Monthly Archives: August 2014

Do you have all you want?



C.S. Lewis observes in his book, The Problem Of Pain:
“We find God an interruption. As St Augustine says, ‘God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full — there’s nowhere for Him to put it.’ Or as a friend of mine said, ‘We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.’ ”


Do you have that feeling that your ‘hands are full’ and ‘busy’ is more a description of who you are than what you do? When pain and sorrow comes to live with you having “all you want” takes on new meaning, doesn’t it? No one cares about a new car or a cute house in times of deepest trouble. Suffering has a way of grabbing our attention and focusing our goals on what is truly important.
Lewis observes the role of pain and sorrow in getting our attention:

“If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the second shatters the illusion that what we have is our own and enough for us. Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We ‘have all we want’ is a terrible saying when ‘all’ does not include God. Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as he leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness?”


Do you have all you want? I remember the wife of a former Maytag executive commenting how life was more fulfilling and exciting when they were less wealthy and striving to make ends meet. If all we want doesn’t include God it will never be enough. It’s like having an emergency parachute but not the ability to truly catch your breath and find peace.


Job 33:4
“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”


Acts 17:25
“…nor is (God) served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;”



The world will be different…


We are called to be world changers, not world chasers.


I was touched by the tribute to a dear lady who recently breathed her last on this earth:


“The world will forever be different without Mary;
Just as the world is different because of Mary.”


This obviously was a tribute that Mary lived. It must have been woven into the fabric of her daily life. The remarkable thing about such a tribute is that it isn’t earned by being perfect, nor by conquering every battle. Such a tribute doesn’t require monumental or earth-shaking accomplishments, at least not the type that make the headlines. I think two words might have summarized Mary’s world-changing life: purpose and passion.


I think others saw Mary as a world-changer because she saw her life as having purpose. She had an identity given to her by her Heavenly Father, an identity that must have served as an anchor of faith and hope, a light that shined even into the darkness of pain and sorrow, even when there were no satisfactory answers to the “Why?” questions. Her sense of purpose must have permeated not only her marriage and family, but her friendships and work. I think seeing oneself as having one singular and integrated life is essential to the character and purpose of a world-changer. Life is too big to be compartmentalized into segregated components (my home life, my work life, my spiritual life, etc).


I suspect others also saw Mary as a world-changer because of the passion with which she lived her life. She invested herself, pouring herself into the hearts of others. She seemed to me to be totally vested in fighting the fight of her life, giving everything she had to live each day given her and to live it well. At the same time, I suspect she also came to be passionate about the heavenly rest that was waiting for her. It seems world-changers are able to balance these two perspectives, humbly submitting themselves to live with one foot on earth and the other in heaven. True world-changers are less concerned about doing “great things” for God and more focused on doing small things with greatness.


Today is not just one more day you are facing. It is not just another humdrum routine. Be a world-changer. Live out your purpose with passion.


The world should be different without – and because of – you.


“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45



How then should I live?



Hebrews 13 offers good counsel for our daily living. Lest we get carried away by all sorts of distractions, and in view of such mercy we continue to receive, let’s ask. “How then should I live?

  • Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
  • Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers
  • Continue to remember those in prison 
  • 4 Honor marriage keep the marriage bed pure
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because (God will never leave or forsake you)
  • 6  Say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
  • Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Imitate their faith. 
  • Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Believe it and live it!)
  • Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. 
  • 15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise. 
  • 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
  • 17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority,.
  • 18 Pray
  • 20 (Remember): The God of peace will equip you with everything good for doing his will, and will work in us what is pleasing to him,through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. 
  • 25 Grace be with you all.

There are so many things on your to-do list today. But none so vital as doing them in the manner God intended. Enjoy Him fully today and live well.



The Mountain of Fear and the Mountain of Joy



In the passages preceding the end of Hebrews 12, we have been urged to run the race unhindered by sin and distraction, to fix our eyes on Jesus, to remain strong, and to be diligent in pursuing peace and holiness. We don’t do these things in order to get God to do something for us. We do them as an outpouring of our trust in Him and in celebration of the work He is in fact already doing in us.


When I was growing up, the church was regarded as a sacred place. Everything in the sanctuary seemed to be serious with no room for frivolity. It was a big mistake to regard this environment as anything but holy. In a way, it was like Mount Sinai. People approached this holy mountain with fear, lest they be destroyed. Even Moses trembled with fear in His approach. (Deut. 9:19)  Many approach God this way, regarding Him as a harsh judge who expects perfection and punishes those who fall short.


