The Treasure in Measure

25_powerlockI’m certain that I’ve seen and spoken the word “measure” thousands of times in my life, and I’ve read Romans 12:3 many hundreds of times.  When I read it again a moment ago I noticed something different. I saw the three words found in measureme-a-sure.

 For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. ~Romans 12:3

While me-a-sure has nothing to do with the meaning of measure or the theological significance of Romans 12:3, me-a-sure motivated me to think of the things that I can be sure of knowing, like:

  • Eternal Life: These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (I John 5:13).
  • The Truth: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).
  • The Good Shepherd: I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own (John 10:14).
  • The Hope: I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints (Ephesians 1:18).
  • The Love of Jesus: You may know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

In the third chapter of Philippians, Paul said there was one thing he was sure of, and it was the need to forget the things that were behind him and to focus on the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (3:14).”

How does your relationship with God measure-up?  How have you been reassured in times of trials and heartache?  How has your confidence in God been strengthened?  I’d like to know, so share a comment or two with me.

Title, Deed, and Ownership

Title-DeedsWhen I woke up this morning, to the rhythm and words of an old gospel hymn.  The four-line chorus reminded me of a precious truth:

Now I belong to Jesus,

Jesus belongs to me,

Not for the years of time alone,

But for eternity.


Of the 19 words in that refrain, the word belong stood out more than the rest.  It occurred to me that when you belong to Jesus, you should be longing for a relationship with Him.

During a debate with some skeptics, Jesus spoke of the key to this relationship: The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words. You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God (John 8:47).

When you listen and respond to God’s words it’s evidence that you belong to God, and it’s the first note in a harmonious relationship with Him.  Paul spoke of this relationship, and who you are in Jesus:

  • Ephesians 1:7—In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
  • Ephesians 1:11—In Him also we have obtained an inheritance
  • Ephesians 3:12—We have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
  • Colossians 2:9-10—As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving, and you are complete in Him

When the feelings of doubt and despair try to take root in your heart, remember that you belong to Jesus.  His desire is to have a relationship with you, and He will watch over you as a shepherd does his flock.

 

Psalm 100:2-4

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the Lord, He is God;

It is He who has made us, and we belong to Him;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

The Deaf Ears of the Well-Oiled

MANAMA, BAHRAIN - NOVEMBER 3:  Khalid Abdulla Alhajeri looks at a natural gas pipe November 3, 2002 in Manama, Bahrain. The country was the first in the Arab side of the Gulf to discover oil. The country is the home port for the United States Navy's 5th Fleet, the battle group that patrols the Gulf. The kingdom is a crucial link in any war with Iraq. The Navy has had a base there since 1948. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Immigration is one of the focal points of discussion now that the political campaigns have begun.  A question being asked is: “What should be done about the border dividing the USA and Mexico?”

The scope of the immigration question is not limited to the USA. The European Union (EU) is trying to resolve the same dilemma, and it is perhaps even more difficult.

The decisions of some countries will be influenced by the atrocities of the Ottoman Empire when their army of Muslims conquered Hungary and other nations.  Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary, has attacked EU policy.  He believes the influx of Muslim refugees is a threat to Europe.

The Washington Post has reported that, “Some European countries have been criticized for offering sanctuary only to a small number of refugees, or for discriminating between Muslims and Christians. There’s also been a good deal of continental hand-wringing over the general dysfunction of Europe’s systems for migration and asylum.”

Why is Europe and even the USA being criticized?  The solution to this problem and the responsibility to act, falls directly into the lap of Syria’s Muslim neighbors. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the other wealthy Arab states along the Persian Gulf have a vast supply of oil, but they have turned a deaf ear to Syria’s squeaky wheel.

As I think of the plight of these downtrodden families who are trying to escape the horrors of war, I’m left with two questions: Is the EU practicing discrimination when they try to limit the number of Muslim refugees from Syria, or is the action of the EU discriminating wisdom?

When the EU opens the door to their borders, they open them to more than innocent migrants.  They also open the door to terrorist wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

Is it just me or do you also think it’s odd?  The same countries that refer to the USA as the Great Satan are now appealing to our Christian values to help their outcasts?  Since Saudi Arabia has been blessed with the oil can, they should oil the squeaky wheel of their neighbor.

Follow the Leader

Follow_the_Leader_Photo1When I woke up this morning I was thinking of the word “follow” and the several times Jesus spoke this word.  I did a quick scan of the four Gospels, and I found a couple of interesting concepts.

In Mathew 4:19-20, Jesus said:  “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men, and they immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

  • Principle: If you do not follow Jesus you will be snared by the net of the world.
  • Principle: Fishing for fish is good, but fishing for men is better.

In John 8:12, Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

  • Principle: If you don’t walk with Jesus in the light, you will stumble without Him in the dark.
  • Principle: Jesus does not HAVE the light of the world, He IS the Light of the world.

In John 10:27, Jesus said: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

  • Principle: Obedient sheep hear His voice and make the choice to follow Him.
  • Principle: When you deny and won’t comply, you are easy prey for the wolf.

Here’s the simple truth:  You can follow or be hollow.  When you are hollow, you will search for fullness, satisfaction, contentment, and love in all the wrong places.  When you follow Jesus you can be fully holy.

