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Contending With Horses

April 20th, 2014 No comments

“How shall you contend with horses?” (Jeremiah 12:5)

Jeremiah, a young man facing opposition and growing increasingly impatient in the process, complained to the Lord about the injustice in life — the wicked prosper, and the righteous suffer, and God seems to sit back in silence. “Lord, I have a problem here – why do the wicked prosper, and the faithless always succeed?”

Have you ever wanted to say something to God along those lines? Before you do, you should hear how He answered young Jeremiah’s complaint.

“Jeremiah,” the Lord said, “if you get tired in a race against people, how can you possibly run against horses? And if you complain in fields of ease, what will happen when your encounter the high tides of the turbulent Jordan?”

horses 3There God goes again, speaking in riddles. What on earth does this mean? He is telling Jeremiah that tough times are ahead, and these present difficulties are only preparing him for the steeper climb. And the question God puts to him is the same we ourselves must answer in our ever darkening world.

And even though the wicked may seem to have it made now; in that day when their world comes crashing down around them, will you have what it takes to stand?

If we cannot handle the inconvenience of the smaller thing, then how shall we meet the challenge of the greater thing? If we stumble over that which is now before us, how shall we advance to that which is yet beyond us?

To be sure, the Lord wants us to make measured moves to greater levels of opportunity and responsibility, but the climb is beset with necessary challenges that can only be mounted by an unflinching faith. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said, “Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.”

None but those who contend with horses.

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Howling at the Moon

April 19th, 2014 1 comment

“Jesus, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 13:1 NASB

I shall never forget the emotion I felt when I first heard my dad sing in church one day the old hymn, “Why Should He Love Me So?” Coming from the heart of a man who so deeply felt his failure in life, and who had such overwhelming regrets as a father — dad’s rapture in God’s love was both profoundly gratifying and enigmatically bewildering. “God loves me!” he would say, “but, why?!

howling at the moon 01No hound dog ever sounded so mournful as did my father when he tilted back his ancient head and belted out with deep-toned marine gusto, “Why Should He Love Me So.”

It was nothing any producer would ever push to the media, but I know that when dad sang it, it went straight to the heart of God.

Dad’s in heaven now. He no doubt has joined the celestial choir of all who have joined together to proclaim their marvel of our Savior’s love.

I also have no doubt he likely steps forward from time to time and leads out in a favorite solo — “Why Should He Love Me So.” I can tell you that sometimes, when no one is looking and I’m alone, I’ll toss back my head and croon in fond memory of dad’s devotion to Christ — “Why Should He Love Me So?”

Though I am alone when I do this, at times it almost sounds like a duet.

Have you ever wondered why should He love you so? If one views God only as being immense, then it is not likely such a one would ever consider how much God loves them. Immensity makes God too big, too austere, too preoccupied with the universe to ever give any serious thought to someone who is so comparatively insignificant.

But, God is not immense — He is infinite. There is a marvelous difference. F.W. Boreham wrote of “the essential difference between immensity and infinity. The former has limits,” he said, “while the latter has none.” In other words, God can love you specifically because He is God.

What I’m saying is that God loves you oh, SO much! Why then don’t you join us other hound dogs and belt out a song of praise back His way? Sometimes howling at the moon is the sweetest sound God ever heard.

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Breaking Free from Lesser Things

April 18th, 2014 1 comment

“I am doing a great work….” (Nehemiah 6:3)

nehemiah building the wallThere are many people who meander through life as though it were a flea market, browsing the bins for the deal of a lifetime, but only coming home with someone else’s junk.

Others are a bit more like the crazy rabbit in Alice’s Wonderland, always on the go for something that is always somewhere else; and never getting there.

Some people set in the stands and watch others play the game, and reassure themselves that they could do that if they wanted to.

Others see a great opportunity of some kind, and console themselves with a reflective sigh, “I should do that.” But, of course they never do.

And then there are those who wistfully say, “I would do that,” hinting by their tone that it’s somebody else’s fault if they don’t.

Could do, should do, and would do never do. The only thing that works is when you find the thing that you must do.

God uses the inner pull of that upward call to free you from the gravity of lesser things. There is a resolute power inherent to any great work, and once you become involved in such an enterprise, you are virtually unstoppable.

