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Archive for April, 2010

Seeing Is Believing

April 30th, 2010

“Abraham looked up and saw .  .” Genesis 22:4 NIV

“If you’re not looking, you’re likely not seeing what you need to see.”

My thoughts today are about “seeing is believing.”

Sight is an incredible gift, not always given much thought and often taken for granted, until something threatens or lessens your ability. Think about it. So much of your everyday life depends upon and is enhanced by the simple ability to see. I suggest that is also true of your spiritual life. For the Christians at Ephesus, Paul prayed that the “eyes of your heart may be enlightened that you may know . .” Ephesians 1:18 NIV. It has been said that the eyes are the window of the soul.

Today’s verse suggests something that is interesting to consider. I know that the phrase “looked up and saw” could be merely an idiom of Hebrew or Elizabethan English for emphasis. Yet it intrigues me for this reason: too much of life is spent looking without really seeing with understanding.

I think that would describe me in an art gallery or museum. I have wandered through art museums in San Antonio, London, Berlin, Turkey, and the world famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and Musee du Louvre and Musee d’Orsay in Paris (how’s that for name dropping!). In every instance, I was a tourist rather than art-lover. I remember watching a young art student sitting, studying, and sketching a painting I had glanced at for a few moments, admired, and then moved on. I looked; that student of art looked and saw what I did not! I looked at the painting; I just had not seen the artist’s genius to fully appreciate the masterpiece at which I was looking.

Maybe this is true in life and love; until you look with your heart, you cannot fully see with your eyes. I’ve heard it said, “Love is blind!” Instead, I would suggest that love sees what another’s more casual observation cannot. Some look at the Bible, and the God it reveals, and see only His holy standards without seeing His selfless compassion, sacrificial gift, and sufficient grace. Until you look with your heart, you will not see what is plainly there to see – God loves you; He really does!

I have also found this to be true: if you’re not looking at all, you’re likely not seeing what you need to see. Look for God in your everyday life; look around you for His goodness in and from yourself and others. Today’s simple verse describes a bit of Abraham’s recurring experience of God. Abraham “looked up and saw” God appear at the moment he needed assurance of his future. Genesis 18:1-3 NIV. Are you at one of those moments? He is there; open your heart.

Abraham “looked up and saw” the place and price of being a disciple – the place of sacrifice. Genesis 22:4-8 NIV. The truly spiritual life is no casual walk in the park. There is discipline and commitment; that’s where you meet and know God. A friend of mine has often reminded me, and himself, “If it doesn’t cost you something, it is not ministry.” Abraham “looked up and saw” God’s provision that comes through obedience. Genesis 22:13-14 NIV. You will see what you most need to see when you are where God wants you to be. God invites you to meet Him in a place where you can know Him more fully, love Him sincerely, and enjoy Him completely. 2 Corinthians 4:18 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is: have a heart to look for God, and eyes to see Him as He is.

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Build Wisely

April 29th, 2010

“Anyone who listens . . is wise, like a person who builds on solid rock.” Matthew 7:24 NLT

“How quickly you build is never as important as how well you build.”

My thoughts today encourage that you “build wisely.”

It seems astounding to me that a person would work so hard to build a worthwhile life and sacrifice so much of themselves to do so without careful thought to the durability of what they are building. That just doesn’t make sense, does it? But that happens all the time. It happens in careers; it happens in marriages and families; it happens with reputations; it happens with wealth; it happens with fame and celebrity. Have you heard of “fifteen minutes of fame?” Don’t sell your soul for temporary pleasures or profits.

How quickly you build is not as important as how well you build. Never has been; never will be! How expensively or cheaply you build is not as crucial as how well you build. Jesus used the examples of two men building their homes. They had more similarities than dissimilarities, but there was one catastrophic difference. One built for right now with little regard for later. The other built to last.

One man built on sand, and what he built could not stand the tests of time and trouble; it collapsed because of that fatal flaw. “So are the paths of all who forget God. And the hope of the hypocrite shall perish, whose confidence shall be cut off, and whose trust is a spider’s web. He leans on his house, but it does not stand. He holds it fast, but it does not endure. Job 8:13-15NKJV.

