The Solid Rock

Rock-Climbing-ChecklistChristians can be perceived as being an odd bunch of people.  This might be due in part to the language of the New Testament; Jesus encouraged His followers to be light, fruit-bearing, and wise and serpents and harmless as doves.  He also reminded them that they were to be in the world, but not of the world.

Do you try to blend in with the rest of the world, or do you stand up and stand out for Jesus?

Some people struggle with a delinquent desire to fit in with the rest of the world, and they adopt questionable maxims at the risk of divorcing themselves from the message of the Master. At the heart of His message is the need to build your life on the right foundation.

The Christian faith is rupicolous in nature, and Jesus is the Rock or foundation on which you are to build your life.   When you live in His presence and among His principles, you’ll enjoy His blessings.  The words of Moses confirm this:

Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My teaching will drop like the rain, my sayings will drip like the dew, as rain drops upon the grass, and showers upon new growth. For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; you must acknowledge the greatness of our God. As for the Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are just. He is a reliable God who is never unjust, he is fair and upright.  Deuteronomy 32:1-4

What are the core principles that guide your life?  Do they provide a solid foundation or are they little more than sinking sand?  Do they leave you choking in the dust of the world or do they fill your lungs with the pristine mountain air of faith?

Flags, Banners, and the Cross

Banner_smYou’ve probably heard it said many times, and I agree: “If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.”  This simple phrase means there needs to be some consistency between what you say and what you do.

Since I attempt to practice what I preach, I try to read my Bible every day.  When I find a particular verse that speaks to me, I will read it in several different versions, and I’ve found that Biblegateway is a great resource to do this.

During my Bible time this morning, I was reading from I Corinthians, and the 18th verse of the first chapter caught my attention.  Notice how it’s rendered in the J.B. Phillips version:

For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool. But for those of us who are already  experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, it is                        nothing short of God’s power.

One of the realities of being rescued, is the person who needs help has to ask for it. Safety and protection is usually a concern in times of danger and distress. The same was true for David, and he spoke of this in Psalm 60:4-5:

You have raised a banner for those who fear you—a rallying point in the face of attack. Interlude. Now rescue your beloved people. Answer and save us by your power.

Whether it’s a flag or a banner in the Psalms or the Cross in the New Testament, both give strength to persevere during the ups and downs of life.  Paul said:

We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

I recommend that you bookmark Psalm 71:2-4, so it can be a prayer the next time you’re fearful or need some encouragement; and, it might be helpful to go to Biblegateway and read it in several different versions.

Psalm 71:2-4

Save me and rescue me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me, and set me free. Be my rock of safety where I can always hide. Give the order to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked, from the clutches of cruel oppressors

I hope you will have a good week as you discover the power of the Cross and find comfort in God as your rock and fortress.

 

Mind Over Mouth

monkey-hand-over-mouth1Socrates once said that, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”  This reminds me of the old adage, mind over matter and the power of the mind to manage or overcome physical obstacles.

Along with mind over matter, I think there is a need to consider mind over mouth.  As a gifted speaker, Paul knew the power of the spoken word, and he encouraged people to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Words are either swords that wound a person and tears him down or seeds that blossom and build him up.

Solomon said:

  • With his mouth the ungodly destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous are rescued (Proverbs 11:9)
  • A soft, gentle, and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, but harsh, painful, and careless words stir up anger . . . the evil plans and thoughts of the wicked are exceedingly vile and offensive to the Lord, but pure words are pleasant words to Him (Proverbs 15:1, 26).

While there are a limited number of words in your vocabulary, each of them are pregnant with the potential to heal or humiliate. It may be an act of labor and pain to do so, but give some thought to what you think and say.

Will you be thoughtless, rude, disrespectful, and angry or will you speak encouraging words of kindness? Make this a mind over mouth day that is full of wholesome thoughts, and deeds of compassion.

To help you mind your mouth, you can use Psalm 19:14 as a prayer: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Life Principles: Square Knots and Loose Ends

aid59208-728px-Tie-a-Square-Knot-Step-1-Version-4Proverbs is the one word suggestion I made last night.  The first Wednesday of each month is a night I have reserved to meet with the Elders of the church, and last night I suggested that we focus on reading through the book of Proverbs during the month of February.

