Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Get the Picture?

Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

            There are two trails that pass through Great Meadow, a small section of Acadia just outside of the town of Bar Harbor. It’s so close that they are easily accessible for people like me to walk to and through. I try to walk daily, though I probably average more like 4-5 times a week. Both trails make their way to Sieur de Monts Springs, which is at the base of Dorr Mountain. The Jesup Trail, after cutting about halfway through Great Meadow, becomes a long, narrow boardwalk through a marshy and wooded part of the meadow. The other trail is called the Hemlock Road. From Sieurs de Mont it has a feel of a carriage path, and the term “road” fits somewhat. It leads to the Hemlock Trail, which is an access route to the North Ridge Trail up Dorr Mountain. It crosses the Jesup Path about where the boardwalk ends and continues on toward the loop road.

            It would be wrong to say that Acadia is beautiful just in the summer or fall. I walked these trails a couple of times last week. On Saturday I noticed a beautiful grove of trees with rough, gray bark in front of a background of brown grass and a gray sky that seemed to be saying, “Guess what… I have the first snowfall of winter on the way in me.” Joanne and I have snow-shoed these trails in winter. They are always beautiful. A good-sized portion of the Hemlock Road is lined with white birches. It is a fine-looking stretch. There have been times over the years that I have tried to photograph the path there, but have found it difficult. The reason is that a number of the birch trees have been defaced at some point in the past when someone (probably different people at different times) peeled a section of bark off them – in some cases up to a couple of feet long. These comparatively unsightly trees cannot be avoided in the viewfinder of your camera. As a teenager I was taught never to remove bark from a birch tree because it will never grow back. Doing so leaves a permanent scar on the tree. In a grove of birches, even one tree with such a scar stands out. As much as the photographer wishes it were different, the unsightly blemish will inevitably show up in his photo – if he takes it.

            As I walked on the path through these trees I began to think about the scars of Jesus. We learn in reading the Gospels that after His resurrection Jesus still bore the scars of the crucifixion in His body. They were not removed. They did not magically disappear. In fact, they are a permanent reminder of God’s love and grace, which extended far enough to cover our sin. A human being scarred those birch trees. And human beings (including us all) were responsible for the scars on Christ’s body. Many people love Christmas, and rightly so: the birth of Jesus, angels singing, obedient Joseph and Mary, shepherds hearing and seeing. On the surface this is a picture of a “nice” baby Jesus and a “pure and innocent” group of people. The story has had staying power for twenty centuries. Those who like to think of a “nice” baby Jesus growing up to be a “nice” man who did “nice” things for a lot of people,… but then aren’t willing to go any further with Jesus are merely pretending not to see the scars, or are unwilling to look at them. The Incarnation of Jesus only begins with the Nativity scene. Christ came with purpose and intent… with a plan to go to the cross. You cannot get Good Friday out of the same picture in which you find the Nativity, just like you cannot get the whole picture without the empty tomb. Photo shopping is the digital alteration of photos with image-editing software. It’s amazing how easy it is to tell a lie with a photo if you can edit it. I could make myself look thin. I could remove my wrinkles, bumps, moles, blemishes, crooked smile, hairlessness… anything I want. But when this is done, the image no longer depicts reality. It has been altered artificially. It is important spiritually to avoid at all costs a “photo shopped” view of Jesus.

            In the upper room Jesus held out His hands to Thomas with an invitation to touch the scars. This was after His resurrection. You cannot get those scars out of the picture. The image of a birch tree with a permanent scar is a sad one. But the image of the Savior – Jesus the Christ – with a permanent scar is actually glad one – for us. Don’t try to photo shop it or “airbrush” it out of the picture… out of the whole story of Jesus. Rather, rejoice, for those scars are the most beautiful thing you will ever look upon. The manger is empty. Jesus fully experienced humanness. The cross is empty. Christ is no longer on it. And just as important, the tomb is empty. Christ is no longer in it. Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus.

John 20:24-29 (NIV) 24  Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25  So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." 26  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28  Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29  Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

PRAYER:  Lord God, thank you for the beauty of Christ’s scars, and for the greatness of the love they remind me of. All glory, honor, and praise to you. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Jesus Christ is Lord!   


