Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nov 27,28 - Psalm 18:18 (T)

They attacked me

at a moment

when I was weakest,

but the Lord upheld me.

Psalm 18:18

There is a rumor. Turkey is bad for you. It makes you weak.

Now … we've been studying for these last few days how to combat the "moment[s] when [we are] weakest." We've been warned that we should never let us get ourselves too (H)ungry, too (A)ngry, too (L)onely, too (T)ired.

Therefore, we should never eat turkey.

Why? Because it has a chemical in it that causes sleepiness. Tryptophan. Beware!

T

But if a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then (T)iredness is the fourth and final weak link that we'll be discussing.

When we're tired, we don't keep our guard up.

Therefore, we're likely to give into too many questionable things.

Think about it ... Isn't this when you tend to give in to too many dangerous things? For example, when we're tired -- and stressed -- isn't this when we go off our diet and eat a whole bag of potato chips? When we're tired, we snap at people more quickly. When we're tired, we make bad decisions. (How many "impulse buys" have you regretted.) People make excuses when they're tired. They lie. They cheat. They're even more likely to cheat on their spouse.

When we're tired, we're vulnerable. We go back to the old, the familiar, the comfortable. For example, an alcoholic is more likely to pick up a drink to just "settle things down."

When I'm tired, I play more games on my phone -- dumb, silly, but mindless. That's all it seems like I can do.

But here's the problem: In our world today, busyness is often worn as a badge of importance.

It's wise to realize, however, that busyness is usually a sign of improper priorities. God's plan is simple -- Jesus, Others, You. Forget the "me time" and focus on spelling JOY -- Jesus, others, you.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who hopes

you get a nap

this afternoon!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nov 26 - Psalm 18:18 (L)

They attacked me

at a moment

when I was weakest,

but the Lord upheld me.

Psalm 18:18

HALT!

It’s the acronym – and reminder – to avoid the "moment[s] when [we are] weakest" by not allowing ourselves to get too (H)ungry, too (A)ngry, too (L)onely, or too (T)ired.

Today, we focus on …

L

Belonging is one of our greatest human needs. We need love. We crave community -- even if its just a few treasured friends.

Think about so many of the problems that teens face -- not fitting into peer groups, gossip which isolates them, bullying which denigrates them, parents that are too busy, abandonment caused by divorce. Our kids are a microcosm of loneliness, and everything from joining the wrong peer group, to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, to suicide are dangerous coping mechanisms.

Adults may mask the hurts of loneliness better; nevertheless, the sting of loneliness is no less real for grown-ups.

And it’s cyclical. When we feel alone, we retreat even further from life.

So what’s the antidote? Faith! It’s the first, best antidote. It’s the first line of defense.

Faith gives us several great blessings.

·       First, faith is the conviction that God is on our side. Literally, on our side. He is beside us. With us. And when we have faith, we are never fully alone. (Now, this doesn’t fully eclipse the human longing for human relationships; nevertheless, it’s a powerful help!)

·       Second, the blessing of faith should also connect us to God’s community called the Church. Though cliques and judgment and drama can enter a church -- just as surely as it can enter a high school (we're annoyingly human after all) -- church should be a place for grace ... and welcome ... and acceptance … and community … and handshakes … and hugs.

In Christ's Love,

the guys

(I guess I’m plural

… since God is always

with me)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Nov 25 - Psalm 18:18 (A)

They attacked me

at a moment

when I was weakest,

but the Lord upheld me.

Psalm 18:18

"A chain is only as strong as its weakest link"

That was our theme from yesterday. It was the warning that we are most vulnerable precisely at the "moment[s] when [we are] weakest."

To HALT our vulnerabilities, we are called to not let ourselves get too (H)ungry, too (A)ngry, too (L)onely, too (T)ired. Today we focus on ...

A

Anger is a sign of being driven by psychological or spiritual wounds.

And when does it flare up? Usually when our worth, our word, our competence, or the things we value have been called into question.

"Nothing's going right!" we may shout.

Anger comes (generally) from it's our inability to control events, people, or situations and events.

Control and worth are the twin pillars of most psyches. But that's an utterly worldly perspective. When we submit to God and trust that he's in control, then we don't have to fret so much over control (or our anger-producing lack of it).