The practical wisdom that is found in this book provides life principles to help guide your life.  Some of them act as “knots” that provide strength and security, while others are “nots” that warn about loose living:

  • Principle 1–Let Not: Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart (Proverbs 3:3).
  • Principe 2—Lean Not: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5–6).
  • Principle 3—Lust Not: Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids (Proverbs 6:25).
  • Principle 4—Love Not: Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread (Proverbs 20:13).
  • Principle 5—Labor Not: Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven (Proverbs 23:4–5).
  • Principle 6—Look Not: Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moves itself aright. At the last it bites like a snake. Your eyes shall behold strange women, and your heart shall utter perverse things (Proverbs 23:31–33).

Proverbs is a gold mine that is rich in principles, and it is worthy of your attention.   Join me in reading through this book during February.

My child, if you receive my words, and store up my commands within you, by making your ear attentive to wisdom, and by turning your heart to understanding, indeed, if you call out for discernment—raise your voice for understanding—if you seek it like silver, and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand how to fear the Lord, and you will discover knowledge about God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up effective counsel for the upright, and is like a shield for those who live with integrity, to guard the paths of the righteous and to protect the way of his pious ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity—every good way. For wisdom will enter your heart, and moral knowledge will be attractive to you.  ~Proverbs 2:1-10

A Matter of the Heart: El Chapo or El Grande

seanpennWhen I heard the sarcasm in the voice of the news reporter, I paused long enough to hear him say: “He’s a man’s man.”   I wasn’t surprised to learn he was was speaking about Sean Penn’s debacle with the diabolical Joaquín Guzmán or El Chapo.

Neither one of the two come to my mind when I think of a “man’s man.”  One is a misguided political activist and lousy actor while the other is an infamous drug king pin.

When God sent Samuel to the home of Jesse to find and anoint a new king, Jesse gladly showed him his sons who were fine specimens of manhood.  Even though each of them had some physical characteristics that were desirable, Samuel was to consider more than just their strength.

Before this selection process began, God had reminded Samuel that the “Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (I Samuel 16).”

Only one of Jesse’s sons had the “heart” that met the criteria, and his name was David.  This young sheep herder would become a successful King of Israel and the author of many of the Psalms.

When you read the Psalms, several verses speak of the qualities God desires in a person.  Psalm One is perhaps the most familiar, but there are many other verses that speak of a man’s attitude and his relationship with God:

  • The man whose life is out of hand due to his arrogance and unrepentant heart (Psalm 6:2-6).
  • The man who thinks he has the world in his hand (Psalm 30:6).
  • The man who is right because he’s never left God out of his life (Psalm 16:7-11).
  • The man who walks hand in hand with God and recognizes Him as the Lord, relies on His strength, and rests in Him as a personal refuge (Psalm 18:1-3).

When people observe you, do they see a person who has a heart for God, and one who is walking hand in hand with Him?

Standing in the Need of Prayer

boy-and-dog-prayingI rolled out of bed at 4:30 this morning with the same thoughts that were on my mind when I crawled into it last night—the prayers of Samuel and Paul.  Both of these men, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament, were prayer warriors.

One word in particular was on my mind, and it was used by both men.  It’s the word “ceasing.”

  • I Samuel 12:23: God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.
  • I Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without

When you read the writings of Paul, it’s easy to see that he was a man of prayer:

  • Colossians 1:9-10: We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will…so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects.
  • Ephesians 3:16-17: I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
  • Philippians 1:9-11: And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

I think the Achilles heel of too many people is that we cease without praying instead of praying without ceasing.  Only heaven knows how many lives have benefitted from and were changed by the prayers of Samuel, Paul, and people like you and me.

May we not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray. . .

 

Standing in the Need of Prayer

Hatred in the City of Brotherly Love

AP_phili2_ml_160108_4x3_992The dimly lit intersection of 60th and Spruce in Philadelphia grew even darker at 11:40 PM Thursday night when the ISIS-inspired and hate-filled Edward Archer began firing at Officer Jesse Hartnett.    Archer fired at least 11 rounds at Hartnett, striking him three times and leaving the officer seriously wounded.

Law enforcement sources have said Archer made a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2011 for Hajj, and he went to Egypt in 2012. These trips may have resulted in a radical indoctrination that corrupted his mind and then erupted in this assassination attempt on Officer Hartnett.

Archer, and others like him, believe they’re defending the honor of Muhammad when they kill people who violate the teachings of Islam.  The attack on Officer Hartnett is an attack on anyone who wears the uniform because they are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the USA and not Sharia Law.