Nehemiah undertook the great challenge of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and was constantly opposed by enemies who sought his ruin.

First they tried ridicule; it didn’t work. Then they made overt threats of hostility; it was, as they say, water off a duck’s back to Nehemiah. Next they attempted covert sabotage; but he foiled their plot. Nothing fazed him. Finally they tried the diplomatic approach, seeking some sort of compromise. Nehemiah’s answer stands to this day as one of the greatest closers in any conflict:

“I am doing a great work,” he said, “Why should the work stop while I come down to you?”

Nehemiah’s passion for answering the upward call, minimized the effects of those who were always seeking to drag him down to their level. They lost; he won. The same will be true of you.

The words of this old hymn say it best –

“I am resolved no longer to linger,
charmed by the world’s delight;
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.

I am resolved to enter the kingdom,
leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me;
Still I will enter in.

I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay.
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heavenly way.”

Palmer Hartsough, 1896

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The Unhurried Savior

April 17th, 2014 2 comments

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15

oak tree 2If there is one lesson that stands out in life it is that good things take time to come to fruition. Nothing worthy ever happens quickly.

Years ago as a young and eager aspiring preacher, I remember hearing an older sage of God say, “When God wants to make a squash, He takes six months. When He wants to make an Oak tree, He takes twenty years. Which do you want to be?”

I’ve been around long enough now to have seen for myself the truth of his words. I’ve seen young upstarts come and go, like fireworks on the Fourth of July. A big bang, a pretty splash, lots of ooohs and aaahs — and then nothing. Nothing but the same dark sky that was there before they popped.

And then there are the others; those bright-light souls that are not really noticed by most people at all, simply because they are always there like the sun in the daytime or the moon and stars at night. Just there, doing what God ordained them to do — shining.

I’ll take steady over quick every time. I’ll take shine over flash as well. God give me grace to bring forth fruit with patience. Prove that I’m built for the long haul!

Remember the children’s song?

“He’s still workin’ on me to make me what I oughta be. It took Him a week to make the sun and the stars; Venus, Mercury, Neptune and Mars. How lovin’ and patient He must be! ‘Cause He’s still working on me!!”

Jesus is the unhurried Savior. He’s working on a truly great masterpiece that will be displayed in glory. That masterpiece is YOU.

For your part then, be an unhurried soul; keep an honest and good heart into which you may hear His word and treasure it; and then bring forth fruit with patience all the days of your life.

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The Unchangeable Truth

April 16th, 2014 1 comment

“The Beast is no longer…and headed for Hell!” Revelation 17:11 (The Message)

What the devil cannot achieve in one disguise, he will attempt in another, and another, and another — until he has gained his ground.

He first arrived on the scene in the form of a serpent; here in John’s Revelation we see him strutting about as an exalted king, and a beastly one at that. Indeed, over the course of human history the devil has been both serpent and king — and many things in between.

But whatever he may feign to be in his vain imagination, we hold one thing certain and undeniable, unchanging and reliable — he is doomed to destruction. He will not prevail. Indeed, he cannot.

And, furthermore, he knows it.

Christ Has Conquered Sin, Death, and the Devil!

Christ Has Conquered Sin, Death, and the Devil!

That glorious Morning when death lost its grip upon our fallen Lord, the good news spread to all worlds everywhere — heaven, earth, and hell — that Satan’s power was naught!

Having already unleashed the full fury of his rage against Jesus on the Cross, he now pressed the total weight of his dark estate against that stone sealing our Savior’s tomb — desperate to prove God a liar.

But the promise of the Third Day held true, and (in the words of the old spiritual), “up from the grave He arose with triumph over all His foes! He arose the Victor from the dark domain; and He lives forever with His saints to reign! He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!”

Satan is defeated. He is disgraced. And he is damned. O shout it out loud, “The Beast is no longer; He is headed for Hell!”

Whipped by Jesus and put to an open shame, the devil now thrashes about in desperation — especially against those who are followers of the Lamb.

We, being flesh and blood, are indeed targets of his demented hatred. And should the Lord Christ grant that we receive a blow here, or a burn there, then we may indeed count ourselves doubly blessed.

