A Future God Can Bless

Psalm 37_37_38_A Future God Can Bless

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now. (Alan Lakein)

Lakein is the same guy who once said that “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  While we know the Lord’s purposes prevail over the plans of men (Proverb 19:21), there is tremendous benefit to living with the future in mind.  If we long for a future God can/will bless, we should plan to live accordingly today!

David understood this truth.  As he reflected upon the good and evil, the wicked and kind, the blameless and sinners, he realized that their “present” and their “future” often stood in sharp contrast.  David acknowledged that the godless man occasionally lived in luxury (Psalm 37:35), but that time of ease was only temporary.  Such a life plan failed to consider the future.

But living with the future in mind, will lead the person of God to live differently.  Just a couple of verses later, David writes:

Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked.  (Psalm 37:37-38)

A future blessed by God awaits those who currently seek to be blameless, upright, and peaceful.  What future awaits the wicked (those guilty before God)? – only destruction.

Does the future matter?  Of course it does!  Therefore, live today in such a manner that God can bless your tomorrows. –Dave

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Reflective Echoes

Psalm 19_14_Reflective Echoes

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, ESV)

At first glance, these may appear to be separate prayers uttered by David.  He wanted his spoken words and the meditations of his heart to be right in God’s eyes.  But as Christ instructed the Pharisees, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34) – so David’s requests are closely related.

But of the two, “meditation of the heart” is much more abstract.  What does it mean to have meditations that are acceptable to God?  “Meditation” comes from a musical term that meant “resounding music” – something that resonated and reverberated.  Something that perhaps came back in the form of an echo.  A “reflective echo” – those things we give a second thought – might be a good definition.

Meditations are the things we “cogitate” on (as my Grandfather liked to say).  And depending on what those things are, doing so can be good.  Pascal once said, “To get the best out of life, great matters have to be given a second thought.”  But what are the “great matters?”  If you’re like me, that could represent a problem because my mind is FULL of “stuff” – and I’m sure some of it is not acceptable to God!  But what things are?  I’m glad you asked!

This is a great instance where the context of a verse helps explain its meaning.  In the verses leading up to the one above, David had written about the benefits of God’s instruction, testimony, precepts, commandments, and ordinances (vv.7-11).  David realized that having God’s Word reflectively echoing in his heart would be pleasing to the Lord, and keep him from blatant or unintended sin (v. 12).

What do you focus upon the most?  What thoughts keep echoing?  Are they pleasing to God?  How might giving Scripture “a second thought” help? –Dave

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Hanging On and Letting Go

Colossians 2_6_7_Hanging On or Letting Go

It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on.  It takes a lot of strength to let go. (JC Watts)

Boy do these words ring true in my ears.  I am the epitome of a “hanger on.”  One look around my home tells everyone that I love to cling to old stuff.  Our kitchen still has its original wallpaper and appliances nearly 30 years after we moved in.  Our van has >225,000 miles, our daughters’ first dollhouses are still in the basement.  On and on I could go, but you  get the idea.

These are just material things, and the only real result is some unwanted clutter.  But the reality is, I tend to hang on in other areas too.  I’ve clung to past relationships longer than I should have in some cases.  I’ve stayed at jobs longer than was wise in others.  I find a situation in which I’m comfortable and I sink my nails into it and grip it tightly until my knuckles are white!  And I know I’m not alone…

Why?  Why do we hold on to something that has run its course?  Why do we not throw away worn out things?  Why do we cling to the lifeless corpses of dead jobs, or unhealthy relationships?  Why do we return to old wells even if the water is stale or even poisonous to us?

Honestly, I think Watts is correct – we lack the strength to let go of what is known.  Our current circumstances may be crummy, but they’re at least ours!  And we’re generally much more comfortable with what is known (even if unpleasant) than taking a leap of faith into the unknown.  Yet Scripture tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God – not difficult – IMPOSSIBLE (Hebrews 11:6).

Perhaps that’s why one of Paul’s frequent prayers for his readers was that they would be strengthened in their faith.  Only faith gives us the strength to let go of the past and fully embrace the future.

Still holding on to something you know God would have you give up?  If so, ask Christ to give you the faith and strength necessary to let go. –Dave

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)

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The Goal

Matthew 13_18_23_The Seed Goal

It’s a debate I’ve heard several times, and it goes something like this, “In the parable of the Sower and the Seeds, what is the eternal destiny of the second and third seeds?”  By way of refresher, here’s the parable:

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matthew 13:18-23)

Most people agree that the “bookend seeds” are easy to understand.  The seed that falls on the path and is snatched away by the devil clearly represents those who hear the gospel and flat-out reject it.  Likewise, the seed that finds good soil and produces much fruit represents those who accept the gospel and devote themselves to serving that gospel in some way.