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

High Octane Grace

2 Corinthians 4:15 (NIV)  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

            Before Thanksgiving I heard a preacher use an illustration about fuel for a sermon he was preaching about generosity. I liked the illustration so much that I used it this past Sunday, albeit in a different way. In his message his point was that just like a large plane needs the right fuel in sufficient quantities, generosity needs the right fuel. Batteries will not power jet engines. They require the necessary fuel: jet fuel. When we depend upon guilt or a desire to make an impression or an immediate reward from God to motivate us to be generous, we will always end up disappointed. These are not good fuel for generosity: none will “get us off the ground” when it comes to God’s purposes and plan, and our joy. Using 2 Corinthians 8:7 – But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us--see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” – he showed how the only fuel for generosity that worked in a godly way was grace.

            In my message Sunday I suggested the grace is a powerful fuel for gratitude. We saw in 1 Corinthians 4:7 that all that we possess and all that we are… are things that that we have only received. God’s grace – in giving us all things – when we understand it, becomes fuel – powerful fuel – for giving thanks.

            The more I think about this the more I realize that grace is the fuel for many – if not all – things spiritual,  and all things that make us like Christ. The deeper, higher, and wider our personal experience of grace is… then the greater our capacity for forgiveness, for love, for praise, for worship, for endurance of suffering and hardship, for example. We are called upon to do many acts of service – to care for our neighbors and to minister to those in need – and there are many. You’ll see some referenced in this check-in. Grace is the best fuel for serving others. We can easily be overwhelmed if we depend on our own strength, wisdom, and resources to motivate us. How many of us have felt the difficulty of forgiving another? How many of us have struggled with pain or suffering? How often do we act with impatience and a lack of mercy? How can we cope? How can we do more than cope… how can we thrive in Christ? By “filling up” on the right fuel – the fuel of God’s grace. Just like AA batteries will never get a 747 off the ground, any other source of spiritual fuel we look to will fail us. Duty, tradition, fear, feeling guilty, working hard (personal achievement or attainment), keeping a spouse off my back, wanting people to like me… all such motivations are mere batteries. True power for the things of God comes from the right fuel source; the fuel of grace.

            And the reservoir of God’s grace is vast. It is great enough to equip us for the hardest of things and the longest of time frames. It will transform our motivations, the depth of our sincerity, and form us in Christ’s likeness. God’s grace is the source of our power, and it never dries up. Unlike all the fuel resources of our planet (which are finite), God’s grace is available in infinite supply. His grace cannot be emptied or exhausted. There is never a shortage. Whenever and wherever the need, go to God’s grace. It will always be (more than) sufficient for whatever God calls you to or expects from you.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Ephesians 3:7 (NIV)  I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power.

2 Timothy 2:1 (NIV)  You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

John 1:14 (NIV)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

PRAYER:  Lord God, let your grace be upon me, and let it fuel my love for you and for others. May it truly transform my heart, my motives, my attitude, and my desires. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Jesus Christ is Lord!    


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Stop, Look, and Listen

Matthew 6:29 (NIV)  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

Shimmering ocean blue
Cloudless sky
Haze on the horizon
Gulls gliding
Leaves rustling in the breeze
Mountains in the distance
Sound of wind
Pine branches shining in the sun
Leaves turning gold
Barren, dead pine branches
Spruce needles turning yellow
White birch bark
Brown pine needles on the ground
Lichen-covered rocks
Dead ferns
Lots of dryness
Ground plants turning red
Thick balsam fir branches
Dry leaves on the ground
Acorns plopping to the ground
Fallen spruce and pine cones
Tough, gray, rough bark
Bright red, orange, and mixed maple leaves
Brown, shiny oak leaves
Pond water glittering in the sun
Very low pond water
Dead trees filling a swamp
Red and blue damselflies
Bird song in the trees
Beaver house
Insects illuminated in the sunlight
Lily pads floating
Mud and muck
Shriveled goldenrod
Red squirrel scurrying
Red bushes reflecting on the water
Thin white clouds
Stridulating crickets
Sunlight and shadows filtering through the woods
Gray squirrel foraging
Smell of vegetation dying
Wind moving over the surface of the water

No poetry here - just a list. I took twenty minutes or so one day just observing the obvious. Many of these things are missed by too quick a ride – or even a walk in the Park. But set aside a few meager minutes to pay a little closer attention… and the glory of God comes into sharper focus. Yet even still so many details go unnoticed. For those you must look closer… and closer… and closer still. And in the end what you behold is just the mere reflection of God’s glory. But it’s good. Real good… at least until we get to see Jesus Himself someday. To experience this goodness of what God has made I must choose to simply stop… look… listen... to make the effort to do nothing (there’s a paradox). Then God can show me. Then I can see. Then I can hear. Then I can experience His wonders… all around me. Then worship is inevitable.

