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Spiritual Amnesia

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to slip into spiritual amnesia? It happens so subtly that we don’t even think about it. When things are going well, we rarely think of God’s provision. It is not until we run into difficulty that we turn to God and ask for help. And when we do turn to Him for help, we do so in desperation and panic – as if He has never been there to provide for us in the past.

Spiritual amnesia is the subtle forgetting of God’s continual provision. It is normal because it is human, but it is not what God wants for us and it is certainly not what He deserves from us.

For many, many years I have used a podcast prayer and devotional tool called, Pray As You Go. Each offering is about 12 minutes long which gives me time to listen and pray as I make my way to the office each morning. Today’s reading came from Deuteronomy 4. In the passage, Moses tells the children of Israel to pay attention to the commandments that God has given them. He encourages them to remember them and teach them to their children. And then he says something that really struck me in verse 9:

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.

Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart. He is reminding the children of Israel (and us) that we must be diligent to remember how God interacts in our lives every day. Moses cautions us that it is easy to let these things “fade from your heart.”

In the closing moments of the prayer time today, the comment was made that we should “widen our vision.” It is so easy for us to have a myopic view of our circumstances and see only what is right in front of us – forgetting how God provided just yesterday.

So today, remember how God has provided for you in the past. Set those memories in stone so that the next time you feel anxious, you can look to the past faithfulness of God and be encouraged that He will show up again.

Be blessed today!

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God’s Goodness

This Sunday, I will be preaching from Matthew 7:9-11. In these verses, Jesus teaches us that God’s gifts are the best. He points out that we are fallen creatures and even we know the difference between good gifts and gifts that leave much to be desired. So how much more does God know how to give the best gifts!

As I reflect today on the goodness of God, I think about grace, salvation, love, joy and peace. These are all gifts He offers to those who want them. God knows our needs and He is ready and able to meet them. We just need to remember that there is a difference between need and want. It is so easy to take His goodness for granted.

When I think of God’s goodness, I now have a little different perspective than I did just a few months ago. Just over a month ago, I was introduced to a very special person who is a living and breathing example of God’s goodness.

Meet Harper Louise.

Some of you have been wondering why I have not posted about my grand daughter before now. Here is my first of many posts I am sure. God has blessed us in so many ways as a family. And now we have a new blessing. When I held Harper the first time, I was reminded of the miracle of birth and life. I was reminded that God has a plan and that we are invited into that plan in whimsical and fascinating ways. It is a part of the journey.

When I look at Harper, I am reminded that God is good. His goodness can be found in every direction we look. The key is to look.

So, in the words of Jesus, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

The Father’s goodness is all around us. Where will you look for it today?

I know one place I will find it and I’ll get to hold her at the end of this week!

God is so good!

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Have you ever set aside time for a bit of solitude, only to be interrupted by someone or something.  Solitude is such a rare thing these days.  We are bombarded by constant interruptions – information coming at us from every direction. 

I realize everyone is wired differently and many would say some of my circuits are crossed, but I am a relational person who loves people and being in community.  But I am also one that must have solitude on occasion to recharge.  In solitude, my inner churning can settle.  In solitude, I can spend time with Jesus.  Solitude is important – it was for Jesus and it certainly is for us.

In the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark we find that, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)  For us, being alone with God allows Him time to work on us – and work in us.

In my position, solitude is hard to find.  So when I do have a few minutes of time alone, I get frustrated with interruptions.  Having someone decide for me that their time is more important than mine is just part of the calling but a bit frustrating none the less.

But recently, the Father reminded me that it is possible that time with Him can be found in the interruptions.  Solitude is crucial to our spiritual walk, but Jesus can also use the interruptions to speak to us as well.  

So the next time you are frustrated with an interruption, pause and look for Jesus in the middle of it.  You might just find He orchestrated the whole thing. 

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The last couple of posts have been focused on being still and being present. We all need to make room in our schedules to reflect and just breathe – to be present with God. The season of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) in which we find ourselves currently is about making room. For many, the concept of Lent is about giving something up. There is value in “suffering” as a way to identify with the suffering of Jesus – although I am not sure going without meat on Friday can really compare.

I have come to believe that the point of giving something up is to come to terms with our perceived need for things other than God. The reality is that we need nothing more than we need God, and giving up something we enjoy helps us remember that fact. But I think it is deeper still. Giving up something that occupies space and time in our lives opens us to time we can spend thinking about Jesus and His sacrifice.

