encouragerWho have you encouraged, today?  Another person? Yourself?

Were your eyes open wide enough to see that moment when you could show mercy and act with kindness toward someone?

To the one you cut short or cut off, did you go back and apologize? Did it occur to you that they were already disappointed in themselves for what they missed?  Was it a help for you to double the impact of their disappointment?

Correction can rise from two different roots: the law or grace.  We all try to avoid being corrected by the law. I mean, the last thing anyone wants to see are those flashing blue lights in your rear view mirror.

But, when someone brings correction out of love there is no lasting grief or regret. We are pulled closer to where we need to be together.

The law drives a wedge between the one correcting and the one being corrected. Grace drops an anchor that allows us both to be steadfast no matter how stormy it gets.

Again, just checking, who have you encouraged, today?

(This post is used by permission and is written by my dear friend, Dr. Craig Green, Pastor of Livingston First Church, Livingston, TN.)


Misunderstood Love

PalmSundayWhen Yeshua had come closer and could see the city (Jerusalem), he wept over it, saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for shalom! But for now it is hidden from your sight… all because you did not recognize your opportunity when God offered it!” (Luke 19:41-44 CJB)

Misunderstanding love is the hallmark of the fallen human race—regardless of how God presents love; regardless of how explicit He is in foretelling it. Not only are we guilty of misunderstanding His love, we are guilty of redefining His love—even though He has clearly defined what real love is—and is not—in His Word…

Jesus wept over a city that should have known better. Zechariah 9:9 clearly states that your King comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey. The crowd outside the city got it…sort of. They covered the ground with palm branches and clothing and shouted praises as King Jesus rode toward Jerusalem. But they misunderstood the Messiah coming in humility, regardless of what the prophet had said.

That misunderstanding caused Jesus to weep over a city that would be utterly destroyed—with enormous loss of life—less than forty years later. Many in Israel never did come to see their Messiah…

I wonder if Jesus’ second coming—this time as the King of Kings riding on a white horse—will be equally or even more misunderstood…

While the religious leaders and most of the public two thousand years ago could not fathom a Suffering Servant as the Messiah (despite the prophet Isaiah’s clear words), most of our current world can’t seem to fathom a mighty victorious King coming in perfect authority and righteousness in His Second Coming.

In perfect humility—or in perfect glory, honor, and strength—Jesus is still… Perfect Love! His love is equally evident in suffering for our sin (as He did on the cross), in calling us to righteous holiness that finds victory over sin (as He does now), to returning in all glory and power to restore perfection (as He will soon).

The Love of God is still misunderstood and it is still being redefined as people long to manufacture a god who serves our needs and scratches our itches rather than submit to the one true God who—in humility and in all power—calls us to surrender to Him, as if… He is God and we are not!

Both, I believe, make Jesus weep as multitudes miss the peace Jesus brought, brings, and will bring.

· He came as a humble servant, but they wanted a militant king…

· He is now the King of righteousness who demands transformation by the Word and Spirit, but many bristle at the suggestion that HIS definition of righteousness and love, not ours, is the standard.

· He will come in all glory as God the King, but many will balk in full-blown rebellion.

This Palm Sunday, perhaps the thing to do is to lay down our lives before Him (rather than palm branches), and to receive HIM until our misunderstandings and redefinitions are overpowered by His enormous and perfect love…!

refreshingHow do we avoid long dry spells? What do we do when we know we’ve reached a stalemate somewhere between faith and joy? We’re not doing anything wrong. We may have grown weary from doing the right thing repetitively. Jesus has prayed for us so we don’t get stuck in the middle of faith and joy and call it peace. Jesus has prayed for our joy to be full. So, how can we revive our joy and keep things fresh?

  1. We can make sure we’re abiding in Christ. We have habits that daily connect or reconnect us with Jesus.  We may need to designate space and time each day to ensure that happens. I remember when as a young boy, we worked the fields on the farm. Getting tired was inevitable. Feeling word down happened all the time. Because we knew it was going to happen, we always reserved a shady spot to set the ice cold water  and snacks. Reaching the end of a row we could take a quick break, take in that refreshment, feel a little bit of a breeze, and then get back at it.
  2. We can ask for revival and renewal in Jesus’ name. Turning to the Lord in repentance and prayer always opens us to a special season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3: 19)
  3. We can learn something new, especially something new about the gracious way God works in our lives. “I keep my eyes always on the LORD… You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16: 8a, 11)
  4. We can find someone who appreciates what we’re doing. If we’re getting tired doing the right thing, we can find someone who has been encouraged or blessed by our faithfulness. It’s not that hard to do and if you can’t find a human being handy, then ask the Lord to share through the Holy Spirit and remind you of the prize you are pursuing and the reward you will receive.

Which way helps you get your joy restored and elevated?  What’s the last thing you learned that reignited and awakened your joy?  Do you have people around you that affirm your gifts and strengths?

whenGodspeaksLast night, as we concluded our time of prayer and sharing of concerns, I was led to read from Isaiah 43. By led, I mean I knew there was a scripture I was supposed to read and opened my Bible to Isaiah 43. Before I could look any further, the leader of our prayer time called on me to read, so I did.

“But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior’…” (Isaiah 43: 1 – 3a)

As I read through the first 13 verses, I thought to myself, this really is a word from the Lord. How could I tell? How do we determine if the ‘word’ which impresses us is from the Lord?