What is less clear, however, are the people who initially hear and receive the gospel with joy, but fall away because they never put down roots.  Likewise, those who receive the gospel but fail to produce any fruit because of worries and the pursuit of wealth are also “iffy” in some folks’ opinion.

Honestly, I’m not prepared or qualified to make a judgment on such people’s eternity – I’ll leave that up to an all-knowing, all-just, and all-loving Judge.  While I may not know their destiny, I do know the GOAL – and that’s to become a 100-fold-producing follower of Christ!  Jesus once said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).

So let’s leave the debating to others, while we bring glory to God by producing some fruit! –Dave

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The Greater Intimacy

Acts 3_19_Greater Intimacy

The author’s honesty surprised me.  For years she battled a particular sin that she couldn’t shake.  In fact, for most of her early adult life she admits she didn’t even WANT to shake it.  I’ll let her describe her internal struggle in her own words:

The Bible told me to repent, but I didn’t feel like repenting.  Do you  have to feel like repenting in order to repent?  How do you repent for a sin that doesn’t feel like a sin?…In this crucible of confusion, I learned something important.  I learned the first rule of repentance:  that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin.  How much greater?  About the size of a mustard seed.  Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what.  And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees.  Repentance is an intimate affair.  And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect. (Rosaria Butterfield)

At its heart, repenting means to “change one’s mind.”  As a result of a changed mind, we change our direction and go a different way.  But where we turn, and what we buddy up with, depends upon who (or what) we’re most intimate with.  Where do we find the greater comfort?  From what do we derive the greater pleasure?

To walk away from a deep-seated, long-standing sin – one with which we’ve become very intimate – we must long for a deeper intimacy with the Forgiver of that same sin.  As our intimacy with God grows, the appeal of everything else diminishes.

In the quietness of your soul answer this question honestly – are you more intimate with God or with your sin?  Any changes you need to make?  –Dave

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19).

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Right Need, Wrong Way

Matthew 4_2_3_Right Need Wrong Way

After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:2-3)

Writing about this scene, Kenneth Erisman makes these astute observations.

1).  Jesus only used His powers when led by the Father to do so (John 5:30); however, turning stones into bread was not one of those times.  2). Therefore, “Satan was trying to get Jesus to meet a legitimate need (food) in an illegitimate way.”

If we’re honest, we’d likely have to admit that our areas of greatest temptation are areas of legitimate needs met illegitimately.  For example, most of us have a legitimate need for sexual intimacy.  Satan knows that and if/when that need gets difficult to meet within marriage, he tempts us to meet it outside of marriage. We have a legitimate need for relational intimacy – guess what?  Satan tempts us to meet that need in ways God would not approve.

We have legitimate needs for safety and security.  So Satan will take that need and tempt us to lie, steal and cheat in order to pad a bank account.  We need to be valued, respected, and appreciated.  Our enemy will take those needs and convince us they are best met by self-effort, self-confidence, and self-promotion.  On and on we could go.

Here’s my point.  Because the needs are God-given and legitimate, it is right to want them filled.  But take a look at the short list we mentioned – sexual fulfillment, relational closeness, financial security, self-worth and value – do ANY of those come easily in our fallen world?  Heavens no.  But we long for them, and so they make easy targets for Satan to step in and suggest, “You deserve this, why not get it here instead?!”

Take heed of the legitimate needs in your life – if you’re frustrated in any area be on guard, because that’s where the temptations are likely to arise. –Dave

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Which Ship?

Matthew 20_26_28_Which Ship

Their mom was just trying to look out for her boys; every loving parent longs to do likewise.  But her request?  For Jesus to place one of her sons at His right hand in heaven, and the other son at His left.

When the other disciples heard what had been requested, they became indignant.  Yet Jesus’ response suggests that perhaps what they were most upset about was not making the request first!  Knowing the hearts of everyone, Christ took the opportunity to address the bigger issue – human pride – the desire for the best, to be first, and so on.  Listen to Jesus’ wise answer:

…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:26-28)

I once heard a brave preacher say, “Every Christian is on board one of two ships.  They’re either on a cruise ship or a battleship.  Those on a cruise ship expect comfort and to be served by others.  Those on a battleship are willing to serve because they know they’re at war with an enemy.”

Please don’t get me wrong.  There are times to relax and be refreshed – we all need such times.  Even Jesus took time away to be by Himself (Mark 1:35).  But some of us need to be reminded that our Christian journey isn’t to be lived out on the deck of a cruise ship.  Jesus can use “all hands on deck” because the harvest is great, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37).

Be honest with yourself – which ship are you currently on?  A cruise ship or a battleship? –Dave

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