Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Wake Up & Turn On The Light!


“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6-7) 

Oh friend, THIS IS IT! This is THE passage Jesus read aloud in Synagogue and proclaimed, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:21) 

“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles…”

As God called Abraham and credited his belief to Him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6, Rm. 4:22); As he led him by the hand and made from him a nation through which he established His covenant with Israel—that they might be a light to the nations(Isa. 49:6) so also He called forth His Son Jesus in righteousness, to fulfill all righteousness (Mat. 3:15).

The One through whom God created light (Gen. 1:3, John 1:3), came as The Light (John 3:19)—to offer the light of life to all who would believe on Him (John 3:16, John 8:12). He came to...

“…to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison…” 

The god of this world has blinded our eyes (2 Cor. 4:4). Indeed, on our own, we are trapped in darkness—But Jesus came to wake us up and turn on the light! By His grace, He stirs our heart to life and opens our eyes that we might see His truth (Ps. 119:18). He delivers us from captivity! “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Col. 1:13) 

“…and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

Have you noticed how hard it is to move forward when you're in the  dark? When you have no vision—it’s difficult to move forward. So we “sit in darkness”.-- We get up, go to work, make money, pay bills, watch a little TV, surf the web, do whatever we do  --n weekends, etc. Week after week, we just kind of walk around the same mountain, in the same rut—again and again.

Jesus delivers us out of that darkness! (Col. 1:13)  He gives us new life through His Spirit and new eyes to see what life in His Kingdom is all about. (John 3:3)  He sends us FORWARD with a mission. “You are the light of the world…” (Mt. 5:14) “God make disciples!” (Mt. 28:19) “You will be my witnesses (Acts. 1:8) “Make the most of every opportunity!” (Eph. 5:16) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)

Be free! Open your eyes, fix them on Jesus (Heb. 12:2) and move forward as His witness, making the most of every opportunity today!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Monday, May 30, 2016

God Wants To Give You Freedom!



Happy Memorial Day!

I just watched the Indy 500's 100th Running... As a Hoosier--that's a BIG deal to me! :-)


As I'm chilling with my family today (and I hope you are doing the same)--I thought I would borrow some thoughts from one of my favorite teachers--Rick Warren.  Enjoy Rick's thoughts on the subject: God Wants To Give You Freedom!



“If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free.” (John 8:36 TEV) 
The world defines freedom as a life without any restraint — “I can do anything I want to do and say anything I want to say without anybody telling me what to do.” You may burn everybody else, but you get to do it your own way. The world says you can have your freedom, but only by being totally selfish.
Yet, the Bible says the only way to true freedom is through Jesus: “If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free” (John 8:36 TEV). 
Real freedom is freedom from fear, guilt, worry, bitterness, and death. You’re free to quit pretending because you’re free to be yourself.
How do you get rid of those kinds of fears? By letting God love you! The apostle John teaches that “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18a NIV).
When you realize how much God loves you, you’ll begin to live in true freedom. In fact, you worship God when you recognize that “God is love.” It is an act of worship to agree that he is a loving, caring, generous God and that we can “rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16). 
If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Friday, May 27, 2016

The Great And Terrible Day Of The Lord

“In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” (Isaiah 29:18) 

THAT DAY is an awesome phrase in the Bible! It refers to THE day on which God will set ALL things straight; when all wrongs will be righted and all evil eradicated. Oh how the hearts of all who follow Christ long for that day! “In that day their (all who oppose God) burden will be lifted from your (Christ-followers') shoulders, their yoke from your neck…” (Isa 10:27) This absolute refers to BOTH the first advent of Jesus—when he walked among us and said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mat. 11:28-29)  It also refers to that beautiful day when the skies will split and our Savior will arrive on a white horsed to separate the sheep from the goats (Mat. 25:31-46), the wheat from the weeds (Mat. 13:24-30), the braggers who will say “Lord Lord—look at all that we did in your name” but never knew or walked with Jesus (Mat. 7:22) from the poor in spirit who humbly confessed their brokenness, repented of their sin and followed Christ as King. He will crush all that is wicked and usher in the Kingdom of God in all of its fullness! Oh, as the prophet Joes said, that will truly be a “great and terrible” day! (Joel 2:31)

Jesus spoke of this day often, saying things like, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” (Lk. 21:34) And “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Mt. 26:29) 

On that day what Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 13 will be fulfilled, “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.” (1 Cor. 13:12) Paul also encourages us to be mindful of THAT DAY every time we take communion. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26) 

The promise of the Lord’s return is inseparably and indelibly woven into the message of God’s Word. He is coming back! And living with an awareness of that reality serves two very practicle purposes:

First it serves as a sober warning during those times when we are tempted to follow our flesh and forget the ways of the Lord.  It also stands as a hope providing, strength infusing promise that empowers us to press through whatever we face with faith and assurance—BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT DAY IS COMING!

My prayer for you today—is the prayer Paul prayed for the Philippians, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…” (Phil. 1:9-10) 

Walk humbly with Jesus today---looking forward to THAT DAY!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Eyes Of The Lord Are Everywhere.

"Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, 'Who sees us? Who will know?'” "Isaiah 29:15) 

As a pastor, one of the truths you learn pretty early on is that repetition isn’t just good, it’s essential! A colleague of mine once said, “When you’re getting really tired of repeating that announcement about the children’s ministry meeting, many within the congregation are just beginning to tune in and notice it.”