Isaiah 35:1-2 (NIV) 1  The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; 2  it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NIV)  As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

Job 38:4 (NIV)  "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand.

Genesis 1:2 (NIV)  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Genesis 1:11-12 (NIV) 11  Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12  The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:20-21 (NIV) 20  And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21  So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:24-25 (NIV) 24  And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. 25  God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

PRAYER:  Wow, Lord. Give me grace to see, hear, smell, and touch your wonders… all around me… and then to worship you aright. Let me take nothing for granted, for it all points to your majesty and glory. In the name of Jesus, AMEN.”

Jesus Christ is Lord!    


Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Luke 2:52 (NIV)  And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Spiritual growth (being formed into the likeness of Jesus) is not automatic. Nor is it “simple”. Jeffrey Zacks, professor of psychology and radiology at Washington University in St Louis, laments what he calls a "global trend" of looking for short cuts to solve our problems.
“Is it just me, or is everybody out there looking for a quick fix? There is something highly compelling about the idea that there is a secret switch we can flip to become suddenly smarter, to reveal cognitive abilities hidden inside each of us. It is a notion that certainly has commercial appeal. Over just seven years, the games-maker Lumosity rocketed from zero to 50 million users, promising rapid improvements in general intelligence by playing brain-training video games for just a few weeks. (Lumosity recently settled with the United States Federal Trade Commission for making unsupported claims that its product was scientifically validated.) "Memory health" nutritional supplements have sales of more than $1.5 billion, and "smart drugs"—pills to enhance cognitive performance—have become prevalent on college campuses. Purveyors of products based on subliminal messages promise to teach us foreign languages and cure our addictions while we sleep. And makers of headgear that attaches electrodes to our scalps promise to rev up our brains to improve gaming performance and other cognitive activities.”

            Sanctification, the goal of the Christian, is a process. There are no shortcuts. The Holy Spirit is given to us at conversion and one of the things He does for us is continually point us to Jesus, that we might glorify Him in thought, word, attitude, and action… that all of life would come under His lordship and oversight. Disciples of Jesus are simply apprentices in what it means to be completely and continually surrendered to Jesus in all things. There are no shortcuts in this process of becoming holy. Our enemy, the devil, seeks to get and keep us off track. He is behind the temptation we experience, and together with our own desires and proneness to self-oriented living, we experience an ongoing struggle/battle with sin and self. Our flesh (our sinful human nature) wars against the development of spiritual maturity. But we have received the resources we need for this struggle. We have the Word of God. We have the Spirit of God. We have the Body of Christ (the Church). We have close brothers and sisters in Christ. We have received much. And we need much in this battle. We also have the example of Christians who have gone on before us in the practice of spiritual disciplines, or “soul-training exercises” as author James Bryan Smith describes them. These practices impact and provide a framework for growth in Christ. His list includes things like sleep, silence in the presence of God, (intentionally and carefully) counting your blessings, praying Scripture, reading Scripture in listening mode, creating margin, solitude (intentional time alone with God), slowing down, writing to God, practicing hospitality, keeping the Sabbath, fasting from media, learning to pray for things we don’t want, serving in secret, practicing de-accumulation, stretching our time without gossip (and other specific sins), sharing our faith, focusing on treasuring the right things, loving those we disagree with, experiencing reconciliation, practicing accountability, learning to be stewards, and worship.

            We can practice any and all of these, and out of that practice comes a deepening experience of the likeness of Jesus and of His abiding presence. Sanctification is a process. There are no shortcuts. Anything that grows (into anything good) takes time, and the bringing together of right circumstances and the resources necessary for health and wholeness. Whether it is fruit, vegetable, animal, or human, growth requires nurturing and care. Believers in Jesus are born (again), not made. Spiritually mature believers are not born that way. We grow… over time… through good times and bad… with the steady application of practices and relationships that train our souls.

            Please pray for our deacons as they undergo a long-term study of these things, in anticipation of sharing them with others in our church. Pray for their growth in Christlikeness and holiness.

Psalm 92:12-14 (NIV) 12  The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13  planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 14  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (NIV) 5  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9  For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

Ephesians 4:14-16 (NIV) 14  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

2 Peter 3:18 (NIV)  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

PRAYER:  Lord, please provide everything I need to grow in holiness, including my desire and my willingness to engage in practices that create in me a place for growth. Fill me with Your Spirit, and may my likeness to Jesus be ever increasing… by your grace and for your glory. Thank you. In the name of Jesus, AMEN.”