Furthermore, when we deeply and truly realize that Jesus values us enough to die for us, then we see our value from his perspective and we quit having to depend on other people and the success of events to define our worth. And thus, judgmental people, unfavorable events, and personal insecurities have an increasingly declining ability to ramp up our reactions.

For those who know me, you may find it hard to believe that I used to have a pretty fiery temper. It was mainly insecurity. As my faith has grown and my identity has been more defined by Christ's assessment of me, I've become more secure and much more mild-mannered.

How about you? Do you see a trigger-point in today's discussion?

We all need constant reminders to find our identity in Christ.

In Christ's Love,

a former volcano

(usually quiet but with

occasionally embarrassing

eruptions)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nov 24 - Psalm 18:18 (H)

They attacked me

at a moment

when I was weakest,

but the Lord upheld me.

Psalm 18:18

When are you most vulnerable?

Like the old saying -- "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link" -- we need to be aware that we are most vulnerable at the "moment[s] when [we are] weakest."

So ... when are you most vulnerable?

Here's an acronym that might help -- HALT. It reminds us that we should never let us get ourselves too (H)ungry, too (A)ngry, too (L)onely, too (T)ired.

H

This is a warning against letting physical urges control you.

·       Hunger is just one of them, though many people use food as a substitutional comfort instead of dealing with problems directly.

·       Others drink or do drugs (or increasingly take an excess of prescription medication) to mask stresses and hurts.

·       Sex is a major physical motivator, representing one of the most life-destroying (and family-weakening) forces in our world today.

The warning is, first, "don't let yourself get too hungry."

The deeper warning is, "when physical urges manifest, stop (halt) and analyze what is psychologically -- and spiritually -- driving you.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants an appetite

for the things of God

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nov 22,23 - Psalm 18:20,22

The Lord rewarded me

for doing right; I have never

abandoned your principles

Psalm 18:20,22

Let me start by saying it clearly -- our works don't save us.

Faith, instead, is the key to salvation. As it is quintessentially put in Romans 3, "we are justified by God's grace ... effective through faith ... apart from works prescribed by the law."

We are all sinners. Works don't save us. And yet ... according to this Psalm, God nevertheless blesses works.

Like a good parent!

We don't love our kids less when they're ornery and rebellious. (We may like them less momentarily! Exasperation brings little joy. But we don't love them less.)

But here's a basic truth of children and parenting: the more trust they earn by "doing right," the more they are "rewarded" with freedoms and privileges.

Stewardship is an important biblical concept -- and I'm not talking at all about money. The social structure of Biblical times included lots of servants. Some were "good and faithful," others were "wicked." And those with greater capacity to serve were entrusted with increasingly greater freedoms, privileges, and responsibility. (Think of Joseph's increasing responsibility in the house of Potiphar in Genesis 39, or Jesus' parable of three servants being entrusted with different amounts of gold according to their capacity to manage an estate -- see Matthew 25.)

We are God's servants. And his children. And like a good Father/master, it is natural that he will "reward[ us] for doing right." Indeed, the freedoms, privileges, and responsibilities grow as our faith -- and our capacity to steward his blessings -- grow.

The question, though, is this: How much can God trust you? Can you say with David, "I have never abandoned your principles."

Let me interpret quickly that last line. Number one, we all sin. But sin is not necessarily abandoning God's principles. Sin is falling short of the goal. While it is missing the target, at least we still know the target, the true principles, the goal. Our world tries to get us to abandon God's principles, to choose the world's twisted principles instead. David is not saying that he has never sent. Rather, even as an imperfect human he is still aiming at the right target. He has never abandoned God's principles

Therefore, when we aim in the right direction and work to the best of our ability, we are increasingly likely to hear Jesus' benediction at the end of his parable in Matthew 25:21 ...

"Well done, good and faithful servant!

You have been faithful with a few things;

I will put you in charge of many things.

Come and share your master's happiness!"

In Christ's Love,

a guy who yearns

for that benediction

over my life

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nov 21 - Psalm 18:3,46

I will call on the Lord,

who is worthy of praise,

for he saves me

from my enemies.