God knows all of us have a little bit of A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder). Stated more plainly we can all be a little thick headed. So, God repeats those things that we need to understand, again and again.

"Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, 'Who sees us? Who will know?'” (Isa. 29:15) 

Did Adam and Eve really believe that if they hid behind a bush God wouldn’t find them? Did Cain think that by killing his brother Abel out in the field, God wouldn’t notice? What was David thinking with that whole Bathsheba cover-up thing?

Moses wrote… 

“…you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” (Num. 32:23) 

King David sang… 

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Ps. 139:7-12) 

Jesus declared… 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (Jn. 3:16-20) 

Paul admonished us saying… 

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:7-8) 

On the other side of this GOD SEES ALL coin is found a wonderful promise...

Every tear...

Every selfless anonymous good deed—performed purely out of love for Him...

Every moment spent in silent prayer...

God is aware--He sees and hears it all. And in Christ, He is with us and for us! This is why Jesus was so adamant in Matthew 6 about teaching us not to live our lives seeking the praise of people, but to do what we do out of pure devotion to our Heavenly Father. “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Mt. 6:4)

Let’s live today aware of both Isaiah’s admonishment and the Hebrew writer’s encouragement. He writes, “God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.” (Heb. 6:10) 

Walk humbly with God today (Micha 6;8)—with a surrendered heart, knowing that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1) and hat your Father—who knows the very number of hairs on your head (Mt. 10:30) and who sees all—is with you!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When Light Invaded The Darkness

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isa. 9:2) 

When we hear the word “darkness” we instantly think “that’s bad”. To be “in the dark” is to be out of the loop, lost, blind, helpless and very often afraid. But when we hear the word “light,” ah, now that’s a totally different story. When I think of light, I immediately think “Vision!  I can see where I’m going! I can navigate. I can avoid falling into that ditch and see to duck my head so I don’t crack it on that low-hanging beam!” 

We instinctively want to run away from the dark and to the light. And don’t think that is a merely human instinct. Never forget that you are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) who is LIGHT (1 Jn. 1:5).  Of course, all of us have sinned and fallen short, but that image is still there--marred though it be.

This is why every person I’ve ever met wants to be a good person. I’ve just never met anyone who said, “My goal in life is to be a miserable jerk of a loser who hurts people and makes this world a darker place.” Maybe you have met that person, but I haven’t. Many people who haven’t surrendered to Christ—misunderstand that true goodness is inseparably welded to God’s nature and righteousness, and so they stumble around on their own, without God, trying to define goodness from their own finite perspective without consulting God's Word.  Nevertheless—they still possess a desire to be thought of as “a good person.”

In this passage, Isaiah is essentially saying the very same thing Paul says in Colossians.

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves." (Colossians 1:13)

All of us have fallen into darkness because of our own selfish choices to do life our way instead of God’s. As a result, we lived in this dark place; cut off from God and His love, grace and renewing sustaining power.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners (in the dark), Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) 

Because of His great love for us—God sent us a Savior; Jesus, who is The Way, The Truth, The Life—AND THE LIGHT OF LIFE. He poured out His Light on this world. That light, in love, exposes our brokenness and strips us bare so that we SEE CLEARLY that we have no excuses before Him. We are guilty and utterly helpless.  This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of being “poor in spirit.” When we reach this “end of our rope” place—this is a very good thing—because NOW—if we are willing—we can surrender to Him as Lord.  And a beautiful thing happens when we do that:

The Light of the World INVADES OUR DARKNESS!  He takes up residence within our hearts--driving the darkness away.  Darkness always flees when light shows up!   He lavishes us with His grace. (Eph. 1:8) Purifies us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn. 1:9) Gives us the right to be adopted as His children (Jn. 1:12, Rom. 8:15)… children of Light no less… (Eph. 5:8) and by the Spirit of the One who is Light within us, we call the creator of the universe daddy. (Gal. 4:6)

Wow, you talk about coming out of darkness into light? When the One who is The Light moves in—darkness goes away!  All who know Christ can truly say—I was living in darkness, but God led me into a Great Light. His name is Jesus!

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” (Eph. 5:8)

Praise the Lord!  Walk as a Child of Light today!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Call God, Not The Psychic Hotline!


“When people tell you, ‘Try out the fortunetellers. Consult the spiritualists. Why not tap into the spirit-world, get in touch with the dead?’ Tell them, ‘No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.’ People who try the other ways get nowhere—a dead end! Frustrated and famished, they try one thing after another. When nothing works out they get angry, cursing first this god and then that one, Looking this way and that, up, down, and sideways—and seeing nothing, A blank wall, an empty hole. They end up in the dark with nothing.” (Isaiah 8:19-22, The Msg) 

I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t, in some form or fashion, wish I was in Heaven—where all injustice is eradicated and all trouble is past. But that wishful thought always quickly fades against the reality that I am not yet home and the world I currently live in is filled with trouble. In those moments I am confronted with the following questions:

What will I do with the time that I have?
How will I face my troubles?
To what or whom will I turn for help? 


Even though Israel had a rich history with God—a long list of stories about His miraculous faithfulness to them, they often forgot all about Him and lived like He didn’t exist.

“When people tell you, ‘Try out the fortunetellers. Consult the spiritualists. Why not tap into the spirit-world, get in touch with the dead?’ Tell them, ‘No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.” 

