Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #167

#167 "Joy???"
September 30, 2008
"You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy....and no one will take away your joy" (John 16: 20, 22).
I may be a glutton for punishment, but I'm kind of a news junkie, and the news isn't so good these days. Today alone, my e-mail box has been clicking over the House debating a $700 billion bailout plan, stocks taking nosedives, and I just got one about a "massive" 7.3 earthquake that just hit New Zealand. FOX News says that the average American is not really aware of the gravity of our economic situation and that we need to take things seriously. I agree. Use a lot of wisdom. Trust God.
And what about the situations that don't appear in your e-mail? What about the stuff that pops into your mind the moment you wake up in the morning? Or wakes you up in the middle of the night? The personal stuff? The stuff of life that isn't so public? Things like family problems, illnesses, addictions, job losses, infertility, not enough money to make the bills this month, broken dreams, broken promises and broken hearts? All of this is just about enough to suck the joy right out of you....or is it?
I've heard the letter of Paul to the Philippians called the book of joy. The word "joy" itself is used four times, "rejoice", eight times, and "glad", three times. In his letter, the apostle said that he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Did you notice that? "Whatever". He said that he "had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." (Phil. 4: 11, 12) I believe that because Paul had learned this "secret", he could experience the joy. Maybe if we could learn the "secret" ....maybe we could learn to live on this side of the grass with joy. 
No other verse in my Bible explains the source of overcoming, in-spite-of-my-circumstances joy, better than Psalm 16: 11.  "In thy presence is fullness of joy". (KJV) The kind of joy that we're looking for, the kind of joy that brings victorious living in the midst of...is found in the presence of the Lord. The Hebrew word used here for "presence" comes from the word "panah" which means "to turn; by implication, to face, i.e. to look". When we turn and face and look at God...there is fullness of joy! We can choose to look at our troubles and our circumstances. We can choose to look at what the "experts" are saying on the evening news. We can choose to give attention to the "woe is me" folk around us. Or we can choose to purposefully place ourselves in the presence of the Lord and apprehend joy!
Moses, called the man of God at the outset of Psalm 90, knew the principle. In verse 14 he said, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for JOY and be glad all our days." Moses faced some pretty difficult situations in his life, but he knew that if God loved him, he could have joy. God loves YOU! Be satisfied with that truth at the outset of each day ("in the morning"), and you will live a life of joy.
David, the man after God's own heart, knew the principle too. In Psalm 63: 6-7 he said, "On my bed I remember you, I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings." God is YOUR help. When you can't fall asleep or when you're up "in the watches of the night" thinking about your problems, turn to, face and look at the Lord. Remember Him and you will sing with joy.
From morning till night, and every moment in between, a life lived in the presence of the Lord is a joy-filled life. That's the secret that I believe Paul had learned. And it's a secret that God has called me to learn and practice on a consistent basis. Can I tell you....it works! You can wallow in your problems or you can meditate on the unfailing love of the Lord. You can feel hopeless or you can be assured and meditate on the FACT that God is your Helper. You can be panicked with the rest of the world or you can live like a citizen of the Kingdom of God, which is a matter "of righteousness, peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14: 17)
There may be tears in your eyes and an ache in your heart today. Sow your tears and your breaking heart unto the Lord and praise Him. Meditate on His goodness. Look full in His wonderful face. Get into the presence of the Lord. "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of JOY. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of JOY, carrying sheaves with him." (Psalm 126: 5-6)
"Jesus, our Savior King, restore to us the JOY of your salvation (Psalm 51: 12). You said in John 16 that no one can take away our joy. You said that we could ask in your name and we would receive. Give us Your joy. You promised that You would give us what we ask and that our JOY will be complete. Give us Your complete JOY. The JOY that You died to give us.  A JOY that nothing or no one can ever take away. Thank you that I am a joyful person. Thank you for your unfailing love. Thank you for being my Helper. I will now sing for JOY and be glad all my days."  
