Monday, October 31, 2011

looking down, looking up

Life is tough...Last week I had a car accident and, thankfully no one was hurt... but afterwards, and since then, I have replayed the situation many times in my mind to understand what happened.  I found myself looking back and then I realized that there may be some questions that never get answered about why the accident happened.  So I looked up and asked the Lord to help with perspective and then I realized that I needed to look down and bow before the situation, trusting in His sovereign will.  Then I remembered that the Lord weaves character development into all the situations of our lives...even when our circumstances are trying.  Then I looked up and thanked Him for the faithful love that will not rest until we are brought to maturity in Christ.  I see that there are times when I need to look down and bow before His sovereign and loving will (and judgement!) so that I can look up in gratitude and praise!

Romans 8:27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to beconformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Friday, October 28, 2011

the secret

Colossians 1:26This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God's people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

The cold air this morning was a shock, at first, and then a refreshing lift.  Some problems and issues that I'd been wrestling with fell away as I lifted my heart and mind to the Lord.  I realized that problems, mistakes and issues will always be part of my life, but that there was a greater reality.  God has rescued me and transferred me to the Kingdom of His Son (verse 13)!  I love how Paul describes this as a mystery and a secret in the book of Colossians.  The incomparable truth that Christ lives in me was a fresh thought, like the brisk air around me, and I realized that the answer to my issues and problems lives in that secret.  Looking up to Him lifts me above to get a better view and see that He is with me in the midst of my problems and focusing on Him is always the solution.  This is a secret that we need to keep sharing!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

confident hope

Colossians 1: 4 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God's people, 5which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.

One of the most remarkable things to me about the new birth in Jesus is captured in the verses above from Colossians.  I hope that you have experienced the reality of placing your complete trust in Jesus and then experienced the "confident hope" that God has reserved your place in Heaven.  It seems important to Paul to begin with this reminder to the Colossians as he starts his letter to them.  So often important truths are repeated or restated to make sure we get the message.  In the very next verse Paul says 6 This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God's wonderful grace.
Notice the past tense of the two key verbs, "heard and understood".  Our lives are forever changed when this happens.
And here it is again, a little farther along in the same chapter: 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
Notice the past tense of the two verbs "rescued and transferred".  As we "heard and understood", He "rescued and transferred" us to the Kingdom of His "dear Son".

A great way to start a new life and a good reminder to start a new day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

food for thought

"That's food for thought!"  This is a common expression for an interesting idea that may strike you as new and challenging.  I think it is interesting to consider the source of thoughts.  Sometimes we intentionally direct our minds toward tasks and challenges to solve problems, understand issues and formulate solutions.  Sometimes we "feed" our thoughts with the thoughts of others, as when we read or watch TV or scan the internet.   Sometimes we are "in neutral" and thoughts just seem to take us down meandering paths, like casual conversation with a friend.  Whether we are focusing our minds intentionally, feeding our minds, or leaving our minds in neutral it is fascinating to think about how our thoughts mix with our personality and how thoughts lead to action.  Perhaps most interesting is how our relationship with God is represented in our thoughts.  I think it is safe to say that most of our personal walk with God plays out in this "thought realm".  In that respect it is useful to think about how we are feeding our minds, what we are thinking about when we "are in neutral" and what issues we are involved in and what our attitudes are toward those issues.  

Here are a few verses about our thoughts and God's thoughts:

Psalm 40:17 But I am poor and needy;
         Yet the LORD thinks upon me. 
         You are my help and my deliverer; 
         Do not delay, O my God.

Psalm 119:59 I thought about my ways,
         And turned my feet to Your testimonies.

Psalm 139:2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
         You understand my thought afar off.

Job 35:2 "Do you think this is right?
      Do you say, 'My righteousness is more than God's'?

Psalm 94:11 The LORD knows the thoughts of man,
         That they are futile.