You would think that the people who’ s history included God crushing the most powerful nation on earth (Egypt) with plagues and setting them free from bondage by parting a sea and allowing three million people to walk across it’s bed on DRY GROUND would never forget who God was...

but they did. 

And when trouble threatened, instead of running to God—who had over and over again demonstrated His love for them—they went to the local fortune teller and dialed 1-900 psychic hot-line for help.

Isaiah, by referring to Scripture here is saying, “Guys—we have documents filled with eye-witness-first-hand accounts of God’s awesome deeds on our behalf. He has told us plainly how to live blessed lives and exactly what to do anytime we encounter trouble—and you still want to consult with the spirit of your dead uncle so-and-so? Really?" 

I’ll be honest. I’ve done this. I haven’t called the psychic hotline, but way more times than I want to admit, I have looked to lots of things and people instead of God to be my savior in times of trouble.

Isaiah nails it when he says, “People who try the other ways get nowhere—a dead end! Frustrated and famished, they try one thing after another. When nothing works out they get angry, cursing first this god and then that one, Looking this way and that, up, down, and sideways—and seeing nothing, A blank wall, an empty hole. They end up in the dark with nothing.” 

I know these people...

I've been these people!

My testimony is filled with stories where I say, “And here is another time where God just sat back and gave me enough rope to hand myself.” In other words, I was dead set on doing it my way instead of God’s and so He said, “Have at it Brad.  Hopefully, when you crash and burn this time, you’ll learn your lesson.” 

I’ve learned that lesson many many times over. Run to God FIRST, ALWAYS and CONTNUALLY! 

May we all join with David in declaring today that “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” (Psalm 18:2, NLT)

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Don't Step Over Jesus


“In that day they will roar over it like the roaring of the sea. And if one looks at the land, there is only darkness and distress; even the sun will be darkened by clouds.” Isaiah 5:30 

God loved Israel with every blessing imaginable. He gave them freedom, land, peace and he blessed their efforts so that they prospered. And all he asked was that they love and acknowledge Him in response. But they didn’t. They became full of themselves and forgot God. They took His blessings for granted, forgot His commands and abandoned His ways. And then they (like every individual or nation in history who chose this path) reaped the consequences of those choices.

The word “they” in the passage above refers to the Babylonian army. The “roaring” Isaiah speaks of is the sound of an overwhelming, well-oiled army of Babylonian chariots sweeping in to utterly destroy Judah and carry all survivors off as slaves.

God gives us freewill. We can choose any kind of life we like. We can reject God, marginalize Him—which is where we straddle the fence and try to say we believe in God, but still live most of our life on our terms instead of His, or we can embrace Him as Lord trust Him as Father. You are one-hundred percent free to reject everything I’m sharing with you today. You can write it off as hogwash, but the declaration of Scripture stands “God-honoring choices today, better life tomorrow; selfish choices today, consequences tomorrow.” 

Jesus said it this way… 

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Mt. 7:24-27) 

The Apostle Paul said it this way… 

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:7-8)

Matthew Henry said it this way… 

“Those who would not hear the voice of God speaking by his prophets, shall hear the voice of their enemies roaring against them.” Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

The beautiful upside to all of this--the point that we desperately need to keep in mind—is that God is not mad at us! No one can look at the cross, understanding that Jesus bled and died there to pay for our sin, and say, “God doesn’t care about me.” Or “God is just critical, harsh judge.”

I love something Charles Stanley once said, “Anyone who goes to hell will have to step over Jesus to get there.”

God loves all of us so much. He has literally done all the work of salvation for us—except for one part—accepting it. He can’t do that part for us. He can, and does, send His invitation out to us—through writings like this one and others, preachers, and many other ways—to accept Jesus as Savior and trust and follow Him as Lord, but as Billy Graham once said, “God is a gentleman…” He will not break down the door of your heart and force Himself upon you against your will. However, if you do chose Him, he will lavish His love and grace upon you for all eternity!

Jesus said it this way… 

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” (John 3:16-18, The Msg.) 

Trust Him today!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Living Upright in an Upside-Down World!

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20 

“Thucydides was an Athenian historian and general. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC.” (Wikipedia)  In his writings Thucydides describes the effects of the “spirit of party” (we would call it the flesh, or the sin nature) in the Peloponnesian war. “Rashness was called courage, and prudence timidity, and treachery cleverness, and honesty stupidity.” Charles Elliott, in his commentary on Scripture, says, “That deliberate perversion is in all ages the ultimate outcome of the spirit that knows not God, and therefore neither fears nor loves Him…” 

This spirit was alive and well in Isaiah’s day and it’s alive and well in ours. The Apostle Paul wrote about this in Romans 1:21-32. Here’s my summary of his thoughts: People so easily fall in love with this world and become enamored with their own desires and in the process push God out of the picture. When that happens any sense of spiritual understanding goes right out the window. From that point forward they can rationalize and justify any action or behavior – killing, oppression, injustice, immorality, etc. so long as it gets them what they want.  The end totally justifies the means.  And they truly believe they are the “smart one” the “evolved” the “progressive” of society.  Christ-followers are branded  as a bunch of old-fashioned, out of touch, narrowminded, unenlightened, intolerant, bigoted fools who just want to rain on our parade and hold us back.  They call obedience to Christ – hatred and bigotry … murder – choice… sexual sin – natural and wonderful.

