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The Exemplary Life

April 23rd, 2014 No comments

“Live an exemplary life.” (1 Peter 2:12, The Message).

Peter was transformed from a man of boisterous bragging to a man of quiet strength and grace. If Christ can do that to him, then there is hope for you and me!

The word exemplary means “serving as a commendable pattern to be imitated.” No pressure here, but may I ask what about your life as a follower of Jesus would others say is exemplary? What is it about the way you love and serve the Lord that is so commendable that others should imitate you?

If the question leaves you a bit unsettled, then that’s a good thing. Because it shows that you at least care.

Some of us may squirm out of false humility. “Aw shucks,” we reply, “why, golly, there’s nothing in me that even comes close to being like Jesus. Why, I’m just happy that my sins are forgiven and that by His grace I get to go to heaven.”

Oh, grow up!Rockwell Exemplary

Others of us squirm for more substantial reasons. We know two things. One, we are called to something better. And two, we are settling for less. There are things in this world that have subtle yet powerful hold upon us at times, and the weight of these lesser things draws our strength away from the higher pursuits.

Peter said, “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11 The Message).

Jesus wants to fill us each with His spirit, thereby making our lives exemplary. He wants us to be good friends, good parents, good neighbors, good employees, good employers, good people. So good, in fact, that even those who otherwise oppose us cannot help but commend our lives.

This is do-able. So. let’s do it!

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The Lord is My Shepherd

April 22nd, 2014 No comments

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1).

Jesus is Lord and King, Conqueror, Savior, the Mighty God, Prince of Peace, the Christ, Emmanuel, Teacher, Prophet and Master. Of the many titles given to the Lord, Shepherd must undoubtedly be one of His favorite. It links Him in the most personal way to those He loves.

sheeplostSay it out loud and let the truth settle deep in your heart: “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Isaiah prophesied, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11). Peter preached, “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (1 Pet 2:25).

David, himself a shepherd, penned the Twenty-third Psalm as a comprehensive tribute to the Lord. He encompasses in this short poem at least fifteen provisions that are made for us when we follow the Lord as our Shepherd.

“The Lord is my Shepherd….

I shall not want for Rest – for He maketh me to lie down in green pastures

I shall not want for Peace – for He leadeth me beside the still waters

I shall not want for Restoration – for He restoreth my soul

I shall not want for Guidance – for He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

I shall not want for Courage – for though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil

I shall not want for Companionship – for Thou art with me

I shall not want for Comfort – for Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me

I shall not want for Sustenance – Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies

I shall not want for Blessing – Thou anointest my head with oil

I shall not want for Fulness – My cup runneth over

I shall not want for Abundant Life- goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life

I shall not want for Eternal Security – I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever

As you can see, there is nothing left out. No wonder David said, “I shall not want!” The Lord gives us everything we need when we follow Him as our Shepherd.

“And now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he who became the great Shepherd of the sheep by an everlasting agreement between God and you, signed with his blood, produce in you through the power of Christ all that is pleasing to him. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20,21).

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Pressing On the Upward Way

April 21st, 2014 No comments

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14).

Notice the cooperative partnership in our opening verse of scripture — God calls us upward, and we press toward the goal. Both are necessary. If God calls, but no one answers – nothing happens. If man presses, but God’s not with him – nothing happens. Nothing good, anyway.

Triumphant trudgeHave you ever taken a volley ball into a swimming pool, pushed it down into the water, and then tried to balance yourself by standing on it? Did you notice that the deeper you pushed the ball into the water, the greater the force it exerted to rise back up to the top?

The air inside the ball belongs with the air above the water, and it will press upward to return back to where it belongs. That’s the way it is with us as followers of Jesus. There is something inside us that urges us to the summit; it’s the upward call.

Some merely drift along, hoping for a break here or there. But in Life, as in nature, nothing ever drifts upstream. The only exception to this happened in Texas during a freak flash flood.

The waters rose so quickly that people only had time to scurry to their rooftops. One man, a reporter, sat on the house watching the floodwaters sweep past. There were cows, and cats, and all kinds of things zipping by the house. Suddenly something caught his eye. A $500 Stetson hat came floating down stream, just out of his reach. However, before it passed by, the hat stopped, turned around and floated back up stream. It then came back, stopped and turned back upstream again.

Amazed, the reporter said, “This is a miracle: it will be the lead story in my paper tomorrow!”

A woman sitting on the roof next door heard him and replied, “That’s no miracle. It’s my husband Cecil. He said he was going to mow that lawn come hell or high water!”

Like I said, nothing ever drifts upstream. Left to ourselves we will not rise, but retreat. However, God does not leave us to ourselves; He calls us upward. Something deep inside us is hooked to heaven; there’s a pull on our hearts which lifts us towards the higher way.

As the old hymn says, “I’m pressing on the upward way; new heights I’m gaining everyday. Still, praying as I onward bound, ‘Lord, plant my feet on higher ground!’”

When you hear God calling, press upward. One day heaven will be your home.

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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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