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Archive for November, 2012

Follow the Directions

November 19th, 2012

Follow the Directions

Lord, help me to make of the timber of my life a temple, not a tavern.

“Make everything according to the pattern I have shown you.”

Exodus 25:40 NLT

Everyone has purchased some item, in spite of a label saying plainly, “Some assembly required.” The drill is like this: you look at the picture of the item, open the box, pour out the pieces, get a few basic tools, and begin by laying aside the manufacturer’s instructions, until and unless needed and that for emergency use only, which is never anticipated. Construction begins and seems to go well for awhile, but eventually things do not go as planned. Too late, you admit the inevitable truth, “I should have read the directions.”

Life has a way that works best. Life does not work the way you want or think it should; life works best the way God designed life to work. When you follow God’s design – “the Manufacturer’s instructions” – life works as He promised it would. Life is so important and eternal life is even so much more consequential that God would not leave you without His assistance and guidance. If God is not intimately involved, the life you build is not going to be what you expected.

When He commissioned Moses to build the Tabernacle, God gave extensive and explicit instructions of the elements of design, dimensions, furnishings, materials, even the proper attire of those who would serve there, and the men with skill to build it. See Exodus 25-31. God was clear; no revisions were required. “Make sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you.” Exodus 25:40 NLT.

Moses’ understanding and willing adherence to God’s instruction was so primarily important that it is again mentioned in the New Testament, “Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the Tabernacle. For [God] said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” Hebrews 8:5 NKJV. Moses took God seriously and did as God said. Read Exodus 39:42-43 NIV. Moses was careful to follow God’s directions specifically; you cannot afford to be casual about things of which God is careful. I have a life-long memory of a Bible professor’s prayer, “Lord, help me to make of the timber of my life a temple, not a tavern.” That is my earnest cry from a sincere heart.

If you live the way God says, you will have the results that God promises. You cannot live as you please and then expect God to bless your misdirected efforts, however well intended. Jesus modeled the only pattern for a successful life, “I do always the things that please [the Father].” John 8:29 NKJV. In its basic simplicity, here is God’s pattern for your life, “Seek first His Kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV. Or as the New Living Translation paraphrases the verse, “. . if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”

Paul’s testimony was, “That in me first Jesus Christ might show . . a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, invisible, immortal, to God who is alone wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!” 1 Timothy 1:16-17 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you follow the directions of God’s Word at all times

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The Real Thing

November 16th, 2012

The Real Thing

Jesus will always tell you the truth and give you the genuine.

“My people have . . forsaken Me, the living water, and have dug broken cisterns.”

Jeremiah 2:13 NIV.

They are available at a reduced price, but they are no bargain – fake Rolex watches, fake Gucci purses, and fake designer sunglasses. Putting a well known name on a counterfeit product does not make it worth more. A fake product will always look good, almost as good as the real thing, but remains what it is, a cheap substitute for the real thing. How foolish to sacrifice something you have that is real for something that you want but is counterfeit. Yet people do that all the time.

The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, wept as he wrote God’s words to Israel, “My people. .  have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13 NIV. How foolish and tragic! Individuals who knew better tried to replace God in their personal and national lives, giving away the irreplaceable for the undesirable. That still happens today. A cheap substitute is never worth what you gave up to get it.

The Bible gives another more personal example. Esau, son of Isaac and Rebekah and twin brother of Jacob, “who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright . . afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Hebrews 12:16-17. Read Esau’s story in Genesis 25:29-34. In impatience, Esau gave away what was valuable and irreplaceable just to satisfy his appetite.

Tragically, people do that every day. People miss an unrepeatable opportunity because they chose to do something more immediately pressing. People fail to value what they have until squandering it away for something else of far less worth. A foolish person will casually trade an irreplaceable history with a spouse of many years for someone more thrilling at the moment. A person will trade their good name for some foolish whim. People often trade a sure thing for what is a risky and remote possibility. More tragically, people will sell a certain eternity for a momentary pleasure. Cheap substitutes are never worth what they cost you.

A lesson for life is: never settle for second best; learn that you get what you pay for. There are few bargains in life, not nearly as many as advertised or promised. Anything that comes too cheaply or quickly is not worth as much as was claimed. Jesus will always tell you the truth and offer you the genuine. He cannot do otherwise. “Whoever drinks of the water that I give shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give shall be in you a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14 NKJV. Allow no substitute; accept nothing less than Jesus in all His fullness.

My prayer for you today is that you recognize what is real and settle for nothing less.

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A Change of Seasons

November 14th, 2012

A Change of Season

Heaven is eternal; life, and all within its boundaries, is temporal.

“They could not dwell together.”

Genesis 13:6 NKJV

With friends, we took a cruise up the New England and Canadian coasts at the beginning of autumn. The change of season was spectacular. The colors of the fall foliage were brilliant; the weather was sunny, the air fresh and crisp. It was a trip not to be forgotten, a time to be enjoyed.

By the temporal nature of life, seasons change. People try to make things permanent that are temporary. Heaven is eternal; life, and all within its boundaries, is temporal. The Bible explains, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV. A wise person understands how best to live in the season of life they are in and learns how to recognize when a season is changing. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1:3 NIV.

The Old Testament tells a story about Abraham and his nephew, Lot. A season was changing. Read Genesis 13:1-9. They each had prospered until their success posed a problem. They had journeyed together but now their current situation had become complicated. “Now the land was not able to support them that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.” Genesis 13:6 NKJV. It was the fault of neither.

Situations had changed. A season had been fulfilled; a new direction was necessary for the benefit of both. Due to changing circumstances, what had worked harmoniously till now would not work as well going forward. A circumstance neither one had caused or chosen now required a personal decision from both. They would have to go separate ways.