And so, because they exercised their God-given freedom of choice to reject God—He let them. He said, Have at, the freedom to do what you want with your life is all yours--but remember—the consequences are yours too. 

“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29-32)

This world is totally upsidedown!

I’m not writing this to bum you out, but to call you to sober awareness of the world we live in. Do not be surprised by ANYTHING that comes along. When Jesus is rejected, literally anything goes. The first followers of Jesus lived in the world Paul is describing in the passage above. I know you probably assumed it was about America in the 21st Century, but this is nothing new. The god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4) has always been active in our world—blinding and deceiving; killing, stealing and destroying (John 10:10).

So how do we live upright lives in this upsidedown world? 

I think it’s really interesting and important to note what Jesus did NOT say. He never said, “Look to the Government to be your salvation." or “Go try to fix everybody's messed up lives…” He said things like:

“You are my witnesses” (Acts. 1:8)
I.e. “Tell others what I’ve done for you.” (Acts 1:8) 

“Abide in me…” (John 15)
I.e. spend time with me every day and walk with an awareness of my grace and power and word in your life, (John 15) 

“Love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34-35)
An exclusive command to Christ-followers--designed in large part to give the Gospel credibility--If we can't love our brothers and sisters in Christ--why would anyone care about our message?

“Love God and love your neighbor as yourself…” (Mat. 22:37-39)
Note—love doesn’t remain silent when it sees a friend involved in destructive behavior—even though that friend may accuse them of being “judgmental.". 

“You are the light of the world…” (Mat. 5:14)
I.e. “Shine for me with your life—live an authentic life of devotion to me and never water down My commands for the sake of convenience.”

We aren’t called to change the world. We are simply called to love, walk with, testify about and represent as ambassadors, The One Who can!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pass It On Or Pay The Piper

“If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.” (Pr. 20:20)

Home and family were God’s idea. The church in many ways is a reflection of this—God is our Father, we are children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ—family. God knows that faith and character are caught, far more than they are taught. When the family is healthy, when mom and dad love the Lord, one another and their children—blessing flows in that home. Children grow up loved, whole (without harmful baggage), emotionally sturdy, disciplined and equipped to walk uprightly through life. But when the home breaks down, when mom or dad do not love (love is a verb by the way, not an emotion) God or each other—the odds of a child growing up whole, disciplined and equipped to walk uprightly through life—are overwhelmingly diminished.

And guess what? If generation number two doesn’t receive it from their parents, the odds of them being able to pass it on to the next generation are even more diminished. And so in this way the scripture that speaks of the sins of a father being passed from one generation to the next is fulfilled (Ex. 34:7)

My Grandma Rachel was spot on when she said, “The nation will never rise any higher than the home.”  It’s one of those self-evident statements that should be common sense, and yet, as I’m sure you know—“common sense” isn’t all that common. If the home breaks down—kids lose. And if kids lose the third generation all but has no chance. This is why an entire nation can move from greatness to depravity within three to four generations. It’s happened a million times over in history. And so the proverb writer says, “If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.”  Woven inseparably into this statement is a worldview that assumes moms and dads love God and one another. And from that vantage point the writer exhorts us saying, “Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.” (Pr. 20:20, 21st Century KJV) Translation—if faith and godly character are not passed on from one generation to the next—within just a few short generations—that culture will grow very dark indeed!

The Apostle John writes, “…if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) It’s hard to walk in the light if you cursed the people who are trying to pass it on to you… or if they neglect trying to pass it on. This is why we say, “Christianity (and any culture) is only one generation from extinction.” If faith and values are not intentionally passed on and graciously received—they die, and the next generation reaps the rotten fruit of that travesty.

So, live for Jesus! Shine brightly for Him—be the light of the world Jesus calls you to be. If you are married—love your spouse today—if you have kids—loving your spouse is one of the greatest things you’ll ever do for your kids—it’s an essential example that they desperately need to experience firsthand. And of course—love your kids! Take to heart these words of Moses:

“Place these words (God’s Commands) on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you’ll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that GOD promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth.” (Dt. 11:18-21, The Msg.)

Pass it on!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

God-Honoring Choices Today... Better Life Tomorrow

"The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” Proverbs 4:18-19

I have a little proverb I live by. It’s not in the Bible, but it’s quite biblical in the sense that it’s totally based on the Bible’s teaching. It goes “God-honoring choices today, better life tomorrow. Selfish choices today, worse life tomorrow.”  Life isn’t about where you start, it’s about where you’re going.

The proverb writer also says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish:.” (Proverbs 29:18) The word “vision” is this verse refers to a “picture of a preferred future”, a sense of where and to what God is calling and leading you--to become or accomplish. If we have no idea who we are, where our life is going or who God is calling us to be in Christ;  If we have no “vision” – the Bible says we “perish.” The Hebrew word translated “perish” here doesn’t mean we cease to exist. It means we flounder and drift like a ship at sea with no rudder, through life.

“…the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble… Selfish choices today, worse life tomorrow.” 

