The Time Is Right

whatever2I hate the two times each year that we’re forced to try and manipulate time by changing our clocks.  Regardless of whether it’s forward one hour in the Spring or back one hour in the Fall, my internal clock doesn’t change; and, I’m out of sync with the rest of the world.

As I was setting my clock before I went to bed last night, I thought about a time related statement from the Apostle Paul:  “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly . . . demonstrating His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).”

As I thought of Paul’s “right time” statement, it occurred to me, that the right time is the time when God is present:

Because God intervenes at the right moment, you can know He is always present: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you (2 Chronicles 20:17).”

God promises to help battle the bullies, calm your fears, and give you hope for tomorrow, “for the Lord is with you.”

The Book of Ralph

ralphBooks like The Book of Ralph are seldom found on the shelves of libraries.  If you do an online search at book sellers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you find very little.

The reason for the scarcity is the rarity of the subject matter and the classification of the book—biography not fiction.  There are too few people who are as genuinely gentle and gracious as Ralph Lilley, the main character of the book.

I have had the privilege of knowing Ralph for over 25 years.  I have been his pastor, and he has willingly served his Lord as an elder, deacon, janitor, painter, teacher, greeter, volunteer, advocate for children, champion of the poor and needy, meals on wheels, and Chairman of Christian Service.

As I reflected on Ralph’s life yesterday, I spoke of seven lessons from The Book of Ralph, and I share them with you now:

#1—Remember your place in the line of life. 

He that will be first shall be last, and he that is last shall be first.

#2—Pick up the burdens of others, so you won’t let them down. 

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

#3—Display your manly meekness.

  Galatians 6:1:  If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness.

#4—Mind your manners.

  Ephesians 4:2:  Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love

#5—Let the Spirit guide your speech.

 Colossians 4:6:  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

#6—Share the grace of God.

  Ephesians 4:29:  You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.

#7—Do more than just talk the talk:  walk the walk.

  James 1:26-27: If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Remembering Ralph’s work of faith, his labor of love, and patience of hope in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 

I Thessalonians 1:3

Fillings or Feelings

Dental_Cleaning_325wGenerally speaking, people have very little trouble distinguishing between fillings and feelings.  I know of one particular incident, however, when the two were confused.  My youngest brother was listening to a discussion on how a person’s feelings had been hurt.  Eager to participate, he gave a big smile and said:  “I have feelings too, see,” and then he pointed to the fillings in his mouth.

The gnawing truth is that both fillings and feelings are directly connected to something that is missing.  In the case of fillings, part of a tooth is missing, so a dentist fills the tooth.  Feelings, on the other hand, can be more of a challenge.  The emptiness related to them are emotional in nature.

A person may feel empty because of grief, a self-esteem issue, or disappointment. The solution involves more than just an injection and the mixing of a composite resin to fill a tooth.  The need is a relationship and not more resin:

  • If your feelings have drained you and you’re running on fumes, it might give you some consolation to think of God as “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles ( 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).”
  • If you’re struggling with a major decision, James 1:5 can be reassuring: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, . . . and it will be given to him.”
  • If you’re worn out, you can find the strength you need because “the Lord will give strength to His people (Ps. 29:11).”
  • If your life seems dry and barren, a relationship with Jesus may be what you need: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
  • If you have a gnawing hunger that you can’t seem to satisfy, you may be eating the wrong bread. Jesus said:  “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more (John 6).”

You may have gone through life as the kid nobody wanted on their team; as the person who could never make it to the first chair in the school band; the singer who was always off key; or, the wilted flower on a piece of outdated wallpaper.  If so, I’ve have some good news for you.  Jesus said: “The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them (John 6:37).”  There are no exceptions: Jesus loves you, accepts you, and He always will.

It’s The Season

Organize-Your-Home_chore-checklist_092011It’s one of those annual rites that’s practiced in most homes across the USA.  At some point in the Spring and the Fall months of the year, there is some time scheduled for extra cleaning.

Just as you make time to spruce up your house, you might want to examine your life as well.  Is it as tidy and clean as it was a week or a month ago?

Self-examination is a continuing theme throughout the pages of Scripture, and I’ve emphasized a word in each verse below.  While these are different words in the English, they come from the same word in the Greek which is the language of the New Testament.

As you read these verses consider them in the context of who, what, when, and why:

***1 Thessalonians 5:21-22:  Test everything. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil.

  • What am I doing now that I wasn’t doing that has created a void in my relationship with God?

