Blessed Mothers

Proverb 31_28_Mothers Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers among us! Today, we rise up and call you “blessed.” Thank you for all you do for your families every day!
 
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As If You Did

Galatians 5_14_As If you did

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5:14)

In his excellent book, Mere Christianity, CS Lewis writes:

The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.

Frequently, you and I will wait until we feel love for someone else before we choose to act lovingly toward them.  Sadly, far too often that wait never comes to an end.  As a result, multiple acts of love go undone.

As Lewis contends, however, the far better process is to have our actions become the engine that pulls the train, and our feelings trail behind as the caboose.  Mark it down – feelings generally follow actions, not vice versa.  Act lovingly toward another and you’ll soon feel love for them.  Act unkindly toward them and your view of them will diminish further.

Having trouble “mustering up love” for someone?  Don’t wait to feel love for them – act as if you already did! –Dave

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Beginning a New Cycle

Judges 11_1_Recycled

Although God referred to him as “a mighty warrior,” he’s most frequently remembered for his “rash vow” (a promise that cost him his daughter; Judges 11:31-35).

The man I’m referring to is Jephthah – a guy who overcame incredible odds to lead Israel as their judge for six years.  But his story started much differently.  Scripture introduces him this way:

Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. (11:1)

There it is – for the whole world to see – the son of a prostitute.  While still stigmatized today, in ancient Israel the shame was much greater.  So much so that Jephthah’s brothers (the sons of Gilead’s actual wife) drove him away.  They refused to count him among their number, they denied him any inheritance as a brother.

Yet what they discarded into the trash heap, God recycled and used in a mighty way!  As it turned out, when the Ammonites attacked Israel, the Hebrews had nobody to defend them.  So who did they call?  None other than Jephthah.  And despite being grossly mistreated by his countrymen earlier, Jephthah answered the call and successfully defeated Ammon.

It’s an amazing story filled with hope for those born into difficult circumstances.  You see, within one generation, Jephthah was able to overcome the obstacle of family shame.  The same is true for you and I today as well.  With God’s help we are NOT destined to continue destructive, shameful family cycles.

Friends, all families have a generational cycle – if yours is a great one – thank God and do your best to maintain it.  However, if it’s been a destructive one, ask God to help you begin a new cycle today.  It only takes one child to stand up and say, “Enough; I’m going to take my family down a different path!”  With His help you CAN do it – in one generation! –Dave

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Wanderings, Wounds, and Worship

Psalm 56_8_11_Wanderings Wounds Worship

You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.  Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?  Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call.  This I know: God is for me. (Psalm 56:8-9, HCSB)

It’s a song of intimate praise between a would-be king and his God.  What makes these words even more amazing is the context in which David wrote them.  Above this chapter my Bible adds, “Of David.  When the Philistines seized him in Gath.”

David was on the run from Saul when he was captured by Israel’s mortal enemy.  He definitely fell out of the frying pan and directly into the fire!  “Wanderings” here means the aimless travels of a fugitive.  Some translations render it “misery.”

David was miserably alone, on the run, scared, and heartbroken from leaving his wife, his mentor, his best friend, his country, and his family.  If there was ever a time for shedding tears, this was it.

I believe there are several lessons for us here.  First, God is intimately aware of our wanderings.  He knows our comings and goings. We may feel alone, but we’re not – God is constantly present.  Second, God is intimately aware of our wounds.  He sees each heartache, He’s aware of each injustice, He collects every tear.  He even keeps a written record of them.

But perhaps the most amazing truth from this passage is David’s conclusion.  Despite the paths he was forced to travel, and the deep wounds God allowed, David still clung to the truth that God was for him!  And if that was true (and it was), then so was David’s next conclusion – if God was for him, what could man do to him? (v. 11)

Friends, even when God allows seasons of aimless wandering and frequent wounds, He is still FOR US – and He is worthy of our worship.  Never forget it! –Dave

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Safe in the Harbor

Judges 5_17_Safe in the Harbor

Yesterday, we looked at how the tribe of Reuben failed to answer God’s call to action due to their over-analyzing.  Today, we’ll look at another reason we may not respond to God’s call – fear.