Countless numbers of people have come to me over the years saying, “Pastor, my life is a mess!” Each time I say, “Okay, tell me your story. What have you been doing the past five or so years?” Ninety-nine times out of one-hundred their stories are filled with a string of unwise choices. They have no vision, no picture of where God is leading them or who He is calling them to become in Christ. They are floundering and drifting from day to day. So my response is always, “Okay, let’s talk about these five choices you’ve been making. Can you see how these choices are causing ninety-percent of your grief?” They key word in that question is “see.” Can they see it? Can they understand it?  Sadly, most respond in a way that communicates that they don’t. It’s like they want their life to change without them changing. For whatever reason they don’t make the connection between choices and consequences. So, they leave my office in the same condition as when they entered—stumbling in the darkness.

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel…” (2 Corinthians 4:4)  Oh how we need to pray for our friends who do not know Christ, that He would do what no man can do:  Open their eyes to see!

But for all who choose to follow Christ as Lord, what a different story that is! Disciples of Jesus have their eyes fixed on Him as the author and perfecter of their lives. (Heb. 12:2) Every area of their life is guided by a vision of becoming like Christ—in character and devotion to the Father. Disciples don’t drift through life—they press into it--letting go of what lays behind they press forward--onward and upward with Jesus. (Phil. 3:13-14)  They make the most of every opportunity. (Eph. 5:16) They face every trial knowing God is with them, for them and in them. (Josh. 1:9, Heb. 13:5) They live each day abiding in Christ (John 15) guided by the desire to someday hear their Lord say, “Well done good and faithful servant…” (Mat. 25:23) They count it all joy when they face trials of many kinds because they understand that seasons of testing produce godly character (James 1:2-4). And as a result of their daily choices to follow Christ, their lives grow brighter. They reap the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentles and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23) Without even realizing it—they become genuine, authentic, real-life-guiding light-examples for those around them (Mat. 5:14); Living testimonies to the grace-power of Christ (Acts. 1:8) —who works and shines through every clay jar that surrenders to Him as Lord. (2 Cor. 4:7-11)

“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Prov. 4:18) Or as I say it, “God-honoring choices today, better life tomorrow!”

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Getting Gut Level Real With God

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.” (Psalm 143:3) 

Man, the psalms are just GLR, Gut-Level-Real. No candy coating, pie in the sky here! This is a prayer to God. The psalmist is praying, “My life is really super hard right now. My enemies _______(you can insert yours in the blank) are crushing me! I’m dyin’ here!”

The psalmist teaches us how to pray unedited prayers—straight from the heart; honest, authentic, Gut-Level-Real.

I’m going to share a personal observation. This isn’t Bible, this is just me, but I truly don’t believe you can have a real relationship, with God, or anyone for that matter, if you never get Gut-Level-Real with them.

Probably much like you, my list of acquaintances is long, but my list of close, heart-to-heart-core friends is pretty short. And as I reflect on both lists—do you know what one of the primary distinctions is?  I’ve been through some fire with my close friends. We’ve had it out with one another. We’ve walked through a valley or two together.

I’ve never fought in a military battle, but I’ve heard many stories about foxhole friendships; two soldiers, who may never have met before that battle—fought sided by side—against a common enemy—from a foxhole and as a result a bond of friendship was formed that nothing in life could ever break.

Life is a battle. Our enemies are very real. Our flesh (sin nature) is a slave to its appetites and it’s never satisfied. (Gal. 5:17)  And the dark forces within the spirit realm (Eph. 6:12) would love nothing better than to KILL, STEAL & DESTORY our lives (John 10:10) But if you have received Christ as Savior and Lord, God is in the foxhole with you! He's not only by your side, He is in your heart! He has already demonstrated His willingness to lay down his life for you. (Rom. 5:1-8) He will never leave you hanging or abandon you. (Heb. 13:5) He’s already crushed the head (the power) of our greatest enemy the devil (Gen. 3:15) and death no longer has any claim on us in Him because He has conquered the grave!

I love how Eugene Peterson translates the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians.

“Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!” (1 Cor. 15:55-57, The Msg.) 

The Battles we face are real and they are scary. And God knows that we are weak mortals trapped in bodies of clay (Ps. 103:14, 2 Cor. 4:7). Our spirits are willing but our flesh is weak (Mat. 26:41) So never be afraid to get Gut-Level-Real with God in your prayers. Pour it out, dump it in His lap. He’s right there in the foxhole with you. Crying out doesn’t mean you don’t believe. It just means you’re human and you’re hurting and you need your Heavenly Father to hear you and respond! We’ve all been there.  And God knows it.  That's why He sent Jesus and why He had the writer of Hebrews write these words,

“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” (Heb. 4:14-16, The Msg.)

Run to Him today!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Why do we hide from God?


“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.’” (Psalm 139:11-12)

Jesus said, “…people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)  I’ve done it; I bet all of us have. I've thought, “If I can just hide this behavior or thing that I’ve done—it will be like it never happened.” I don’t know why I think that way. It’s ridiculous really.

Concealment always leads to trouble and the inner-bondage of a guilty conscience. Confession sets us free. 

I know this full well, and yet I still have something inside of me—when I sin—that wants to hide it in the darkness and hope that “no one” will find out about it. Do I just forget that God is all seeing and all knowing?

This reminds me of one of my pet-peeves. How many times have I heard people say things like, “Ooops, I shouldn't swear…” or “tell a lie... in church.”  Like God only dwells within the borders of this brick and mortar building?  Where does this mindset come from? I don’t know for sure, but I do know the first time it happened in human history.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen. 3:6-8)

We don’t like it when our naked guilt is exposed. We resist being found out—sometimes it seems even more than we resist doing evil in the first place. 

