Archive for the ‘Joy of my salvation’ Category

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JOY IN SALVATION – Mar. 19

March 19, 2014

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little loves little.”  Luke 7:47

We have all seen reactions of the unexpected.

RMHK-Michael / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The joy of the one who expected to stay seated when the awarder calls their name;

The exhilaration when an unachievable goal is achieved;

The shocked speechlessness at the generosity of a gift;

The tearful gratitude when the defenseless is defended.

The daily grind of my days may have ephemeral hints of these diffused emotions, but not as frequent as I think that it should.

More often, my days begin and end in the structure of muted routine.

The morning of another day commences with the structure of a Bible reading plan – a little Old Testament, a little New, bashed with some Psalms and garnished with contemplation.

The day is lived managing the cares and troubles allotted.

Evening ushers the day to closure with some reading and prayer – mostly focused upon the day previous and the one to come.

FredBaby13 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The faithful practice of the Christian faith can lead us into an attitude of the entitlement and wonderless-ness.  We can become accustomed to our salvation.  We expect our name to be called.  We can be so familiar with the bridge that spans the unachievable gap that we bounce and play on it.  Our words run on with academic “isms” in abstruse explanations of the marvelous gift freely given.  We walk confidently in the obligated defense of covenant.

I wonder whose attitude my daily existence most often reflects?

Simon the Pharisee – who did not wash Christ’s feet, never gave Him a kiss, and neglected to anoint his head.

The sinful woman of the city – who washed Christ’s feet with tears of gratitude, soiled her hair to dry His feet, and willingly gave expensive oil to anoint His head.

The reality of this comparison is displeasing .

I have a need that is greater than a desire for fresh revelation.
I require nutrition of something greater than a fresh telling of old truths.
I have a want that comes from a well deeper than spiritual discipline.
I have an essential necessity for remembrance.

Followers of Christ need to remember.  We should frequently remind ourselves of who we were.  We must regularly preach the gospel to our own soul.  We must daily acknowledge the unsanctified reality of our hearts.  We must practice marveling at the perfection of Christ in contrast to our imperfection.  We are not good.  We are not worthy.  All that we have to offer are filthy rags.

We need to live in the joy of our salvation so that we will live in the gratitude of the sinful woman of the city.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.  Psalm 51:8-12

May we be a people who remember what has been done for us and take ecstatic joy in His salvation of our souls.

PRAYER: Father, restore to me the joy of your salvation.  Uphold me with a willing spirit.  Open my eyes to the wonder of what you have given me.  Forgive me for living ungratefully and entitled.  Renew a right spirit within me.  Help me to remember the beauty of the gospel.  Revive my dry attitude that has come with familiarity.  You have been so good to me.  You have blessed me with so much.  I was lost in my sin, worthy of your condemnation, and yet you saved me while I was still in rebellion against you.  Your love to me is abounding.  Your mercy is without boundaries.  Your grace is beyond comprehension.  Thank you – with all my heart and soul.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“COME DEATH…BUT NOT YET” – July 24

July 24, 2013

“Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”  Philippians 1:25

I can relate to Paul’s longing for death.  For Paul, he knew that it was far better to depart and be with Christ.  I believe in the sweet release of death and look forward to being with Christ.  However, there is a difference between longing for what is far better behind the veil of death and simply wanting to escape the stress and unpleasantness of life.

Dark Night

Dark Night (Photo credit: Mat Sheridan)

Typically, I only think about death when the view on this side is bleak.  “O Lord, if you are going to take me, then now would be a good time,” has been a prayer that has crossed my lips on the eve of an important test that I was ill prepared for.  The oppression of discouragement and meaninglessness leads the eye to look to for what is far better beyond the horizon of life.  Feelings of being ill-suited for this world and without a role tend to increase the desire to go where you know you will belong.

On those dark nights, escape has been my primary motivation behind the desire to leave this world.

The duplicity of my motivation was revealed when the doctor explained the cancer that was confronting my mortality.  Suddenly, the attractive escape of death was not as appealing.  There was within me an earnest desire to remain here a little longer to help raise my kids and grow old with my wife.  “O Lord, if it is your will  then your will be done but please give me a few more years.  Allow me to be a father and husband a little longer,” was my prayer when the reality of death knocked.

