Alias: Who Am I?

aliasAs you live your life, do you project your true identity or are you living under the guise of an alias? Are you living your life as the real deal or a wannabe?

A case in point is the person who has never owned a motorcycle, but insists on decorating his body with Harley-Davidson tattoos.

During a time of persecution and trials, some believers were struggling with their new found identity as a Christian.  To boost their morale, Peter reminded them: You are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light (I Peter 2:9).

Taking a cue from Peter, I’d like to remind you of your true identity:

When your identity is challenged by some person or circumstance, remember who you are in Jesus: Paul said, We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).

Are You Among the Wealthy?

wealthThe book of Proverbs is a pithy collection of wisdom that I read so I can benefit from its wise and insightful commentary on life.  As I was reading the 11th chapter this morning, a few verses caught my attention, and one in particular caused me to pause and reflect on its meaning:   One person is generous and yet grows more wealthy, but another withholds more than he should and comes to poverty.

Over the years of my life, I’ve worked with people from all walks and stations of life; some have been known for their wealth, and others have had very little of this life’s goods. It’s been my observation that some of the wealthiest have been the poorest and some of the poorest have been the wealthiest.

The difference between these people, is found in your answer to this question: Do you own your possessions or do they possess you?

Some people are like Abraham, Joseph, and Job; they are people of great wealth, but they are not hoarders.  On the other hand, some people are like King Ahab; they are never satisfied, they always want more, and they are willing to do anything to get what they want.

There’s a third group which seems to be a balance between the first two; these are the people who are content. They are found among the wealthy as well as the poor, and they are content because of the content of their life.

The best way I can explain this is to quote the Apostle Paul: I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing.  I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).

When the content of Paul’s life changed, he learned to be content.  He quit chasing after religious and worldly acclaim and learned the real treasure in life is found in Jesus Christ. This radical shift in his thinking changed his perspective and his deepest longings were satisfied.

You may never be wealthy by the world’s standards, but you can enjoy riches that pay eternal dividends. You can discover true wealth by doing what Paul did: You can invest in the lives of others by:

  • Being generous
  • Showing mercy, with cheerfulness
  • Loving without hypocrisy
  • Rejoicing in hope; being patient in affliction; and being persistent in prayer
  • Sharing with the saints in their needs
  • Pursuing hospitality.

Based on the list above, how wealthy are you?

Ten Lessons from a Good Man

lpTwo days ago, I said good-bye to Larry Patton.  He has been a great friend, and one who has served by my side at First Christian Church for the past 30 years.  Larry wore a smile on his face; had a song in his heart; and, he was an asset to my ministry.

As a tribute to him, I want to share the comments I made at his funeral.  Here are Ten Lessons from the Life of Larry:

  1. Life is a song, so sing it (Psalm 100).
  2. Pursue Harmony (Romans 12:17-18).
  3. Live life in the Key of C—Be compassionate (Romans 12:10).
  4. Short men walk tall when they reach out to help people (Romans 12:15).
  5. When you show-up, show-off your faith (James 2:18).
  6. New commands should become old habits (John 13:34-35).
  7. If you’re going to be a bear, be a burden-bearer (Galatians 6:1-2).
  8. The best way to stay in-tune is to make the most of opportunity (Galatians 6:10).
  9. When you have to speak, say it with love (Ephesians 4:15).
  10. When life turns sour, stay sweet (Romans 8:18).

When I think of Larry, I think of Psalm 37:23: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.

I thank God for the way you shared your wit, wisdom, and gifts for God’s glory.  May your influence live long in the life of your family and in the life of FCC.

A Joy-filled Presence

sun-through-leaf-less-trees-1409248-1280x960One of the more comforting and reassuring promises that God has given was the one he pledged to Moses in Exodus 33:14: My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

When I think of God’s presence, I’m reminded of the words of two authors:

  • Oswald Chambers said: “Having the reality of God’s presence is not dependent on our being in a particular circumstance or place, but is only dependent on our determination to keep the Lord before us continually. Our problems arise when we refuse to place our trust in the reality of His presence.”
  • In a moment of praise to God, David said: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).”

