I Will Be A Father To You

One of the most often said prayers is the one that Jesus taught His disciples.  There are some circles within the realm of Christianity that refer to it as “The Lord’s Prayer,” and some call it the “Our Father” due to the first two words of the prayer.

When you go to God in prayer, He never thinks of you as an unwelcome or unwanted guest.  You are His child, and you can draw near to Him because He loves you.  Paul affirms this truth:  “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:18).”

As a son or as a daughter, you belong to God:  “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light (I Peter 2:9).”

After reading these verses, two facts should be clear to you:

  • “Our Father” means you are either a part of the family of God, or you can become a member of His family.
  • You have been called out (“chosen”) to help cast out darkness and to bring people “into His wonderful light.”

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world, “and you are to be a light-bearer with Him.  Notice how this is stated in The Message:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

Are you “prompting people” to open up to “Our Father?”

A Future and A Hope

When you were a child you probably played the game of hide and seek.  As an adult, you may have tried to play some version of that game with God.

Seeking, is an important aspect of your relationship with God:

  • “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near (Isaiah 55:7).”
  • “I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me (Proverbs 8:17).”

When you seek God, you will never be disappointed.  In fact, God has extended several invitations for you to join Him in your spiritual journey:

  • An invitation to rest: Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”
  • An invitation to serve: “Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men (Mark 1:17).”
  • An invitation to come into His presence: “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).”

I can understand why a person would seek God, but I cannot fathom why anyone would want to hide from Him.  Jeremiah said we have a future and hope in Him: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13).”

Urgent Email

MailChimp is a company that is focused on email, and their website says:  “MailChimp helps you email the right people at the right time.”  In 2013 the company studied 24 billion successfully delivered emails, and they discovered the power inherent in one word.   When the word “urgent” was in the subject lines, the emails were much more likely to be opened.

Words like “urgent” will jolt most dolts out of their daydreaming existence and back to reality.  This type of charged language, unless overused, can effectively capture the attention of the intended audience.

To apprehend the attention of those who could only pretend righteousness, Jesus spoke a word of urgency:  “Repent or you will perish (Luke 13:3, 5).”

When you read the gospel of Mark, the first words of Jesus are an evangelistic call to repent:  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).”

“Repentance comes from the Greek word “metanoia,” and it means a” change of mind.”  When a person repents, he turns from sin to God.  The story of the Prodigal Son is a good example of repentance:  When he came to himself, he said . . . “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”

“Praise” and “worship” are two of the feel-good-words associated with the church today.  These are important features of a person’s relationship with Christ, but they are meaningless unless you attend to the urgent need to repent of your sin.

People don’t mind focusing on the failures, faults and sins of people they know, but they start to back-peddle and say, “Don’t meddle” when it comes to their personal need to repent.

 

CATFISHING

images (3)The weather was nice enough yesterday that I tinkered with my boat.  The sunshine and warm air had me thinking about my dad.  He introduced me to fishing as soon as I could walk, and he taught me to set limb-lines to catch catfish.

It’s interesting to see how words like catfish morph and take on a whole new meaning.  Catfishing is now associated with words like, sham, forgery, lies, and counterfeit.  Catfishing is presently used to define the actions of people who use the internet to create a digital life with the intent to deceive

Unsuspecting people can be duped and led into a phony relationship with romantic overtures.  The innocent are manipulated by someone who is more cavalier than sincere.  They have embraced a two-faced rascal who is blinded by a single-minded desire for self-gratification.

This is the month to talk about two-faced catfishing rascals.   January is named after Janus who was the two-faced Roman god of gates and doorways.  Janus looked in opposite directions, and the month of January looks back on the old year and forward to the new.

Hypocritical people are two-faced or “Janus-faced.”  Jesus had a great disdain for the two-faced tactics of the religious leaders of His day.

To avoid this two-faced tendency, I suggest that you:

  • “Put off your former conduct . . . and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).”
  • To do this, you will need to, “Keep on being obedient to the Word, and not merely being hearers who deceive themselves. For if anyone hears the word but is not obedient to it, he is like a man who looks at himself in a mirror and studies himself carefully, and then goes off and immediately forgets what he looks like (James 1:22-24).”

