Longing to Be Gracious

Sunday_Longing to Be Compassionate

As a child, I frequently viewed God as a mean old man just waiting to catch me doing wrong so He could “zap me.” Turns out He longs to be gracious and compassionate instead!

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Buffer Zones

Matthew 11_28_Buffer Zones

Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy. (Guillaume Apollinaire)

I don’t know anything about Apollinaire, but I appreciate the wisdom of these words.  Life in our era zooms past at an alarming pace.  Modern technology has brought an endless world of information, entertainment, and possibilities to our fingertips.

That same technology has made it possible for us to have our work calendars, contacts, and email delivered directly to our smart phones.  Those are wonderful things in many ways.  However, they also introduce the challenge of actually “leaving work at the office.”  The truth is, there will ALWAYS be work left to do – and the conscientiousness within many of us demands that we “do just a little bit more before signing off.”

Unfortunately, “a little bit more” often turns into hours, and before we know it, there is no distinguishable difference between business hours and non.  We push harder; we strive longer; we give more – all in the pursuit of what we think will make us happy – hoping that “someday” we’ll “arrive” and get to kick back and relax a bit.

Sound familiar?  Friends, I’m an advocate of hard work.  But, I’m also a firm believer in boundaries and “buffer zones”.  If we don’t set our own boundaries on work hours, nobody will.  Buffer Zones are margins of free time we build into our week that allow us to say “yes” to a friend wanting to grab lunch, a colleague needing to talk through a crisis, or a volunteer needing a last-minute substitute at church.

Is it possible that in pursuing the “good life” that real life is passing us by?  Why not set firmer boundaries that allow for buffer zones; I think we’ll find that happiness and joy are found within the buffers.  –Dave

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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Walled In

Zechariah 2_4_5_Walled In

The book of Zechariah fascinates me.  It was written to Israel as they returned to Jerusalem after their 70-year exile in Babylon.  God had allowed them to be captured and hauled away to enemy lands for their idolatry and other sins.  God indeed disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6).

But once that time of discipline had ended, God was ready to welcome His children home with incredibly open arms.  Listen to one of ways the Lord wanted to bless His kids:

Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’ (Zechariah 2:4-5)

Not only would Israel return to her capital, she would do so in such large numbers that building a wall around Jerusalem would be nearly impossible.  But in those days cities needed walls of defense against enemy invasions.  Knowing the need, God said that He Himself would be Israel’s wall of protection.  Instead of rejecting them and leaving them open to further devastation, God would surround and protect His people.

God would not only protect Israel by keeping others outside the wall, He would dwell with them inside that same wall.  The God of the universe would be present on their streets and in their homes.

Friends, that’s our God.  He is a wall of protection in a world full of trouble, and a friend who longs to share life with us as well.  Will you welcome Him in? –Dave

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Net Worth

Luke 12_15_Net Worth

Your worth consists in what you are, not in what you have. (Thomas Edison)

Boy do I need that reminder frequently.  Ever since I was a small child, I measured my sense of well-being and worth based on what I had.  I had my prized bicycle and my prized toy train set.  I had good grades and good attendance at school, etc.

As I became older, the measuring sticks of my worth changed.  Soon the things I possessed became my college diploma, my job, my paycheck, my bank account, my cars, the house, etc, etc, etc.  In part, I suppose we do this because it’s a cultural norm.  But, I wonder how much of our gathering “stuff” occurs because it’s much easier to measure what we have than who, or what, we are.

It’s hard to measure the goodness of our heart.  It’s difficult to quantify our attitudes and motives.  Where’s the chart for graphing our character development, our love, or our caring for others?  It’s much easier to login to an online banking account and check the balance there – so, we may tend to give more time and attention to such things.  But just because it’s easier doesn’t make it better.