Conflict made Abraham aware that changes needed to be made. You might not recognize when you need to accept a change, until and unless the status quo becomes uncomfortable or inconvenient. “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” See Galatians 6:8-10 NKJV. Don’t fight such a change; embrace it.

Some people will walk alongside you for a long while, maybe a lifetime, while others may be only for a season. Hear me carefully; people are not disposable at your whim, but there may be times in the ongoing purposes of God that by choice or circumstance you may be called to walk a new path without the same company. Gratitude appreciates those who have shared your journey; wisdom understands when the journey leads in different directions. Don’t look for fault when a season changes; look for new blessing. Abraham did not choose to leave Lot; he chose to follow God.

Generously, Abraham allowed Lot to choose first where his family with herds and flocks would fare best. Read Genesis 13:10-18. Then, God appeared to Abraham, “Look from the place where you are . . the land you see I give to you . .”vs. 14-18. Maybe your new season of direction and expansion begins “from the place where you are.” Be sure of this. God ordains the seasons, and if you will walk uprightly and unselfishly before God, He will provide His further and greater blessings. See Leviticus 26:3-5 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you enjoy the seasons of life and their changes.

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Get Over It

November 12th, 2012

Get Over It!

God gives you the grace to forgive; forgiveness offers the grace to get over it.

“See to it . . that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble.” Hebrews 12:15 NIV.

There will be things that happen when the best thing you can do is just get over it. Things happen in families, between friends, in churches, at school, at work, or on the highway. Something is said about you, or to you, that hurts your feelings; get over it. Something is done that you feel was unfair; get over it. Some recognition or opportunity that should have been yours was given to another; get over it. That is easier said than done, but really is the best thing to do for yourself, as well as the kindest thing you can do for others.

Saying what you refuse to not say? You eventually regret it. Reacting as you feel like doing? You merely complicate the problem. However good those may feel momentarily, you can damage a relationship in ways that might never be mended, and you can plant a seed of resentment that will grow with less than pleasant results. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s eyes.” James 1:19-20 NLT. Ultimately, that is most important – “things right in God’s eyes” What else matters? The Bible’s wise counsel is, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone . . do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:18/21 NIV. Your wrong reaction makes the original cause of offense irrelevant to God. You cannot control what others do; you must choose what is right for you to do in response.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men . . See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 NIV. This practical verse teaches four things. (1) Bitterness develops a power and life of its own, however small it begins. (2) Bitterness grows when indulged, no matter how justified those feelings seem. (3) Bitterness defiles relationships beyond any expectation. (4) Bitterness is a symptom of your failing to accept the grace of God for the wrong you feel, whether real or imagined. Bitterness is proof of insistence on your right to hold onto a grievance, even after God says, “Forgive!” That never works out well.

And what is this grace that is yours? God gives you the grace to forgive; forgiveness offers the grace to get over it. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words . . instead be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you . . you have clothed yourself with a brand new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you.” Ephesians 4:31-32/ Colossians 3:10 NLT. God’s Word provides a proven formula for how marriages work best, families stay strongest, and friendships last longest.

My prayer for you today is this: when unfortunate things happen, forgive and get over it.

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Weary Lives

November 9th, 2012

“Get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV.

Brokenness is a high price to pay for busyness.

My thoughts and comments today are about “weary lives.”

People live such hectic, relentless lives, expecting, even requiring that whatever they want should be available whenever they want. As Gayle and I drove to the window of a fast food restaurant one afternoon, I saw their sign, “Now open 24 hours for your convenience.” With sarcasm, I said to my wife, “Imagine how empty our lives would seem if we could not come in the middle of the night.” Our health, marriages, and families are paying the price for lives that never know when to rest.

God made life with pace and rhythm, establishing the night and the day to “separate the light from the darkness,” and ordaining seasons and times. See Genesis 1:18. God both observed and commanded the principle of Sabbath, a day of rest to follow six days of industry and activity, as well as a Sabbath of years for the land, and a Sabbath of Sabbath years called Jubilee. God considered this fundamental principle of rest important enough to be included among the Ten Commandments, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11. Sabbath rest was not given as one suggestion alongside nine commandments.

You are the most productive and efficient when you find the rhythm for which you are best suited. The weariness and worry of life may be saying, “Get some rest.” The spiritual emptiness and personal discontent in your heart could be telling you, “Get some rest.” Emotional and health problems might be your body’s way of saying, “Get some rest.” Strained marriages can be a relationship that is saying, “Get some rest.”

Brokenness is a high price to pay for busyness, whether in businesses, bodies, or families. Jesus gathered His disciples, “Come apart and rest awhile . . for there were many coming and going and they had no time . .” Mark 6:30-31. No time; no rest. I would paraphrase His words this way: come apart before you fall apart. The warning is clear; the wisdom unmistakable. A person’s impatience, crankiness, and lack of appreciation for life often flow from the tiredness of a too busy life.

Wisdom schedules some downtime. Many of us are wound too tight; tension takes its toll. Take time every day to let your thoughts wander without restraint; that’s when fresh ideas and creativity thrive. Let yourself feel refreshed; that’s when you enjoy relationships. Let your spirit commune with its Creator; that’s when you replenish your soul and truly know God. See Psalm 46:10.

Jesus invitation still stands, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest . . you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV. In Jesus alone, you find Sabbath rest for a weary soul. “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength . . they shall run and not be weary.” See Isaiah 40:29-31 NKJV. When you make time for God first, you will have enough time for everything else for which you need time. “Only in returning to Me and waiting for Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you find time to be still and quiet of spirit.

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