Do we forget that “God is light..." and that "in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

Have you ever carried a lamp into a dark place?  Did it stay dark?  Did the darkness overwhelm the light and snuff it out?  Of course not—darkness always evaporates when light shows up. So why in the world would we ever imagine that hiding our guilt in darkness (or any place else) will keep God from seeing?

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” Blessed are those who come clean and confess, openly, their weakness, brokenness and desperate need for God’s grace… “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 5:3) 

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.’” (Psalm 139:11-12) 

There is a beautiful flip side to this thought too! No amount of darkness can keep you from the love God has for you in Christ. There is nothing in our lives too dark to be overcome and completely forgiven by God—because of the blood of Jesus.  If we will stop trying to hide it (uselessly) in the “dark” and just confess it, give it to God, repent and let God’s amazing grace be lavished upon us afresh.

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)

Let go… confess… repent, receive and walk in grace today my friend!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Friday, May 13, 2016

God's Light Leads Us Home!


“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.” Psalm 112:4 

There’s no sense in whitewashing it. If you live in America with me—you see it. Dark clouds are on the horizon of our culture. So many have no clue, or even desire to surrender to the Lord Jesus. Like Esau, many today are forfeiting their birthright for a bowl of stew—instead of thinking through the ramifications of actions—many in our culture today are allowing their appetite for instant gratification to rule their lives. No one pauses to consider “How will this policy or action impact the health and stability of the family? How might this erode the moral fiber upon which our culture depends?” 

It’s funny, no matter how much time passes—human nature never changes. We have more gadgets and toys today—but our hearts are no different than Adam or Eves. The mindset that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is rapidly being revived and advanced in America today.

Psalm Two, written three-thousand years ago--could easily have been written yesterday.

“Why are the nations so angry?
Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together
against the LORD and against his anointed one.
‘Let us break their chains,’ they cry, ‘and free ourselves from slavery to God.’”


Tanslation--"It's the twenty-first-century!  We've evolved beyond all of those outdated, kill-joy, religious rules in the Bible!  It's time to throw off restaint and follow our passions--and anyone who disagrees is just a narrow-minded, intolerant, bigot." 

It can all be very disconcerting for the Christ-follower living through it. We begin to relate a little better the prophets—crying out to wayward Israel, “Turn back to God! Don’t you know that running away from God is a recipe for disaster?” We begin to understand—perhaps more deeply than before—what Jesus meant by, “blessed are those who mourn”—do you ever mourn and ache in your heart over the brokenness of this world? Yup—turns out once again that Jesus was right. “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) But the psalmist has a good word for us today! He says, “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.” (Psalm 112:4) 

Once again we are back, face to face with the reality that life in this broken world is HARD, but God is GOOD! And He has promised that while circumstances in this world will SUCK at times (sorry—I just couldn’t find a better word to describe it), HIS JOY—ever-present in our hearts-through His Holy Spirit, will always be our strength; (Neh. 8:10) strength enough for any circumstance we face.

This is why Paul and Silas could sing praises to God at midnight, from the pit of a dungeon.  This is exactly what the Hebrew writer is pointing out and calling us to remember when He rehearses the faithfulness of our forefather’s in Hebrews chapter eleven

By faith… 

Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family… Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 

By faith… 

Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter… He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward…” (Selected verses from Heb. 11)

All of God’s people live in this world, often times mourning because of the brokenness around them--with their hearts and minds fixed on and yearning for the next one. It’s the promise of the coming rule of Christ—that fills us with the light of hope, joy and the resolve we need to press through the darkness with Jesus!  It's the light of Christ in our hearts--the leads us, day by day, through the darkness--toward "HOME."

“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, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2)

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Out Of Darkness & Into His Light!

“Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.” (Psalm 107:10 & 14) 

Psalm 107 is a psalm of testimony. It calls us to reflect upon the work of God in our lives and give him praise. Man, how important it is for us to do this!  Too often life feels like a relentless taskmaster—always driving us forward—the tryrany of the urgent--always craking it's whip at our backs--never a moment to pause, rest, reflect and give thanks.

This psalm opens with the words, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story.” Then he proceeds to paint a series of life-scenario-pictures that all of us can relate to.  Pictures of lostness, brokeness and despair, and how when we turned to the Lord—He redeemed us out of that pit, set our feet on a firm place and established us in His love.

Verses 10-15 tell my story.  Maybe they tell yours too?

Verses 10 & 11 “Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, 11 because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High. 12 So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help.” 

For years I had no use for God. I mean—he was fine and all, and I would have called myself a “believer,” but I, not Jesus, was on the throne of my heart. My spirit was not submitted to His Lordship. I thought I was “in control”, but I was a mess—a prisoner of my own design; reaping the fruit of my own selfish choices. Living in utter darkness—without any trace of the light of God’s presence, truth or grace in my daily life.