The words of Chambers and David beg the question: If I live a joy-less life instead of a joy-filled life, is it because there’s a void in my relationship with God?

When God seems distant, and you feel down and out, it’s time to get up and invite God in. God reminds us that He dwells “… in an exalted and holy place, but also with the discouraged and humiliated, in order to cheer up the humiliated and to encourage the discouraged (Isaiah 57:15).”

I encourage you to take Psalm 105:4 to heart and “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”

Hand in Hand

handsThe trials and heartaches of life can leave you weary of life and tearful; and, wary of people and fearful.  When God seems far away, remember you’re in His hand and you can handle “all things” through His strength.

When life gets tough, these 4 truths may help:

  • When you spend more time in prayer, you have less time to worry.
  • When it seems like you are in over your head, remember God is in it with you.
  • When life seems too hard, remember that nothing is too difficult for God.
  • When you’re convinced you’re lost, you’re ready to be found.
  • When you think you’re unlikeable, God thinks you are loveable.

When I was a small boy, there were times I found comfort when my parents held my hand.  When my mother grew old and unsteady, there were time we walked arm in arm so she could lean on me.  What my parents did for me, and what I did for Mom, God will do for all of His children: For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.  ~Isaiah 41:13

Sunrise to Sunset

okYesterday I encouraged you to take a few moments each day to focus on the goodness of God (GoG)..  As I brewed my first cup of coffee this morning, a few GoG Scriptures began to percolate through my mind. Two of these are the grounds that can make for a robust week:

  • Psalm 113:3 From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!
  • Psalm 119:164: Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules

Somewhere between the time you start your day and you end it, I suggest you allow for a few monumental moments to focus on these seven verses:

  • Psalm 100:4-5: Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.
  • Psalm 21:13: Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.
  • Psalm 71:22: I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
  • Psalm 106:1: Give Thanks to the Lord, for He Is Good; Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
  • Daniel 2:23: I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might
  • Psalm 96:2: Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
  • Psalm 106:1: Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

The Apostle Paul knew the value of focusing on God’s goodness, this is why he instructed people to speak “. . . to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:19-29).”

I encourage you to read the seven GoG Scriptures each day, and make these Psalms your song for this week.

Grace: God Is Able

water-from-wellWhen I lived in the farming community of Hazelton, Kansas, I enjoyed the slow pace of life, and the many wonderful people I met there.  One of the few negatives was the water. Because it was so bad I carried a water jug in my truck, so I could fill it at an artesian well.

When I read 2 Corinthians 9:8, I think of that refreshing free-flowing well of cool water:

God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

Grace was a theme of emphasis with the Apostle Paul, and it’s one of the feel-good doctrines of the Bible that people like to discuss.

Grace is a small word, but its five letters contain truth of epic proportion; and, its spectrum is as colorful as the rainbow.  Consider a few of these:

  • Grace is available to help you grow as a Christian—2 Peter 3:18: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.
  • If you have the can’t-do-blues, God provides empowering grace—2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
  • There is an extra portion of grace available to the humble—James 4:5-6: He gives grace to the humble.
  • You can confidently ask for it—Hebrews 4:16: Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

The most important aspect of grace and the one on which the preceding stand is saving grace—Romans 5:1-2: Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.

The grace that offers you peace with God, might be the missing peace that will solve your life’s puzzle.

Amazing Grace is a beloved hymn that was written by  John Newton, and he spoke of the power of grace: I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.

 

 

 

Leaders: Some Rise and Some Fall

 

thumbs upIf you take a causal walk down the self-help aisle of most book stores, you find shelves stocked full of books on leadership.  A common principle in many of these books is the need to study the lives of leaders.