The Lord lives!

Blessed be my rock!

May the God of

my salvation be exalted

Psalm 18:3,46

Do you remember the pictures from the streets of New York when our victory in World War II was being celebrated.

The iconic picture shows a sailor dipping a pretty young lady and planting a victory smooch upon her lips.

Celebration.

This Psalm is a victory celebration. It is a song of triumph. It is unvarnished praise. In fact, it's joyful enough that Christians still sing these words to God's victorious provision.

In Scripture's small print notation that begins Psalm 18, this song is labeled:

A psalm of David,

the servant of the Lord.

He sang this song to the Lord

on the day the Lord rescued him

from all his enemies and from Saul.

Sing! Praise! Victory! Yes, God is good.

But for how long do you tend to sing? Do you focus on the blessings or defeats? Is your glass half empty or truly full with God on your side?

Do you take God's blessings for granted?

That's one of the points of a famous story in ----. Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one came back to say thanks. "Where are the other nine?"

As a reminder to sing praise and quit taking our blessings for granted ... Don't be like the one leper who waited to see if the healing was real. Don't be like another who wondered if they ever really had leprosy in the first place. Don't be like another who figured he'd find a more convenient time to say thanks. Don't come up with any of six other six or sixty other excuses. Just praise!

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is praising

(the morning I'm writing this

is the morning I'm finding out

Pastor Nate and Greer's

baby was born, and

every ten seconds

I'm hearing Mary Louise's

text message "bing" sound,

as ML and Greer's small group

celebrates the good news)



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nov 20 - Psalm 17:14a (2)

Save me by

your mighty hand, O Lord,

from those whose only concern

is earthly gain.

Psalm 17:14a

Yesterday we focused on half of these words from Psalm 17. Today we focus on the rest.

Psalm 17 is filled with enemies and persecutions. So is life. There are trials. Frustrations. Crippling diseases. There are enemies outside of us. And there are enemies and temptations within.

Do you want to be saved by God?

Absolutely.

The question is "How?"

Most of us want a big miracle and a mighty hand.

Sometimes we get that! God can and does answer in extraordinary ways. (In fact, I suspect when we get to heaven, we're learn about all the ways that God intervened that we didn't even notice. Extraordinary!)

Most of the time, however, I believe that God intervenes in ordinary ways. How? He tells us to put on faith ... and truth ... and righteousness. He calls us to clothe ourselves in these disciplines like armor (see Ephesians 6).

It's something the do ourselves, yes. It takes time and discipline. BUT when we allow him access to our lives, God does more than help! He teaches us truth. He guides us in righteousness. His Spirit fans our faith into flames.

And honestly, that's no less extraordinary!

It's nice to have a superhero God who can tackle the giants. But it's even better to also have a saving, empowering friend who walks beside me daily to equip me to meet the daily trials.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is armed

with a divine friend

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nov 19 - Psalm 17:14a (1)

Save me by

your mighty hand, O Lord,

from those whose only concern

is earthly gain.

Psalm 17:14a


There are two "worlds" and two perspectives. The first "world" is heaven. The second is earth. 


In fact, the simple confession of "I believe in God" is by definition a confession of the reality of these two realms: the physical ad the spiritual. 


Now here are the two perspectives: Do we live as if there are two "worlds" or just one? 


Those who don't believe in God obviously behave as if these's only one world. As today's Psalm says, their "only concern is earthly gain."


Sadly, way too many believers live this way too.

 

·       We focus on possessions. 

·       We chase after temporary pleasures. 

·       We're more concerned with the opinions of people than the standards of God. 

·       We excuse sin. 

·       We spend more on vacations and conveniences than we give to the church. 

We may say that we believe in God, but we act as if there's only one "world" and one "life."


In Christ's Love,

a guy who believes

this C. S. Lewis quote:

"Aim at heaven and

you will get earth thrown in.

Aim at earth and you get neither."


Monday, November 17, 2014

Nov 18 - Psalm 17:7a

Show me your unfailing love

in wonderful ways.

Psalm 17:7a

Yesterday we talked about how to literally HEAR God. It's a topic we dare not let go too quickly. 