In the song of praise Deborah sang following Israel’s victory over Canaan, the verse about the tribe of Asher said this:

Asher remained at the seashore and stayed in his harbors. (Judges 5:17, HCSB)

Asher’s territory was on the shores of the Mediterranean, and they were one of the greatest maritime nations of the world at that time.  They had great ships with which they could have contributed significantly to Israel’s cause against Canaan.  Could have…but didn’t.

Instead, those ships remained in Asher’s harbors.  “Remained” in this verse literally means “sat.”  Asher simply sat where they were, immobilized by fear.  In my childhood home was a poster which read, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is built for.”  I wish I could say that truth always inspired me to set sail on the open seas of life.

Yet far too often, I have chosen the safety of the harbor over an adventure at sea with God.  Like Asher, I stay put – paralyzed by fear.  I risk nothing, so I lose nothing – or so I tell myself.  But by choosing the harbor, we may miss our destiny.  We lose out on the opportunity to trust God.  We lose out on the opportunity to experience victory in Him.

A harbor is the place where ships are supposed to dock only long enough to be restocked and/or repaired.  Nobody ever built a boat only to see it sit in the harbor.  Likewise, God didn’t create you to sit safely by the dock – He created you to sail with Him.  Will you untie the rope? –Dave

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Analysis Paralysis

Judges 5_15_16_Analysis Paralysis

On the heels of a mighty victory over Canaan, the leaders of Israel (Deborah and Barak) sang a song which summarized each tribe’s role in the big win.  When it came to the tribe of Reuben, the lyric was this:

In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart.  Why did you stay among the sheep pens to hear the whistling for the flocks?  In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart. (Judges 5:15-16)

While it’s not readily apparent in the English translation, the idea behind the verses above is that Reuben continuously pondered the wisdom of joining the battle.  At first they had the resolve to answer God’s call to join in the fight, but then they debated (within themselves) the wisdom of such actions.  “Should we or shouldn’t we?”

Back and forth the self-talk went until in the end…they did nothing!  Instead of answering God’s call to join Him in His fight, Reuben was lulled to sleep by their comfort.  As one commentator put it, Reuben made great promises, “…but they only ended in sloth and vacillation. They decided to go, and—stayed at home.”

Sadly, I’m far too familiar with this sort of “analysis paralysis.”  Frequently my initial resolve gets trumped by my “searchings of heart.”  I begin to doubt the wisdom of acting – after all, I’m pretty comfortable “as is.”  Sometimes that may be ok.  However in situations like Reuben’s, the call was directly from God, and getting paralyzed by our ponderings is simply disobedience wrapped up in over-thinking.  That moment of certainty may never arrive; make the best decision you can with the information available at the time, trust God, and move on!

Has God called you to do something on His behalf?  Don’t over-think it, follow through on your initial resolve before your courage fades away.  –Dave

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From Kneeling to Standing

2 Corinthians 5_17_From Kneeling to Standing

While preaching on the topic of the resurrection recently, my pastor told an amazing, true story.  Many years earlier, he was at a conference where a woman shared her incredible testimony – a testimony of a life that was radically changed.

Although my pastor didn’t remember her name, he couldn’t forget her story.  For years, this woman had lived and worked as a prostitute.  When age, and the consequences of her line of work caught up to her, she became “a madam.”  She was a sex broker – arranging hook-up sessions for clients and “her girls.”

Such was her life.  But into that life came a young man willing to share the gospel.  Over and over he told her of the love and forgiveness available to all – including her.  Finally, after years of fighting it, she surrendered her life to Christ.  She turned away from her only known lifestyle and began to follow Jesus.

When attempting to tell others what happened to her, she simply said, “I don’t know all that occurred in that moment, but I can tell you this – I knelt down a whore; but I stood up a lady!”

The cross was a radical thing.  It radically changed the course of history.  It radically changed the course of mankind.  It radically changed a prostitute into a lady – instantly.  And, it can radically change you too!

It doesn’t matter what you’ve been before you kneel in surrender to Him – you will stand up a new creation!  The old is buried, the new is brought to life; that’s the message of the gospel. That’s the hope of the cross. –Dave

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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