Friday, July 30, 2010

Reflections for July 30, 2010

"It Is Not My Call"

Following a night of severe thunder storms my wife was talking to our five year old granddaughter. She asked, “Did the storms frighten you?”

She replied, “We were out in them and they frightened me some. I said a little prayer asking God to make them stop. Then I thought that is not my call is it?”

It amazes me how, not realizing it, children can be incredibly profound. Her response had no element of fear or frustration over the situation being completely out of her hand. She was content to know it was in God’s hands. I pray that simple sense of trust will follow her and will comfort her when she grows older and the storms of life swirl around her.

Her response brought to my mind a sermon I heard at a pastor’s conference early in my ministry. I can’t remember the preacher’s name but I remember the sermon title, the scripture and the three points he brought forward. The title was “God of the Whirlwind.” His scripture was Nahum 1”3b: “In whirlwind and storm is His way and clouds are the dust beneath His feet (NASB).” His three points were God was before the whirlwind, God was in the whirlwind and God will be there when the whirlwind is over.

It appears to me this is an important message for our generation, since we tend to move from one whirlwind to another. The storms of uncertainty in our country today are blowing hard. It seems to me that the fear and frustration among our people grows with each passing day. Much of this unrest revolves around the economic conditions in the country. For many Christians, the greatest storm is the downward spiral of standards of morality. For others it is the fear brought about by medical problems. The list of possible life crippling whirlwinds could go on forever and still miss the one in your life. Whatever the whirlwind is in your life, I have good news for you.

The good news is found in Nahum 1:7: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him” (NASB). Whatever whirlwind you are encountering today, take a moment and think about three things. One, God is good. Two, God wants to be your stronghold. He wants to care for you. He will either move you beyond the whirlwind or He will give you all you need to weather the storm. Three, while it may appear that everyone around you is oblivious to the storm you battle, God knows you by name. He knows your pain and He wishes to provide you the strength to rise above it.

In the end, it is good for all of us to accept the truth from the mouth of a five year old girl and to realize that some things are not our call, but we can know intimately the one who is in control and He will deliver us from our whirlwinds, if we will trust in Him.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Reflections for July 23, 2010

Trusting While You Wait

My first full time staff position at a church was Minister of Youth and Activities. Midway through the four and one half years I served in the position, I felt a strong leading of the Lord to move toward a preaching ministry. After I received permission from the deacons to speak on Sunday at other churches, I felt my greatest problem would be scheduling the opportunities I would have. After six months of waiting, I had received zero opportunities. In my frustration, I sat at my desk, closed my eyes, opened my bible, placed my finger on the page and prayed, “God show me what you want me to do.” When I opened my eye my finger was on Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord (NASB). While this was not the anwer I wanted, it was the one I needed. After thirty years in ministry, God has shown me repeatedly the wisdom of heeding His advice and the folly of succumbing to my fears and impatience and following my own time table.

In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Numbers there is the story of the twelve spies who went to scout the Promised Land for the Jewish people following their deliverance from Egypt. Of the twelve, only Joshua and Caleb, gave positive reports. The remainder of the spies reported that there were giants in the land and recommended that they not go into it. The people listened to the ten and the Jews ended up wandering in the wilderness for forty years. The lesson for us today is that we should never let fear stand in the way of any assignment that God gives. Faith tells us that He provides every need to accomplish every task that He gives.

In the thirteenth chapter of First Samuel, there is another story that gives us an equally devastating response to fear. In Chapter 10:8, King Saul had been given directions by the Prophet Samuel to go to Gilgal and to remain there for seven days until he came. He said that when he came he would offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. Then, he would tell Saul what he was to do. The seventh day came and Samuel was no where to be found. As the day passed, the threat of the Philistines created fear in the people and impatience in Saul. Finally, Saul took matters into his own hands and made the offerings and sacrifices himself. Immediately following his actions, Samuel arrived. For his disobedience Saul lost the privilege of his kingdom enduring forever through his heirs. The lesson for today is that we should always wait and do things according to God’s timing and not our own.

Here you have two stories that demonstrate the mistakes that people often make. First, fear causes them to dig in their heels and to refuse to move forward. Second, fear causes people to panic and to rush ahead of God’s timing. Both responses lead to disaster. These two blunders lead us to ask how we can know it is from God and is it the right time to do something.

I believe the most important ingredient in discovering and following God’s time table is to engage in intensive prayer. As we pray, it is important that we realize that God wants us to be successful in discovering and doing His will. He does not want us to fail. Therefore, if we will put self behind us and be open to what He reveals, we can be assured that He will help us to see clearly, not only what He has for us to do but when He wishes for us to do it.

As we pray we must do so with faith. It is faith that can overcome our fears and impatience. It is faith that brings us our greatest blessings. Andrew Murray said it this way, “Be assured that if God waits longer than you could wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious. God waited four thousand years, till the fullness of time, ere He sent His Son. Our times are in His hands; He will avenge His elect speedily; He will make haste for our help, and not delay one hour too long.” In other words, God’s time is always the right time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Reflections for July 16, 2010


One of the greatest needs in our country today is leadership. This is true in churches, government, business, education and every other endeavor. Without strong leadership the best anyone can expect is mediocrity. Our nation is crying for leaders worthy of following but they are hard to find. The lack of clear, strong leadership is a primary reason for the deep dissatisfaction with government. People of all political persuasions are crying for someone to stand up and cast a vision for the future. Instead, politicians are satisfied with standing around pointing fingers and assigning blame.

