Trust and Confidence

July 22nd, 2014

“He who began a good work in you will complete it.” Philippians 1:6 NKJV.

Self-confidence will fail but confidence in God is well placed.

My thoughts and comments today are about “trust and confidence.”

Confidence is essential for happiness and success. It is easy to admire those folk who seemingly go through life with calm self-assurance, having neither hesitation nor doubt. In reality, they are more like you and me than they may at first appear. They may have learned to manage emotions and measure responses, or have not yet faced serious challenges to their self-reliance. The Bible gives you wise counsel, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 NKJV. Self-confidence will fail at inopportune times.

Some people, even the best of them, may disappoint you – some unintentionally, a few others even intentionally upon occasion. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8 NKJV. Trust conveys the idea: “to put your weight upon.” See Proverbs 25:19 NLT. You would not rest your weight upon a broken cane; you would not sit upon a broken chair. Your confidence is no stronger than the foundation upon which it trusts.

Be prepared; there will be times and things in life that rattle your confidence. Confidence is rightly placed on a sure and always trustworthy foundation. Your confidence can rest assured on this unfailing foundation: the Word of God and the character of God.

One of my favorite hymns confesses, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” (The Solid Rock/Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury). “Blessed are all those who put their trust in [God] . . Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” Psalm 2:12 NKJV/Jeremiah 17:7 NIV. Whatever the test or circumstance of the moment, you can be confident when you place your trust in God and His Word. They are unchanging.

The Apostle Paul knew where his confidence could rest securely, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 NKJV. I love that Jesus is identified as, “The Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV), and “the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 21:6 NKJV). You and I begin much more than we conclude successfully, growing weary in the process or simply finding we do not possess the resources, experience, knowledge, abilities, or determination. What God begins, He completes. On Him you can depend. See 1 John 5:14-15 NAS.

Confidence in God is well placed. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NKJV. See also Hebrews 4:16 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is that you trust completely and rest securely in God.

Reflections on a Birthday

July 18th, 2014

“The Gospel . . is power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16 NIV.

You are not born into your family’s faith; you are born into the Kingdom of God.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “reflections on a birthday.”

Birthdays mark the journey of one’s life and are due cause for proper celebration. Today is my birthday. As many as I have had, I should be good at them by this time. I have much to celebrate in my journey – a strong beginning in a home and family that I would hope for every child, Godly parents and grandparents who loved and taught me good habits and God’s ways; a happy childhood, a healthy adolescence, a helpful education with life-long friends and wonderful memories, an incredible, creative, and loving wife and life-partner, better kids than my parenting skills ever warranted; grandkids and now great grandkids beyond anything I could have hoped. All this is wrapped in a lifetime of serving people who modeled the Gospel and lavishly opened their love and lives to us.

But let me tell you about another more important “birth-day” that really made the journey what it has been. The story originates where my new life truly began and from which it is still being written. When I was six years old, at a service with a children’s evangelist, Ray Ton, I responded to his invitation for salvation – to invite Jesus into my heart. As much as I could understand at the time, I sincerely committed my life to the Lord, and a new and eternal life began. In the simplicity and sincerity of a child’s heart, I experienced this truth, “The Gospel . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16 NIV.

When I was ten, on a Sunday night in my father’s church in North Venice, Illinois, a Sunday School teacher, Betty Rice, knelt at my side on the last row of that little church during an evangelist’s prayer, to invite me to the altar to pray. Imagine asking the pastor’s son! But boldly yet kindly she did, and at her invitation I knelt in the front left corner of that humble building to know Jesus in ways that I never had before. I learned that evening that you are not born into your family’s faith; you have to be individually and personally born into the Kingdom of God. “You must be born again.” See John 3:1-21 NIV. I cannot describe the inexpressible joy I experienced that night in the realization of one truth, “The Gospel . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

As a teen, fifteen years old in Granite City, Illinois, when an evangelist invited the church to the altars in the former City Theater that my Dad had consecrated as a revival center, I knelt at an altar where I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s call upon my life for the vocation of ministry. I saw a world in desperate need of a Savior; I felt God’s broken heart for people lost and powerless to find their way. The call was to share one message, “The Gospel . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” 

When I was seventeen, newly graduated from High School and accepted for architectural studies at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, God again spoke to my heart about ministry. I had other plans for my life; so did God. I chose His plans over my own, and the rest is history – fifty-one years of the greatest privilege I could ever have dreamed, still telling a simple story, “The Gospel . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” And still the journey continues . .