Food for thought!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

light from a star

Right now, at 6 am, morning looks like night.  Visiting my favorite pond I needed light from my cell phone to walk to the water's edge without falling into the pond.  But overhead was a stunning display of stars, with familiar constellations standing out like portraits in a velvet gallery.  I thought about just how far we can see, even with the naked eye.  It turns out that we can see stars that are over 2.5 million light years away.  That means that the light we see from those stars emanated 2.5 million years ago.  It is really something to think that I can see something that predates the coming of the Lord, the history of Israel in the Old Testament and that hearkens back toward the beginning of Creation itself.  The morning light from those stars reminds me that, even now, I am living in eternity.   Like the stars of heaven, whose light is washing up on our shores from ages ago, so does the eternal light of the Lord shine through time to reach us now.  Even as the stars are a small part of the vast blackness of space, their message of eternity triumphs over the backdrop of darkness.  And our knowledge of the light of the Lord triumphs over darkness as matter how deep and dark it seems!

Genesis 26:4 And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;

Monday, October 24, 2011

the humility of life

Maybe it's just this time of year...when warmth seems to be heading south and trees begin to shiver without leafy coats...but I am reminded that we are naturally humbled in the course of getting older.  When we are young and growing, our strength and abilities are also increasing and it is easy to become proud and self-assured.  But the humbling of life also enters as we face challenges of competition and then marriage and then children and we realize that there are questions that we don't have answers for and problems we can't solve, on our own.  At times we see ourselves fail and fall.  We can have an amazing capacity to continue in our own strength, however...and that leads to more falls and failures.  Then, as the children grow up and out, we begin to see our strength wane and our appearance fade and we are surely faced with the temporary nature of our own least here in the flesh.  But I am grateful for the humility of life because, whether we are young or old, the biggest lesson we need to learn is to come to the end of our "selves" and to the beginning of walking with our Savior.   As the leaves begin to we shall surely fall, in life and death.  So how wonderful it is to fall into the arms of the Lord even in these days.  It is good to be humbled by life... to humbly find Life in Him.

Psalm 92:12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
         He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
 13 Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
         Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
 14 They shall still bear fruit in old age;
         They shall be fresh and flourishing

Sunday, October 23, 2011

life as we know it

So I was thinking about the things we tend to lean on in life...our personal knowledge and skills, our jobs, our spouses.  Where is it that we go when we head to the foundations...the basement...the footers that personally are carrying us?  One word emerged as interesting: "tradition".  Tradition literally means "to hand over from one generation to the next".  So tradition is all about the means and method by which one generation passes on truth and wisdom to the next.  It does not mean truth or wisdom in itself.  Some traditions pass Truth and some pass falsehood dressed as truth.  It is not in the tradition itself that truth resides.  That is why God, who lives across generations, provided access to Truth through His Word.  God allowed men to be voices and vehicles to speak His inspired Word and to inscribe it and to hand it down.  But every tradition must be held up to God through His Word for authenticity and accuracy.  Ultimately, God is not looking for keepers of tradition.  He is looking for His children to be restored through the extension of grace, motivated by mercy and received by faith.  This is a transaction secured by Christ on the Cross and declared with boldness through His resurrection and ascension and intended for appropriation by you and I directly, without the addition of any other action.  Faith can never be a matter of tradition.  It is not handed down from generation to generation.  It is not interpreted.  It is a living bond: the direct fulfillment of a direct promise from God to every man.  Transformation, not tradition, and nothing less, should be the foundation and the result of this transaction.  

Holy Spirit, author of God's Word, interpreter of Truth, convictor of sin and righteousness, you are the one who carries the Gospel across generations and into hearts.  Thank you, Lord, for the direct access we have through your Son to be in your presence daily and to feed from your hand.

2 Timothy 1;12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

hidden color

There is a brightness coming into the woods surrounding the pond now.  Hardwood leaves are beginning to dress in stylish golds and reds.  I was curious about the process by which leaves change colors.  It turns out that, as days shorten and nights grow longer, something triggers a reduction in the production of chlorophyll within the leaves.  Cells begin to grow around the veins that carry the sugars from the leaf to the tree and this traps the sugars within the leaf.  Extra sugar, combined with sunny and cool fall days causes other pigments within the leaf to display the yellow, brown and red colors we enjoy.  Eventually the circulation from the leaf to the stem is entirely cutoff and the leaf dies and falls to the ground.  The green color that dominates from spring through summer is due to photosynthesis and, while production is busy and the sugars are carried to the rest of the tree, the other non-green pigments are overwhelmed by the green chlorophyll.  Those colors just have to wait until the brief period when production slows in preparation for winter before they show.  It occurred to me that we, also, have other colors to show in the later stages of life.  During our busy, productive years we wear the color of vitality and energy.  As our days here grow shorter and we don't need as much sugar in our veins we begin to show other colors...shades of wisdom, mellow warmth, and brilliant gratitude.  Unfortunately, like the leaves of some trees, some of us just seem to go from green to a murky brown, become brittle and blow away.  But the pigments for more brilliant hues lie waiting within the leaves of our lives to reveal great inner beauty, which only the latter stages of life can reveal (all we need is the sugar of the Savior and the light of the Lord!)