The actions of Archer are a stark contrast to Christianity.  While these radicals think it’s necessary to protect the honor of Muhammad, Jesus never asked His disciples to defend His.

The focus of Jesus was on forgiveness and turning the other cheek.  It was never exacting revenge like the beheading-bigots of radicalism.

I’ve made this request too many times over the past year, and I make it once again now:  Please remember to pray for the safety of our law enforcement officers.

Officer Hartnett, you are in my prayers.

Full of Grace and Truth

grace-and-truthThe message of the New Testament is to speak the truth in love, and not to use it to beat someone into submission.  When John wrote about Jesus, he described the Lord as being full of grace and truth.  Think about that for a moment and reflect on the manner of ministry embraced by Jesus.  What did Jesus do when He met the town prostitute at the city well?  Did he berate her with a long lengthy sermon?  No, He lovingly shared the truth with her and poured out His grace upon her.

What was the result of His one and one encounter with this sinful woman and the Savior of the World?  She drank from the cup of salvation and shared the water of life with those she knew, and revival broke out in her village.

Throughout the pages of John’s Gospel we see this same pattern repeated time and again.  The faces are different, the names are not the same, but the manner of ministry was always full of grace and truth.

When Paul wrote to the believers at Galatia, he said: If a person gets trapped by wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should help that person turn away from doing wrong. Do it in a gentle way. At the same time watch yourself so that you also are not tempted (Galatians 6).

What has always intrigued me about the verse above, is the phrase, those of you who are spiritual.  If we fail to embrace this manner of ministry, are we failing in our spiritual life?

There have been several times in my life that people have told me that I am full of things that I’d rather not discuss.  My hope is that when people observe my manner of ministry they see it as full and grace and truth.

The Mumble and Grumble of Whinersville

grouchI had to get my atlas out last night to make sure I wasn’t lost.  It seemed like whether I was listening to my radio, watching TV, or reading the newspaper, people were whining:  “I deserve this,” or “I didn’t deserve that!”  I thought I had been mysteriously transported to Whinersville.

Whining, mumbling, and grumbling is a worldwide problem of epidemic proportions.  Europe, South America, Asia, Canada, and the good old USA are afflicted with this debilitating attitude.

This must be a centuries old problem because both Peter and Paul said  people should be careful about the expression of their attitude:

  • Peter said we should, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (I Peter 4:9).”
  • Paul said to, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation (Philippians 2:14-15).”

Before you complain to God, and say:  “This is something I don’t deserve.” Think about it.  Do you really want Him to serve you a plateful of what you deserve? When God fills my plate, I’m like a child:  I want a tiny portion of the Brussel sprouts of His judgment and heaping-helpings of His mercy-filled dips of mashed taters and cream gravy.  I never want what I deserve—the wilting heat of His anger.  I’d much rather bask in the Son-shine of His forgiveness.

Like David, we can find comfort in the loving nature of God and shout: “Lord, You are good and ready to forgive; and, Your abundant loyal love flows generously over all who cry out to You . . . guide me along Your path, so that I will live in Your truth (Psalm 86:10-11).”  Even whiners grow mute and their grumbles are silenced when they turn their thoughts to God’s “abundant loyal love.”

That’s No Lie


Promises_of_God_BannerAfter hearing the latest political sound bite without a bit truth, I was reminded that the Apostle John said, “We must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words.”  Promises and sincerity go hand in hand, and a promise is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

The object of my faith and hope is God, and His promises are more than egg shells and jell-o—they’re rock solid.  Moses said, “God is not like people. He tells no lies. He is not like humans. He doesn’t change his mind. When he says something, he does it. When he makes a promise, he keeps it (Number 23:19).”

You can trust the promises of God for several reasons:

  • You can trust the truthfulness of His Word: “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what (The Message, Hebrews 4:12-13).”
  • You can trust His faithfulness knowing that, “ Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, hugging them as he carries them, leading the nursing ewes to good pasture (The Message, 40:11).”
  • You can trust Him because He loves you: “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children (I John 3:1).”

To keep a promise, a person must have the strength and resources to fulfill the commitment.  There are several places in the Bible where God is referred to as the “Almighty God.”  He is no puny 90 pound weakling, but the Almighty God and the Great I Am. Psalm 91 confirms this: “He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”

I’ll close with these words from D.L. Moody: “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.