Yesterday we said the secret was listening. And listening. And listening. 


It takes, honestly, lots of scripture reading so that, first, you learn to hear God's general voice. Reading scripture helps you know what he values, love what he loves, and see how he consistently and generously works. 


Then it takes lots of prayer ... and not just talking to him, but listening and listening as you just sit with him in silence and solitude. 


The ancient "Desert Fathers" -- early Christian monastics -- fled to the desert to, first, silence the world. Then they sat alone -- often for years -- to silence their own desires.


We don't have to literally flee to the desert to hear God, but we'd do well to recognize that there are two powerful noises that we must silence if we truly wish to hear from God -- the world's noise (which nowadays is incessant, and to which I must confess that I'm addicted) and then our own desires. 


I have a friend right now who's counseling everyone she knows to spend just five minutes a day in silence. Even in her tight-knit small group, basically no one can do it. We're addicted to noise. We're driven to doing. 


Today's verses don't tell us how, but they do tell us of the fruits. 

·       The more quiet time you spend with God, the more you will know that you are "8 the apple of [His] eye" and therefore, you are "8 guard[ed]."

·       The more time spent in solitude with God, the more you feel the protecting "9 shadow of [His] wings," 

·       The more you escape from the harsh realities of this world and discover the more real and more permanent spiritual world around you, the more you will feel truly "9 protect[ed from the] enemies who surround [you]."


If you ever want to know God's "7 unfailing love in wonderful ways," don't cry, "7 show me," just learn to sit there and sit there and sit there. Looking, listening, reading
God’s Word, asking, seeking, knocking, he will delight to show you. 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who's running so fast

that he often runs right past

God's simple presence

your unfailing love in wonderful ways," God is 

You save with your strength those who seek refuge from their enemies.8Guard me as the apple of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.9 Protect me from wicked people who attack me, from murderous enemies who surround me.


Nov 15,16 - Psalm 17:4

I have followed your commands,

which have kept me from

going along with cruel

and evil people.

Psalm 17:4

One of my favorite verses of scripture is Proverbs 20:29b ...

the gray hair of experience

is the splendor of the old.

Nowadays, I resemble that remark! I look splendiferous ... or maybe ... I'm just thankful for the hard earned wisdom that comes from experience.

I say this, while I'm not that old, I still have enough of a vantage point nowadays to look back on my younger years.

By now I've had lots of experience in following my wisdom vs. following God's.

I'm blessed to say that my parents put me on a sure enough path that I didn't "go[] along with [many] cruel and evil people." Nevertheless, I must also admit that I was blind enough to follow too many wayward ways and selfish desires. I did what the world promoted. I lived the way I wanted to live. And I justified it all by going to church on Sunday and saying, like Little Jack Horner, "What a good boy am I."

As the years went on, I became a parent. I wanted better for my boys than some of the mistakes I chose for myself. I learned, as my wife likes to say, that "God's way is the best way." I was a way better way of figuring out how to raise kids -- clear, consistent, and life-giving. And it turned out to be a clearer, more consistent, and rewarding way for me to live too.

I knew God from my youth, but with each gray hair, I learned to "follow[ His] commands." I learned that there's more freedom, joy, and reward from not "going along" with the world, not being led by my desires and emotions ... and going His way instead.

In a sense, life is easy now. And that's NOT because circumstances are easy. But because with each gray hair I've learned a little better how to walk in His footsteps.

And when I'm going His way, the road is easy (or at least much easier) and my burdens are light.

In Christ's Love,

a prince whose

silver hair is his crown

translation: a child of

the true King (thus a prince)

who has learned to trust

his Father as he's aged

Nov 17 - Psalm 17:6a

I am praying to you because

I know you will answer, O God

Psalm 17:6a

Do you know that God will answer when you pray?

One of the most frequent complaints in the journey of faith is the (supposed) silence of God. As humans, we're accustomed to dealing with our five senses:

·       We want to see God.

·       We want to audibly hear him.

·       We want to feel his arms around us.

·       We want to do much more than figuratively "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps 34:8).

·       And we want the literal aroma of Christ to surround us instead of the constant stench of sin and corruption.