During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln was called Janus-faced.  This less than handsome president responded: “If I had two faces, do you think I’d wear this one?”

Which face will you wear today?

The Music of the Muscle Cars

1967-pontiac-gtoI count myself fortunate to have been a teenager during the heyday years of the muscle cars.   The Pontiac GTO, the Ford Mustang, and the Chevy Camaro were some of the hot cars of the day.  These cars have been replaced by their more fuel efficient cousins.

The throaty roar of the muscle car was lost in the quest to gain more miles to the gallon of gas.  Car enthusiasts wear a short lived smile when they hear the roar of their sports car.  The much-loved iconic growl is the source of a sardonic scowl when the driver learns the noise is fake.

Drew Harwell of the Washington Post wrote:   “The engine growl in some of America’s best-selling cars and trucks is actually a finely tuned bit of lip-syncing, boosted through special pipes or digitally faked altogether. And it’s driving car enthusiasts insane.”

Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, says automakers should stop the lies and get real with drivers:  “If you’re going to do that stuff, do that stuff. Own it. Tell customers: If you want a V-8 rumble, you’ve gotta buy a V-8 that costs more, gets worse gas mileage and hurts the Earth,” Brauer said. “You’re fabricating the car’s sexiness. You’re fabricating performance elements of the car that don’t actually exist. That just feels deceptive to me.”

When the Beach Boys sang about their beloved “409,” part of the love affair was the full throttle roar of the engine, and to replace it with a synthetic sound is like substituting Spam for a T-bone steak.

The world is full of junk noise, and we have to learn to filter it. Can you discern the bloviating and bogus from the genuine and authentic?  Paul spoke of this when he wrote to the Colossians:

I say this so that no one will mislead you with arguments that merely sound good. You received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live as Christ’s people.  Sink your roots in him and build on him. Be strengthened by the faith that you were taught, and overflow with thanksgiving. Be careful not to let anyone rob you of this faith through a shallow and misleading philosophy. Such a person follows human traditions and the world’s way of doing things rather than following Christ (Colossians 2).

Next time you fire up your engine, listen carefully:  Is it the seducing sound of a real Deuce Coup, or is it just a synthetic scam?

 

Run With A Purpose

runningAs I was driving to the coffee shop this morning, I noticed several joggers out for their morning run.  As I waved them through the intersection ahead of me, I thought of several places where Paul speaks of running.

In Philippians 2:14-18, Paul said:

Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.  Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.  But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me

After I read the verses above, I was left with a few questions:

  • What am I running from?

I Timothy 6:10-11:  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

  • What is my goal in running?

I Corinthians 9: 24-25: Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.  Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.

  • Why am I running?

Hebrews 12:1:  Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.

The secret of life’s race is found in Isaiah 40:31:  Those who keep waiting for the Lord will renew their strength. Then they’ll soar on wings like eagles; they’ll run and not grow weary; they’ll walk and not grow tired (ISV).”

Formidable Phobias

To some people, just the mention of “fear” can be a scary subject.  I know some people who fear every formidable phobia known to man.

In the times I’ve paused to give some thoughts to the subject of fear, a couple of questions come to my mind:  If you are not fear-full is it because you fear-less, and if you fear-less is it because you are faith-full?

Both David and Isaiah believed that a right relationship with God is a sure remedy for fear:

  • “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise. In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid (Psalm 56:3-4).”
  • Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; and, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

When you focus on the things that are right, your fears are left.  When you put your fears behind you, you can focus on what’s before you—the process and the goal that will move you forward.

You learned a lesson a long time ago that you may forgotten:  No one learns to walk without falling.  What did you do when fell?  You got up; you stumbled around; and, eventually your coordination improved, and you walked.  You did not let your fear of falling doom you to a life of crawling.

Whatever failure you have experienced and whatever fear you may be facing, get up and go again.  Trust in God: He will give you the strength and help you need.

