Friday, March 24, 2017

The Promise Is: Righteousness

He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; 
but was strong in faith, giving GLORY to God; 
And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised,
 he was able also to perform. 
And therefore it was imputed to him for RIGHTEOUSNESS.
 Now it was not written for his sake alone, 
that it was imputed to him; 
But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, 
if we believe on him that raised up JESUS our Lord from the dead; 
Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 
~*~Romans 4:20-25 ~*~


Written for me: the friend of God who was strong in faith. Written for me: a faith that staggers not at the promise of God. Written for me: a Savior Who died and rose again, my righteousness. Written for me: Jesus.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Will You Give Them A Stand?

Have you ever experienced the amazement of learning something new about an old friend?


A tidbit of backstory, a life-long dream or achievement you'd never known before. It's a wondrous surprise when we look at someone we know well and find there are yet mysterious layers to their soul we've never seen.

Recently, I experienced this with a very old friend. Though my friend and I are separated by thousands of years and separate cultures, I've known him all my life. He is a humble man, yet is known the world over. His childhood was ordinary, yet marked with divine design. His latter days quiet, yet famous. But in every season of life, the simple tenacity of his faith is a monument to the power of God and a pattern to millions. His name, is Daniel.

Daniel; surely you remember him now. The lad who bargained for simple, kosher food instead of the unclean, government mandated fare with an official in the most powerful empire at the time. The youth gifted as an interpreter of visions and who deciphered the literal handwriting on the wall spelling doom for the Babylonian kingdom. The elderly man who was beloved by heaven for the effectiveness of his prayers. Maybe he is your friend too; a friend who is also a role model of holding fast to God when surrounded by a pagan culture.

But what I didn't know was how Daniel's faith was nurtured. Did our role model ever have his own model of what it meant to stand alone in obedience to God while most of his countrymen bowed low in obedience to men?

It highly possible he did. While young Daniel was memorizing his Hebraic alphabet, another man was calling the people of Judah to repentance. Like Daniel, Jeremiah was given his prophetic ministry at a young age. And if 600 B.C. Jewish success standards were anything like those held by mainstream Christianity today, Jeremiah was a dismal failure. His bold proclamation of God's word rewarded Jeremiah with no converts, imprisonment and winner of the least popular preacher of the decade medal. Yet Jeremiah stood fast for his God – and nearly always alone.

Yet, it appears one boy was watching. For the ministry of Jeremiah and childhood of Daniel overlap. Jeremiah 26 records a sermon Jeremiah preached at the Feast of Tabernacles – an event all Jewish men were required to attend. Daniel would have been roughly thirteen years old. In the likelihood he was at Jerusalem with his father, Daniel may have witnessed the crowd rise in rage and condemn the faithful prophet to death in the very temple of the Lord they came to worship. Can you imagine the spike in Daniel's pulse rate as he waited to see if God's man would apologize or soften the truth just a little? Yet, even a murderous mob could not cause Jeremiah to recant his message. Whether Daniel ever met Jeremiah in person or not, it's almost certain this boy was influenced by the famous preacher's ministry. Did Jeremiah's voice echoed in Daniel's mind every time he chose to obey God rather than man? Could Jeremiah himself foreseen his influence on a lad who would become a mighty ruler in the very kingdom he prophesied about?

Friend, we don't always know who is watching. But we can know they are never watching more intently than when we stand alone. Our stand of obedience to God – in the great and small – is a gift we can bequeath to a new generation long after we are gone. Will you give the Daniel in your life a stand?