As Christians, many of us are dutiful. "I KNOW he answers," we say with more bravado than belief. "Sometimes God says, 'No,'" we say as a way to excuse the continued silence.

After walking this Christian journey as a pastor for many years and listening in on the prayer lives of hundreds of people, I can say one thing for certain: God does speak.

The second thing I can say for certain is that those who pray frequently, intentionally, regularly hear God the most clearly. And actually it's more than that. The ones who hear God are the ones who sit and listen for hours. Day after day. They are comfortable with silence -- like David the Psalmist was a shepherd boy alone in the fields with no one to talk to but sheep and God.

Most of us are too busy for much of God on a daily basis, and then wonder why he's silent in a time of trial. Those who hear from God learn to listen ... and they do it everyday ... so that when a time of crisis comes, God's presence is already personal and familiar. And these are the ones who can confidently say, "I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God."

In Christ's Love,

a guy who needs to

slow down more and

listen more fully





Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nov 14 - Psalm 16:2

I said to the LORD,

"You are my Master!

All the good things I have

are from you."

Psalm 16:2

Perspective.

In America, we were once taught to pull ourselves up from our own bootstraps. With that in mind, fill in this sentence: "All the good things I have come from _______."

The way the world fills in that blank is "from me, myself, and my own hard work."

Hard work matters. It's a Biblical value. But ultimately, Scripture urges us to fill in that blank in another way: "All the good things I have are [ultimately] from you."

·       God gives us life and breath.

·       He gives us each day.

·       We can't take one of these physical blessings with us into heaven.

·       Therefore, everything we have on earth is on loan from the permanent owner -- God.

·       Thus, a proper perspective on every gift, treasure, and blessing is: "All the good things I have are [ultimately] from you."

And as a result, we are called to be thankful and generous, rather than prideful and stingy.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who reads this verse again

and realizes that God is the Master,

the landowner (or heaven and earth),

and I am just a servant and a steward

tending -- well or poorly -- to his creation

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Nov 13 - Psalm 15:1

Who may worship

in your sanctuary, Lord?

Who may enter your presence

on your holy hill?

Psalm 15:1

The answer to that question is ... 'not me.'

Imagine trying to stroll right into the White House, to walk right up to the President, to talk to him about your day. Do you have that privilege, to barge right in?

No. On our own, we don't have the credentials ... to waltz right into the White House ... or to "enter [God's] presence."

Wait ... how many of us in our world understand that we don't have a right to just bustle right up to America's Commander and Chief to complain about every big and little thing ... but we think we're totally entitled to assail the throne room of heaven with yells, screams, and complaints about how the Creator of All Things runs His Universe.

It's a funny world. We have more respect for the local mayor's privacy than God's sovereignty.

"Who may enter [God's] presence ...?"

The Old Testament, from which the Psalms come, had a simple answer: those who are "2 blameless." (In other words, "not me" nor any fallible human.)

The New Testament has the same -- and yet totally different -- answer. "Who may enter [God's] presence ...?" The one who is "2 blameless." And there was precisely one who was blameless -- Jesus Christ. And this blameless one allows believers to "wear" His righteousness and enter the throne room of God.

Through Christ, I have the credentials. Through faith, I can enter the throne room of God. I can talk directly to the Creator.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who starts

his prayers, therefore,

with awe and thanksgiving




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nov 12 - Psalm 14:2-3

The LORD looks

down from heaven

on the entire human race;

he looks to see if there is

even one with real understanding,

one who seeks for God.

But no, all have

turned away from God;

all have become corrupt.

No one does good,

not even one!

Psalm 14:2-3

When you read verses like these, it almost makes you wonder if David was reading today's headlines.

Corruption, murder, scandals, and wars were as rampant on the pages of the Bible as they are on our front pages.

I guess David's son, Solomon, was right, "History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

So let me ask a question: If the headlines from 3000 years ago match the headlines of today, don't you think we need a worldview that reflects that human hearts and motives and desires are broken ... rather than improving?

The dominant worldview in America today --and promoted heavily in media and academia -- is that people are basically good. The idea is that if we can just throw off a few old and repressive thought patterns, we'll evolve to a higher state.

