Tuesday, April 30, 2013

4/30/13- Not a Waiting Game

"The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in Him, so it is best for us to wait in patience-- to wait for him to save us."  (Lam. 3:25-26 GNT)

Thoughts:  Waiting on God is not a game.  It is not a way to manipulate God to give you what you want.  In fact, waiting is God's teaching us patience and grace.  Too many bad decisions are made in a hurry.
    Once King Saul was panicking because though his enemy was near, his soldiers were leaving out of fear or out of distractions from home (they were probably soldier- farmers for the most part).  Saul was supposed to wait on Samuel, but instead he assumed priestly power- power that was not his to take in order to hurry things up a bit.  In the end Saul lost his kingdom because of his lack of ability to trust in the Lord and wait on Him to do what He had already promised.
     So we lack patience.  We tend to want to be in control- and just want God to help us be in control.
    One of the Christian praying positions is to sit with open palms toward heaven.  It is a reminder that we have nothing in our hands, but we lift our hands to God who fills them with good things.
Today- remember patience, and remember to wait on God- even in the busy-ness.

Prayer:  Lord, we confess to you that we do not wait patiently for you to act.  Help us to work, but to work in patience- relying on your grace to save us at the proper time.


Monday, April 29, 2013

4/29/13- Trust in God to Guide you

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5,6)

26 From one man he made all the people of the world. Now they live all over the earth. He decided exactly when they should live. And he decided exactly where they should live. (Acts 17:26)

     George Neumark wrote a beautiful hymn after his country had been devastated by the Thirty Years War and he had been robbed of everything he owned.  He lost his college tuition and had no way of making ends meet.  Yet he never gave up his trust in God.  After months of searching for work in the harsh winter and the harsh economy a pastor helped George obtain a job.  J.S. Bach used his hymn in many of his pieces.
     Neumark is an illustration of what God can do for us. God leads us in life- even leading us to the exact time and place He has purposed for us.  He has a plan for us!

Here is a re-translation in modern English of the great hymn I made:
(You might want to listen to the music as you read):

If you just trust in God to guide you,
and hope in Him in all your ways. 
He'll give you strength in whatever chides you, 
and see you through the darker days. 
Whoever trusts in God's true love, 
builds on the rock that cannot move. 

How can these anxious cares assist me?
These never ceasing moans and sighs?
I need to know you're ever with me
In each dark moment as it arrives.
Our cross and trials are much worse
When we despair of God and curse. 

Only be still- wait for God's timing
With cheerful hope and heart's content
He always listens to our crying
His love will save you from torment
Don't doubt- our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own. 

He knows the time for joy and truly
Will send the joy when it is time.
When we've been purified and holy
He comes to us with help sublime.
He comes to us when we least expect
And heals us from hate and neglect. 

Don't think that in the midst of trial
God forgets us and does not hear
Our troubles last for just awhile
But His presence is ever near
God puts a limit to our griefs
Believe His love will never cease. 

We are all poor before the Almighty
He honors those who are humble
He lifts the low both fair and rightly
The secure find false trust crumbles
God is not deaf nor does He sleep
He weakens the strong and helps the weak. 

Sing, pray and worship God our Helper
His faithfulness each morning see
Trust in His Word it is far better
Than despair, fear, or anxiety
God never lets His children down
In the end we will wear a starry crown. 

Prayer: Lord, do not let me take the easy way for you today, but take your way- the way of the cross.  Let me make a difference for you rather than seeking my own comfort. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

4/27/13- The Young Leading

13 Then a certain prophet came up to King Ahab of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Look, I will give it into your hand today; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 14 Ahab said, “By whom?” He said, “Thus says the Lord, By the young men who serve the district governors.” Then he said, “Who shall begin the battle?” He answered, “You.” 15 Then he mustered the young men who served the district governors, two hundred thirty-two; after them he mustered all the people of Israel, seven thousand...19 But these had already come out of the city: the young men who served the district governors, and the army that followed them. 20 Each killed his man; the Arameans fled and Israel pursued them, but King Ben-hadad of Aram escaped on a horse with the cavalry. 21 The king of Israel went out, attacked the horses and chariots, and defeated the Arameans with a great slaughter. (1 Kings 20)