Verses 13-15 “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. 15 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds…” 

I did this! I cried out to the Lord in my distress! And God did exactly for me—what the Psalmist proclaims He has done for countless others who have cried out to Him—He saved me! He forgave all my sin and put His Holy Spirit in my heart! He broke my chains of self-loathing, guilt, bondage, addiction, fear and so much more! And He brought me into a brand new, purpose-filled-life, with Him

Oh friend, I have so far to go before I am all that I long to be in and for Christ—but I join with the Psalmist today in giving thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and wonderful deeds in my life! I’m not all that I want to be, but praise His name—I am so not who I used to be! I’m in process and praise the Lord, I am not alone!  I have God's amazing promises to light my way along the journey:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 8:1) 

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…” (Col. 1:13) 

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6) 

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil. 2:13) 

Take a moment right now to thank God for hearing your heart-cry, and give Him praise!

He is so good!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Learning To Walk In Grace-Power

"He sent darkness and made the land dark— for had they not rebelled against his words?" (Psalm 105:28) 

It is a very good thing to be reminded that when we choose to be on the Lord’s side—He is then on our side. If we acknowledge Him as God and surrender our hearts to Jesus as Lord—then God is for us—and if God is for us, then who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31) 

Our passage for today, Psalm 105:28, comes from a psalm of praise. The Psalmist is reminding Israel of all the wonders God had done on her behalf.  He opens the psalm saying, “Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 2 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” (Psalm 105:1-2)

In verse 28 the psalmist reminds us of the plague of darkness (Ex. 10) that God poured out on Egypt—because they had enslaved His people and refused to let them go. Do you know what I absolutely love about this verse? There is no fear in it. Dude, if God poured darkness out over my city, it would be a pretty terrifying thing! But the psalmist tells the story without any hint of fear. His words are like a child bragging on their daddy, saying, “My pop really took care of those bad guys!” 

It is a very good thing to be reminded that when we choose to be on the Lord’s side—He is then on our side. If we acknowledge Him as God and surrender our hearts to Jesus as Lord—then God is for us—and if God is for us, then who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31) 

When the creator of the universe and the judge of all, is your daddy, you have nothing to fear. I think this is what John was getting at when he wrote, “There is no fear in love. But perfect (spiritually mature) love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Friend, the gospel is so much more than an “avoid hell” plan. It’s a “you’re a brand new creation in Christ, a son/daughter of the king—created afresh through your faith in Jesus to live a purpose-filled, abundant life for the glory of God” plan!  As long as you are stuck in the mindset of “Oh, I hope I’m good enough… I hope God will approve…”, you are operating out of a very shallow and immature understanding of God’s love for you. And you will forever be stuck on the treadmill--walking around the same old mountain—day after day—trying to be good enough and always falling short. But as soon as you wake up to the reality that the key to victory is simple surrender, abiding with Christ and trust—everything changes! Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are those who try really hard to be good enough…” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Mat. 5:3) – Those who know they are broken, incapable of being good enough, utterly dependent upon and surrendered to God’s grace and mercy.

My friend Shannon McCready says, “When Jesus was here, he divided all of humanity into two groups—the humble and the prideful.” And he’s so right. The prideful are those still trying to be good enough on their own steam and the humble are those who’ve come to the end of their rope and surrendered to Jesus. Eugene Peterson translates Matthew 5:3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”  

God told Paul, “…my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Translation, when all of our fleshly resources are used up and we truly come to the end of ourselves—where we have nothing left to offer God but our weak, surrendered heart—THEN we will begin to understand what God's love is and what it means to walk in His grace-power!

Oh friend, it is a very good thing to be reminded that when we choose to be on the Lord’s side—He is then on our side. If we acknowledge Him as God and surrender our hearts to Jesus as Lord—then God is for us—and if God is for us, then who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31) 

Walk humbly with God today—and may His amazing grace-power fill your heart!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

God's Got This!

“You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl.” (Ps. 104:20) 

One of my friends named Desiree has a saying, “God’s got this!”  Whatever’s happening in life—her go-to, default mindset is, “Gods got this!  He’s in control. I can trust Him. I have peace in my heart because my life is in His hands and He is good."  What a marvelous way to live! In all honesty, this is the way God wants all of us to live every day—walking with, trusting in, enjoying, praising, honoring and serving Him.

“You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl.” (Ps. 104:20)

When I first read this verse, by itself, my mind gravitated toward a posture of sober submission. I thought, “Okay, I understand, God allows darkness to come into our lives and He allows the beasts to prowl and prey upon on us—and that’s just part of living in this broken world—ransacked with the consequences of sin.” 

BUT I WAS SO WRONG!

I’m not saying there aren’t some biblical passages that do make that point, but that’s not what the Psalmist is saying in Psalm 104, and I’m glad!

LESSON RELEARNED: Knowing the context of a passage is essential for understanding its meaning! 

Right out of the gate, starting with the first line, the Psalmist is praising God for His brilliance in—and sovereignty over—all creation. My paraphrase of his thoughts would go something like, “God you are awesome! You blow me away! The sun and the sky, the vastness and power of the oceans--with entire mountain ranges and deep valleys all covered with immeasurably deep waters—teaming with more species of life than we could ever count in a thousand lifetimes. You spoke, and all of it came into existence—in an instant! You shouted and the mountains rose. The stars took their appointed positions. You put the sun in the sky to govern the day and the moon to govern the night... and the seasons... and the ocean tides! You said “Let it be” and creatures of all kinds filled the air and the land--and some even burrowed in the earth! The vastness of it overwhelms me. All of it created with such precision and intricate purpose. All of it reflects your incomparable majesty--God, you are awesome!

