A Five-Five Relationship

3-9-12-CMI-hands_of_god_and_adam-400-300x250One of my favorite sections of Scripture is Romans 5:1-5, and I read it again this morning. I call it the 5-5, and I share it with you below:

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

In these brief verses, we find a long list of truths that provide the secret of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ:
• You are justified and declared righteous before God when you accept His son as your Savior.
• The initial result of your salvation is that you now have peace with God.
• As a child of God you have around-the-clock access to God—24/7.
• You can gain a better understanding of your affliction because hard times increase your endurance; the new found endurance builds character; and, Christ-like character produces hope.
• The hope within you is based on the love of God which has been “poured out” into your heart, and it is always available because the Holy Spirit now resides within you.

There is a reason I like to think of this section of Scripture as the 5-5. The 5-5 is a mnemonic that I use to help remind me of the relationship I have with God. SpeedLimitReduction55MPH Whenever I see a 55 MPH speed limit sign on the highway it reminds me of this Scripture and the peace I have with God through Jesus Christ.

The Maze of Monday Madness

mazeOnce the clock ticked past midnight last night, Sunday ended and Monday began. You had no say in the matter. Try as you might, there is no way that you can change the 24 hours of Sunday into 36 hours; and, you can’t skip Monday and jump ahead 24 hours into Tuesday.

You can, however, choose what kind of a Monday this will be. Will it be a Monday of madness or gladness?

To start the day off on the right foot, take a look at Psalms 18:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Rejoice and be glad because God has blessed you with the gift of life and another day full opportunities.

To make the most of today, reflect on the words Paul shared with Timothy:

• Give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who gives you strength
• Praise Him because when you acted in ignorance and unbelief, He still blessed you with His mercy
• Think of the abundant resources of God: “the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”
• Remember why Jesus came into this world: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
• Every time you stand up today, focus your thoughts on Paul’s benediction: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.”

If you’ve been lost in the Maze of Monday Madness, the formula above is the compass that will get you headed in the right direction.


handIn his lifetime, John D. Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men alive. When he died, his accountant was asked: “Just how much did John D. leave?” The accountant wisely answered: “All of it.”

The words of Solomon confirm this truth: “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand (Ecclesiastes 5:15).”

This life’s goods will never make you good enough to get into heaven. This is a truth that Jesus shared with His disciples: “Be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions (Luke 12:15).”

In light of this verse, ask yourself a couple of questions:
• Do my possessions possess me?
• Am I more focused on the here and now or on the there and then (heaven)?

You can stuff all the stuffing in the world into your Thanksgiving turkey, but he is still dead. Likewise, none of the stuff you’ve owned will be of any value to you once you are dead.

Now take a moment and read Ecclesiastes 5:15 again, and then compare it to what John says in the Revelation: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord . . . they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” It’s not the stuff of the world or your possessions that follow you—it is your deeds!

When you read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, you can see that he has the “deeds” of life in mind: “The foundation is laid already, and no one can lay another, for it is Jesus Christ himself. But any man who builds on the foundation using as his material gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or stubble, must know that each man’s work will one day be shown for what it is. The day will show it plainly enough, for the day will arise in a blaze of fire, and that fire will prove the nature of each man’s work. If the work that the man has built upon the foundation will stand this test, he will be rewarded. But if a man’s work be destroyed under the test, he loses it all. He personally will be safe, though rather like a man rescued from a fire (I Corinthians 3).”

If your heart is full of the world, you will stand before Jesus empty handed. If, however, your heart is full of Jesus, you will stand the test and be rewarded (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

God Willing

god_willing_mug-r7056888776fc48d6ba16762a3baf25d2_x7jgr_8byvr_324Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed something about my mail box. It has more junk mail and very few letters. The reason for this is the advent of email.

In the early history of our nation, travel was difficult and communication a challenge, so people were excited when they received a letter in the mail. In the early 1800’s a Christian might end his letter with a postscript consisting of two letters: D.V.

These letters stood for a Latin phrase, Deo Volente that means: “God willing.” This idea is expressed in the book of James: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that (James 4:15).” The principle of this phrase and this verse is that we should not live a self-directed life.

A clear concept of Scripture is that we should seek the will of God. To do this you should:
• Be willing to embrace God’s will for your life (Isaiah 6:8).
• Look to God’s Word as a guide (Psalm 119:105).
• Seek Gods will through prayer (Jeremiah 33:3).

As you follow the steps above, you may notice that when you take God’s Word in, your praise for Him will go up; your faith will go out; and, God will strengthen you as you walk in His will.

Do You Do Your To Do?

NeglectWhen I examine the landscape of Christianity, I think our practical theology is so skewed that it’s more twisted than a Kansas twister. The focus of the church today seems to be more on a person’s bank account than on the salvation of no-account sinners.