Thoughts: In this passage God chose the young to lead the people of God out of a hopeless, surrounded-and- out-numbered situation.  The young had hope perhaps when others were more skeptical and in their secular realism had left God out of the equation.
    Historically young people have led in revivals.  For example- Gideon in the time of the judges; Daniel in the exile; Jesus himself was in his early 30s.  In America the young led in the Second Great Awakening- from Yale; The YMCA  (Young Men's Christian Association) was just that as it led in the missions revival in the early 1900s in America.  The young veterans returning from WWII led in a huge unchartered revival in the church.  Even after Operation Desert Storm, the young veterans brought back story after story of God's blessing and there was a boost to the church.
    Today, the young who believe need to step up and lead as the young men in   Ahab and Elijah's day did.  Too many staid and tired professors are stuck in their skepticism and unbelief that has led us to little energy and hope.  Christian young people can make a huge difference. 

    4/28 is Youth Sunday at Lake Murray Presbyterian.  I have seen the sermons and am excited about what we will hear. Pray for our young people as they lead us.  

Prayer: Lord, do it again in our time.  Let the young people lead us into more hope and enthrusiasm for you.  

(Youth graduating high school seniors four years ago when they were confirmed).

4/27/13- Humility and grace trump self-righteousness

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14) 

Thoughts: Today I am doing a funeral for a wonderful, humble lady who was a deputy county tax collector.  She retired years ago (she died at 80), and her job did not define her- but her humility did.  She was funny, she was humble, she was full of grace, and I do not doubt she is exalted today.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be full of humility and grace- following you each step of the way.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

4/26/13- Trading love for luxury

Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned. (Song of Solomon 8:7) 

You wake up in your luxury bed and slide out of your luxury sheets and get in your luxury shower and use your luxury towels...and your luxury car makes them all seem not so luxurious.  So the Accra rlx commercial says.  The sad thing is what's missing? No kids. No wife. No hello to anyone.  It seems very cold and lonely to me.  Is that what the American dream has come down to- seeking luxury without people?  Love is missing.  I would trade all the cold temporary luxury in the world for love.

Prayer: Lord, let me never trade your love, or love for neighbor for more stuff.

Accura commercial:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttc9KEeM5lM

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

4/25/13- Tiredness and God

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them,“Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Thoughts: The disciples were tired and they had been stressed out and had little sleep.  Jesus tells them that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  The human body is not a real dichotomy- it is a unity.  But weariness sets in and divides soul from body- as at death.  It was not long after this that all the disciples ran away except for Peter who denies him.  Fatigue makes cowards of us all.  Several times Jesus told his disciples to rest and he sought rest himself.  Many times his rest was interupted.  But he was always grateful. 

Prayer; Help me to be strong, and watchful for you, Lord.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

4/24/13- Being Still and Knowing

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.  Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.  The Lord Almighty is with us;  the God of Jacob is our fortress.Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Thoughts: In our very busy and rushed world, we need to be still.  The word "be still" is the same basic word as "Sabbath."  In a world that is a bit uncertain- with bombs going off at the Boston Marathon, it is important to know not only is God our refuge and strength, but also that  we can be still.  It is not in our control anyway.  Being still means letting go of control, and exalting God more than yourself.  

Prayer: Lord, calm my heart. Help me to be still and listen to you.  

(A still lake at sunset reminds us of our need for God's peace and to stop a while and rest)

Monday, April 22, 2013

4/22/13- Working Together

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Thoughts: When people work together, they have a better return for their work than if they work apart.  It is the magic of synchronicity.  It is the way God has designed things- we are meant to cooperate to get more done.  So one person nailing a board up all by themselves might have to hold the board, hold the nail, and hold the hammer- and it can end up with a black thumb.  But when two work- one holding and the other nailing, it goes faster and more efficiently.
     It is that way with the Lord's work too.  It is hard for one person to do mission work by themselves.  A missionary needs support back home, and those who will send them supplies and pray for them.  A roofer would do better with someone to bring them shingles up while they stay up hammering.  Together we can accomplish great things that could not be done individually.  We encourage each other along the way- and that helps our work to go further. 