It’s in that context, that the Psalmist says, “You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl.” (Ps. 104:20) In other words, God is a God of order, purpose, and design. Time, seasons, day and night; all of it operates in accordance with God's sovereign design. Scientists could study creation for a million generations and still be left with the gnawing sense that they haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

In light of all this, I want to leave you with some words from Jesus.

Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care.” (Mat. 10:29) 

Nothing in creation or in your life is too BIG, or too small for Him.

The hymn writer, Civilla D. Martin turned Jesus’ words into beautiful lyrics that have encouraged many when she wrote,

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; 


I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me. 


Trust Him today friend—He sees. He cares. He is faithful.  He’s got this!

If this encouraged you--Remember to leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Monday, May 9, 2016

What's the source of your peace?

“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” (Psalm 91:5-6) 

These are awesome promises!

“You will not fear the terror of night…” 

Darkness – is scary stuff! I’ve happily walked down many a city street in the day time with friends that you couldn’t pay me to walk down at night alone!

“…nor the arrow that flies by day…”

All of us know there are anti-Christian, evil forces in this world; forces that would do us harm; people groups who would label us (Christ-followers) as bigots or haters -- because we follow Christ and His Word. I’m an American citizen. There are people in this world who hate me and would love to kill me—simply because of that. But this passage says I don’t have to FEAR any of that. Wow… that is a pretty amazing statement!

“…nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday…” 

I have nothing to fear! Nothing in or of the darkness can harm me and no evil by day can destroy me!


Why?

How do I know this?

How can I be so sure of this?

Let’s be real here---MANY Christians HAVE been “harmed” and even killed by “evil” forces in this dark world. So what’s the deal?

THE KEY TO THE WHOLE THING is verse one. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." (Ps. 91:1) 

Whoever dwells… 

Jesus said is this way, “If you abide in me…” (John 15:4) I.e. surrender to me as Lord and walk, continually in that relationship—listening, trusting, following, obeying, honoring… “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (john 15:5) 

Whoever dwells… will rest… 

Walking with Christ—produces the fruit of “heart-peace.”  No matter what happens on the outside—the peace and joy of Christ rules on the inside!  In Christ (abiding/dwelling in relationship with Him)—you are more than a conqueror! In Christ—there is no condemnation! In Christ—you are never alone, never abandoned, never without hope. In Christ you know that THIS WORLD is not your home; that death is not the end, but only the beginning!

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."  (Mesus--Mat. 10:28)

In Christ-peace; apart from Christ-stress.
In Christ-hope; apart from Christ-anxiety.

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.” (Jesus--John 14:27, NLT) 

Dwell in Him today; and let His rest, his peace—rule and reign in your heart!

If this encouraged you--please leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Heave-ho all your cares on to God!

"Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion? (Ps. 88:12)

Oh friend, in this psalm, the writer is hurting. In the verses leading up to verse twelve, he cries out to God saying, God, I am overwhelmed by troubles! I feel like you have stuck me in a pit! I am all alone in life. I feel hopeless and powerless!  Then in verse twelve he's saying, God, how can I praise you or serve your or bring you any glory if you leave me in this pit or let me die?

The psalms are powerful because they are real and raw. The psalmist never sanitizes his prayers—he just blurts them out. “God, my life really sucks right now and it feels like you don’t even care! Where are you? Why don’t you come to my rescue?” Those aren’t the kinds of prayers we usually hear in church, but the psalms are filled with them!

Psalms like these remind me of three truths I have learned in my life: 

#1 Life is hard. 

Job said it best, “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1) Jesus never promised us “easy.” As a matter of fact, he promised us trouble. “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)  Paul said it this way, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12)

But the Bible also says...
“…take heart! I have overcome the world." (Jesus-in John 16:33) 

That leads to truth #2: God is good! 

The Bible is loaded with reminders of this awesome truth...

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Ps. 100:5) “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (God-in Heb. 13:5). “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) “...in all these things (struggles) we are more than conquerors through him (Jesus) who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37) “To the one who is victorious (by remaining faithful to Jesus), I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Jesus – in Rev. 3:21) “"Look, I am coming soon!” (Jesus – in Rev. 22:7) “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) 


That brings us to truth #3: Life will make you bitter, or better—it’s your choice.

I love the psalms because they teach us how to vent to God. We aren’t built to stuff our burdens or carry them on our own. We are built to run around naked in paradise without any troubles--but we sorta screwed that up a long time ago.  So now we are beings who are built for paradise, but who live in brokenness.  No wonder we are destroyed when we try to carry all the garbage we encounter in this world--without God!

Peter wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him (God) because he cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)  Cast means “heave-ho!” – Throw them all on God! He ASKS YOU TO! And when you cast something away—guess what—you don’t carry it any longer. 

This is what Paul was getting at when he wrote, “...one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14) 

This is what the Hebrew writer was saying when he wrote, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” (Heb. 12:1)

Let it go!  Give it to God and NEVER look back---and do it every day!  Heck, some days I need to do it every hour!

Life is hard, but God IS GOOD.  And as I like to say it, "God is gooder than life is hard!"  And life will make you bitter -- if you go it alone and blame God --or better -- if you will daily heave-ho (cast) your cares on God… let go of what’s behind and press forward, with Jesus, toward Heaven – the choice – every day – is yours. Choose well today my friend!

If this encouraged you--please leave a comment & share with friends, thank you!

Until next time...
Blessings,
Brad

BradWindlan.com
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