First, for having been found in His sight as those permitted to share in the fellowship of His sufferings. And, second, for having been such a nuisance to the devil that his strike against us was targeted rather than random; specifically aimed with intent to take us out of the way, for we pose such a threat to his dark enterprises on earth.

Nevertheless, we know the certainty of this unchangeable truth — the Beast is no longer, and is headed for Hell!

Go tell it on the mountain!

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Breaking Out of the Pack

April 15th, 2014 1 comment

“God the Father has His eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus.” (1 Peter 1:2, The Message)

How good is this!? God Himself has His eye on each one of us. That is an extraordinary thing – especially when you consider just how many of us there are!

Yet, each life and every detail is fully known by the Lord — in a caring manner.

Simon Peter goes on to say, “He is always thinking about you, and watching everything that concerns you” (1 Peter 5:7, Living Bible). Why, even the very hairs of our heads are numbered.

Breaking out of the Pack

Breaking out of the Pack

He sees, He knows, and He cares. Isn’t that good enough to make today worth living?

But there is more!

Not only does He profoundly care for you, but He is also determined to do something of great benefit to you.

And here it is: He will cause the Holy Spirit to work in your life in every way possible so as to keep you true, faithful, and unerring in your journey with Jesus.

Yes, the Holy Spirit of God is directed by God to fill your heart and life in such measure that you may follow Jesus fully and freely, without mixture of self-will, doubt, or fear. He is here not only to comfort you, but also to consecrate you – to mark you as one set apart for God.

In other words, God is going to see to it that you break out of the pack and live a life that is distinguished and purposeful – one that brings great honor to the Lord Jesus and great blessing to others. I think of Secretariat
‘breaking out of the pack” and winning by over 30 lengths in his triumphant quest for the Triple Crown.

Just maybe — the Lord has something similar in mind for you.

Are you game?

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The Triumph of Trust

April 14th, 2014 2 comments

“But I will trust in thee.” Psalm 55:23

It is one thing to boast of faith when all things are great and wonderful. But it is an entirely different matter when one can walk in the triumph of trust while things are desperate all about him.

The Psalmist here is a man whose prayers are not being answered; indeed, it would seem to him that his voice is not even being heard in heaven at all. And it’s not like he’s asking for vain things. No, quite the contrary; for all hell has broken loose and he’s fighting for his life!

“The terrors of death are fallen upon me,” he says, “Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me!” It’s a bad day.

A Mighty Fortress is Our God!

A Mighty Fortress is Our God!

Furthermore, he is painfully aware of his own powerlessness in the situation; he doesn’t even have the ability to run away and hide somewhere. He would gladly scamper if he could, but even that is beyond his supply. He is captive in a Philistine prison.

He’s stuck in a bad deal, and it’s only getting worse. For a friend, a dear friend; a treasured friend has betrayed him cruelly. A man he with whom he had worshiped in the presence of the Lord, a man whose friendship he had never doubted and on whose loyalty he had staked his life – this man had proven to be false and broke David’s singing heart.

And in this downward spiral of sorrow he cried to God above — and nothing. No answer at all. Nada. Zippo. It’s a bad day; a real bad day.

Anybody would understand if at this moment David had decided to call it quits on God; after all, people do it all the time.

“C’mon David,” they would say, “join the rest of us who are done with childish things like faith and prayers, Bible verses and silly love longs. Welcome to the real world, pal!”

But David was cut from another stock than that, and now in this darkening moment a single ray of light still remained — it was the light of trust. He refused to regard God’s silence as indifference, or to consider God’s inactivity as impotence. No, instead, he triumphed in trust.

“Heaven might be brass today, and God withdrawn and silent, but I will trust in Thee,” he said. “Winds may be howling and demons may be growling, and all things lovely to behold may be blown away, but I will trust in Thee. My heart is faint, my hopes are dim, and my power is gone, but I will trust in Thee. And though friends have fallen and turned to foes, and none can give solace to my deeper wounds, nevertheless I will trust in Thee.”

We know now that David’s trust in the Lord paid off huge, for history holds him forth as one of the greatest of Israel’s kings. And the Church holds him dear as one of God’s great champions. Who knows but that a similar destiny awaits you on the other side of this ordeal? Stay the course, my friend, and stand in the triumph of trust!

