wisdom While You Work 

 

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” ―Albert Einstein

 

Have you ever been to the zoo and observed a two-toed sloth? They’re fascinating creatures.

They spend between 15 and 18 hours every day sleeping. They live most of their lives hanging upside-down. They’re among the slowest moving mammals on the planet. They move so slowly in fact, algae forms on their fur—and when they get hungry they lick it for nutrition. 

Dictionaries define slothful: sluggardly, indolent, lazy.

The book of Proverbs in the Bible is all about living wisely in this world. It’s full of very practical wisdom.

Several passages speak of slothfulness and the fruit of such a lifestyle, contrasted with purposeful and diligent living.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).

Picture a colony of ants. They are always busy marching somewhere. Their movement doesn’t seem haphazard but appears filled with purpose and direction. If an obstacle appears in their path, they navigate around it and find their way back to the path they were on.

As the proverb points out, ants store their provisions in the summer when things are plentiful, not in the winter when conditions are unfavorable. They work when the opportunity is there.

In the ant you see a picture of forward thinking work ethic, purposeful and diligent. These attributes should characterize our effort.

Wisdom is further seen in contrast: “I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man” (Proverbs 24:30-34).

The sluggard is not wise in his judgments. He makes foolish choices. He chooses to sleep rather than to work. Weeds overtake his fields; the fences or walls around his fields fall apart.

The results are obvious—calamity multiplies for the sluggard.

The wisdom here isn’t simply a contrast of busyness versus laziness. The ant demonstrated foresight—the wisdom to know that diligent effort in this season is necessary for the next.

The fool is shortsighted. His decision to sleep will come back to bite him. He either doesn’t see it, or he doesn’t care.

Thought provocation for us: How can we be wiser in our choices and priorities so as to be more effective in our efforts?

 

My prayer this week – Father, please grant me wisdom in my work. Will you grant me foresight to identify the important things of tomorrow affected by the choices I make today? Will you bless my efforts?

Ready To Throw In The Towel?

 

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

 

NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10 in 1972. The satellite’s primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph it and its moons, and beam data about the planet’s magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere back to Earth.

It was considered a bold plan because up until then no satellite had gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy Pioneer 10 before it could reach its target.

But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much more.

It passed Jupiter in November 1973. It accelerated to a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system by the planet’s immense gravity.

At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At two billion miles, it passed Uranus; Neptune, at nearly three billion miles; Pluto, at almost four billion miles.

In 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun. And despite this immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. It’s even more incredible when you consider that an eight-watt radio transmitter is broadcasting the signals—essentially the same amount of power as a bedroom night-light.

Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life expectancy of three years. It continued sending signals to Earth into the year 2003, and only stopped then because the batteries powering the eight-watt transmitter were drained. Today Pioneer 10 is located more than 10 billion miles from the sun, traveling at over 30,000 miles-per-hour toward the constellation Taurus.

This little satellite accomplished more than anyone ever imagined.

Certainly you’re not expected to travel billions of miles and wander the interstellar medium! But you’ve got tasks and responsibilities you are expected to pursue—which others are depending upon you to accomplish. What of those days when you feel discouraged? What of those times when you are overwhelmed? God’s Word gives great counsel:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

An overachieving satellite with outdated technology and a little battery-operated, eight-watt transmitter has nothing on you—a child of God, with his power at work in you to accomplish his aims!

In what areas of life are we tempted to quit?

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

 

My prayer this week – Heavenly Father, may that benediction be my prayer this week! Will you bolster my faith to believe you are able to do far more than I could ask or imagine? Will you bless me with power and grace to press on when I’m ready to throw in the towel?

07 Nov 2017

When You Give…

When You Give

“For it is in giving that we receive.” –St. Francis of Assisi

Renowned preacher Charles Spurgeon and his wife would sell, but refused to give away, the eggs their chickens laid. Even close relatives were told, “You may have them only if you pay for them.” As a result, some people labeled the Spurgeons as selfish and greedy.

The couple accepted the criticisms from their community for years without ever defending themselves. It was only after Mrs. Spurgeon died that the full story was revealed.

The Spurgeons had used all the profits from the sale of eggs to support elderly widows in the community. Because they desired their giving to be known only to God, they endured the attacks of gossips in silence. 

Do you remember this scene from Mark’s gospel? “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents” (Mark 12:41, 42).

The rest of the story: “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:43, 44).

The concept of the tithe is taught in the Bible—a gift of 10% of the first fruits of your labor.

No doubt, there are those whose gift doesn’t amount to a tenth, yet it is a tremendously sacrificial amount. For others, giving a tenth may be robbing God—so trivial to the giver it’s like leaving a tip.

What’s evident in this account is it’s not the amount which is important—it’s the attitude of the giver and the sacrifice in bringing the gift. Like the widow’s offering, when we give and it costs us, God notices.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

How sacrificial has my giving been? Have I given with a cheerful heart and an attitude of thanksgiving and praise? Have I given in such a way as to gain the approval of men, or so God alone sees and is glorified?

My prayer this week – Lord, thank you—you are the giver of all that is good! I recognize all I have has come from you. Will you foster within me a cheerful heart to give and a willing heart to give sacrificially?

Where Has The Time Gone?

 

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness, how the time has flewn! How did it get so late so soon?” –Dr. Seuss

 

We’ve all experienced it—time flies! It’s such a universal experience, it’s been a frequent theme in popular music: The Steve Miller Band lamented, “Time keeps on slippin, and slippin, and slippin, into the future.” Jim Croce longed, “If I could save time in a bottle …” Cher confessed, “If I could turn back time …” Exasperated, Chicago asked, “Does anybody really know what time it is?”

Where does time go? Studies have determined an average American life will include:

  • More hours watching TV, listening to the radio and surfing the internet than anything else except breathing
  • 26 years spent sleeping
  • 46 days “getting ready” (men); 136 days (women)
  • 20 weeks waiting “on hold” on the telephone: “We’re sorry! We’re experiencing unusually high call volumes. Your call will be answered …”
  • 336 hours kissing another person

Someone once said, “The bad news is that time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot!” This is why such an emphasis has been placed on time management. The capacity to do so seems to be within our reach.

Peter counsels, “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

By saying “each day is as a thousand years,” Peter suggests each of our days is a sunrise-to-sunset opportunity to do something, by the grace of God, which counts for eternity. Each hour is invaluable.

The Bible teaches, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

It counsels: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).

I want to view my time as sacred.

In this way, I agree, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).

 

My prayer this week – Almighty God, I acknowledge you hold all the days of my life in your hand—you’ve numbered them all! Will you show me what’s truly important as I move through this day, and this week? Will you reveal your will to me?


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