  1. When God speaks, God’s unique authority is affirmed. There is no one else like God. This is why we affirm Jesus is Lord. No one can do the things He does: heal, forgive sins, have authority over nature, rise from the dead unless He shares in the unique authority of the Almighty. Jesus is the only-begotten. If you want a good translation or paraphrase for that term think – ‘the only way this can happen’.  Thus, the only begotten of the Father becomes the only way the Father is manifest among us. This is why, if God is speaking, the resurrection of Jesus and the authority of Jesus as Lord is confessed.
  2. When God speaks we are authorized for action. We will have the witness of the Holy Scripture and the witness and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to overcome our doubts and fears.  We will be prompted to see, touch, speak, and share in some concrete way. It may not make complete sense to us but we will hear enough to take a step.  Obey in that one step and more will be revealed and that first word confirmed through some sign of the truth being revealed and received, or through some sign of healing or deliverance occurring. Don’t come up short of this evidence by failing to act in faith.
  3. When God speaks, our attitude is appraised in a way that moves us towards humility and faith.  Be wary of those ‘words’ you think are from the Lord that are all sweetness and light or blessing and favor. Without fail, when the word from God is 100% encouragement, you should already know you face trouble and tribulation in the present and in the future and God alone will save and deliver you.

beginwiththeendinmindLook to Romans 8: 28 – 30 and the first summation of God’s way of grace I ever observed. The end of all God’s work is for those whom God has called to be glorified.  What does that mean? The Apostle Paul describes it in verse 39 as being unable to be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer describes being glorified as being delivered from evil. (Matthew 6: 13) The path of blessing describes it as receiving peace. (Numbers 6: 26)

As far as the afterlife is concerned, it is as if we are already there. Psalm 23 describes it as dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23: 6)

Putting on the armor of God has us wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6: 17) The picture of us matches the picture of Jesus in Revelation 1: 16, “out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”  Is it any wonder now we are to be called the children of light? “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5: 8)

Begin with the end in mind. Repent. Align yourself with the Lord. Completely surrender to God’s call upon your life in Jesus Christ. Your life from this day forward is for God’s purpose.  God has a new prognosis for the outcome of our lives: “whoever believes in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3: 16)

All of God’s precious promises, the first of which is the Holy Spirit, begin to shape our lives. The Word of God instructs us how to be the handiwork of God, our lives shaped and orchestrated to conform to Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2: 10) Then, as we cooperatively make use of all of God’s means of grace, God calls us again.  This time there’s a ministry into which God is sending us.

We represent the Lord as witnesses and ambassadors. We do not push our own agenda or look for some earthly cause to which we associate. The hand of God is upon us. The influence of the kingdom flows into everything we do and God looks to our activity and it is well pleasing in God’s sight. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it.

Finally, we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High”, we “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. (Psalm 91: 1) When we love the Lord, the Lord says, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him” (Psalm 91: 14 – 15)

Another way of translating, ‘honor’ is ‘make glorious’. Yes, that is the end of God’s work in us. Let’s begin with that end in mind.

beginendReverse engineer your way forward. This will help you focus on the things you do really well and delegate those things that would gum up your progress if you had to do them.

You’ve heard the phrase, ‘don’t reinvent the wheel’?  Don’t spin your wheels, either; resolving to do the same thing everyday that you already know you don’t know how to do.

We don’t need to fill our day with stuff to do or things to worry about. Jesus said, everyday will have its own fill of that. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5: 15 – 17)

Is there any part of your life that you are trying to make more affordable but what you are really doing is wasting your time?

Have you identified the 20% of your work that produces the 80% of your results?

If you know what it is, do others know? Do you allow yourself to be pulled away from what you do best by the demand of others to do something which wastes your time?

Are you putting a plan in place to delegate work to others who do it more gladly and productively than you do?  Don’t assume because you don’t like to do something, no one likes to do it. For someone, what is sour to you is sweet to them. Find out with whom you can exchange work and benefit the both of you.

 

gorsuchGod gave grace to Moses to lead the people of Israel in the wilderness. How? By giving Israel a process of choosing judges who would help him bear the problems and the burdens of the people.  It was too much for one person to do and maintain the system of law God wanted the people to follow.

Moses gave the directive, “Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.” (Deuteronomy 1: 13) The people answered, “What you propose to do is good.” (v. 14) So, Moses appointed “the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men…to have authority over the people—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials.” (v. 15)

The main instruction to these judges? “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God.”  (v. 17)

Look at the process they followed. Our system of representation in the United States is supposed to work like this. Representatives are chosen or elected locally. The minute they are elected they are accountable to and appointed by Moses. They are not accountable to the people who elected them.  If something becomes too difficult for them, (would cause them to show partiality or favoritism) they are to recuse themselves and let Moses adjudicate it.

They are not to judge a situation by deciding who elicits their sympathy. They are not to judge a situation by the resources held by the different parties or by which tribe they belong to, or whether they belong to any tribe. Every decision rests upon the law not their own personal preference or the mandates of the tribe.

Once they assume the position of the judge, the character and the temperament that got them elected by those who knew them, can only be maintained if they are not partial to those who elected them. In my lifetime, we have reversed that process.

Now, it seems, we elect people to ‘bring things back to the district’ or to show partiality to their constituents. This is not grace; this is graft.

We have forgotten that once a person is elected they represent the law (the Constitution) for all the people not just their constituents. That’s why the law is meant to be written so it is the same everywhere, with everyone, regardless of the individual circumstance. Anything less is a form of discrimination regulating favor to one party over another. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” (Romans 12: 17) And just as the Scripture teaches us not to return evil for evil, we don’t correct past discrimination by coming up with present and future ways of discriminating.

God says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 21) What is good? Being impartial and remaining a judge when we are tempted to become an advocate or a lawmaker.

Hearing this admonition, I believe Neil Gorsuch should become the next justice of our Supreme Court.  Knowing this admonition, I believe we should pray more often for our appointed representatives, including the judges that they might follow the law and maintain their integrity and their impartiality.