Jesus Christ is Lord!    


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Broken In

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) 16  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

I started wearing a new pair of shoes this week. Actually, I bought them a couple of years ago because of a great sale price. But I haven’t needed them until now. They are identical to a pair of shoes I bought seven years ago in preparation for the travels Joanne and I were going to do as part of my sabbatical. I came to love those shoes. For seven years they have been the most comfortable footwear I own, and they have lasted all this time. A good pair of shoes is like a good friend. The fit is great and they’re always there for you. But with shoes, sooner or later they wear out. I’ve known people who would get certain sneakers/athletic shoes in their life re-soled so that they could keep and use them longer. That’s how much they loved them. Instead of buying new ones, they could or would not part with the old ones. Do you have any shabby looking sneakers or shoes somewhere in a closet that you have been unwilling to part with – because you’re so used to them and they’re just too comfortable to give or throw away?

My new shoes, as I said, are identical (size, model, etc.) to the old ones. But guess what? They’re not very comfortable. At least, not yet. They feel stiff, tight, and inflexible on my feet. I want them to “feel one” with my feet. But they are not there yet. They need to be broken in. They need to be worn regularly and steadily – through the stiffness until the leather stretches and loosens up and becomes more conforming with my foot. In the past I have foolishly hiked with boots that were not broken in. My feet paid the price. When I played baseball in college I couldn’t just buy a new glove and start using it immediately and have it work well and feel comfortable. It had to be broken in.

This all makes for a great illustration of how Christian discipleship works in our lives. Christ is formed in us through a number of disciplines that can be learned and practiced by a Christian. Guess what? Many of those practices (the “disciplines”) feel like a pair of new shoes. We are not “used to them” at first. They feel stiff and even uncomfortable. But, like shoes, if we hang in there - if we break them in – we become comfortable with practices that Jesus’ close followers do. They become a very natural part of our lives. They become things that we incorporate into our experience. What are some examples of things in life that we did not do, then learned to do, then just became “normal”?... brushing teeth, taking showers, getting dressed, driving a car safely, using a computer, playing an instrument, reading… the list is huge. The point is that without the determination to work through unfamiliarity, unwillingness, and even discomfort, we would never have experienced the benefits and joys of those things. The spiritual disciplines – the things we can do to strengthen our walk with God – are no different. For an apprentice everything is new at one point. For the practices of our walk with God to become “common” or “comfortable”, we need the same determination, openness, and willingness to do what a learner (an apprentice, a newcomer, a disciple) must do to become like Jesus.

Your deacons have begun a small group study designed to engage in a process of spiritual formation that includes specific activities aimed at emulating Jesus Himself. A discipleship study like this involves learning and trying new things… in some cases things they have not done before or paid as much attention to before. The goal is to grow in the knowledge of God and in the experience of His goodness and in their closeness to Him. After they have done these studies, their goal is to “pass it on” to others in the church and invite others into the same apprenticeship process. So pray for them… that anything that feels like “new shoes” won’t discourage them… that they will persevere through the “breaking in” period and find the joys of this deeper walk. And pray that when opportunities come your way for something new in the Lord or for the Lord,… or some aspect of discipleship you have never tried, comes your way,… that your heart, mind and spirit will be open and ready, and seeking for what God wants to do in you. And, like a person with a comfortable pair of shoes, you will be happy you did.

1 Timothy 4:8 (NIV)  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (NIV) 24  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

PRAYER:  Lord, may your blessing be on our deacons as they pursue a deeper walk with you. Grow their faith and love. Fan into flame their passion for your will and purposes in their lives. And may that extend onward into the lives of all who fellowship in our church. Thank you. In the name of Jesus, AMEN.”

Jesus Christ is Lord!    


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tug of War?

Matthew 6:9-10 (KJV) 9  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Before the memory of Irma fades I’d like to share a few more thoughts. As the hurricane approached the U.S. many people began to pray – for the Caribbean Islands as well as for Florida. I was among them, and it is the Florida-related prayers that I’ve been thinking about. No one knew for sure which path Irma was going to take. Most prayers took the form of asking God if it could go out to sea and affect no one. But, if that couldn’t happen… would the prayers of the west coast believers prevail, or would the prayers of the east coast believers? It makes me wonder… is prayer – at times – like a tug of war? A tug of war is “a contest in which two teams pull at opposite ends of a rope until one drags the other over a central line”. Many of us have participated in such a contest when we were younger.