The Lord graciously granted that prayer and I have been cancer free for more than ten years.  However, the earnestness of being purposeful wanes as the years have removed the palpable taste of death’s reality.  The taste may diminish but the reality remains.  We all are a missed heartbeat away from crossing the veil into the arms of our Savior.  The time that we have been give is precious and should not be wasted.

For those who are in Christ, it is far better for the Lord to take us home.  So, why doesn’t he?  We are here for a purpose:

For to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  (Philippians 1:24)

sunrise silhouette

sunrise silhouette (Photo credit: LJ Mears)

Like Paul, we remain in this world not for our own account but for others.  We all have a necessary purpose that we can fulfill in the time that God has given us on this earth.  We are here to help others progress in their faith.  Our purpose is to increase the joy in their faith.  It should be said of every departing brother and sister that they brought joy, encouragement, and progress to the faith of those in their life.

We are never too old or young to bring joy and encourage progress in someone else’s faith.
We are never too immature or mature to be about the purpose of others.

My hope and prayer on the day that death is allowed to take me is that my life will have brought joy to the faith of those I love.  I want those in whom I have invested my life to say that they have progressed in their faith because of the time that we were together.

That will be a life well spent.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for every day that you have given me.  Forgive me for not making the most of them.  Forgive me for allowing my limited days to be consumed with thoughts of my self.  Father, I want to live purposefully.  I want those whom you have placed in my life to be joyful as a result of my love for you.  I want those whom you have called to go further in their sanctification as a result of seeing my desire to seek you.  Lord, may you grant this purpose to my life.  Keep it in the forefront of my intentions.  Help me to be purposeful with the fleeting hours that I have been given.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“GET TO OR HAVE TO – THAT IS THE QUESTION” – May 16

May 16, 2013

“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.”  Romans 4:4

My attitude is often betrayed in the verbs that I select.

“I have to…”  or  “I get to …”

There are very distinct attitudes behind these two sentences.  I have to do the activities for which I am obligated.  Most everything that I have to do is a result of some transaction that I have entered into with the expectation that I will receive some sort of reciprocation. It may be money, a favor, acknowledgment, praise, the appreciation of my wife, or to keep up appearances.  There are many ways by which we are compensated for doing those activities that we feel obligated to do.

Consider what you have to do; would you do it if you did not receive your just due?

I would not.  For me, the use of the verb, have, speaks of an obligation that I feel; an obligation infers that a transaction has occurred where work has earned a payment.  As an adult, there are a lot of activities that I have to do.  There are also a lot of activities that I get to do.  These are activities where I am under no obligation to do them.  I want to do them.  I use vacation time to do them.  I don’t need compensation to do them.  I often pay to get the opportunity to do them.

What verb do you use in describing your service to God?

I have to go to Church.
I have to read my Bible.
I have to love my neighbor.
I have to pray.
I have to be obedient.
I have to love God.

Why do I have to do any of those things?  What am I working for?  Am I doing those things so that God will continue to love and bless me?  Am I trying to compel God to give me the wages of my work?

It is so easy for an attitude of obligation to creep into our mindset.  We are justified by faith.  Righteousness is counted to us by faith.  We did not work to earn it.  Righteousness is not due us based on anything that we have done.  It is a gift that “will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:24-25)

We get to respond to this free gift. 

If we have to respond to that gift then we are trying to earn something. Our justification cannot be earned.  Therefore, we get to live in grace and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)  Our attitude about serving God should be one of love and appreciation; I get to serve God.

I get to go to Church.
I get to read my Bible.
I get to love my neighbor.

I get to pray.

I get to suffer.

I get to walk in obedience.
I get to love God

I don’t have to earn eternal life – Praise God!

Therefore, I get to walk in the Spirit;

I get to glorify God with my life;

I get to produce the fruit of the Spirit;

I get to be poured out for His purposes;

I get to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind;

May we be watchful of the attitudes in our service and obedience to the Lord.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for not requiring me to earn my salvation.  Thank you for showing your love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Father, help me to remember that You did all the work.  I have done nothing for there was nothing that I could do to be justified before You.  Lord, thank you for allowing me to live for You.  Thank you for the opportunity to get to serve You and sing your praises.  Keep me from viewing the joy of my salvation as an obligation.  I praise you Lord and pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“THINKING ABOUT THINKING” – April 24

April 24, 2013

“For the Lord will not foresake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.” 1 Samuel 12:22

The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, CA a...I had a Monday that taints the weekend with an odd color of anticipation. I had a one-day business trip to San Francisco scheduled.  I was to fly into Oakland International Airport in the morning, have my meeting, and fly out that same evening.  I am amazed at how travel has changed.  We left the car rental agency in Oakland without a map or direction.  All we had to help us navigate through an unfamiliar city was a GPS unit that I call Uncle Mel (that is a longer and different story).  I typed the directions in for Fort Mason on the Marin Headlands and Uncle Mel started to tell me where to go.