(Preparing Thanksgiving meals for the hungry: one group fixes the turkey; another the dressing; another the vegetables; another rice; another fruit and desert; hundreds go through an assembly line preparing several hundred meals in a hurry.  Working together helps get a lot done. )

Sunday, April 21, 2013

4-21-13 "Never Fail to Love because Love Never Fails"

Love never fails... 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Thoughts: My good friend and fellow-elder, Oscar Lovelace, texted me today after the sermon and said that "This is what this past week and your sermon led me to conclude: Never fail to love, because love never fails."  That is a great way to look at life.
    Fear and worry and evil will stop- but love never fails.  Terrorism and crucifixions will cease- but love never fails.  It is the lesson of the rainbow after the storm and the resurrection after the crucifixion.  It is the lesson of heaven after the heartache of pain and suffering.  Let us not become paralyzed with fear or the possibilities of things going wrong.  Rather, let us live in the grace and strength God gives us.  

Prayer: Today, O Lord, remove fear far from me and grant me your peace. More than that grant me your love- that I might bless this old world the way you bless me. 

4/21/13- A Vision of Heaven

These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat down on them,’  nor any scorching heat.  17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their  shepherd;  ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’  ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’  (Revelation 7:14-17) 

Thoughts: In the wake of the terrorist acts we would do well to ask where are we headed and where do we want to go?  For North Korea, the vision is to defeat the South and America- uniting the Korean peninsula by force- that is heaven for them.  For Muslim fundamentalists, the belief is that chaos must come along with immorality before the day of judgment.  Eliminating structures and human comfort add to the chaos and hasten the day of judgment.  Christians believe heaven is a place of comfort, peace, security, and fulfilled hope and love.  Our desire is not to hasten chaos, but to bring the hope, peace, and grace of heaven down to earth.  What you believe about heaven effects what you do on earth.  
     Revelation 7 is a vision of martyrs in heaven, but it is also a glimpse of heaven for all of us.  The first vision is that we are made clean by Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  So on this earth, Christian try to tell others there is a way to get forgiveness and to forgive each other.
     There is no hunger, thirst or environmental discomfort.  In other words, there is real security and lack of worry.  We do not need to worry about unemployment, or the money running out at the end of the month, or the consequences of pollution or nuclear war.  But in this life we seek to bring a bit of heaven to earth and work to help the hungry eat, the thirsty drink freely, and to free the world of environmental disaster.
     The Lamb will be our shepherd.  So we shall not want.  The One who died for us will lead us to life and eternal nourishment.  So in this life we seek to let people know the Great Shepherd who can give them purpose and direction in life.
     God will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Pain is ended in heaven.  The Great Physician heals us and helps us.  In this life believers seek to end the pain of others.  So there are many Christian hospitals and medical missionaries.
     Yesterday when the terrorist was arrested people lined the streets and clapped for the Law Enforcement personnel. Heaven applauds when we bring God's peace, grace, help and hope to earth. In our day, we need a vision that can give us hope and direction.  

Prayers: Thank you Lord for the hope of no more hunger, tears, weather or pollution problems, and pain.  Give us strength to bring your idea of heaven down to earth now.  

(Jesus wiping tears of a child)

Friday, April 19, 2013

4/19/13- God Cares about Terrorism

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
    who are caught in the schemes he devises.
His ways are always prosperous;
    your laws are rejected by[b] him;
    he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
    He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
He lies in wait near the villages;
    from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
    like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
    he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
    they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
    he covers his face and never sees.”
12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
    Why does he say to himself,
    “He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
    call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
    that would not otherwise be found out.
16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
    the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.

Thoughts: I am writing this as I read of the Boston bomber being arrested after an all day manhunt with the whole city of Boston being shut down.
The whole city cheered when the suspect was arrested.  It was a feeling of relief that they can be safe again and go back to their way of life.  God sees and helps and cares about those who are hurt- the fatherless, the grieving and troubled.  God cares to stop those who mean harm "so that they will never against strike terror."  