Today, my prayer is for you to believe and know the power of His salvation.

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Stress and Stillness

July 15th, 2014

“Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Job 37:14 NKJV.

The pace of schedules and noise of surroundings generate stress.

My thoughts and comments today are about “stress and stillness.”

Stress is your body’s reaction to challenges, the impulse of “fight or flight.” Hurry, worry and weariness will leave you vulnerable to stress. Its negative and debilitating effects are cumulative, diminishing your joy and optimism and even damaging health. Stress can result from concerns about health, relationships, pressures, finances, past mistakes, or future fears.

In daily life, stress is heightened by the frantic pace of our schedules and the deafening noise of our surroundings. Prolonged, those are wearying to body, soul, and spirit. The effects manifest interpersonally in relationships, marriages, or families, as well as intrapersonally, affecting yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually. Your spiritual life and personal relationship with God is diminished and less satisfying.

Isaiah discovered, “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength . . they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not became weary.” Read Isaiah 40:28-31 NAS. There is so much that you miss when you fail to take the necessary time to be quiet before God. Job, in the midst of the whirlwind of experiences and the confusion he felt, received wise counsel, “Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Job 37:14 NKJV. Life makes better sense when you place God at the center of it all.

There are two concerns that I have. First, the pace of your schedule compromises the priority of God’s voice. See Exodus 3:1-10 NKJV. You will not hear the voice of God in your heart without quieting your spirit to wait and listen. Secondly, the noise of your surroundings competes with the clarity of God’s voice. See 1 Samuel 3:1-11 NKJV. Any time but especially when life is unclear and uncertain, spend time with God’s Word, quietly in His presence.

The Psalmist David was deliberate, I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother. Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2 NLT. At all times, you need to learn this truth, “Be still and know that I am God.” Read Psalm 46. Be intentional; it is important.

Some years ago, a book, Restoring Your Spiritual Passion (Gordon MacDonald, author) influenced my spiritual disciplines. MacDonald named three things essential to recovering passion when experiencing lost purpose, clouded vision, or confused direction: an address book with the names of “special friends who encourage you to obey God,” a map indicating the location of “safe places where you rediscover who God is,” and a calendar marking “still times when you hear what God says.” Respectively, each corresponds to three vital, Biblical principles of Fellowship, Sanctuary, and Sabbath.

For your personal study, I suggest consideration of events in the lives of Elijah, Jehoshaphat, and Moses. (1) “Be still when you need to hear a word from God.” Read 1 Kings 19:7-16 KJV. (2) “Be still when you need to know the plans of God.” Read 2 Chronicles 20:10-22 NKJV. (3) “Be still when you need to see the power of God.” Exodus 14:10-16/30-31 NKJV.

Today, my prayer for you is to truly know God in a deep and personal way.

Tired of Being Tired

July 11th, 2014

“Come unto Me all who are weary . . and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 NIV.

Life is exhausting when you do not know when or where you will find true rest.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “tired of being tired.”

Vince Lombardi, famed coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Fatigue affects everything you feel and do, both your attitudes and actions. Everyone knows what it means to feel tired – tired of working, tired of responsibilities, tired of bills, tired of problems, or tired of conflict. You are never at your best physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually, when weary. Weariness makes everything harder, only adding further to your tiredness; even things you would find easy are more taxing when already tired. Life is exhausting when you do not know when or where you will find true rest. Eventually, you just feel tired of being tired.