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Your True Colors

April 13th, 2014 4 comments

“You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.” (James 1:3, The Message)

During a pregame talk with the Colorado Buffaloes some years ago I asked the question, “What do you get when you squeeze a lemon?” Of course the standard answer fired back from coaches and players alike, “Lemon juice!”

But what nobody knew that morning was that I had filled the lemon with ketchup. When I squeezed it tight and the red liquid oozed over my hand, they were all taken back.

ship at sea full sail“You’re wrong,” I then said. “The actual answer is that you get whatever is inside it.”

At that point I had them right where I wanted them, and then asked, “So, what’s inside you? What are we going to see when pressure puts the squeeze on you?” The answer is the same to the lemon question; we will see whatever is in you.

The great C. S. Lewis said, “A sudden provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man. It shows what an ill-tempered man I am.” James tells us in his letter that “under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.” Maybe this is why the Lord provides so many wonderful opportunities for us to be squeezed.

The origin of the phrase “true colors” comes from naval parlance back in the days when pirates sailed the high seas. Vessels would always fly on their topmast the flag of their country of origin. But pirates were notorious for hoisting the flags of different nations so as to gain an advantage against unsuspecting vessels. However, under no circumstance would any honorable Captain ever fly false colors. Thus, the phrase “true colors” indicates authenticity in both motive and manner.

The Lord wants to make us truly authentic men and women, but to get us there He has to squeeze out the other stuff – and He will do so with unrelenting pressure until there is nothing left to ooze.

So, you been feeling squeezed lately?

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The Ultimate Understatement

April 12th, 2014 No comments

And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.” (Mark 7:37)

Someone once said, “A discerning eye needs only a hint; and an understatement leaves the imagination free to build its own elaborations.” The first followers of Jesus had that discerning eye, and bit by bit they slowly realized they were in the presence of a truly extraordinary man.

This led to some interesting understatements.

astonishedIn his Gospel, Mark builds the case very deliberately. First he tells us, “Everyone was amazed at his teaching” (ch.1:22).

A few chapters later he says, “they all marveled at His words”(ch.5:20).

And then once again Mark adds that “many hearing Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!’(ch.6:2).

Amazed, marveling, and astonished — doesn’t that pretty much describe how you feel about Jesus? Yeah, me too!

Indeed, all who are followers of Jesus today can equally attest to our own increasing astonishment over His boundless ability to do all things well.

Like Mark of old, our testimony in today’s world is, “He has done all things well!” Talk about an understatement that leaves our imagination free to build its own elaborations — there you have it!

The best example of one such elaboration comes from the Wuest New Testament. The translator puts this spin on Mark’s verse: “And they were completely flabbergasted, and that in a superabundant degree which itself was augmented by the addition of yet more astonishment, saying, He has done all things well!”

Now that is the ultimate understatement!

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The God of No Options

April 11th, 2014 2 comments

“Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” James 1:7,8 (The Message)

We’ve all heard the old saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” While the sentiments behind this whimsical adage are admirable, the saying itself is quite untrue.

Yes, it is true that a person shouldn’t sit around aimlessly all day just expecting God to do this or that for them, while they themselves do nothing. But the adage errs significantly by failing to realize that God in fact does not help those who help themselves; rather, He helps the helpless.

lazarus 01He is the Defender of the defenseless; He rescues the perishing, saves those who are falling, and lifts ups those who have been struck down. He is a Father to the orphan, a Friend to sinners, and the Champion of those who are weak. Indeed, Paul summed it up — “when we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

The problem with “helping yourself” and asking God for a little assistance is that you’re the one still calling the shots — keeping all your options open. Few things are more insulting to God than for a man to come before Him while holding onto other options….just in case the “God thing” doesn’t work out.

Remember Lazarus, the dead man? He had no options whatsoever.

Jesus stood before the cold stone which sealed his tomb and ordered it removed, and then called out, “Lazarus, come forth!” And the dead man did so, now fully alive. A significant part of this event is contained in the name Lazarus — it means “without help.”

You see? God helps the helpless.

Like Lazarus of old lying cold in his tomb, you and I will never be called into a new and deeper, more vibrant and wondrous walk with Jesus until we realize we truly have no other options but God.

Peter was speaking for all of us that day when he said, “Lord, there is no one else that we can go to! Your words give eternal life” (John 6:68).

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