The other more wisely built on solid rock! The latter experienced the same difficulties, but what he built endured because he began with a sure foundation. “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” 1 Tim 6:18-19 NAS.

The difference at the end is usually connected to where you start – the all-important foundation. Here’s where you must start if you will be wise, “According to the grace of God .. like a master builder I laid a foundation . . each man must be careful how he builds. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 NAS. Anything or anyone else upon which you try to build your life will ultimately fail you.

A favorite hymn of mine is, “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.” Edward Mote, 1800s. See Isaiah 28:16-17 NIV. It is not youth, or beauty, or talent, or success, or wealth, or good deeds, or friends – only what is built upon a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ will last through time, and into eternity. “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are His.’” 2 Timothy 2:19 NIV.

But Jesus also warned, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the Chief Cornerstone. Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Luke 20 17-18 NKJV. You embrace Christ and know life; you ignore Him to your own peril.

My prayer for you today is: make Christ the core and center of all you are and do.

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Opting Out

April 28th, 2010

“You must run in such a way that you will win.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 NLT

“Winning in life is not about being first; it is about finishing.”

My thoughts today are about opting out.”

It is easy to choose to opt out when things are not as you would like, or the cost is more than you planned, or a friendship becomes difficult. Life rarely succeeds if you reserve the right to opt out along the way. Collegians opt out of classes, when studies are demanding. People opt out of promises made, when that becomes inconvenient. Husbands and wives opt out of marriages and families too quickly, when they become difficult. Were you ever tempted to opt out of something?

Success in life is much more determined by your will than by your abilities. Paul often used athletic competitions as a metaphor for spiritual life. In today’s verse he envisions an ancient track and field event, the long distance race in particular. This race required discipline, effort, agility, strategy, speed, but most of all endurance . . not required so much if you simply enjoy running, but definitely required if you enjoy winning.

The very first thing a runner must have is an unchanging will to win. All of the other things required will follow, because they are birthed from your passionate goal to win. Success comes when you run to achieve your goal of winning, not just for the fun of running. “Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 TEV. You must run in a way that gives you the best chance to win.

Once you are clear about your goal, you run with that clearly fixed in your heart and mind. Your will to win determines your focus, marshals your full effort, pushes you past weariness or pain, and refuses to let you opt out. Your spiritual life is very much like that.

Success will require extreme effort, unrelenting perseverance, and a willingness to make needed sacrifices. Living for Jesus is not a casual stroll that allows complacency or self indulgence. Live as the Apostle Paul with a clear goal for your life, “so that (you) may win Christ and be found in Him, having . . the righteousness from God based on faith.” Philippians 3:8-9.

Your spiritual life must have a clear and firm goal that can be achieved only by daily embracing a growing Christ-likeness. There is a price to pay. Becoming more like Jesus will demand single-mindedness and the sacrifice of anything that would lessen that. “Jesus finished the race . . because He never lost sight of where he was headed.“ Hebrews 12:2.  You can do the same. Winning is the result of not giving up before crossing the finish line. It is not about being first; it is about finishing. At the end of life you want to honestly say, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-8 NIV. You can hardly imagine what awaits you!

My prayer for you today is that you give up any option to quit short of that goal.

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Be Prepared

April 27th, 2010

“Those who hope in the Lord will soar . . will run . . will walk.” Isaiah 40:31 NIV

“In the overriding providence of God, every season has a reason and a promise.”

My thoughts today are, “be prepared.”

Be prepared! That was a good motto when I was a young Boy Scout, and it’s sound advice still today. Your experience of life will not be the same all the time, so be prepared for it. There is ebb and flow to life – times the tide is in and times it is out – times of appointed seasons of spring and winter – bright days and dark nights.

On your better days, you might wish that it were that way all the time, but it won’t be. On worse days, you will be more glad for this reality than you may know right now. There is a recurring statement in the Bible – “And it came to pass” – that refers to the chronology of the passing of time but can also suggest a circumstance passing, as a person encouraged themselves this way, “it came to pass; it didn’t come to stay!” Be assured that even things too tough too long are only temporary.

