A Reason to Keep Going

Hebrews 10_22_A reason to keep Going

It’s a terrible possibility to consider.  Yet, halfway through my sixth decade, I reluctantly accept it to be true.

In the Introduction to their excellent book, Men of Courage, the authors make this uncomfortable assertion:

…spiritual manhood has more to do with continuing to function in spite of difficulties than with successfully overcoming them.  We believe that God’s Spirit is less interested in telling us how to get our lives together, and more concerned with stirring – in the middle of our ongoing difficulties – our passion for Christ.

They go on to say that they don’t believe the Bible provides a plan for making life work the way we think it should as much as it offers a reason to keep on going when it doesn’t.

Hard truth.  Yet truth nonetheless.  We’d much prefer God to help us overcome our difficulties rather than simply continue to function in spite of them.  Everything within us wants a plan to follow so that life turns out the way we want it to.

But that’s generally not God’s way.  He wants us to move toward Him in both relationship and dependence – and that generally doesn’t happen when life is easy or goes according to our plans.  If you’re still wrestling with God over the way you think life should go, let me encourage you to lay down your expectations, accept what He’s allowed, and move closer to Him – difficulties and all. –Dave

…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.. (Hebrews 10:22)

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But Noah…

Genesis 6_8_But Noah

“But Noah…” (Genesis 6:8)

It didn’t take long.  On only Page 11 in my bible, mankind had become so wicked God was sorry He had created them.  God saw that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time,” so He decided to wipe them out (6:5-7).  But that’s when we read these beautiful words which followed:

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (v8)

Among all the men whom God had created, one was different in some way.  If you’re like me, you’re quick to jump to the conclusion that Noah was different because of what he DID.  You may read verse 22 which says that “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” and conclude that due to his obedient conduct, Noah WON the favor of God.  But that’s not what the verse says.

The order of things here makes a huge difference.  Noah FIRST received the “favor” of God – a Hebrew word meaning God’s unmerited grace.  It was only AFTER Noah received God’s grace do we read about his obedient and righteous actions (Genesis 6:22; 7:1).

Do you see the important difference?  Noah’s righteousness didn’t earn God’s favor/grace; God’s gift of free grace transformed Noah’s life in ways that led to his obedience and righteousness.  The same is true today – God’s grace is received freely by faith, then God’s grace transforms our life.  And being right with God leads to being used by Him in unique ways.  –Dave

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Seek & Live

Amos 5_4_6_Seek and Live

This is what the Lord says to Israel:  “Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba. For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.”  Seek the Lord and live… (Amos 5:4-6)

Amos doesn’t get much air time, but he should.  Living and prophesying ~750BC, Amos wrote about the waywardness of God’s people.  The “threat” from which Israel was tempted to flee was not famine, disease, or even warring enemies.  No, the people were guilty of forsaking God’s laws, mistreating one another, and worshipping false gods – and God was going to discipline them.

That’s actually what makes the passage above so amazing.  The people were flat out guilty before God.  God knew it, and they knew it.  With that awareness, the people had some choices to make.  They could try to run from their guilt to various cities like Bethel, Gilgal, or Beersheba.  But those towns were also within Israel – their citizens were just as guilty as those in Jerusalem.  So while their address may change, their hearts would not.  They would remain spiritually dead there.

Because running from God and their guilt would only lead to death, God invited them to seek Him and live!  It was the most counter-intuitive thing – but the God whom they had offended was the same God who welcomed them to turn to Him and find life!

Folks, the ancient Israelites weren’t the last of God’s people to stray from Him.  The human heart is prone to wander.  But when we wake from our sinful stupor, what do we do?  The sin within our heart tells us to flee from God – but He tells us to come to Him instead.  Where do you run – to God, or away from Him? –Dave

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Giving, Loving, Trusting

Matthew 5_42_45_Giving, Loving, Trusting

“You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.” (Robert Louis Stevenson).

We’ve likely all done it – written a check to the local school or scouting troop to get the kid off our front porch!  As Stevenson says, we gave, but probably didn’t have much love in our hearts as we did so.

Jesus actually made the same connection between loving and giving during the Sermon on the Mount, when He said:

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:42-45)

If giving is tantamount to demonstrating love, and love is a mark of God’s children, why are we hesitant to give?  At the end of the day, I suspect the answer is fear.  We fear if we give our time to a cause, we won’t have enough time to complete our own “to-do” list.  Or if we give money to others now, we won’t have enough for ourselves later, etc.  In the end, it comes down to faith.

We could probably modify Stevenson’s quote to read, “You can’t love without giving, and you can’t give without trusting.”

Do you show your love by giving?  If not, is faith the issue?  Ask God to increase your trust in Him so you can show His love to others through giving. –Dave

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Turned Hearts

Malachi 4_6_Turned Hearts

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4:6)

Many scholars believe Malachi prophesied regarding both the first and second coming of Christ.  In Malachi’s day, therefore, all the events were yet future.  In our day, however, one event has passed and the second is still yet to come.

Regardless, we see the huge hopes God has for His people – unity, and faith.  In saying that the hearts of parents would be turned to their children and vice versa, God’s hope is not JUST for peace within families.  Certainly the dissolution of discord is among the hoped outcomes for families which follow Christ.  However, there is more here than just family harmony.

Underlying fractured Jewish families was the deeper issue of a new generation which refused to accept the faith of their “fathers.”  As a generation of new adults failed to build their lives upon the same Spiritual foundation, the families began to disintegrate.  The results for the new generation were catastrophic – lands that were totally destroyed.  In large part because the faith within the hearts of the fathers had not been taken up into the hearts of the children.

Friends, our highest goal as parents isn’t simply to “keep the peace” with our children, it’s to pass on our faith.  When two generations believe fundamentally different things about God and the world, there really isn’t much more than superficial peace possible.  Lord, we want peace within our homes, and peace between our generations.  But we need your help.  Please turn the hearts of each successive generation to You. –Dave

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For His Sake

Sunday_Psalm 109_21_Delivered for His Sake

Delivered. By His love, for His name!  Thank you, Lord!
 
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Shamefully, No Shame

Jeremiah 6_15_Shamefully, No Shame

Just when you thought it was safe to take the kids around the neighborhood to enjoy the Christmas lights…

The headline read, “There’s a Christmas light display that’s definitely on the naughty list in [LOCATION].” (I won’t draw more attention to it).  The article described how a young woman had used strings of Christmas lights to create a large phallic symbol on her roof.  Why? – she wanted to tick off some neighbors and the local homeowners association (HOA).

Not only was the “art” incredibly distasteful, the fact anyone would use lights intended to represent the Light of the World to outline male genitalia is an example of how low culture can sink.  When given the chance to explain herself, the girl proudly boasted about what she’d done.

While the actions were repulsive, I don’t judge or shame the young lady; I feel for her.  I’m sad she thought this was in any way a “good activity.”  I’m sad nobody talked her out of it.  But perhaps the saddest part of the story was her source of the lights.

In a string of text messages (which she provided to the news outlet), the woman was seen asking to borrow the lights.  The texts graphically indicated her intended use for the lights.  The recipient of the texts didn’t bat an eye.  Didn’t question the request, simply said, “Heck ya; sure.”  Who was this 24 year-old lady asking for lights???  Her FATHER!

I nearly cried.  Instead of questioning her crude behavior, this dad thoughtlessly contributed to her shameful actions.  Sadly, it was the HOA who stepped in, not a loving friend or family member.

Parents – your children will find unrighteous things on their own, don’t knowingly contribute to it!  –Dave

Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. (Jeremiah 6:15)

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