Creating space on our calendar and time in our day offers the opportunity to spend time with our Saviour.

So this season of Lent, I encourage you to go deeper than just giving something up. Make space and time. And use that space and time to reflect on the great love God has for you. Meditate on the grace He extends to you. Praise Him for the salvation He offers you. Love Him for His sacrifice.

Be blessed today!

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In one of my readings this morning, I found myself in Leviticus 19. In the first eighteen verses of this chapter, the same statement appears four times. The words recorded in these verses were words spoken by God to Moses. The words are instructive, giving direction on how to live as the Lord would have us live.

As I read all the statements of shall and shall not, what struck me most deeply was not the instruction but rather, the simple but profound little statement, I am the Lord.

Four times in these verses, this statement appears. After a set of instructions we find, I am the Lord. Then we find another set of instructions and then the profound statement again.

As I have reflected on these verses this morning, I am reminded that regardless of the situation, He is the Lord.

Today, if you are facing a difficult decision, remember He is the Lord.

If you are living through struggles today, remember, He is the Lord.

If you are having the best day ever, remember, He is the Lord.

Nothing we experience changes the fact that He is the Lord.

So go out today with the confidence and peace of knowing that He is the Lord!

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A Memento With a Lesson

If you have ever been in my office and seen my “collection” you may question whether or not I am a very tidy person. I have mementos of years of ministry – each with a story. Some might call it clutter and they might be right to a degree, but they are reminders of God’s work that He has allowed me to be part of and witness.

One of those objects has been with me for almost twenty years and it might be time to let it go.

In my last post, I encouraged each of us to reflect on Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God.

The object that may need to go is my daily reminder to do just that – be still and know. Many years ago, I read a book by Ruth Haley-Barton titled, Invitation To Solitude and Silence. In that book, Ruth used an illustration that has stayed with me. She described our lives as a glass of river water with sediment swirling around making the water cloudy. Her point was that if we allow the glass to sit still, the sediment will eventually settle to the bottom and the water will become clear.

When I read that illustration all those years ago, I immediately found a jar and went outside to the flower bed and scooped up some dirt. I then added some water and sealed the jar off with its lid. When I shake the jar, the water becomes brown with west Texas soil. But when I allow it sit idle, the dirt finally settles to the bottom, allowing the water to become clear again.

This jar has been on my desk for almost twenty years now as a reminder to sit still regularly and just know that God is God and I am not. Things normally become much more clear when I take the time to be still.

As I picked up the jar last week to give it a shake, I noticed that not only are the contents now completely disturbing after being in there for so long, but now the lid has begun to rust to the point that I got a little shower. So . . . into the trash it must go.

But not before I could write about it here.

Today, take some to time to be still and know that God is God. There is a good chance that whatever you are facing will become more clear as you do.

Now, to go find a new jar!

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A Blasphemous Anxiety

One of the books I am reading right now is a book I have read before. It had such impact on me that it has become one that I re-read every couple of years. The book is titled, The Contemplative Pastor, by Eugene Peterson. A few weeks ago I picked it back up to read it again and thought I’d finish it in a couple of days. But something I read at the beginning of the book has been weighing on me for more than two weeks and I have come to a standstill in moving forward in the book.

The issue that has me caught is one of busyness.

When we greet one another and ask how the other is doing, more times than not, it seems the response is “busy.” Our culture celebrates busyness because it equates activity with productivity. But when we really dissect this thought, we quickly realize that being busy does not mean we are being productive – and even if we are being “productive,” it may not be a healthy kind of productivity.

It is like heading down the highway and catching all the green lights and making “good time.” That is all well and good assuming we are on the highway that leads to where we want to go. Making good time to a destination we never intended would be pointless.

In the first chapter of the book, Peterson quoted an early church father, Hilary of Tours, in regard to this idea of being busy – particularly as it relates to pastors. But I think the idea is valid to all followers of Jesus. Hilary is quoted as saying that busyness is “a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.”

When I read that statement – or indictment rather – I stopped in my tracks. How often do I put my head down and just work through the day doing good things with little to no time spent just being still and listening to Jesus? I crave time for reflection but I never make time to do it. I get caught up in the relentless pursuit of accomplishment and checking off the boxes on my To Do list.