Prayer: Do Lord, remember us as a country- the people of Boston and West Texas.  Comfort the grieving and strengthen the shaken, Lord. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Conquering terrorism

    for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Thoughts: This was the verse President Obama wisely used today in Boston at an inter-faith worship service.  He partially used the verse of 2 Timothy 4:7 about finishing the race (I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith).  But he left out the part about the good fight and keeping the faith.  But the truth is we need not live in fear caused by terrorists.  If we are afraid, then they have at least some sense of victory.  But if we continue our commerce, our games, our enjoying our freedom, then they have lost.  While we need to continue to finish the race, and get back up- as Bill Iffrig the older runner seen on video as falling and then being helped up.  We need to fight the fight and get up, finish the race and the last statement too- keep the faith that has been entrusted to us.  

Prayer: Keep us from living in fear or being paralyzed in our fallen-ness.  Instead, help us to be brave, strong, and loving.  


Be merciful to me, my God,
    for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
    all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
    in their pride many are attacking me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
    In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
All day long they twist my words;
    all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk,
    they watch my steps,
    hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
    in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
Record my misery;
    list my tears on your scroll—
    are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will turn back
    when I call for help.
    By this I will know that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
    in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can man do to me? (Psalm 56)

Thoughts: The point of terrorism is to make us afraid.  Afraid to open the mail, afraid to go into work at the fertilizer plant, afraid to run in the race or go to the sporting event.  Jesus was not afraid to face the cross, though he certainly did not want to (praying "if possible let this cup pass"). The great leaders of the Christian faith: Paul Peter, John were not afraid.  Historically Luther, Knox, Calvin, Patrick, Livingstone, and millions of others showed they were not afraid of what man can do.  Instead they found a resource from fear in trusting in God.  Perfect love, writes John, casts out fear (1 Jn. 4:18).   The Psalmist writes, "When I am afraid I will trust in you."  Can you say that?  If you can then you are a witness to a world.  We face acts of terror by helping the victims of the act, praying for them and their families, safeguarding ourselves as much as possible, but ultimately looking to God for our safety and calling out for His mercy and help.  Terrorists are defeated when there is no reaction of terror.  

Prayer: In you I trust O Lord.  Help me to not be afraid.  I turn to you with my whole heart seeking your will, your mercy, your protection.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

4/27/13- A Need for Humility and Quiet Repentance

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served him, he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, who that year shattered and crushed them. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites. The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim; Israel was in great distress. 10 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.”
11 The Lord replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? 13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!
15 But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.” 16 Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer. (Judges 10)

Thoughts:    In the past when our nation was under attack or at war, the leaders of our country called out to God for salvation and protection, and turning to Him in humility and repentance.   Certainly Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt have many quotes asking the nation to join in prayer.  In his Pearl Harbor speech FDR said, "With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God."  As recently as 9/11/2001 the congress gathered on the steps of congress- Democrat and Republican and sang "God Bless America." President George W. Bush said in his 911 speech: " Tonight I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me."   
      It has been twelve years since then.  Instead of our nation turning back to God, all evidence is that we are nation that is forsaking God as fast as we can for the false gods of pleasure, sexual  immorality, and selfishness.  Today for the first time in our history more babies are born out of wedlock than in wedlock.  Today more first partners live together without being married and a majority do not see it as wrong.  We have blessed homosexual behavior and cursed those who say it is immoral.  In the passage above the Israelites had syncretized the worship of the Lord with the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth who were fertility gods (that encouraged sexual immorality in order to be blessed).  
    After 911 someone asked Billy Graham's daughter, Ann G. Lotz, why God would allow the destruction of the World Trade Center.  Her response was that "for several years we have shaken our fist at God and said, 'God we want you out of our schools, our government, our business...'and God who is a gentleman has just quietly backed out...removing his hand of blessing and protection."  She has since said that 911 was a "wake up call...but we're still sleeping."  Since 911 our church attendance in America has declined 10%- a huge drop.  Instead of repenting, we are angry at those who ask us to remember and repent.  Many of our young people do not even know how to call on God in trouble.  President Obama issued a call for us to pray for the people of Boston.  He wisely said, "The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight. And Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss."  We need to pray God's comfort and help.  But we also need to turn to Him and away from forsaking Him.  We can learn from the past on this.  

Prayer: Lord, we ask that you bear our misery no longer.  Help us to forsake our other gods and turn to you without shame.  Help us to remember you are the blesser and protector of our lives.  Comfort those who mourn and convict those who are comfortable. We pray for our leaders and our people O Lord.  Lead us back to your gracious blessing.