Who Are You?

Baker, Brewer, and Butcher and Weaver, Woodman and Wright, are more than last names, they are the names of a craft, skill, or trade.  In times past, parents had some choice in the selection of their child’s first name; however, the last name was closely associated with the occupation in which they were employed.  If you worked in the meat market and your name was James, you were probably called “James the Butcher.”

Today, there is little connection between last names and occupations.   At least here in the USA, your name might be Butcher, but you could make your living as a Baker or  Candlestick-Maker.

When we think of identifying someone, we are more likely to think of the characteristic or physical feature that best defines the person.

If you were to be identified by a spiritual feature, what would distinguish you from the rest of society?  In Acts 11:26, a person’s relationship with Christ set him apart from the rest of the community.

The city of Antioch was the first place to call the avid followers of Christ, “Christians.”  Instead of focusing on what divided them, these Christians chose to identify with the love that united them.  No longer would they be called Jew or Gentile, but from this point forward they identified themselves as Christians.

1 Peter 2:9-10 speaks of our identity in Christ:

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

When you think of who you are in your relationship with Jesus, I suggest you think in these terms:

  • You are completely accepted because you have been “chosen.”
  • You are incredibly valuable because you are “His own possession.”
  • You have a wonderful ministry because you are to “proclaim the excellencies of Him.”
  • You are totally forgiven because you have “received mercy.”

There is no mistaken identity here, and I know who you are:  You are a child of the King.

The Puzzling Predicaments of Life

There are some circumstances in life that are difficult to endure and hard to comprehend. When you feel like you’ve been singled-out and beaten down, keep in mind that people everywhere, regardless of race, religion, or riches, deal with problems of tragedy, injustice and suffering.

These are the times Paul had in mind when he wrote: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8: 28).”

You may be familiar with this verse, but have you considered the context from which it is taken?  Romans 8 is a chapter that speaks of the consequences of sin and the coronation that awaits the believer in heaven.  Think about verse 28, when you read the following verses:

  • 8:18: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
  • 8:26-27: Because we do not know what to pray for the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God.
  • 8:31-32: If God is for us, who can be against us? He that did not hesitate to spare his own Son but gave him up for us all—can we not trust such a God to give us, with Him, everything else that we can need?
  • 8:35: Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, pain or persecution?
  • 8:38-39: I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!

What I’ve said is more than theory.  Paul said it is something that we can know.  Paul’s faith had been tried and proven, and he said:  “And we know ” The heartache, trials and tragedies that Paul endured did not weaken his resolve; they matured and strengthened his faith.

Six words out of verse 28 remind me of a statement made by Charles Swindoll.  Paul said:  “all things work together for good.” Swindoll said:  “If you allow it, suffering can be the means by which God brings you His greatest blessings.”

Is Your Life An Emotional Roller Coaster?

scared-on-the-slide1Do you feel like your life is a strapped in and buckled down roller coaster ride that snaps your neck and fills your belly with butterflies?  If you feel like your life is a bone-crushing ride from thin-aired heights to the stifling heat and the stagnant air in the valley below, you may be wrapped in the chains of worry.

When you went to bed last night, did you worry that you might not be able to get to sleep or did you worry that you might not be able to wake up?   Did you worry that you left a light on or the nightlight off?

Some people worry themselves sick: Worry and stress have been linked to a higher risk for illness, including conditions such as obesity and hypertension.  Charles Mayo said:

Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system, and profoundly affects the health. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt.

Because there is such a high cost to a worry-filled life, we need to learn to be worry-free. This was Paul’s advice to the Philippians, and I’ll share it with you from two versions:

  • The Message: Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
  • The Amplified Bible: Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.  And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

It is hard to pray and worry at the same time, so instead of seething in worry, try breathing a prayer to God. In Matthew 6:32-33, Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need!”

Don’t let the roller coaster of worry control your life.  Go to Jesus and trust Him so you can be worry free.  As the old hymn says:  Take the name of Jesus with you.