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #166

#166 "Run...Part II"
September 23, 2008
"...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." (Hebrews 12:1)
"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Well, I can't run. Or maybe I won't run, I'm not sure. All I know is that I don't run. Never have. Never will. So I guess that leaves me in the category of "those who can't...teach." I want to teach you to run. Last Tuesday, we discussed running to Jesus. With everything. Today, in "Run...Part II", we'll unpack a little of the apostle Paul's writings on running this race called the Christian life, through Jesus Christ.
Referencing the Isthmian games, held every two years in the city of Corinth, Paul tells us that "in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize." (1 Cor. 9: 24) It was the custom to have the competitors in a race summoned by a herald. In his letter, Paul summoned the Corinthians, and thousands of years later, he summons us to run the race of life. All run, but not all receive the prize. Paul wanted to receive the prize. And so should we.  We can be winners. We can receive the crown. In the Isthmian games, the crown was a pine wreath...a corruptible crown. How much more ought Christians strive to win an incorruptible one.  
So what makes a winner? What are the keys to a successful run? "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training." (1 Cor 9: 25)  Athletes train hard. We see this truth illustrated today in athletic endeavors of track, baseball, football or some other sport. If they want to strive for supremacy in their field, athletes must lead a life governed by personal discipline, or strict training. Paul said that he didn't run the Christian race aimlessly. Every move made in the course of his race was calculated to further his pursuit of the prize. (see Phil. 3: 13-14) He didn't let his body master him. I'd like to say that he didn't follow the leadings of the flesh. Paul said that he "beat" his body. Some translations use the word buffet. Now, for clarification purposes let's use a little phonetics. Paul [buff-i-ted] his body. In the words of Joyce Meyer, he did not [buff-aye] it. No all you can eat for $5.99. He trained himself to run the race by beating his body into submission to the Word and the will of God. He denied himself. He walked according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh.  
We must devote our time to the study and application of the Word of God. We must train ourselves to kill the flesh and feed the spirit. We may have to sweat. It certainly will be painful at times. We may develop a few blisters on the way. We must train and keep on training. Train ourselves to learn and obey.  We must deny ourselves and our own fleshly desires for a greater good. For a greater prize. One of my commentaries says, "Walking with God demands personal sacrifice, sacrifice of things not necessarily evil, but which prevent the full devotion of the soul to God -- such as, pleasures and worldly pursuits. In an age of luxury, like the present time, the words have real significance for the serious-minded servant of Christ." (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary) Athletes often have to deny themselves things that would ordinarily be permissible for the average person.  "Everything is permissible for me--but not everything is beneficial." (1Cor 6: 12) The first key to winning the race is strict training.
As we were driving to church this weekend, we had to make our way through a multitude of runners who were doing a 5K, 10K and 100K race down the road. Who would even want to run around in circles that many times? Kind of like NASCAR...who wants to drive around the track 100 and some times? Or watch them do it for that matter? Anyway, I digress.  What I noticed is that these runners were dressed very lightly. A successful runner will wear only what is necessary for modesty, but will wear or carry nothing that will weigh them down. Excess stuff impedes their running and slows their progress. Hebrews 12:1 tells us that in order to run this race called life that is marked out for us, we must "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." You can't run a race with weights on. You can't run a race dragging your baggage along with you. Anything...and I mean anything...that you know will hinder your walk with Christ must be thrown off. Things that hinder may be superfluous and unnecessary things that must be cast aside. And only you can decide what those things are. What gets in between you and one on one time with God every day? What things are you doing that aren't necessarily wrong in and of themselves, but are hindering your relationship with Christ from being all that it can be?  [NOG girls: Remember, we called it "making room?" ]
But..."the sin that so easily entangles"...that's another story. Sin allows for no individual choice. It has to be thrown off immediately upon recognizing it. Before it entangles you. A runner cannot run a successful race with his feet tied up. The Greek word used for "entangle" is "euperistatos"  and means "to ambush, to encircle, to entrap." Your running will be impeded when there is sin in your life. The devil will have you, and he'll set up the ambush, and you'll never finish the race, let alone win the prize. Plain and simple.  Confess and repent. Free yourself to run. The Message puts it this way: "Strip down, start running--and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins."