***Philippians 1:9-11:  I pray that your love will keep on growing because of your knowledge and insight. That way you will be able to determine what is best and be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.  Jesus Christ will fill your lives with everything that God’s approval produces. Your lives will then bring glory and praise to God.

  • When did my love for Jesus quit growing and when did it cease to bring Him glory and praise?

***Ephesians 5:8-14: Live as children of light, for the fruit that the light produces consists of every form of goodness, righteousness, and truth.  Determine what pleases the Lord, and have nothing to do with the unfruitful actions that darkness produces. Instead, expose them for what they are. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by these disobedient people in secret.  But everything that is exposed to the light becomes visible, for the light is making everything visible.

  • Who has influenced me to walk in the shadowy sin of darkness instead of the light of God’s love?

***Galatians 6:3-4:  If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself; but let each one examine his own work

  • Why do I think I can live my life on my own terms and disregard the principles of God and compromise my testimony?

***Romans 12:1-2: I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.  Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.

Examine your life to discern who you are most like.  Are you more or less of a reflection of Jesus than you were a week or a month ago?  If you are less like Him, is it because you like Him less and some one or some thing else more?  Are you still conformed to His image or have you morphed into the likeness of the world?

Examine yourself:  Is it time for some Fall cleaning?

More Than Conquerors

conquerorsHe had to know it was going to happen at some point in time, and he may have thought what life would be like without him; however when he heard the thundering voice of God, he was still shocked:  “Moses my servant is dead.

Joshua took a deep breath and began to reflect on the life lessons he had learned from this mighty man of God.  He wiggled his toes as he thought of his pilgrim journey—the past as well as the future. The one had been the geography of the land and the escape from Egyptian purgatory, but the other was just ahead and was the long-awaited “milk and honey” territory.  One had been miles of pain traveled by foot, but the other would be acres of promises claimed by faith.

His thoughts were interrupted by the unmistakable voice of God:  “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone.  Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them . . . Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do (Joshua 1).”

Like Joshua, you have an inheritance to claim.  It’s more than a piece of dusty real estate, it’s a regal estate:  It’s a relationship that promises victory.  Paul said, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).”

When you read other translations of this verse, they speak of being “completely victorious through God; experiencing an overwhelming victory;” and, being “triumphantly victorious due to the one who loved us.”

There is not a single instance where God promised that the road of life will be completely smooth and detour free.  Moses and Joshua both experienced some trials and heartaches, and you will as well.  This is why Paul said, “We do not despair . . . even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison  because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).”

When the hard times come, “be strong and brave,” and “don’t despair” the eventual victory is yours because you will be “triumphantly victorious” in Jesus.

Are You A Giver or a Getter?

Helping Hands against blue sky

The life of some people can be defined by their focus on giving or getting:

  • Givers ask: What can I do to help you?
  • Getters ask: What can you do to help me?

When I think of giving and getting, I think of the words of two wise men:

  • President Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”
  • Solomon: “A giving person will receive much in return, and someone who gives water will also receive the water he needs (Proverbs 11:25).”

Think about the people you know.  Are there some among that crowd that sap you of strength due to the demands they make?  Are there others who are a delight to be around because they refresh and re-energize you?

This was the topic of discussion when Paul wrote his second letter to the church at Corinth:

In the midst of all that has happened, though it has been difficult, we are comforted and encouraged. When we saw the relief and joy on Titus’s face, we celebrated even more because his spirit had been totally refreshed by you. Now if I have bragged in the past about you to Titus, I have nothing to be ashamed of. Just as we’ve spoken the whole truth to you, I’m glad to know that our boasts to Titus about you have proven true as well.  His love for you overflows even more as he recalls your obedience and how you respectfully and somewhat nervously, with fear and trembling, took him in.  I have great joy now because I have great confidence in you.                     ~2 Corinthians 7:13-16

Titus isn’t the only person who has been refreshed by a friend.  Paul said that Philemon was a source of joy to him: “Because you are out there encouraging and reviving the hearts of fellow saints with such love, this brings great joy and comfort to me (Philemon 7).”

Think of today as your day to be the giver who makes a difference in the life of another.  Give someone an encouraging word; share an act of kindness; and, revive someone who is struggling through life.