To accomplish this, you can thumb through the pages of the Bible where you will discover a long list of leaders.  Some them are polished and practical; others are hopeless and hapless; but, the stories are fair a fair and balanced account that opens the door that reveals the skeletons in their closets.

Two of the better-known leaders are Saul and David.  Saul, the first king of Israel, could whip most anyone, but his ego got the best of him.  Samuel, the priest, issued a stern rebuke and no-holds-barred reprimand to King Saul: Now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee (I Samuel 13:14).

The man after God’s own heart was David, and he knew the key of his strength would be a dependence on God.  David said: You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3).

Like David, we can and should, look to God for strength and guidance:

  • Psalm 5:8: Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face.
  • Psalm 25:5: Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.
  • Psalm 23:2-3: He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
  • Psalm 143:10: Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.

When you begin to trust in the goodness of God, you hear the rhythm and cadence of His voice and begin to walk in step with Him—He leads; you follow.

Solomon said, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Are you a King Saul who continually tried to prop himself up with his own wisdom; or, are you a David who found a life of blessings by trusting God and letting Him direct his paths?

Who has your ear? Whose voice are you hearing?  Which path in life are you walking? Are you following God’s lead?

There’s Something About Those Eyes

Smiling_Eyes

In one of my recent excursions through the pages of the Psalms, I noticed three verses that had a least one word in common. You can read them below, and see the word for yourself:

  • Psalm 119:37: Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way
  • Psalm 119:18: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law
  • Psalm 19:8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

When I read these verses, I see the first two as prayers to help us reshape our focus and to gain a fresh perspective on life—to turn away from what’s wrong and to open up to what’s right.  The third verse is a recognition of what’s right, rejoicing, and radiating or enlightening.

There’s a fourth verse that also has the word eyes in it, and it’s one that’s reassuring:

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry (Ps.34:5).

This verse reminds us that God watches over us and that His ears are open to our prayers.  This verse gives confidence that:

  • In times of fear, we can still trust God: The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe (Proverbs 29:25).
  • When our world is crashing down on us, we can be confident that He is still present: Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us (Psalm 62:8).
  • When we can’t seem to shake our worries and anxieties, we can find peace in God: You will keep perfectly peaceful the one whose mind remains focused on you, because he remains in you. “Trust in the Lord forever for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.(Isaiah 26:3-4).
  • When we seem too weak to persevere, God is our refuge and strength: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore, we will not fear (Psalm 46).
  • When life seems full of roadblocks and detours, we can look to God for guidance: Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Let me know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You (Psalm 143:8).

Even though he and his fellow believers were suffering extreme persecution during the reign of the sadistic Nero, Peter said: God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you (I Peter 5:6-7).

Whenever you are tempted to give up, you have two choices: You can either throw-in the towel and quit, or you can toss your cares to God and let Him help carry your load.

Thoughts About Thinking

Thought-LeadershipSocial media has found an unwelcome guest in the form of fake news.  This strange bedfellow forces us to look beneath the bed sheets to validate the integrity of the stories being told—are they truth’s faithful companion or are they legends and lies?

These media hacks, have honed their presentation skills, and they offer tantalizing tidbits that activate the prey mentality and create a viral feeding frenzy.  The skeptical will deny the veracity of most everything they read, but the gullible will savage every story, hook, line, and sinker, like a hungry bass.

Skewing the facts and twisting the truth was also problem in the days of Isaiah, who said: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).

Why are people so easily deceived? Leonardo da Vinci may have been a prophet when said the average person looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.

We can’t afford to be intellectual coach potatoes and allow others to do our thinking for us.  John Ortberg has said: What repeatedly enters your mind and occupies your mind, eventually shapes your mind, and will ultimately express itself in what you do and who you become.

Ortberg’s words are based on the advice of the apostle Paul who instructed people to manage the mental messages that bounce around inside the head.  If we fail to capture and control these thoughts, the mind easily becomes an echo chamber of negativity.

I’ll close with a quote that has been attributed to Frank Outlaw: Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.