Revelation 22: 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Friday, October 21, 2011


There's just something about being under the sky in the predawn period when there are few things to see... It makes you to think about those few things a little deeper.  The crescent moon provided ample light for walking the path and the crisp, clear air allowed the starry belt of Orion to stand out sharply.  It occurred to me that the moon and stars took their places in the heavens as a result of words spoken by God.  He didn't use a giant "Heaven hook" to lower them into place, or fashion the moon as we would make a snowman, by rolling a small clump of material around to build up to a larger ball.  He spoke and the created universe took shape.  I thought about our nature and how God made us in His image.  We have a creative bent and are constantly looking for new inventions and improvements on existing things.  But, beyond that, we also have creative power in our words.  We can't speak a moon into being or hang a star in the distant sky, but we can establish a bond of compassion, instruct a child in right and wrong, and encourage one who is sad...with our words.   Certainly God chose His words well to fashion such a complete creation.  I think that we do well to also consider our words carefully.  With them we shape relationships, build character, solve problems and share the restoration message of the God who lives.  I'm glad that He passed the power of words to us!

Proverbs 12:18 Some people make cutting remarks,
      but the words of the wise bring healing.
 19 Truthful words stand the test of time,
      but lies are soon exposed.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

touched by a moon shadow

Walking down the gravel and dirt path this morning I was surrounded by darkness but touched by moon reflections that cast my shadow on the road.  The moon became my walking companion.  I considered how the moon above the trees caught the light of the sun while the sun was below the horizon and reflected that light to touch me.  I realized that, in a similar way, God touches me directly at all times.  Whether I walk in the day or at night the light of God's direct touch reaches me.  And I thought of how we, who love the Lord, can also reflect His light to others.  Like little moons, we can reflect brightly, as a full moon, or a slivery crescent...or not at a new moon.  Of course the moon's reflection can be blocked by overcast skies and our reflection can face similar cloudy conditions during difficult days.  In fact, the sun is such a dominant presence when it shows up that it tends to take over the entire light show and we can forget about this great source of light.  Of course, we forget God and His presence as the Source of Light, as well.  Perhaps that is why He gave us the moon, as a reminder that there is light from Him even when we are wrapped in the velvet of night.  At those times His presence seems even more intimate!

Psalm 8:3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
         The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
 4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
         And the son of man that You visit him?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

truth and love

Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another
Living for others seems to be a key for personal success.  In this application chapter of the book of Romans we find great guidance for successful living, once we have been restored to a living relationship with our Lord.  Paul speaks in short, direct sentences in verse 9.  He is telling us truths that we already know but that we stray from following.  But we have a new context for living in Christ.  Hypocrisy, evil and good seem to be obvious in meaning but we need the indwelling presence of the Lord and the commitment that comes from a grateful heart to truly live genuine lives that sincerely reject evil and cling to good.  If verse 9 tells us what we should value, then verse 10 tells us who we should value and how we should share those values.  We need the commitment to truth from verse 9 joined with the commitment to love in verse 10 to reflect the character of our gracious Lord.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the Only God

This was a trial! I had the entire email ready to go and somehow deleted it! My walk this morning led to thoughts of wanting to walk closer with God during the day, when faced with a multitude of choices and distractions. In my mind I "know" that I should choose the Lord over other motivations for activity but I am easily led down other paths. When faced with the question of how to love the Lord more effectively, the conclusion I came to this morning, as I enjoyed the solitude of the country road and pre-dawn sky, was to remember that He is the "Only" God and should be the "Only" focus of my heart and mind. If I cannot connect the purpose for my activity to Him I need to challenge my investment of heart and mind in that activity. The Only God has a rightful claim to 100% of our being. So, I think the question is not: "How can I love you more?" It is: "How can I love you only?" Looking at a different way: What can I give myself to that has more assurance of satisfaction and lasting value? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday morning cathedral