There are shelves filled with books about leadership but there is no better book on the subject than the Bible. It contains powerful lessons about both good and poor leadership. As one studies the characters in the Bible, one sees basic truths about leadership put into action. There are more examples than we have space. The good leaders shared three characteristics. One, they were able to see beyond what was to what could be. This does not mean that a leader does not need a full understanding of the past and the present. It does mean he/she should not live there. Look at Moses for example. He drew strength from the past but he had a vision of the future. He kept the hope of the Promise Land before the Jews, enabling them to survive for forty years in the wilderness. Throughout the history of our nation, there have been many difficult times. With every difficulty, someone has risen to the top and has helped us to see that there was something better in the future.

Two, they were willing to take risk in order to make things better. They were willing to sacrifice in the now in order to insure the future. Read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, especially verses 38, 39. Why were these great men and women of faith willing to sacrifice so much? It was because they had a vision of the greatness that was to come. John Maxwell explains the need for sacrifice this way: “If I succeed without sacrifice, then it’s because someone who went before me made the sacrifice. If I sacrifice, and don’t see success, then someone who follows will reap success from my sacrifice.” Leaders must help people understand the risk and sacrifice of today is necessary to reach the goals for tomorrow.

Third, they had perseverance. Things do not change overnight. A leader does not change course every time the wind shifts. He sets the example and keeps his focus on the vision laid before him. Books are filled with individuals that could have given up. Instead, they viewed each problem as an opportunity for greatness. They believed and lived Galatians 6:9. It reads, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary” (NASB).
As God’s people, we need to pray that He will raise up men and women who fit the description above, who are willing to stand above the finger pointing, and who are willing to paint a picture of our future that motivates our people to move beyond the bickering partisan politics that has been so prevalent in recent years and to move into the future with optimism and hope.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reflections for July 9, 2010

"A Time of Refreshing"

We have a contract with a lawn service that allows them to treat our lawn for unwanted weeds and to provide fertilizer for it at the appropriate times. It has proved to be a good investment. However, it would not have been, if we did not have the good fortune to have a irritation system to provide the needed water. All the weed treatment and fertilizer in the world would not produce an attractive lawn without water. Without water, the grass would become parched and its beauty would not be realized.

As I sat on our patio this morning watching our dog run through the water from the irrigation system, I began to see a important spiritual lesson to be drawn from our grass as it drank up the water. I was reminded of the words of Jesus when He spoke to the woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13, 14 NASB). I believe the water of which Jesus spoke in this passage was the Holy Spirit. Later in John 16:13, 14, Jesus speaks more about the coming of the Spirit. He said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (NASB). In both scriptures, Jesus proclaims the absolute need for the Holy Spirit, who indwells believers.

Just as the grass can’t thrive without water. We can’t thrive in our Christian walk without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. We can do many good things but, ultimately, we will dry up without the reviving presence of the Spirit in our life.

Our irrigation system was placed under our yard, when the house was built. It is always there waiting to be activated. It is activated by turning the switch in the panel in our garage. The Holy Spirit was placed in us the moment we sincerely received Christ into our life as our Lord and Savior. He patiently waits, always willing to assist us as we navigate the storms of life. He wants nothing more than to make our lives beautiful by filling them with the fruit that He has for us. Paul describes the fruit the Spirit wishes us to have in Galatians 5:22, 23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (NASB).

While this fruit is available to all believers at all times, it does not come automatically. The Holy Spirit does not force Himself on us. Like our irrigation system, He must be activated in our lives. He is activated by our repentance and our complete surrender to His will. When we turn loose of the control of our lives and look to Him for daily guidance and deliverance, He never fails us and we are able to grow to our full potential in the Lord. It is then we can understand the full meaning of Acts 3:19: “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (NASB).

Friday, July 2, 2010

Reflections for July 2, 2010

"Living Free"

Chrysostom, a fourth century patriarch of Constantinople, was a great example of being free indeed. One of the stories attributed to him had to do with an occasion when the Roman Emperor demanded that he renounce his faith. The emperor’s first threat was to have him banished from the kingdom, if he refused to deny his faith in Christ. To this threat Chrysostom replied, “You cannot because the whole world is my Father’s kingdom.” The second threat was to take his life. Again he replied, “You cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God.” The third threat was to take all of his treasures. His reply was, “You cannot, for my treasure is in heaven where my heart is.” Finally the emperor threatened to drive him away from anyone who may befriend him, leaving him all alone. Chrysostom had a ready reply. He said, “You cannot, for I have one Friend from whom you can never separate me. I defy you for you can do me no harm.” Chrysostom had learned the secret of living free under the most adverse conditions.

We do not face this kind of threat because of our religious faith. We are blessed to live where we can worship as we please. While we have political freedom, many of our people have not learned to live free. They remain enslaved to their own passions, habits and fears.

Jesus provided for us a way to live our lives totally free. He said, ‘if you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…So if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”(John 8:31, 31, 36 NASB). From these verses there appears to be three steps to realizing genuine spiritual freedom.

The first step is to believe in Jesus. In the scriptures belief in Jesus is more than an intellectual accent to the reality that He lived. Belief refers to the belief He was who He said that He was. It is the belief He is the answer to man’s sin problem. It is the belief He is the Savior and that through Him the relationship that was broken by sin can be restored.

The second step has to do with abiding in His word. While we have everything we need to live free, when we believe and receive Christ, we do not experience our freedom until we learn to abide in His word. When we abide in His word, it becomes the governing force in our lives.

The third step is to grow in our understanding of the truth. John 14:6 (NASB) reads, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but through Me.’” Jesus did not say he knew the truth; He said “I am the truth.” As our understanding of Him grows, we become equipped to truly live free, because He becomes the source of our freedom.

When we walk this path step by step we come to understand what it means to be “free indeed”. Chrysostom understood. Fear of death, loneliness, loss of treasure did not bind him. He found all that he needed in Christ. We could learn from his example.