The Bible teaches, “There is a time for everything and a season for very activity . . God has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:1/11 NIV. In the overriding providence of God, every season has a reason, though oftimes that reason may not seem as clear at a given moment. The first step toward finding that reason is simply believing that, in God, there will always be something good deposited in your life. If you are not expecting good, you won’t be looking for it; and if you are not looking, you are likely to miss the good altogether. That would be a waste of the experience.

There are hurtful things that will touch your life that are not by God’s initiation, but nothing can touch your life without His involvement and benevolence along the way. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them . . He chose them to become like His Son.” Romans 8:28 NLT. Many stop reading just before the words, “work together for good,” and unfairly conclude that God caused their problems and pain. Your God is of flawlessly righteous character and tempts no one with evil. See James 1:13 NIV.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of three very different experiences in life – times when you “soar on wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, and walk and not faint.” See Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV. When you can, soar! When you can’t soar, run! When you can’t run, walk! Whatever the circumstance or season, move in the direction of hope. Read Hebrews 6:18-20 NIV.

You know the times when you soar times you best enjoy life’s fullness. All is going well; your spirit and hopes are high; you reach heights not reached before; you succeed in unexpected measure. You will soar on eagle’s wings – on strength beyond your own; it will be God’s!

There are times when you run, not as effortlessly as soaring, nor as exhilarating. Do what you must; do as you can. Don’t give up (2 Corinthians 4:1 NLT); definitely, do not quit running the race (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV). You will not “grow weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9-10 NIV). There will be times when you walk; life is sometimes just one step at a time. To move forward, put one foot in front of the other and keep doing so, knowing that for now that will be good enough. You will not faint. See Colossians 1:10-14 NKJV/2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV. In each season, keep your eyes upon God to work His will for good. In God, you will soar again, if you run when you can and walk when you must.

My prayer for you today is that you look for God’s best in every experience, every season.

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A Sense of Wonder

April 26th, 2010

“Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things.” Isaiah 40:26 NKJV

“The Bible is clear, not ambiguous nor apologetic as to its claim.”

My thoughts today are about “a sense of wonder.”

You live in a pretty amazing world, far too amazing to be an accident that happened without reason or origin. People can argue all they want about origins, but believing that this astounding masterpiece of creation came about without a Creator requires far more trust in fallible man’s explanations than I am able to muster.

The Bible is clear, unambiguous and unapologetic as to its claim. “The heavens are Yours, and the earth is Yours; everything in all the world is Yours – You created it all . . the Lord merely spoke and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He gave the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs . . let everyone stand in awe of Him. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at His command.Psalm 89:11/33:6-9 NLT. Is that hard to understand or explain? Of course, it is, but not more difficult to believe than that all of this that you see and at which you marvel, came from some cosmic explosion and a gradual, though unexplainable evolving of species.

Which is more foolish? To accept the existence and unequaled power of God to create this world of majestic beauty, order and wonder? “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Hebrews 11:3 NIV. Or to believe that all the wonder of creation is possible without a Creator; to assume this unparalleled design and order was without any forethought or plan? Either takes faith to believe, and it would appear to me that the latter demands blind faith.

Don’t be intimidated by those whose apparently certain explanations seem so rational and academic; their rationality also leaves no place for God anywhere in life. He is not only dismissed from creation, but also relegated as irrelevant, if at all existing. Consider this: if the Bible is in error as to its claim of creation, how can you believe any of its claims about eternity? If there is no Creator, then there is no Savior, and man is alone in an amazing universe without God. If you choose creation without its creator, you are left with one but not the other. I choose the Creator and His creation; therefore, I have the One with the other.

The Psalmist reasoned, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place; what is man that You are mindful of him . . that You care for Him?” Psalm 8:3-4 NIV. “The world is not lacking in wonders, but in a sense of wonder.” (G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936, prolific English writer and orthodox Christian.) Don’t lose your sense of wonder.

Look around you; there is beauty and majesty to be considered and its Creator to be enjoyed. Stand on a clear and expansive, star-filled night with nothing but the sights and sounds of nature surrounding you. In all you see, do not miss knowing the One from whose hand it has all been given. “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things.” See Isaiah 40:26 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you are not blinded by what you cannot explain.

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