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Friday, March 17, 2017

The Promise Is: Hope

Therefore being justified
by faith,we have peace
with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ: By
whom also we have
access by faith into this
grace wherein we stand,
and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations
also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience,
hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts
by the Holy Ghost which
is given unto us. For
when we were yet
without strength, in
due time Christ died
for the ungodly. For
scarcely for a righteous
man will one die: yet
peradventure for a
good man some would
even dare to die.
But God commendeth
his love toward us,
in that, while we were
yet sinners, Christ
died for us.
~*~Romans 5:1-8 ~*~


Courtesy of Upsplash.com

 Because I was a sinner with no strength of my own, Christ died for the ungodly. Because Christ died for the ungodly, I have access to grace that stands. Because I have access to the grace and love of God, tribulation is now my glory. Because tribulation is now glory, I have hope. And hope maketh not ashamed.

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
~*~Romans 12:12~*~

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
~*~Hebrews 6:18~*~

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Color of Conversation - Part Two

If an artist were to paint with your words, what pictures would he create?

Courtesy of Upsplash.com
 Actually, we are all artists. Every day we draw, paint and sketch the forms, hues and image of our lives with the words we speak. The perfect Word of God says, “Consider your ways” Haggai 1:5. Much wisdom is gained in considering the color of our conversation in our lives, relationships and circumstances.

Part Two of our series about our words and circumstances. Click here if you missed Part One

How Our Words Paint Our Circumstances

If the canvas represents our lives, the people our relationships, then the landscape symbolizes our circumstances. Like an artist, we can't always control the form of the landscape of life. We live in a fallen world. Disasters, disease and the sins of others bring scars, storms and debris into the picture that may not have been of our own making. But no person - as no artist - is a victim of circumstances.

It is a breathtaking feat when an artist reproduces a majestic scene. It's even more glorious when he takes the ugly and unveils the beauty no one else can see. Awe is inspired when we see a cross become a crown.

How does this relate to the color of our words on our circumstances? While our words are not all powerful, they do reveal who we believe is. Our words reflect what we truly believe. “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Matthew 12:37
The Israelites weren't responsible for deserts being void of water but their murmuring painted an ugly reflection of their unbelieving hearts. In turn, their unbelief created rebellion which in turn resulted in even more painful circumstances.

But if we truly believe God loves us and desires to be strong on our behalf, our words will mirror that belief. “I believe, and therefore have I spoken...” 2 Corinthians 4:13
Everyday I have a choice: Will my words dwell on the ugly or on the One I believe? My Heavenly Father can turn my most throbbing thorn into my healing; my weakness a showcase for His strength. My God is ready to be strong on my behalf, transforming my desert landscape into a garden. But will my words speak of a garden when all I see is a desert? Will I still believe and therefore speak?

So as we consider our ways, what do the colors, order and focus of our conversation reveal about our hearts, relationships and circumstances? Are they faithful to the image of Christ or do they depict a misguided artist blinded by darkness? If the image reflects darkness rather than light, let us run to Him Who promises to wash both the heart and canvas clean. Then equipped by His model and colors, may we believe the truth and therefore speak.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

The Promise Is: Mercy

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while
 he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his
 thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon 
him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your
 thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are 
higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts 
than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, 
and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and
 bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: 
it shall not return unto me void, but it 
shall accomplish that 
which I please, and it
 shall prosper in the
 thing whereto I sent 
it. For ye shall go out
 with joy, and be led 
forth with peace: the
 mountains and the hills 
shall break forth before 
you into singing, and
 all the trees of the field
 shall clap their hands. 
Instead of the thorn shall
 come up the fir tree, and
 instead of the brier shall come up the
 myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
~*~ Isaiah 55:6-13 ~*~



Because You give mercy, I will seek You. Because Your word cannot lie, I will seek You. No matter how long; no matter how dark. If I must climb the heavens to find You, I will. If I must be still, I will. If my eye never sees my reward on earth, I will die seeking You. For a life spent seeking Your face is better than one without it.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, 
Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
Psalm 27:8

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Color of Conversation - Part One

If an artist were to paint with your words, what pictures would he create?

Courtesy of Upsplash.com
Actually, we are all artists. Every day we draw, paint and sketch the forms, hues and image of our lives with the words we speak. The perfect Word of God says, “Consider your ways” (Hag 1:5). Much wisdom is gained in considering the color of our conversation in our lives, relationships and circumstances.