Contrast this to Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This To Do List of Jesus should be the lens through which we view the mission of the church, and the rhythmic cadence that calls us to march in step with His command to:
• Proclaim the good news of the gospel to the poor
• Proclaim freedom to the enslaved
• Open the eyes of the blind
• Open our arms to the oppressed

Which of the items above is on your To Do List? How do you view the poor and needy? There has been a tendency throughout the history of the church to overlook the “least of these” instead of looking out for them.

This was the case in Acts 6: “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.”

“Neglect” and “daily” are the key words in the Scripture above. “Neglect” refers to a side by side comparison for the purpose of value, and “daily” refers to the frequency of the distribution.

What does your daily distribution consist of and who do you neglect? Are your prayers reserved for just your family and friends or do they include the poor, needy, and the misfits of society?

Are you so focused on getting more and achieving personal happiness that you forget the enslaved, the blind, and the oppressed? If so, you’ll find happiness fleeting and never discover true contentment.

The Apostle Paul said: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4).”

Paul experienced many “have” and “have not” moments in his life, and he knew that to “have not” Christ was to not have contentment. From the moment he met Jesus, Paul focused his life on the To Do List of his Lord. It became his mission and goal, and it is the secret to living a life of contentment.

The Winds of Adversity

depressed-manSomething occurred to me the other day while at the lake—I was all alone. There was no other boat to be seen—I had the lake to myself. It’s a rare moment to be the only boater on the lake, but when the wind is howling and the lake is churning foam and white capped waves most people have enough sense to stay on land.

My experience on the lake reminds me of how I’ve felt when I struggled through some trial—all alone. I didn’t understand what was happening or why it was happening and I wondered: “God where are you?”

This brings to mind two godly men—Joseph and Paul. Both of these men probably had moments when they wondered about their circumstances. Joseph languished in prison because Pharaoh’s cupbearer forgot him and the promise he had made (Genesis 40:14, 23; 41:1). Paul spent two years in prison because he had rankled Felix.

Both Pharaoh and Felix thought they were having their way with these bothersome individuals, but they weren’t. They were being used an instruments in the plan of God: “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord (Proverbs 21:30).

God uses moments like these to develop you, to build your character, and to mold you into His image and likeness.

When I was about 8 years old, a 10 year old boy had me pinned to the ground as he punched me. I felt a sense of relief when my dad appeared out of nowhere. I said: “Dad, get him off of me.” Dad surprised me when he said: “Son, if you’re going to fight, you’d better learn how to win.” Those were not the words I expected to hear, and I was even more surprised when the toes of his work boots turned into heels as he turned around and walked away.

Like bragging Peter, I think God will let us struggle at times for the purpose of strengthening us. In hindsight, I now know that is what Dad was doing for me. I also know that the times I have felt all alone, God was still at my side, by my side, and on my side; and, I’ve learned that “I can all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).”

Tough Love or Pass the Rolaids

rolaidsDo you have a roll of Rolaids or a Tums or two lying around? If you do, you may want to get them ready. What you’re about to read is hard to chew, difficult to swallow, and tough to digest.

When tears stream from your eyes and the weight of grief is so heavy you feel like you’re suffocating, you want words of comfort—not tough love. Words of comfort may sound good, but sometimes they are just sugar-coated, feel-good truisms, that have little to offer.

Tough love is different. It isn’t as apt to cuddle; there may be a sharpness to it; and, it might even shock you. The sovereignty of God is a tough love explanation of how God works in your life, and James and Peter define it. Before Jesus called them as disciples and positioned them as Apostles, they enjoyed time together on the Sea of Galilee. They had a lot in common: Jesus called them to leave their fishing business at the same time, and both of them were part of the inner circle that also included John.

But, when you come to Acts 12, their lives take a nasty turn in direction: James is martyred, but Peter is spared. In spite of the truth of Jeremiah 29:11, this is a Rolaids moment extraordinaire: “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope.”

How would you like to try and explain that to the wife of James? Peter’s wife might quote it, but James’ wife may not comprehend it.

Here’s the tough love take-a-Tums-or-two principle of theology: If you believe in the goodness of God when everything in your life is going great, you need to trust it when everything is going wrong. The darkness of evil does not extinguish the light of God’s goodness. God is sovereign in what you perceive to be good as well as in what you deem to be disastrous.

Even though aching hearts turn a deaf ear to Ecclesiastes 7:14-15, it is a tough love truth of Scripture: “When times are good, be joyful; when times are bad, consider this: God made the one as well as the other, so people won’t seek anything outside of his best. I have seen it all during my pointless life: both a righteous person who dies while he is righteous, and a wicked person who lives to an old age, while remaining wicked.”

When times of adversity interrupt your life, you can benefit by taking an eternal perspective on your predicament. This is what Joseph did when his guilt-filled brothers approached him, he said: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive (Genesis 50:22).”

Life is an on-going conflict between a righteous and holy God and sinful man, so the cycle of life might startle you, but it never surprises God. The truth that needs to guide you is that, “for those who love God, and those who are the called according to his purpose, all things are working together for good (Romans 8:28).”