While Edison was acutely wise, an even wiser Man put it this way:

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Be honest with yourself – how are you measuring your life and your worth?  Is it by who you are, or what you have? –Dave

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Time on the Clock

Daniel 11_35_Theres Still Time

Because the Book of Daniel is hard to interpret, it can be easy to brush aside.  Yet amidst all the visions of the near and distant future, I found this practical tidbit:

Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. (Daniel 11:35)

Perhaps you find this verse a bit baffling.  Specifically, if they were really all that wise, would they have tripped and stumbled in the first place?  I understand, because I once thought the same thing.  Until, that is, I tripped and stumbled a couple of times along the road myself.

Wise in this verse means having insight and understanding; it doesn’t, however, mean perfection.  Even the wisest among us will occasionally stumble.  What I love about this verse is that God can and will use those moments of stumbling.  If we’ll cooperate with Him, God will refine us, purify us, and make us spotless – even AFTER we’ve fallen into the filthy dirt!  But aren’t grubby things really the ones that need cleaning?

Why does God take the time to clean us up?  Because it’s not over yet – there’s still time left on the clock, and God is NOT through with those He’s purified after their stumbles!  Others may try to sideline us, but the same passage tells us that as a result of the refining and purifying that the wise receive, they will “instruct many” (v.33).  God still wants to put us back in the game, proudly wearing the jersey He has washed white as snow!

Have you stumbled somewhere along the road?  Be wise.  Let God pick you up, dust you off, and get back in the game! –Dave

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Chisels in the Hands of God

Romans 8_28_29_Chisels in God's Hands

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. (Michelangelo)

Not having an artistic bone in my body, it’s difficult for me to imagine how artists goes about their work.  However, as Michelangelo stated about his work, Angel of Arca di San Domenico, it appears he had a mental picture of how he wanted the final product to appear.  With that imagine in mind, he set out with his chisel and hammer.

In many ways, I believe that’s what God the Father has in mind when He views us.  He pictures His Son, Christ, and then grabs His tools and sets to work.  Romans 8 tells us that His tools include “all things” that come into our lives.  With those things, He works “for our good” – which He defines as being transformed into the image of Christ.

Those tools include the hardships of this life – the loss of a job, the loss of health, conflicts at work, and struggles at home.  An unwelcome diagnosis, unfair treatment, an unfulfilled dream – each can be a selected tool that God used to refine us into a better likeness of Jesus.

Does it hurt when God chisels away those parts of us that don’t conform to Christ?  You bet it does!  Giving up our ungodly selfishness is never fun or easy.  We like many of those things and don’t want to give them up.  However, the Father looks at us and sees His Son deep within the marble, and He’s carving to set Him free!

God is using everything, EVERY THING, to transform you into the image of Christ – don’t fight Him on the process.  The result is going to be beautiful! –Dave

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Romans 8:28-29)

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A Burning Stick

Zechariah 3_1_4_A Burning Stick

It’s a remarkable scene really.  Zechariah was God’s prophet to Israel as they returned to Jerusalem following their exile in Babylon.  As is the case anytime people attempt to turn (or return) to God, Satan will try to interrupt that meeting.  But God’s time of discipline for Israel had ended, so He was bringing His children home under the leadership of the high priest, Joshua.

Then he [God] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1-2)

You see, Joshua was standing there not in the holy garments of a priest, but in filthy rags.  He too had been guilty of sins and was unworthy to serve God – and Satan was more than willing to remind Joshua of his guilt.  Yet, to Joshua the Lord said, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you” (3:4)  Thereafter, Joshua was to rebuild the temple of God!

Friends, if you’ve confessed your sins to the Lord, He has removed your filthy rags and dressed you in fine garments.  He has snatched you from the fires of hell and wants to use you for His service!  Only the adversary of your soul would tell you anything different.

While it’s not clearly stated here, I wonder if God doesn’t want us to remain a burning stick in His hands.  Not burning with the fire of hell, but full of light and zeal for Him.  Far too often we allow the flame to die out completely.  Yet, we’ll remain more useful to our Lord if we retain a fire that attracts others to Him, and warms our cold weary neighbors along the way.

Christian, you’ve been snatched from the fire – are you still burning for Him? –Dave

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