Guidance

Dear Lord, give me the humility to ask for your guidance, the patience to wait for it, the sensitivity to recognize it, the wisdom to understand it, the faith to trust it, the courage to carry it out and the gratitude to praise you for it.

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Every blessing I have been given I am expected to pass on to others. These include grace, mercy, patience, sympathy, empathy, tolerance, listening, forgiveness and second chances.

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Each day my challenge is to allow the Holy Spirit to change or reinforce everyone of my attitudes, likes, dislikes, plans, opinions, memories, hopes and fears. To do this I must be sure I deny self and permit the Spirit total access to all I am.

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I must not allow God to become the “elevator music” that forms the largely ignored background of my life. Instead, He must be the blaring symphony, the hard-driving beat that is clearly heard and seen in every part of my life.

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I want God to control our relationship, oversee our companionship, begin and end our conversations.

After Salvation, Sanctification

After the event we call salvation (born again, redemption) God wants to begin within each of us a process called sanctification. This involves each of us ridding ourselves of sin and allowing God to change us. The result of this process is that we will be more Christ-like in our actions, attitudes, desires and motives.

Our part in this process is to make a life-long series of decisions to stop doing certain things and start doing other things. It involves both omission and commission. God’s part is to give us the wisdom and courage to make the proper choices. He is always faithful to do his part if we want Him to and allow it.

Both our worship of God and our service to God are impaired by a lack of sanctification.

There are several Biblical examples of people who were faced with specific things that had to be cleansed from their life before sanctification could take place.

For Gideon it was fear....Judges 7
For David it was lust....2 Samuel 11
For Peter it was rashness....Luke 22
For Zacchaeus it was greed....Luke 19
For Nicodemus it was religion....John 3
For Paul it was tradition and pride....Acts 9
For Martha it was domestic business....Luke 10
For the rich, young ruler it was money....Matt 19
For Jonah it was intolerance and bigotry....Jonah 4 

Before we can become a person God will richly bless and effectively use in his service, we must allow the Holy Spirit to carry out the sanctifying process in our lives.

What needs to be added or subtracted in your life in order for you to become more sanctified?

Importance of Intercessory Prayer

How important is intercessory prayer? Do our prayers for others actually help?

Study Jesus in Gethsemane (Matt 26:35-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). In His time of greatest agony He asked his friends to pray for Him. Think of it. The God who created all the universe was hurting so much He asked for the prayers of his closest friends.

But before He asked for their prayers, He asked for their companionship. He asked them to go a little farther, stay awake a little longer, pay a little more attention, give a little more of their energy and time on his behalf.

And they did so, for awhile. Then they went to sleep.

All too often we say to a hurting neighbor or acquaintance “I’m sorry things are so tough for you right now. I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Then we turn and walk away, unwilling to give a bit our our time and energy to help ease their pain. Our lack of action shows how we refuse to let the problems of others intrude on our own comfort zone.

Oh, such prayers do help, if we actually remember them. We can certainly be of assistance by praying. But if we, like the disciples, are called on to go a little farther and give practical aid and comfort, are we willing to do so? In our Christian growth have we allowed God to develop in us a sense of “disruptive compassion” – the willingness to let the needs of others disrupt our normal pattern of life?

Letting God Have Control

Dear Father, from this moment on, for all eternity, I give you control of

All my houses, all my land, all my hopes, all my plans.
All my pleasures, all my fears, all my joys, all my tears.

Where I go, where I stay, what I hear, what I say.
What I eat, what I drink, what I like, what I think.

What I give, what I keep, when I work, when I sleep.
Where I shop, what I buy, how I live, when I die.

What I wear, how I look, what I text, what I cook.
When I pray, when I sing, when to let go, when to cling.

All my strength, all my health, all my pleasures, all my wealth.
What I do, what I see, what I let bother me.

When I stand, when I bend, when I back away from friends.
When I whisper, when I shout, when I quietly "back out".

What I hate, what I love, when to talk to you above.
How to serve and obey every moment of each day.

All things tiny, all things grand, things I do not understand.
In my life, Lord, take control of my body, mind and soul.

Jesus Sinless On The Cross

Mark 15:23 records that Jesus refused to drink a mixture of wine and myrrh that would have reduced the pain of his crucifixion.

Why? Was there a certain level of physical pain He had to suffer in order to accomplish the purpose of his death? Did the Father require a minimum amount of physical trauma before salvation’s plan would be complete? I don’t think so. For Jesus the physical aspect of the cross, with all its horror, was not the worst part of his sacrifice.

Jesus refused the myrrh because He still had work to do, even after the nails had been driven through his hands and feet. He needed a clear head to to stay sinless until his death.

For thirty-three years He had lived a life of sinless perfection, always obedient to his Father’s will. Even though the crucifixion had begun He still had six hours during which He had to continue to resist temptation. To sin at this late stage would have been to negate all previous acts of service and obedience. He had to remain the perfect Lamb right up to the moment of his death.

The myrrh might have clouded his determination. (He was, after all, still fully man.) By refusing it, He was choosing spiritual purity as a higher priority than the relief of pain and placing obedience to the Father’s assignment above comfort. He could not allow a chemical crutch to interfere with his most important task.

The temptations of those six hours on the cross must have been greater than all the other temptations of his entire life. Truly He was a man among men, masculine, heroic and courageous in every sense of the terms.