How Words Paint Our Lives

Everyday, we are creating the landscape, color and form of our lives by the words we speak. But as every artist knows, before there is an image there is imagination. The picture forms in the heart of the creator before it forms on paper. So our words first form in the studio of our hearts. If our hearts are cleansed holy by the crimson blood of Christ, our words will reflect that holiness. If our minds are washed by the crystal blue river of the Word, it will flood over the bank of our tongues. And if the golden sunlight of the joy of our Lord is our strength, our voices will reflect the Light - even during our most clouded day. Each day will add a stroke here, a brush here of what is pure, clean and bright.


But what if these primary aspects are missing? What if the colors become mere human passion, reason or pride rejoicing in its own sickly light? What's worse, what if the colors are employed by a black heart shaded from the true Light. The artist is now blind by the darkness and gropes about spattering colors over the canvas. Does this not picture most of our words? Flinging them thoughtless to see what sticks, giving no thought to the mess they are wreaking around us. But the disaster is not confined to our own lives alone: every relationship we have is colored by it as well.


How Words Paint Our Relationships

Countless Scriptures speak of the power of the tongue in our relationships. In fact, we could liken our relationships to subjects on the artist's canvas.


If Jesus, the Word and joy rule our hearts, the condition of our relationships will reflect this. This would be like an artist who has drawn a picture where his family and friends are featured. Each one is painted in bold, striking colors that not only accurately portray them, but even bring out the best the artist sees in them. Even those where the subject is not personally at peace, you sense the artist's goodwill towards them nonetheless.



Courtesy of Upsplash.com
But let's compare our dark-struck painter who is left to his own devices. We may dimly see there are
people in the picture, but they are pushed to the corners. The hues around them are bland and dull; the forms meshed and undefined. Chaos takes the center stage along with turmoil, strife, anger and malice.


So are the words we speak. Think back on the last disagreement you engaged in, the content of your last text or your reaction to a recent rebuke? Did they reflect the love and light of Christ? Remember, black is created by the absence of light. “Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil." (John 3:19) Let's remove the blinders: what have our words done to our relationships?

Part Two, How Our Words Paint Our Circumstances, will be featured in next Tuesday's post.


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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Question That Rattled A King - Part 2

None had experienced more than he. All his life, the king had given himself to know wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography

And he was rewarded. The most powerful monarch of his generation, his wealth was unsurpassed, his wisdom unmeasured, his fame unrivaled. But at the end of life, he was left wanting. All he had worked for left him hollow with one haunting question to fill the void: what doth it profit?
 
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 

What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

(Ecclesiastes 1:1-3)


The answer is the quest of our series on Ecclesiastes. Have you considered what is the profit of the work, pleasures or activities of your past week, day or hour? Here we continue with part 2 of our study on the question that rattled a king.
  
Ecclesiastes 1


What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. 
(verses 3-4)

If you live long enough, you are going to hit seasons like Solomon did. A person looks around her, does some mental math to figure the sum results her time plus energy should have created and sees the present answer falls woefully short of what she banked on. Then whispers the foreboding question no human being wants to hear: "Was this all for nothing? Have all my prayers, labor and tears been for nought?"

The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. (verses 5-11)

In answer to his own question, Solomon turns to a reality we often forget: our time here is short. We are part of an ongoing cycle of generation after generation, wind current after wind current, sunset after sunrise, water after water. It is possible for mortal to leave behind an immortal work but not without the Eternal to teach us how. As the Word says elsewhere "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) Yet as Ecclesiastes shows us, even wisdom has her limits.

I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. 
(verses 12-18)

Rather a sobering view of life, isn't? Thankfully, there is a remedy, but sometimes we need to hear the diagnosis before we hear the cure. Our life has an expiration date, yet that doesn't mean the fruit of our labor must. God intended meaning, purpose and joy in life, if we learn to find it His way.


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