I had a rather disconcerting feeling of dependence as we were going through the labyrinth of one-way streets in the skyscraper canyons of downtown San Francisco.  I knew that our destination was just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge and I knew the general direction.  However, I was going to be hard pressed to navigate such an unfamiliar city if Uncle Mel died.

Uncle Mel faithfully guided us right to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was very thankful for that beautiful bridge because it carried us across the chasm of water right to our destination with 15 minutes to spare.

I was reflecting on my trip as I listened through some podcasts on my way home.  I listened to a particular podcast called Philosophy for Theologians  that got me to thinking.  Dr. Vern Poythress was on the podcast to discuss his new book, Logic: A God-Centered Approach.  Dr. Poythress challenges the concept that logic is inherent to itself; that logic and rational thought, such as 2+2=4, exists whether God exists or not.  He proposes a distinctly Christian logic based on the reality that even logic is a revelation of a redeeming God.  He works to demonstrate how our ability to think rationally is grounded in the very nature of God himself.  The implications of this Biblical worldview are profound.

I thought about my trip through San Francisco to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and how similar I believe that is to our salvation.  I believe that the Spirit guides all who are called through the myriad of life’s one-way streets, imposing intellectual canyons, dangerous neighborhoods; past dead-ends, playgrounds, restaurants, and park benches.  The Spirit guides us along a route where we are completely dependent upon Him.  Often, a traveler doesn’t even realize that they were being guided when they come right to the foot of the cross.

I realize that there is debate among my brothers and sisters in Christ as to the degree and extent that the Spirit draws people to the Father.  I tend to attribute the drawing of a person’s soul to the cross as a complete work of God.  There are some who view it as a complete work of man’s free-will.  There are still others who view it as a combination of a person’s free-will and the Spirit drawing.

As my plane was whisking me home, I rolled this concept of rational thought, as presented by Dr. Poythress, around in my mind; considering the implications to man’s free-will.  The function of man’s free-will is a result of that person’s rational thought.  If rational thought is a revelation of our redeeming God, then even the functioning of a person’s free-will is a reflection, although an often poor and weak reflection, of the very nature of God.

God has given us a rational mind.  He has placed us in a world where 2+2=4.  I cannot comprehend a world where 2+2 does not equal 4 but that does not mean that God could not have created a world where simple logic did not apply.  I am a created creature with a limited mind and understanding, just because I cannot comprehend something does not mean that it is impossible.

The reality is that 2+2 does equal 4 and that is an incredible gift.  It means that we can make decisions; we can think through difficult questions; we can follow directions and we can respond when called.   Therefore, we could never be saved if God did not create us with a rational mind in a world where logic worked.

San Francisco downtown seen from helicopter

San Francisco downtown seen from helicopter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would have never made it out of San Francisco if I was incapable of rational thought.  If I could not think logically I would not have been able to follow the directions of Uncle Mel.  If Uncle Mel had not worked, I would not have been able to deduce the correct route to the Golden Gate Bridge.  In the same way, no one can come to the cross without God.  Rational thought is a God glorifying gift of God.  No one could ever find God if He did not first give us the ability to seek.

Now, the Bible teaches us that no one can get across the chasm that separates us from God.  We all come to the bank of our lives with the realization that our sin has separated us from the holy and righteous God.  There is nothing that we can do to span the gulf created by our unrighteousness.  That is why God had to give us a bridge.  We are powerless through our own ability to reach our eternal destination.  The free gift of eternal life is by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross in payment for our sins and that is our only bridge to eternity.

No one can reach God without God.

No one comes to the Father by any other route than through Christ.

We are all travelers on the road to our eternal destination.   It is an amazing work of grace that any person is ever allowed into the presence of the King of kings.  I think that we will all be amazed to the extent of grace that we have been shown in this life.  I think we will learn of so many aspects of this life that we have taken for granted, like rational thought, that are really gifts of mercy and grace from a loving Father calling His children home.