Today, the church environment is more relaxed; some might say too much so. None the less, the intended message is a beneficial one: Welcome. Come as you are. Come meet Jesus and find peace with God. This is akin to our approaching Mount Zion, “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” the place where angels rejoice and the church of those whose names are written in heaven.  We come to this mountain, not only to meet God the judge but also Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (Hebrews 12:22-24)


God’s children approach our Heavenly Father, certainly with reverence and trepidation, but not in trembling fear of His wrath. We approach Him at His invitation in the confidence that comes with being His beloved children, heirs to His kingdom. We listen when He speaks to us (v 25).  And while God will once again shake the earth and even the heavens, we are receiving a kingdom that cannot and will not be shaken. In this fragile life, everything can be shaken: the ground beneath our feet, our health, our relationships, our finances and possessions, even the thoughts of our mind. Where on earth do we find security? But God promises that His children who trust Him need not be shaken, even if all the earth and heavens are shaken.  (v 26-27)


When everything else comes crumbling down around you, do you have a trusting faith that remains unshaken? It comes from and it yields itself to thanksgiving. That is our natural response to such a gift of grace. Our God IS a consuming fire (v 29): one that destroys all that stands against Him but also a fire that refines as gold is purified in the heat of the cauldron. Come to God’s mountain of joy and live thankfully, worshiping Him throughout each day.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:28-29



Finding the grace of God…in holiness



Grace, an undeserved gift, the exercise of love, kindness, compassion, mercy, favor; the disposition to benefit or serve another. We all want grace.


Some try to secure the grace of God by doing good works. Ephesians 2:8-10 says that we are indeed created for His workmanship to do good, but it is only by grace that we are saved, the grace that comes as a free gift of God through His son Jesus.  We access this amazing grace by believing who Jesus is, the Son of God, by asking Jesus to forgive our sins, to turn away from sinful ways, and to invite Him to be Lord and Savior of our life.  If you have made this sincere commitment you know the natural response of a truly repentant and thankful heart receiving this amazing grace is to love others and extend grace to them.


Hebrews 12 offers both a warning and encouragement to us:

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless…” (v 14-16)


In this day and age holiness may seem a bit archaic and might even bring to mind certain legalistic and ‘goody two shoes’ attitudes. It may also bring a feeling of overwhelming frustration: “How can I be holy?!”  Holiness is our utmost calling, and He who calls you to it will equip you.  You see, holiness is not just the end goal of a maturing Christian’s life; it is at the beginning of our walk with God and essential to discovering the fullness of His grace and extending it to others in our daily lives. It is much more than seeking to live by moral standards. To be holy is to discover the Living God in us. (“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27)


Take some time today, maybe right now… ask God to reveal to you what stands in the way of you and holiness. Be it secret behaviors or secret thoughts, selfish ambitions to control your own life or that of others, or a bitter root separating you from others, the answer is also what keeps you distant from Him. Not only that but distant from experiencing the fullness of His amazing grace in your life.   Holiness is found by disciplining yourself to maintaining the presence of God throughout your day, constantly seeking the one who loves you most. It is as much a desire as a product of our lives.  It is revealed in discovering God living in you throughout all your activities.  Holiness is not some pious behavior. It is the outpouring of a thankful and grace-filled heart.


Want to experience real grace? Be holy…because He (in you) is holy.

(1 Peter 1:16)



Resting and wrestling



John Piper writes: “There is a restful side to the Christian life. “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28. “Be anxious for nothing . . . let your requests be made known to God . . . and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). There is rest and peace in the Christian soul.


But there is also wrestling. Jesus said in Luke 13:24, “Strive <wrestle/struggle> to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” At the end of his life, Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” Keeping the faith is a fight to be fought and a race to be run.”


We’ve written quite a bit about the resting side of the Christian life. Unless you are facing mighty challenges yourself, who wants to pursue the kind of suffering that comes from a wrestling life? But the two are interrelated. We wrestle with our response to life challenges with the goal of finding rest. And, as we’ve commented before, we find rest in these trials because Christ-in-us has already won the battle and assured our victory, IF (and this is a very strong IF):


IF you are willing to believe God at His Word, even when it flies in the face of your present circumstances.


IF you believe that God is sovereign and He has a provident plan for your life.


IF you believe that you are an alien and foreigner in this land we call earth; that your real home is heaven.


IF you believe that you are a spiritual being with a temporary earthly shell, not merely a physical being with some small spiritual component.


IF you believe that God’s loving discipline is even better for us than the parental discipline of our childhood.


We wrestle with each of these tenets when we face difficulties and temptations. God knows that our wrestling makes us tired and can lead us to lose heart. He knows our wrestling can lead to a dangerous sense of despair. And so he reminds us:
“Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:3-4)


If you are wrestling with pain, suffering, sorrow, unpleasant work or home life, there is good news. There comes from wrestling a sense of rest IF we believe what God has in store for us as His children.


“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” ( v 7,11)


Maybe you need to wrestle harder. If so, rest in the confidence that Jesus-in-you has already secured the victory. Believe it.



No more hiding- run the race unhindered



I remember playing hide and seek with our children. The older ones would try to find a decent hiding place in the house, while the youngest would hide somewhere obvious – like on the sofa, with their head under a pillow. They figured as long as they couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see them.


As adults we realize what a silly strategy that is – or do we? If you’ve ever caught yourself hiding a secret sin, a rebellious pattern of thought or behavior, you eventually come to realize how foolish the thought of hiding is. God looks at our heart (1 Samuel 16:7); nothing is hidden from Him. Here’s a sobering thought: No secrets will remain: “The Lord [will] bring to light the things hidden in the darkness.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)    Jesus said, “There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2)  Can you imagine a video of your secret life played out on the big screen for all to see? No shame  withheld; everything revealed.