The wisdom of Solomon is a fitting conclusion:  “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, But He loves him who follows righteousness (Proverbs 15:9).”

Siri: Where Am I?

pigeon-statue-11If you were a statue, you would think of a pigeon about like the kennel boy does a dog.  Not me—I raised pigeons when I was just a kid, and the unique ability of these birds to find their way home has always amazed me.

Evidently Cornell and the University of Pittsburgh share my appreciation for this innate ability of pigeons.  The research from both universities has concluded that pigeons use multiple facilities to help them determine the correct sense of direction.  While the sun is their primary orientation, they also use the earth’s magnetic field as a guide to get them safely home.

After an all-to-common and failed attempt to get directions from Siri (iPhone), I’ve decided I might have better luck finding my way home if I could somehow tether my truck to a pigeon.  Even though I speak clearly, Siri only understands about 10% of what I say when I ask for directions.

As I thought about the proficiency of the pigeons and the sad service of Siri, I was reminded of the words of Jesus:  My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.

Whenever we are lost or feel alone, we can listen for the Shepherd’s voice and have the comfort of knowing we are never lost when we are with Him.

A Good Shepherd and a Roaring Lion

Look at the noun and the adjective. God describes himself as more than a shepherd. He added the descriptive tag “good” to His chosen name of shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd.

If you live the nomadic life and sheep and goats are a part of your daily existence, you know much more about shepherds than most people. Central Asia, West Africa, the Middle East and Israel are regions of the world that know the importance of a good shepherd.

And that’s an important point. God could have said: “I’m the Shepherd,” but He didn’t. He also did not describe Himself as being a so-so shepherd or a little above average shepherd. He said He is the Good Shepherd, and He means GOOD is every sense of the word.

Notice the use of the analogy in Scripture:
• The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:10)
• We are your people, the sheep of your flock (Psalm 79:13).
• We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3).
• I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11).

The people to whom Jesus spoke were people who knew the job description of a shepherd: It is the job of the shepherd to:
• Find a sheep when it is lost.
• Carry a sheep when it has fallen and is injured.
• Rescue a sheep that is about to drown because its wet wool is dragging him down like an anchor.
• Doctor a sheep when it is sick.

The prophet Isaiah (53:6) explains why sheep need a shepherd: “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Any time you stray from the way of the Shepherd, there is the potential of danger. Peter said you need to, “Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).”

I’ll close with Paul’s benediction to the Hebrews (13:20-21): “Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen.”

The ISM Prism

prismThe answer to the question is Psalm 23. More often than not, when I ask a family what Scripture they would like read at the funeral of their loved one, they reply: “Psalms 23.”

While this Psalm is very poetic, it is much more than that—it is also jam-packed full of promises! The six verses of this Psalm is vivid imagery that presents God in the language of a caring and loving shepherd, and it offers hope to God’s struggling sheep in their darkest hours.

The first three words speak of God’s eternal presence: “The Lord is.” The word “is” is present tense. The verse does not say the Lord “was,” or the Lord “has been,” or “might possible be.” It tells us that the desire of God is to be your personal Shepherd at this exact moment and in every future second, minute, hour, and day of your life.

God is present now and with Him is the essence of His attributes. He is present with His empowering grace, abundant mercy, and His loving-kindness. He is present in His awesome greatness, His truth, and in His almighty strength.

Because sheep have a tendency wander off and get lost, He is also present to light the path you walk and to shine as a lamp to your feet. He is the ever-ready, ever present, power-packed God.

Whatever your task might be for today and whatever the trial may be, remember these three words: The Lord is. To really embrace the truth of this, drop the “the” and replace it with “my.” Say it now: “My Lord is.”

When you get a chance, put a smile on your Shepherd’s face, and shout it out: “My Lord is!” This “ism” is a beautiful prism that opens new possibilities to enhance your relationship with your Shepherd.

Goodness and Mercy

There has probably been some time in your life when you felt like you were living under a cloud of despair.  Regardless of what you did,  there seemed to be a trail of worries and problems that followed you where ever you went.

A stark contrast to this kind of situation is found in the words of David in Psalm 23:6:  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.  

I think it is important to note that David did not say that every waking moment of a person’s life will be filled with good moments and happy days.  He did say, however, that the goodness of God and His mercy can be experienced each day of our lives.

Unless a person has given some consideration to the meaning of mercy and its close cousin, grace, he may think that the words have the same meaning.  Let me distinguish one from the other:

  • Grace is when God gives you something you do not deserve.  Salvation is a good example of this.  I do not know of anyone who really deserves it.
  • Mercy is when God does not give a person what he deserves.  When a righteous God judges sinful man, He can either punish him or extend His goodness and mercy.

I have heard people say:  I just want what I deserve and what I have coming to me.  Not me, I want the mercy of God.

David said the mercy of God is a given, and we see this in the word surely.  It isn’t a hope so or maybe so proposition, it is a guarantee from God.  In the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the prophet said:  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed; they are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!

In the shepherd/sheep analogy of Psalm 23, we have the Good Shepherd who leads us, and guarding the back of the flock are His two sheep dogs.   One is named Goodness and the other is called Mercy.

Remember the promise of this verse:  Surely goodness and mercy will follow one all the days of my life.  Think about it, Goodness and Mercy are the lap-dogs who are just a whistle away.