May God be glorified in every breath we take and every thought that we make.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for blessing me and taking care of me in ways that are beyond my comprehension.  Thank you for gifting men like Dr. Poythress to teach us to think deeply about you.  Thank you for the ability to seek you.  Most of all Lord, thank you for allowing yourself to be found.  You truly are great and worthy of all praise.  I praise you and pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“MY HOUSE” – Mar. 25

March 25, 2013

“Moreover, I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house.” 1 Chronicles 17:8b

English: Waddesdon Manor, built between 1874 a...I would like to travel one day to the United Kingdom and tour the great houses of the National Trust.  I watched a video series of several estates of the National Trust and have been fascinated by them ever since. Many of these estates were constructed by prominent and wealthy families as a testament to their position and prosperity.

I love the architecture and the gardens.  I appreciate the history that these landmarks represent.  Yet, these estates testify to the transient nature of human glory.  The reason many of these family holdings are now in the National Trust is due to the weight of sustaining and maintaining such opulence when family resources dwindle.

I am reminded that I have a house. 

A house that is greater and more majestic than any holding in the National Trust.  It is a house that is free from the bondage of decay.  The paint does not fade and the roof never leaks.  The masonry never cracks. The foundation never subsides.  It has been built according to the very heart of the Master Builder.  This house is established on the steadfast love of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

English: Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. (Nati...

English: Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. (National Trust Property) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is my house.

Why pursue the temporal dwellings of this life, even the opulence of the great houses of our age, when the house of the Lord is waiting for us?  When Christ walked this world, he did not have a house of his own.  That is not entirely true.  He had a house that awaited Him.  He possessed a house, greater than Herod’s palace.  His everlasting throne in the Lord’s house awaited Him every night he slept in peasant accommodations.  Not having a house crafted by human hands out of the earth’s resources is no great sacrifice when we remember that Christ’s house is crafted by the word of God from the air of heaven.

I am stunned by the thought that I have been granted a place in that house.  I will not tour His house but I will reside in His house.  It was in the Lord’s heart to want me in His house.  I have been given an eternal home by the steadfast love of the One who sits on the throne.  I have been included in a house that was never my own.  It is a house that I am not entitled to.  It is a house that will never decay or end since it is sustained by the limitless resources of God.  A house filled with the holiness and righteousness of God.

That is my house.

PRAYER: Lord, words fail me as I try to comprehend all that you have done for me.  I am in awe of  You, Heavenly Father.  I rejoice in You, my Lord.  May the song of praise that is in my heart be a sweet fragrance to you.  The wonderous works that you have accomplished, I will be ever mindful of and make known.  Father, you are so good.  Thank you for your steadfast love and abounding grace and mercy that you have shown me.  Amen

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“I AM BLESSED” – Feb. 22

February 22, 2013

“Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!  For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?  Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him? Psalm 89:5-7

“Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted. For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.” Psalm 89:14:14-17

How are you doing this morning?

I am doing OK.  I would like for my work not to be so slow.  I would like not to have to deal with management issues.  I would like for winter to be over.  I would like to remodel our kitchen.  I would like my Church to feel more like home.  I would like to be rid of this nagging cough.  I would like to be in better shape. I would like to get more done in a day.

It is easy to come up with a list of things you would like to change.  My list is very minor.  I know that some folks are dealing with major issues.  I am blessed to have such an insignificant list of wants.

However, that is not why I am blessed.  I am not blessed because I have a good life.  I am not blessed because I am financially secure.  I am not blessed because my family and I are reasonable healthy.  I am not blessed because I am free to worship my God in the open.  I am not blessed because I have a nice home.

If I were to lose all of those wonderful things, I would still be blessed.

I am blessed because my God is in heaven and there is no one like Him.  I am blessed because His steadfast love and faithfulness goes out before Him and it washes over me.

Who is like the Lord in all the skies?  NO ONE!

Who among all the heavenly beings is like the Lord?  NO ONE!

Who can challenge the might of the Lord! NO ONE!

Who can rule the raging seas like the Lord?  NO ONE!

Who owns heaven and earth?  The LORD!

Who owns the world and all that is in it?  The LORD!

Who has a mighty arm and a strong right hand?  The LORD!

No one is like the Lord and He knows me.  The light of His face shines upon me.  It is His glory that gives me strength.

I am blessed. 