To think that I stay so busy because somehow I have come to believe that I need to do God’s work for Him is convicting. Does God really need me to do His work for Him? Of course not!

Now I firmly believe that we were created as God’s masterpiece to do good works that He set out for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), but when we lose sight of why we do those things, and even more importantly the relationship that prompted us to do them in the first place, we have crossed into the blasphemous anxiety that Peterson talks about.

So today S L O W D O W N and reflect. Reflect on the goodness of God. Reflect on the hope of our salvation. Meditate on Psalm 46:10 today, Be still and know that I am God.

God does not need us to do His work for Him but He does invite us to join Him in His work. Focus on the difference today.

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A Day For Love

Today is the day in America that we celebrate love. Most often this is the sappy kind of love that we find on cards and little candy hearts. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, for those who know me, you know I am somewhat of a sappy kind of guy.

But love is so much more than sentimental gestures or sappy platitudes. The love that we find displayed in the Bible gives us a much more accurate picture of what real love looks like. Jesus was asked to give his thoughts on which of all the commandments is the most important. He immediately pointed his audience to the greatest of all commands, the command to love God with all that we have – body, soul, mind and spirit. And then he added that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. You can find this encounter in Mark 12:28-34.

Jesus reminds us that our greatest love should be for God and that love should spill over into the love we have for one another. Then in John 15 Jesus says this:

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Jesus was giving his followers a bit of foreshadowing of what was about to happen. In a very short time, Jesus would go to the cross and literally lay down his life for his friends (and all humanity). So he gives his followers this practical example of what love looks like in real life.

As I reflect on what real love looks today, I am reminded that love is selfless and humble. It is putting the needs of others before ourselves. I pray that you will not be put in a position to literally lay down your life for someone else today, but what would it look like if you put your needs and desires aside and focused on the needs of those in front of you. That is how we show love – and I believe when we show love to those around us, we are showing love to God as well.

Be a blessing to someone today!

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You Are a Masterpiece

Today is a big day for our family! In just a few hours, our daughter (in-law) will head to the hospital with our oldest son to begin the process of welcoming their first child into the world (yes – our first grandchild). We can’t wait to meet her!

Over the last several months, we have prayed and waited with anticipation but now, the reality is setting in. This morning as I reflect on what God is doing in this little life, I am also thinking about the text for the sermon this week. We are working through Ephesians 2. This week, the text will be verse 10, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do.

The word translated as “workmanship” is the Greek word poema. Obviously, we see our word poem in this word. But a closer look reveals the nuance and idea of a “masterpiece.” Paul tells us that each of us is a unique, one-of-a-kind masterpiece. The psalmist said we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in Psalm 139:14.

I have not even met Harper yet (that is our granddaughter) but I already know she is a work of art – a masterpiece.

And so are you! God created you completely and utterly unique, just like everyone else! He loves you and has a plan for you.

So, go live like the masterpiece that you are today! I’ll just be here getting ready to meet the most beautiful little girl in the world!

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A Life-Giving Truth

This past Sunday, we started a new series looking at our lives as pilgrims in The Way and who we are as Jesus followers. The series, titled Life In Christ, will run for several weeks as we work, verse by verse, through Ephesians chapter 2. As we began this important look at living with Jesus, we focused on who we were before we committed to this lifestyle and who we are now.

Ephesians 2:1-3 gives us a vivid picture of how helpless and hopeless we were without Jesus in our lives. All humanity is lost and spiritually dead without a trusting faith in Jesus. No matter how hard we try or how good we think we are, apart from Jesus’ saving work in us, we are spiritually dead. Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 that each and every human to ever walk the planet has sinned and fallen short of God’s plan for them – His glory.

But then verses 4 through 8 remind us that we have been given the opportunity to be rescued – that Jesus came to pay the price for our sins and make a way for us to be alive in Him.

The point I really want to highlight from all of this comes in verse 4, but because of His great love for us. Eight words that make all the difference. Eight words that give us hope and a future. Eight words that make the difference between a helpless and hopeless life and a life of hope and joy – but because of His great love for us.

Someone reading this today needs to be reminded that nothing you have ever done (good or bad), nor nothing you will ever do (good or bad) could make God love you any more or any less than He always has.

God LOVES You!!

Regardless of where you are today remember that life-giving truth.

Be blessed.

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