Remember this the next time you each for a toll of Rolaids: His grace is sufficient for all your trials (2 Corinthians 12:9); His peace is present for your anxieties (Philippians 4:6-7); and, He is always present with the strength you need (Isaiah 41:10).

Hero to Zero or When the Worst Becomes the Best

zeroMost of us have experienced those horrible moments of life when nothing makes sense, and we find ourselves searching for answers and questioning God. I believe the Apostle Paul had these kind of experiences in mind when he wrote: “For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known (I Corinthians 13:12).”

Eugene Orowitz had a hero to zero experience, and he is a good example of what Paul was saying. Orowitz was a scrawny 140-pounder who had more interest in books than he did in athletics. One day Orowitz was watching some of the other guys throw a javelin, so he thought he would give it a try. His first throw was a winner, travelling 40 feet farther than his nearest competitor.

His ability to throw the javelin increased to the point that Orowitz held the national high school record. His athleticism eventually earned him a scholarship to the University of Southern California, but everything changed one day when he failed to warm up before an event. Orowitz felt a sharp pain in his shoulder, and he knew something was wrong. The shoulder injury ended his Olympic dreams and cost him his scholarship at USC.

Later, Orowitz would say this was the worst day of his life. Since he was no longer attending college, he tried to make ends meet by selling blankets, working as a stock boy, and unloading freight cars at a warehouse.

Orowitz said the worst day of his life became the best day when he went to an audition and landed a spot in an acting school. Orowitz thought a name change might help his acting career, so he changed his name to Michael Landon.

If he had never experienced the worst moment, injuring his shoulder, he never would have lived the wonderful life of Michael Landon, nor would he have acted in roles as Little Joe on Bonanza or Charles in Little House on the Prairie.

When you give your life to God, He can change your worst moments into the best. Why not give it a try.

Ego-centrism and the Decisions You Make

selfishIn yesterday’s post to this blog, I wrote about the choices we make. Today’s post considers ego-centrism and how it can prevent you from making wise decisions:
• egocentric memory (the natural tendency to “forget” evidence and information which does not support our thinking and to “remember” evidence and information which does)
• egocentric infallibility (the natural tendency to think that our beliefs are true because we believe them)
• egocentric righteousness (the natural tendency to feel superior in the light of our confidence that we are in the possession of THE TRUTH)
• egocentric hypocrisy (the natural tendency to ignore flagrant inconsistencies between what we profess to believe and the actual beliefs our behavior imply, or inconsistencies between the standards to which we hold ourselves and those to which we expect others to adhere)
• egocentric blindness (the natural tendency not to notice facts or evidence which contradict our favored beliefs or values)

Now that you are aware of the detrimental influence of ego-centrism, let me suggest some questions you need to ask yourself:
• What does the Bible says about my situation
• Who can help me understand the Biblical principles that apply to my situation?
• Am I the only one who has this interpretation of the events?
• Do I have all the facts, and have I given honest consideration to all viewpoints?
• Is it so personal and emotional that my interpretation of the event is biased?
• What motives are influencing my decision?
• What are my blind spots?

After asking yourself the questions above, I suggest you give prayerful consideration to the verses that follow:
• Proverbs 2:6: For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
• Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.
• Proverbs 16:2: All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord evaluates the motives
• Proverbs 18:1-2: One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment. A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions
• Proverbs 18:13,17: The one who gives an answer before he listens—this is foolishness and disgrace for him . . . The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

I’ll end with this footnote: To make good decisions and to resolve personal issues, you need to let go of your ego.

The Choice Is Yours

path_choicesOne of the more interesting individuals of the Bible is Joshua. Moses mentored him, and he thought of Joshua as his “right hand” man. After the death of Moses, Joshua became the leader of the Hebrew nation, and he led them into the Promised Land.

As his life was winding down, Joshua called on the people to make a commitment: “If you have no desire to worship the Lord, choose today whom you will worship, whether it be the gods whom your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But I and my family will worship the Lord (Joshua 24:15)!”

As I read this, my attention is focused on six words: “choose today whom you will worship.” Each day of your life begins with a set of choices:
• Will I get up when the alarm sounds or will I hit the snooze button?
• Which set of clothing will I wear?
• Which pair of shoes will I slip my feet into?

Throughout your day you make many other choices and some of these are significant decisions. Let me suggest a few:
• Will you choose to yield to temptation or will you refuse to compromise?
• Will you cheat on your spouse or will you choose faithfulness?
• Will you get caught up in unnecessary conflict or will you choose peace?
• Will you rudely treat people or will you choose kindness?
• Will you seek revenge or will you choose to offer forgiveness?

When it comes time to make an important decision, you need to be cognizant of an important principle: The voices you listen to influence the choices you make.

The words of Solomon emphasize the importance of making the right choices in life: “Let your heart lay hold of my words; keep my commands so that you will live. Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding; do not forget and do not turn aside from the words I speak. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding (Proverbs 4:4-7)!”

The choice is yours. What will you choose to do today?