Paul says that we can run with perseverance the race marked out before us.  We can run persistently in spite of influence, in spite of opposition and in spite of discouragement. We will run and keep on running.  We will run when we feel like we just can't run anymore.  If we've trained well and if we've thrown off the baggage, the unnecessary weights, and the sin. "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." (Hebrews 12: 2) Christ is our Leader. He was the Pioneer who went before us. "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:2) Jesus kept His eye on the prize. He saw what was set before Him.
Paul saw it too. And at the end of his life he penned these words: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7) He always knew that it was the only race worth running. Because of what was promised in the life to come.  Looking back over our lives, how many of us could say the same thing? Paul could now face His Lord and know that he would be rewarded with the crown of righteousness. And that crown is promised to you as well. And it's an incorruptible crown.
Paul kept his eye on the prize. As he ran he saw the crown. So did Peter. He said that the "Chief Shepherd will appear and you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5: 4) Jesus told the church in Ephesus that there is a crown of life to be awarded to those who are faithful, even to the point of death. (Rev. 2: 10)
Jesus Christ paved the way for us. He is our Pioneer. He is our Leader. He is our Chief Shepherd. And in Revelation 3: 11, He said, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown."   He obeyed His Father and received the reward. Crown Him With Many Crowns! For the joy set before Him...Run the race, keep your eye on the prize. Your crown awaits. Praise His name forevermore! Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #165

#165 "Run"
September 16, 2008
"The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe." (Proverbs 18: 10)
"Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child". The source of that quote is unknown, but I believe that whoever wrote it knew something about running. Heroes of the faith like Moses, David, Solomon, and even Jesus Himself, knew how to run. Not running away from anything, but running to...
When hurricanes are coming we run to higher ground. In like manner, when life's storms are raging we must run to Higher Ground. [By the way, I have been on my knees for all you Texarkana girls...praying you are all safe and praising God that Ike didn't pack the whole punch he was expected to  :) ]
When you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about is the foreclosure of your home or the fact that you have to face another day alone...run. When you find yourself up in the midnight hour and your mind races over your fears for a child gone wild, how you're going to pay that bill, or the horrendous work day ahead of you at day's dawning...run. When it seems like all Hades has broken loose in your life, and all manner of problems beset you, and you feel overwhelmed, and your mind can't stop racing....run hard and run fast.
It kind of reminds me of Dorothy. The twister was imminent and Auntie Em and Uncle Henry had to close the storm cellar to save their own lives. But Dorothy was too preoccupied with her troubles and dawdling with Professor Marvel to get back home in time. She thought that the answer to all her problems was to run away. Because of that fateful mistake she ended up in Oz. I don't know about you, but Oz presented a whole lot of pretty creepy things if you ask me. Witches and wizards. Munchkins and flying monkeys. Things that defy your imagination. Confusion. Run away and end up confused in Oz. Run to...and end up safe.
One day when the apostles gathered with Jesus they voiced their amazement at all they had seen and done. They were witness to amazing miracles as well as horrible things, like hearing that John the Baptist had been beheaded. They were so swamped with people and their requests of Jesus that the Bible says they did not even have a chance to eat. (see Mark 6: 30-31) Right there, Jesus gave them the secret of running. And right there, He gives it to us too. "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6: 31)
Rest and safety are found in no other place than in the presence of Christ. "In thy presence is fullness of joy." (Psalm 16: 11 KJV) "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe." (Prov. 18: 10) Running to God, presenting your requests before Him, with thanksgiving, gives you "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding". (See Phil. 4: 6-7) "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee". (Isaiah 26: 3 KJV) David knew it. Solomon knew it. The apostle Paul knew it. Isaiah knew it. Even Jesus knew it. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (Mark 1: 35) 
"Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude]." (Romans 12: 2 Amplified Bible) The world's way is to run amok. To panic. To allow fear and confusion to govern the storm filled moments of our lives. We must entirely renew our minds and bring every one of our thoughts into captivity and make it obedient to Christ. (see 2 Cor. 10: 5) This is not a passive activity that comes by osmosis at the moment of salvation. We must actively train our minds to be renewed. We must actively participate in changing the way we react to racing minds, confusing situations and raging storms.
We must train ourselves to run.