I parked the truck on the side of an unpaved road through the woods this morning. There was no hint of dawn yet and the three -quarters moon quietly radiated a "night light" level of illumination that framed the trees bordering the road and played branchy shadows on the sandy road surface. It had been too long since I had walked quietly in the morning and felt the presence of the Lord. But I felt His hands and His eyes as soon as I closed the truck door and stepped out onto the road. I had forgotten the feeling of being alone in the company of the Lord. But I quickly remembered the sweet joy of simply and quietly strolling through a place that is on the edge of darkness and the threshold of light. Simple prayers of thanks bubbled up and different ones in need came to mind but much of the walk was the simple joy of being there...aware that He was near and, in the aloneness His intimate presence seemed to magnify His reality. After pausing for reflection before a small pond that also reflected the moon and a few stars overhead, I returned down the road to the truck. Looking up I saw the lofty pine trees bent in graceful arcs and they seemed to fashion a cathedral ceiling so appropriate for this morning time with the Lord.
Psalm 89:36 His seed shall endure forever,
And his throne as the sun before Me;
37 It shall be established forever like the moon,
Even like the faithful witness in the sky." 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

two levels of love

Two levels of love reach out and down,
from Heaven's treasure vault.

The first extends to broken men,
Who cannot mend their faults.

They've tried and tried to make life work,
But in their strength alone.

And find an incompleteness there,
Until His grace atones.

The second love is for the saved,
For life is tough to live.

We've found Him true 
Our lives renewed
But still we face each day.

One love to rescue from sin's claim,
and Heaven's now our home.

Another love to walk with us,
Down every winding road.

1 John 4:9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

inside out and upside down

We're inside out and upside down...
to start our earthly walk.

We think we know which way to go...
But steps don't match our talk.

We take our cues from you and you's
And others all around.

Thinking that we know the way
From others on the ground.

We keep our stumbles to ourselves...
Or so it seems to us.

Foolish creatures are we all...
To hide what's seen above.

For outside in and downside up's the only way to find:

The Maker of our inner works,
Repairing heart and mind.

Ephesians 3:16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man

Friday, October 7, 2011

Battleground: each heart

We are studying the book of Romans in our MiniBible College class on Monday nights (come on out!...7 pm upstairs at the Chapel).  As we work through the early chapters we see signs of the battle...the battle for life, for faith, for salvation.  Man seems bent on rebellion and turning away from God and God seems bent on getting man's attention and restorining the broken relationship.  This morning, as I read through chapter 2, I was struck with the personal nature of religion.  We often think of religion on a large scale, in terms of groups and nations and churches and sects.  Chapter 2 reminded me that it all boils down to each individual heart.  When we realize that the battle centers over one life at a time we also realize that the victory centers on one life at a time.  I picture the large ships I saw in the Navy.  Generally they made small course changes as they traced across the ocean, but occasionally they would come "hard about" and reverse direction.  This would cause a large wake to be created behind the ships and the strain of rudders and hull pivoting hard produced groans as if the ship were reluctant to make so great a change.  This is something like the kind of change that follows the heart that chooses to reverse course and turn from self-rule to God-reign.  As Paul writes at the end of the chapter (from verse 29) "circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God."


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

a sea of sky

The morning light's a perfect time to look beyond the trees,
A new day starts and all is fresh; awakened by a breeze.

So find a rise where fields expand, horizons fill your sight
And looking up, the waves of cloud become a sea of sky.

First beauty of the newborn day belongs to Heaven's King,
He made it as an offering, to prompt our hearts to sing.

For if this canvas, splashed with oils, from Holy Artist hands
is seen by human eyes that pause within His gallery...
That one will walk with God this day...He's spied eternity!

Psalm 65:8 The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; 
   where morning dawns, where evening fades, 
   you call forth songs of joy.


Monday, October 3, 2011

between the lines

We've met Him on the page of truth,
His Word preserved through time.

The story of His righteous plan,
The King who rules from High.

One story told through Israel,
Extended to us all.

As time rolls on the scroll uncoiled,
Men rise from Adam's fall.

We read all this in Bible books,
The greatest ever penned,

And find ourselves, lost like the rest,
With broken souls to mend.

It's not so much the words we read,
But the greater truth we find...

He waits for us to turn to Him as we
read between the lines.

Psalm 119:130 The unfolding of your words gives light; 
   it gives understanding to the simple.