My prayers (from Maine) were “west-coast” oriented, because my son lives about a quarter mile from the Gulf Coast, and I know others up and down the west coast of Florida. I wanted them to be safe. I wanted their property to be secure. I wanted everything to be okay for them. BUT… at the same time… I also know people on the east coast of Florida. I did not want harm to come to them or their property either. At first people on the west coast were “relieved” because the storm was supposed to travel up the east coast. Perhaps the brunt of it would miss them. Then people on the east coast were relieved because the worst of the storm was forecast to travel up the west coast. So… whose prayers “prevailed”? The east coasters or the west coasters… or someone else’s? Does prayer even affect the weather? Did the Christians on one coast have more faith… or were they “better” people? What about the south coast (the Keys) and the mid-state region? The more you think about these things the “trickier” prayer is to nail down to some automatic formula or response on God’s part. In fact, these kinds of thinking reveal some flaws in our understanding and practice of prayer.

Too often we approach prayer like we do the restaurant experience. And, though we do not use these words, the true approach of many a prayer is, “Dear God, are you ready to take my order?” We come before God and we see/imagine the “menu” available to us. Then we say, “I’d like this… and this… and that… please be as quick as you can to bring me just what I want.”
When the Holy Spirit (the “waiter”) takes our order to the cook (God the Father) we expect something great. When it is placed before us we do not always receive it with satisfaction. If I get a meal at a restaurant that I do not like, what do I do? In my case, I say nothing. But to myself and to Joanne I will grumble, grumble, grumble. In contrast, when my older brother gets a meal that he does not like, he sends it back demanding that it be “fixed” or replaced. How dare the cook send out such a disgusting or inferior thing and expect him to eat it!
Is the unwillingness to accept what God sends our way an appropriate attitude in our prayer lives? Is grumbling or complaining? Is getting up and walking out on Him? These things (as well as a “perfect meal”) are all related to “me getting what I wanted” out of God. But God is not my servant. I am His. Sometimes what God puts before me is bitter. It’s really hard to swallow. I don’t want it. Yet it is what God puts before me. Sometimes what God puts before me is sour. It feels like it has gone bad. It’s not fresh. It may even give me the “shivers” to get it down. Sometimes what God puts before me is salty. It leaves me wanting/needing more… something else to wash it down or quench my thirst (for Him). And sometimes what God puts before me is sweet. It tastes great. I can’t get enough of it. I think it should always be this way. If God “really” loves me everything He gives will be this way, and it will always be in line with just what I want.

In cases like these, we end up in a “tug of war” not with other Christians, but with God Himself. And guess what? That is one you will never win. If you think in these terms you will inevitably have to conclude at some point that God is against you. And honestly… is that the case? Do you really believe that? Dallas Willard (in Renovation of the Heart) asks a question that all of us truly need to come to terms with:…
“Do you want God to help you, or do you want God to be God?” God has a perfect will, and my only need is to seek, receive, and follow that will, not to seek for my will to prevail. At the end of it all, our best prayer is no more and no less than what Jesus taught us to pray…
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name” – More than anything else, O Lord, I want your name to be honored by me, through me, and in me.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” – Jesus modeled this at the end of His life when He came to the cross. And He taught it as the model of our prayers.

Am I willing for God’s will to be done… even when it is bitter to me? Can I trust God to do what is best and right in His sight, and can I trust that He is strong enough, wise enough, and loving enough to carry me and to glorify Himself in me? The tug of war of prayer is what is going on in my heart – between self and surrender, between discontentment and contentment, between rejection and acceptance. Do I really want God’s will, or don’t I? Will I be satisfied in Him? Will I follow in faith, or leave in disappointment? Am I ready to hold everything else with a loose grip, so that I may hold tightly only to God?

If your pattern of prayer is, “God, are you ready to take my order?”… I believe you will inevitably be disappointed with God. But if your pattern of prayer is, “Not my will, but Thy will be done”… then you will be living your life at a whole new level spiritually: deeper and richer and ultimately satisfying to you, as well as pleasing to God.

John 14:1 (NIV)  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.

Matthew 26:42 (NIV)  He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

1 John 5:14-15 (KJV) 14  And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15  And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Job 2:10 (NIV)  He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

PRAYER:  Lord, may I want your will… may I love your will, and may I accept your will with faith… each and every day. In the name of Jesus, AMEN.”

Jesus Christ is Lord!    