I think that even things you want to do can be tiring, and the worst tiredness is not just physical. There is a weariness of soul that is worse. “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for you will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” Galatians 6:9. Keep your goals and objectives clearly in focus, remembering why you are doing what you are doing and with expectation that reward and satisfaction will follow proper completion.

You were created to be fruitful and productive but also, God wisely built into your emotional and spiritual DNA the requirement for rest, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” Exodus 34:21. Planting and harvest would seem the least likely times to seek the luxury of down time. But God says that, both when preparing the soil for planting and when finally reaping the harvest from your efforts, you need to observe the Sabbath principle of rest. The Sabbath principle is not optional; God commanded, ”Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8. Ignore that at your own peril.

When truly tired, you will be more negative about situations, more prone to see problems rather than solutions. When tired, motivation is difficult, and hopefulness is elusive. You will be less patient with yourself and others, poor company for those around you. Distinguish things that unnecessarily weary you. Worry, unmet needs, unfinished work, personal conflict, unforgiveness, sinfulness (See Isaiah 57:20-21 NKJV), discouragement, or unrelenting busyness will always deplete your personal, inner resources, unless you choose to live by God’s counsel. Bring them all to Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” St Augustine, 4th Century.

Are you finally tired of being tired? Rest is found, not in a place, but in a Person. “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened . . and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV. The Bible says, “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you . . Those who wait upon God get fresh strength; they run and don’t get tired; they walk and don’t lag behind.” Psalm 116:7 NKJV/Isaiah 40:31 MSG.

Today, my prayer for you is that you know when and where to find true rest for your soul.

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Your Need to Belong

July 7th, 2014

“The God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me.” Acts 27:23 NIV.

In each person’s relational DNA, God placed the need to belong.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “your need to belong.”

I can think of few things more important for your feeling of well-being than to have a confident sense of belonging. Without belonging, wherever you are you feel lost; whoever you’re with you feel alone. Even a crowd can be a lonely place when no one knows you there.

At creation, God looked at all the magnificent, natural realm He had made and said, “It is very good.” Genesis 1:31. But when He looked at the creature He had formed with His own hands and into whom He had breathed the breath of life, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone . . I will make a mate suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18. The Bible says, “God sets the solitary in families.” See Psalm 68:6 NKJV. No man or woman who is alone for long remains content.

From the very beginning, the One who created you declared that man was not made to live in isolation from others. In everyone’s relational DNA is the God-given desire and need for community with others. A family offers a circle of people with whom you safely belong. Marriage gives you a life-long mate to whom you belong. Friendships produce a growing circle where you feel you belong. A church family connects you to people with whom you belong.

Salvation affords you an eternal family and heavenly place where you will forever belong securely. Jesus was clear, “I go to prepare a place for you and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may be also.” John 14:2-3. Everyone is looking for “their place,” a place where you fit, a place where you belong. You will only have a soul fully at rest when you choose to “belong to Jesus.” Sin separates; grace places you back with the One to Whom you truly belong.

The Savior brings you to the Father you always hoped for, where you discover you are the child He always wanted. What a great place to be. Your previous status, as well as mine, was, “At the time, you were separate from Christ . . without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ . . consequently you are . . fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s own household . . in Him being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:12-22 NIV. Redeemed and belonging to God and one another is where you belong, because He’s the One to whom you belong. In the Old Testament, God had a Temple for His people; today, God has a people as His temple. See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NKJV.

The importance of an individual is best found in the people and things with which one chooses to be identified. “You are – a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people – belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His glorious light.” Read 1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV. Notice the descriptions are all plural, not singular – a generation, not an individual; a priesthood, not a priest; a nation, not a citizen; a people, not a person – we belong to God and belong to each other. Life is most satisfying when understanding you belong to God and belong to each other.

Today, my prayer for you is to never forget where and to Whom you belong.