Acting On Faith

The second chapter of James deals with the importance of acting in ways that demonstrate our faith. Faith that is not put into action is basically dead (James 2:17)

The question is “Faith in what? What must be the basis of the faith we display through our actions?” Certainly we need to have faith in the Bible and we need to have faith in God’s promises. But the deep, unshakable faith we must show to the world is faith in God himself.

Abraham had faith only in Jehovah God (Genesis 12:1-3). He had no scripture to read and none of the New Testament promises such as “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) or “I will come again and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3). Abraham’s faith was in the person of God, the character of God.

To develop such faith we have to know and understand what He has told us. We must search the Scriptures. We must sit quietly and listen for His still, small voice.

Then we must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to believe His words. (This has been described as letting knowledge go from the head to the heart.) The Spirit will give us concrete, every-time, every-place, in-every-situation belief that all his words are true.

Such a belief will then enable us to act in obedience to those words and show our faith. This is the type of faith demonstrated by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. It had it’s basis in their personal relationship with God.

Our faith must be only in the God that created the universe and allowed his Son to die on the cross. The closer we are to him, the more we will have the faith that enables us to base our behavior on his words.

I SAW JESUS

Last night, in a dream,
I saw Jesus. 
Not Jesus the God, but
Jesus the man.

I was surprised.
He looked normal.
Not unusual.
Just normal.

Short and stocky,
Strong and solid, with
Black curly hair.

Almost instantly
I realized I was
Disappointed.

Here was Jesus, and
He looked so very
Human.

Then I met Him and
Shook His hand.

And there,
Face to face,
Arm's length away
With His hand in mine
I first looked 
Into His eyes.

And immediately
I knew I was meeting
More than a man.

In His eyes I saw
Love.
Total, open, complete
Love.

Love with no exceptions
Or limits.

Love that does not
Have to be earned
Or even returned.

Pure love.
Enormous love.
Powerful love.
Tender love.
Giving love.

But in those eyes
I also saw
Compassion and
Acceptance and
Forgiveness.

I saw calmness and
Understanding and
Power.

I saw peace and 
Courage and
Purpose.

Then I knew
I was also looking
Into the eyes of
God. 

Repentance and Forgiveness

God offers to both forgive and forget our sins so we may be restored to a right relationship with Him. This offer comes as a free gift because He loves us, not because we have earned it.

Before we can take advantage of this gift we must have an attitude of repentance toward our sins. We play no role in the offer of forgiveness, but we must do our part in the application of it to our individual lives.

We cannot repent of our sins unless we are aware of them. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit creates such an awareness within us and shows us our need of repentance He is not trying to crush us under a load of guilt. He is trying to help us reach a position where we can receive the Father’s forgiveness.

The prodigal son (Luke 15) and the adulterous woman (John 8) were each aware of their sins and thus each received forgiveness through God’s grace. The prodigal’s older brother and the woman’s accusers remained unforgiven until they recognized and repented of their sins.

So when a passage of Scripture or a sermon causes us to feel guilty, we must refuse to be angry and resentful. We must not start the internal rationalizations that blame others for our shortcomings. Instead, we must praise God for his efforts to further sanctify us by allowing us to travel down a hallway called Grace through a door name Repentance into a room labeled Forgiveness.

With gratitude and humility we need to make this journey every day.

The Outward Joy of Worship

My relationship with Jesus gives me daily strength that may or may not be accompanied by a feeling of euphoria. My relationship with Jesus gives me joy and peace that may or may not be accompanied by the need to sing and shout. My relationship with Jesus gives me confidence and a sense of security that may or may not be accompanied by a mountain-top sense of revival and rapture.

Corporate worship should lead me to new heights of spiritual excitement, but it should also reinforce my existing levels of spiritual belief. It is not a wasted worship experience that says “You are on the right track. You are headed in the right direction. Keep fighting the fight. Stay on course.”

Should I ever become satisfied with the level of my devotion to Jesus? Of course not! But is it wrong for me to be pleased that I am growing in Him? I don’t thing so.

I don’t feel a time of corporate worship must be deemed a failure if I am not transported to the throne of God and emotionally thrilled by the activities that transpire there. If I approach Him in my own quiet way, if I take joy in my time with my brothers and sisters, if the Holy Spirit reinforces my devotion and submission to Him I will feel my time has been well-spent.

There are times of corporate high, holy excitement. The valleys are endurable only because of the mountain tops. But it may be unrealistic to think that every Christian can attain a mountaintop every Sunday morning. And undue efforts to attain such worship levels may prevent other desirable worship experiences.

When Strangers Visit My Church

They don't want to know about our preacher.
They don't really care about our teachers.
They're not concerned about our parking lot.
They don't care how many elders we've got.
The don't care about the size of our choir.
They don't ask "How tall is your spire?"
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

They don't care about our preacher's degree,
Or if the donuts and coffee are free.
They don't care about our building's size,
Or if our deacons are gals or guys.
They don't care about our recreation,
Or our theology of creation.
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

So when they come to visit us here
We must meet them with a smile or a tear.
Quietly, sincerely without a fuss,
Let them know they're important to us.
A pat on the back. A "We're glad you're here."
Will help us make it completely clear,
That without any doubt, we love them.