Run Baby Run

cheetah-speed-2According to an African parable, when morning dawns in Africa the gazelle know that it must run faster than a cheetah or be killed.  The cheetah knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it is going to starve.  The moral of this story is that whether you are a gazelle or a cheetah, you had better be ready to run when the sun rises.

In Hebrews 12, Paul used the metaphor of a race, and he said that you should “lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.

How would your life be different if your life was characterized by the determination exhibited by the gazelle or a cheetah?  Keep your eyes on Jesus, and run the race He has set before you.

Daring and Desperate Determination

When you read the Old and New Testaments together, you will find some companion verses.  These Scriptures complement each other.  Even though there are hundreds of years between the times of their writing, they state the same timeless truths.

Notice the words of the Psalmist and the Savior:

  • Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
  • Matthew 6:33: Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Do you “delight” yourself in the Lord as much as you delight yourself in your children and grandchildren?  Do you seek God’s kingdom and righteousness as much as you pursue your passions in life?

I think of these verses when I read the story of a woman in Matthew 15.   She cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is possessed by a demon. Have mercy, Lord!”

customoko-its-time-to-have-bold-faith-kids-tshirt-featured-imageThis woman was persistent and kept on seeking and asking and knocking until she got the attention of Jesus and His disciples.  This woman was daring, desperate, and determined in her quest to request divine intervention on behalf of her daughter.

Because of her faith, Jesus responded and blessed her with the desires of her heart.  How daring and determined are you in your life of faith?

The Power of Encouragement

words-of-encouragement-900I am a frequent reader of the Psalms.  They are a collection of Scripture that proclaim the faithfulness and goodness of God.

As I read Psalm 34 this morning, I thought of some Scripture in the New Testament that are companion verses:

  • Psalm 34:3: Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
  • Hebrews 10:24-25: Let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.

Did you notice the two words that are repeated in the two verses above?  They are “let us.”  These two words speak of the power of encouragement, and this to be the voice of a choir—not a solo performance.

In Ephesians 5, Paul said you should “Let God fill you with the Holy Spirit.  When you are filled with the Spirit, you are empowered to speak to each other in the soulful words of pious songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; to sing and make music with your hearts attuned to God; and to give thanks to God the Father every day through the name of our Lord Jesus the Anointed for all He has done . . . The Spirit-filled life is not just for a special few; it is the normal Christian life, and it affects everything, including how we live in community and how we treat others at home (~The Voice).

When you reflect on the goodness of God, you can project a refrain of faithfulness by singing and making music in your heart.  I encourage you to call or text a friend and share a Scripture or song with them.  Do this and you will magnify God and exalt His name together.

Slipper Slides and Training Wheels

Kutter No Training Wheels 19 (Altered, Crop)Some of my early childhood memories made their home in my mind while I lived on Residence Street.  It was a small house across the street from Jefferson Elementary School.

I remember my kindergarten class that had a large slipper slide inside the classroom and the day an interesting visitor walked into class.  It was Peaches, my Boston Terrier who had come looking for me.

Even when I was in kindergarten, I would think of a hundred different places I would rather be than in class.  One day I poured my milk in my lap, just so I could walk home (across the street) and get a change of clothes.

I guess my favorite memory was Dad teaching me to ride my bike. He would run along behind me and hold on to the back of the bike as I pedaled.  I would take a quick peak to see if Dad was still behind me—it was always comforting to see him and know he was there.

We can know the same thing about our Heavenly Father.  He’s promised to never leave us, and we can also know:

  • God stands guard over us: “God can guard you so that you don’t fall and so that you can be full of joy as you stand in his glorious presence without fault (Jude 24).”
  • God’s strength is available to us: “The Lord is faithful and will strengthen you and protect you against the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).”
  • God encourages us: “God our Father loved us and by his kindness gave us everlasting encouragement and good hope. Together with our Lord Jesus Christ, may he encourage and strengthen you to do and say everything that is good (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).”
  • God has an inheritance for us: “We have been born into a new life which has an inheritance that can’t be destroyed or corrupted and can’t fade away. That inheritance is kept in heaven for you, since you are guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed at the end of time (I Peter 1:4-5).”

Dad had a great smile, and I only need to close my eyes to see it again and to hear his clear voice shout words of encouragement:  “You can do it son—keep pedaling!

You can do it too.  You may need a little help, but the God who is your guard; your source of strength; and, your source of encouragement is ready to give you a little push as you pedal your way through life.