There is nothing in the world that is better than to be known by the God of the Universe.  The source of my blessing is outside of me.  It is outside of my physical comforts. The source of my blessing resides in the reality that the Lord, who is awesome above all, is my God.  He has shown me His steadfast love.  I swim in His steadfast love every single day.  He is faithful to me even when I am pitiful.  I am astounded and delighted by His faithfulness

I am blessed. 

I can’t even comprehend how blessed I am.  I am a child of  the Lord whose wonders are praised by the heavens.  That is who has adopted me.  It is His glory that fills my lungs and sets me upon solid ground.

I am blessed.

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth will I make known your faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 89:1

PRAYER: Father, thank you for showing me steadfast love and your faithfulness.  Thank you for allowing your face to shine upon me.  I am so blessed because of You and You alone.  All praise and glory belong to you and you alone.     Amen

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OSHA RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SHEPHERDS – Jan. 23

January 23, 2013

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15

Convenience store

Convenience store (Photo credit: wilhelmja)

There are three convenience stores along my route to work.  Their name fits them very well.  They are convenient.  However, I do not want to work at a convenience store.  Convenience stores get robbed.  Convenience store robberies account for approximately 7% of all robberies.  Job-related homicides in the retail trade account for approximately 48% of all workplace homicides.  The highest shares of those homicides are in convenience stores.  The problem is that convenience stores are convenient for robbers also.  That makes it a dangerous occupation for employees.

The US Department of LaborOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a bulletin, “Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments”.  This bulletin gives a lot of recommendations on hazard prevention and control.  However, there is no recommendation for employees to be trained to lay down their lives.  The recommendations are actually the opposite.  Employees are to cooperate during a robbery such as turning over money or valuables without resistance.

There is an unspoken assumption in these recommendations.  The life of the employee is worth more than the cash in the register.  The life of a person is worth more than a case of beer and a couple of packets of jerky.  No one should sacrifice their life to protect a tank of gas and a couple cartons of cigarettes.

OSHA would have a significant problem with any company employee handbook policy that says:

You shall lay your life down for the store.

You shall lay your life down for the cab.

You shall lay your life down for the tools.

You shall lay your life down for the truck.

You shall lay your life down for the kiosk.

That sort of policy makes no sense.  Can you imagine a sheep rancher instructing his shepherds, “if anything bad goes down, thieves or wild animals, I want to you do everything you can, even give your own life if necessary.  I want you to bring all of those sheep back or don’t come back yourself”?

Sheep

Sheep (Photo credit: James Good)

That sounds so unreasonable because they are sheep.  You do not sacrifice a human life for a sheep’s life.  We eat sheep.  We don’t give our lives for sheep.  Those of us who have grown up in the Church have heard this verse many times, “…and I lay down my life for the sheep.”   We may be prone to think that this is what a good shepherd does.

No, they don’t.

There is no shepherd willing to sacrifice his own life for sheep.  If you spent any time around sheep, you would understand that they are not worth that sort of sacrifice.

Jesus is No Regular Shepherd.

Likewise, we are regular sheep.  Another tendency is to think that we are so valuable that we warrant the sacrifice of the shepherd.  We don’t.  The distinction between the Son of God and us, sheep, is greater than the distinction between a human shepherd and real sheep.  Jesus’ sacrifice as the good shepherd for us rebellious sheep makes no sense .

This fact should astound us.

Jesus’ sacrifice is a treasure – particularly for us sheep.  However, there is so much more.  Jesus is fulfilling 500-year-old prophecies from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah.  Jesus’ sacrifice is in obedience to a covenant keeping God.  Jesus’ sacrifice is for those who are His – fellow heirs of God, children of the most high.  Jesus is the good shepherd that became like the sheep; laying his life down for those sheep because that was the only way to save them.

Jesus is the incredible shepherd of an incredible God.  Our Father showed us mercy and grace beyond imagination.  The words, “I lay down my life for the sheep,” should boggle our minds.  Jesus’ sacrifice raised us from mere sheep to heirs.  How can that be?  It is an act that cannot be  based on our worth.  It is an act that can only be based on the abounding grace and mercy of our glorious God.

May we live in a way that the joy and astonishment of our salvation never diminishes.  There is nothing in this world greater than our “good shepherd.”

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for saving me.  Thank you for being my good shepherd.  Forgive me for so often living in a way that takes your sacrifice for granted.  Forgive me for not being in awe of you.  Thank you!  You are truly wonderful and abounding in love and mercy.  Amen

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