I am presently working on this one right along with you. Let us, together, do some mind renewing and lots of running. When storms strike, let's say, "I've got to get to Jesus." Then run. When storms linger for longer than you'd prefer, and your enemy tries to discourage you, confuse you, and tempt you to give up, make getting to that quiet place with Christ your number one priority. There are days...seriously...that I can't get to Jesus fast enough.
Running to Jesus doesn't automatically make the storm go away. Remember? "Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child". Spending time with God isn't a magic wand that changes situations in a flash. There's no Wizard there. But the God of the Universe is there. The One who stills racing minds and hearts. The One who gives you His perspective and His peace. The One who gives you rest. After you've met with Him, the situations may remain the same, but you will never be the same again. 
Welsh poet, Anna L. Waring will close us out this Tuesday morning:
"In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear; And safe is such confiding, for nothing changes here. The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid, but God is round about me, and can I be dismayed? Wherever He may guide me, no fear shall turn me back; My Shepherd is beside me, and nothing shall I lack. His wisdom ever waketh, His sight is never dim; He knows the way He taketh, and I will walk with Him. Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen; Bright skies will soon be o'er me, where darkest clouds have been. My hope I cannot measure, my path to life is free; My Savior is my treasure, and He will walk with me."
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Monday, September 08, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #164

#164 "Election 2008"
September 9, 2008
"...be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen." (2 Peter 3: 17-18)
I usually stay away from political discussions. Apparently so do most of our churches. Today I just need to say what I need to say. Short and sweet. To the point. And in the infamous words of my pastor..."not judgin', just sayin'."
I must begin by stating the obvious. We are looking at an historical election year. It is unprecedented that a black man has been nominated for the office of President of the United States. It is just as unprecedented that a white woman has been chosen to run for the office of Vice President of the United States. And I say, Thank God! that we have come this far. We've come a long way!
That being said...I will make my few short and to the point points, and let you go.
First...Vote your values. Biblical values. Which candidate will defend the unborn, advocate for marriage between one man and one woman, and not experiment with the mangled bodies of aborted babies in the name of science? There are important issues at stake. Investigate your candidate's stand and determine if they are for or against the biblical mandates set forth by God.
Second...Yes, there is a crisis in our economy. Without a doubt. You are especially feeling the pinch if you live in states like Michigan, Ohio or Pennsylvania. That's a fact. But here is the question to ask yourself. Am I looking to man or to God to provide for my needs? Let me clue you in....God is not in recession. God is not experiencing a depression. God's bank isn't failing and God is not living in famine. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50: 10). The silver and the gold are His (Haggai 2: 8). He provides in the midst of famine. Just ask Jacob and Joseph. He provides water in the desert. Just ask Moses. If you are His child you are His heir and a co-heir with Christ. All that He has is yours. He is Jehovah-Jireh, your provider. God's people can prosper right in the middle of high gas and food prices. Right in the midst of failing banks and home foreclosures. Remember that "the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous." (Proverbs 13: 22) If you've seen T. Boone Pickens TV commercials you've heard him talk about the greatest transfer of wealth the world has ever seen. Well, T. Boone, you ain't seen nothin' yet!
Third...Neither candidate is the Messiah, the Savior or the One. Christian beware! Don't let any man deceive you into thinking that you need him. And beware of any man who will allow himself to be called by any of those names. A true man of God would say, "There is only One Savior, only One Messiah, only One, "One" and that is Jesus Christ!
Fourth and last...Pray. Oh, my dear friends, pray. God Himself said, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7: 14) I urge you to join me in 30 days of prayer for our nation and for this election. I invite you to visit www.thesoulofanation.com and sign up for the daily e-mail, and join James Robison and other Christians in 30 days of prayer for the future of our country, our families, and generations to come. Each day you will receive a reflection on an important current event, a passage of Scripture presenting a godly perspective, and a specific prayer for God's will to be done. God is our only hope and He is the only One who can heal our nation.
Many of you have been "Tuesday's" readers for quite a few years. I pray that I have earned your trust enough to receive what I have written with an open heart. If you don't agree...I still love you. But sometimes you just gotta say what you've gotta say. "Not judgin', just sayin'".
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