And so the author of the book Hebrews begins chapter 12 with this beneficial advice:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” If everything is going to be revealed and is already revealed in the heavenly realm, why try to hide our head under a cushion? Let’s throw it all off. The language here speaks to an athlete boldly throwing off his robes that would entangle him in the race, and run unhindered and with all his might.

We are to run our race – our life – in the same manner: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1b-3)


You CAN persevere during the tough times of your life because Jesus-in-you already persevered. And not only did Jesus-in-you persevere the trial but He endured it with the joy set before Him! Have you ever wondered, “What possible joy could be found in enduring the excruciatingly painful cross?” Friend, it was the joy of being reunited with His heavenly Father and of knowing that this act paid the price to bring you, and me, to God. It was the joy of knowing that this sacrificial act would bring you hope so that you would not grow weary in life and come to despair.


Jesus-in-you can run unhindered, honestly and without secrets, your eyes, fixed on Him, and with the joy set before you in this world and in the next.  Let’s put away the secrets and live with reckless abandon for Christ. Start today:


No more secrets. No more hiding.



By faith…



“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)


If God were to commend you, what would most catch His attention? Would it be your courage, your goodness, your knowledge of the bible, your ability to amass riches? Maybe, you might think of your abilities and achievements, your good deeds, even your service in His name. As desirable as some of these might be, they are not the subject of God’s most ardent attention. What is it that captures God’s heart? The author of Hebrews devotes an entire chapter to the one attribute He desires from us: faith.


Over a dozen examples are given, citing lives lived “by faith.” Not by being clever, intellectual pursuits, or logical analysis. Not by effectiveness in education, in science, in caring for others, in preaching or writing. Certainly not by judging or controlling others, by manipulative planning, or fancies of our own opinions.


God’s commendation is for living by faith. Faithfulness matters to God. Our God is always faithful and desires to see this in His children who are created in His own image. God desires a faith that guides our actions, not just our beliefs. It is by faith that we understand and relate to the world around us (v 3). By faith, we please God (v 6), obey what God tells us, not what we imagine to please us (v 7-12).


It is a hard teaching but by faith, we live and we die, sometimes without receiving – in this life – everything promised. By faith we live as aliens and strangers to this world, not possessed by it (v 13).


By faith, we endure tests of the most difficult kinds (v 17). By faith, we look to the future (v 20). It is by faith, we endure mistreatment and hardship (v 24). By faith, we regard earthly treasures as inferior to knowing God (v 26). By faith we persevere and flee that which seeks to hold us in bondage (v 27,29). By faith, we find victory over our enemies, true justice in an unjust world, protection from the evil one; we find strength in weakness, perseverance, freedom from fear, and purpose in suffering (v 30-38). By faith, we believe that even if we don’t receive what we are promised while on earth, that God has something better planned for us (v 39).


Let’s pause for a moment in stillness before God, and ask Him to evaluate the activities of our life and the motives of our heart. Ask Him to reveal the areas of our life where we shrink back and consider what is right in our eyes, rather than His. The one thing God desires of you is to live by faith, in and through whatever difficult situation confronting and perplexing you. Let’s determine our lives be marked…by faith.



Confidence that perseveres


By perseverance the snail reached the ark. – Charles Spurgeon


Florence Chadwick was the first woman to swim the English channel in both directions.  Just a year after setting the world record, she attempted to swim the 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline. After about 15 hours a thick fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the boats that flanked her, that she didn’t think she could make it. She swam for another hour before asking to be pulled out, unable to see the coastline due to the fog. As she sat in the boat, she found out she had stopped swimming just one mile away from her destination. (Notable American women: a biographical dictionary completing the twentieth century, 2011)


Have you ever completely lost your confidence and given up? Maybe you were quite good at something but were surpassed by someone who was even better. Maybe someone said you will never be “good enough.” Perhaps a betrayal dissolved what confidence you had in others or even God. Maybe your health took away the skills that once bolstered your confidence. Or a grievous loss has devastated all your hope and tempted you to give up your faith.


Such times lead us into such a deep darkness we think no light could penetrate our grief. The book of Hebrews speaks to such a time when we are tempted to turn back on our faith and return to the hopeless ways of the world. Every time we forget God’s faithfulness, we need to “REMEMBER when you received the light that allowed you to endure suffering with hope. Don’t throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” (Hebrews 10:32-35)


When there is no readily apparently evidence for hope or confidence, we are called to persevere a little longer in God’s will, to reach the prize. Why? Because Christ is coming. Yes, it may seem like forever, but He is coming soon (v 36-37).


Two months after her failed California swim, Chadwick tried again. This time was different. The same thick fog set in, but she made it because she said that she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her mind while she swam. She persevered and didn’t shrink back because she kept her mind’s eye on the shore.

That is the message for you and me today. Even in our darkest hours, don’t shrink back.  Live by faith, not by sight.   For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay… “My righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:36-39)

Don’t shrink back. Watching for the light that pierces your darkness helps you to persevere. You are nearer to the heavenly shore than you realize.