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Personal Money Manifesto - Part Five

Psalm 150:6 (NIV)  Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Amidst the ways that money impacts our lives (in the last four weeks we have looked at work, worry, wants, waste) we now come to consider a usage of money that brings us great joy and fulfillment. Any “personal money manifesto” with no room for the relationship between money and worship would be a very limited and ultimately sad list of beliefs/goals. Our attitudes toward, and usage of money reflects our hearts, and it is from the heart that true worship comes.

WORSHIP – Though worship is accompanied and assisted by many outward forms and practices, the Bible clearly communicates to us that our God looks at and cares most about the heart. He knows the status of my heart. He knows when there is a disconnect between my heart and anything I might be doing or saying in any given moment. When I attend worship services and do the things we do there (sing, pray, give, listen to preaching, etc.), God knows if/when I am worshipping and when I am not. The actions in and of themselves are not true worship – unless they are accompanied and motivated by love, praise, gratitude, and trust that fill the heart of the worshipper. A heart that is empty of these produces a life that is empty of worship, regardless of what outward visible or audible activities one might engage in at a church building, worship service, or other such setting. Only God knows how much or how little actual worship is taking place in the individual believer and in the gathering of any people for the purpose of worshipping God.

All of life is a vehicle for worship and an opportunity for thanksgiving and praise. You do not need a liturgy. You do not need a pew. You do not need a song leader or preacher. Now, I like some of those things (especially since I am a preacher), but you don’t go through life with them constantly with you. They do not accompany you to the office (or wherever your job takes you). They are not in your house or your car. They are not at family meals or with you when you go for a hike or a run. None of them are with you all the time. But God is, and only God is. Therefore, if God is ever-present to you, you can worship Him in a variety of circumstances, and actually, in all circumstances. If one or more of these are present in your heart – love, praise, gratitude, trust – in a real way – wherever you may be and whatever you may be doing – then you are worshipping. And hopefully, worship is actually happening in the church building on Sunday mornings too.

There is a potential – for every single time you handle money (or some type of financial transaction) – for you and I to worship God – for love for, praise to, gratitude to, or trust in Him to be filling our heart and/or motivating that action or attitude. For example, how much does grumbling, complaining, or worrying about money result in worshipping God? None at all. Since all of my money and possessions come from God, I am constantly afforded an opportunity for a heart full of gratitude. When I “give up” money for an end that glorifies God (such as meeting the needs of others), I am being moved by love. When I release “my” money for some work of the Kingdom of God, I am declaring my trust in the Lord to take care of me without that money being mine anymore. When I am filled with thankfulness and “just feel like” sharing or giving in some way, I am pointing my heart and life to God. Money is a great vehicle for worshipping God. It’s such a prominent part of life. So why not “capture it” for the glory of God? I think if we don’t do this, then we must be wary, for money will capture our hearts if our hearts are not first and foremost captured by love for God, praise and gratitude to God, and trust in God.


-          I will seek to be generous, so that I might become more like the Lord I love. (Philippians 4:19)

-          I will seek to be intentional with my attitudes about giving, so that my giving will always be true worship.

-          I will seek to connect all my financial thoughts and dealings with love, praise, gratitude, or trust in my heart for God.

-          I will seek stop doing anything with money that I cannot connect in some way to worship of the Lord.

-          I will seek to be thankful in all circumstances – especially financial ones – so that God may be glorified (1 Thessalonians 5:18)… and to live with joy.

-          I will seek to be an example and encouragement to my brothers and sisters in Christ of what comes forth from a heart filled with love, praise, gratitude, and faith for God.

-          I will seek to keep my giving from ever becoming an action that is for my self-promotion, for people to love me or think more highly of me, or for any self-centered motive. I cannot worship God when I am the object of my giving.

-          I will seek to treasure the Lord as so much more valuable… above all other things and all other persons.

Would you add anything to my list?

May the Lord be gracious to us. He knows when love, praise, gratitude, and faith are not present in our hearts. Without Him, and without the help of the Holy Spirit, all our attempts at worship – including those related to money – will fail. By His grace and mercy, we shall actually worship. God is good.

John 4:23-24 (NIV) 23  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV) 36  "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37  Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38  This is the first and greatest commandment. 39  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)  So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Matthew 6:21 (NIV)  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

PRAYER:  Father, fill my heart with love… praise… gratitude… and faith… all directed to you. Let these cover all my thoughts and dealings with money… for your glory. In the name of Jesus, AMEN.”

Jesus Christ is Lord!