When one nation recently attacked another nation, a chief American official said, "This is not how we act in a twenty-first century world." The Bible could have asked, "Mr. Secretary, did you miss the last 30 centuries? ... 'Nothing under the sun is new.' ... We were sinful, we are sinful, we will always be sinful and warring."

The Bible says, "No one [is or] does good, not even one!"

And we argue with that! "I can point to plenty of people who do good," the average person says.

Scripture's answer is that we're using the wrong scale. If we compare ourselves to one another, there are certainly levels of better and worse. But we're not the standard. God is the standard. Good is as high as heaven. And the best of us are only better than a few other sinful human beings.

Here's the problem with the modern worldview -- If there is no God, there is no standard higher than a nice person. And if we all try to be nicer, we figure that the world will evolve into a better place.

I'm all for niceness! But at the same time, the headlines haven't changed in 3000 years. We sin and keep sinning. We fall far short of God's glorious standard; nevertheless, we keep comparing ourselves to nothing hirer than our neighbors. And compared to the guy next door (or the dictator in a neighboring country) (or the blowhard in the opposing political party), we consider ourselves good.

But that's not the standard. Indeed, we'll never know how good we are (which isn't very), until we know how good God is.

As G. K. Chesterton says, "Our problem today is not that we have lost our way. Mankind is forever losing his way. Our problem is that we have lost our address."

Ignoring that our address, identity, standard, and life are in God, we compare ourselves to other human beings ... which occasionally makes us feel better about ourselves, but never changes the headlines.

If we want to change the headlines, we must put away foolish notions of our own goodness, humble our foolish pride, get down on our knees, repent of our human-focused quests for solutions, invite God to rule our world (starting with our own lives), and very humbly invite our neighbors to do the same.

In Christ's Love,

a sinner, praying for

a dusty knee revival




Monday, November 10, 2014

Nov 11 - Psalm 13:5

But I trust in your unfailing love.

I will rejoice because you

have rescued me

Psalm 13:5

This is a "how long?" song.

David cries things like ...

·       "2 How long must I struggle ... with sorrow in my heart every day?"

·       "2 How long will my enemy have the upper hand?"

That's his present situation -- enemies, struggles, and sorrows.

And yet in today's verse, he reveals that there's more to his present situation. There's enemies, struggles, sorrows ... and hope. David hopes because David trusts. And David trusts because of God's unfailing love.

That's his present situation it’s a faith and trust that's bigger than his worldly circumstances of enemies and sorrows.

And there's one more piece. It's part of the secret to faith, trust, and prayer. David says, "I will rejoice because you have rescued me."

Look at the verb tense. Though David is [currently] beset by enemies, his faith knows a bigger truth: "you have rescued me" ... indeed, "you [O Lord] have [already] rescued me."

Knowing God and his character brings trust and hope … because in the midst of temporary worldly circumstances, David knows a bigger truth: No matter what, he is safe, secure, and protected. With God on his side, he is [already] victorious.

When you pray for victory, hope, and rescue, do you pray as if it's a present reality? That's faith. We may not immediately see the reality in the momentary, but faith points us to a bigger reality.

In Christ's Love,

a present tense victor

because I know

the present and

future tense God

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Nov 10 - Psalm 12:7

You, O Lord, will protect us;

you will guard us from

this generation forever.

Psalm 12:7

Last Friday, I started by confessing that I sound like an old guy who longs for a simpler time. I lamented that it sometimes seems like "1 there is no longer anyone who is godly."

I'm not alone in my lament over culture. David lamented his generation -- hence this Psalm. Even Jesus – the Christ -- lamented his era, saying, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I ... put up with you?" (Matthew 17:17).

But sad laments are a hopeless place to leave things, aren’t they?

So today, lets focus on the hopeful side of this equation, based on today's verse: How will God guard and protect us from this (and any) generations lies, temptations, and evils?

·       Wisdom: Major portions of the Old Testament are called Wisdom Literature. Wisdom flows throughout the New Testament too. Wisdom sets our feet on a solid, safe path, even when the world wants to tempt us down dark detours.

·       The Law: Similarly the law can guide us and convict us and channel us again down the right path.

·       The Armor of God: When we put on God's protection, clothing ourselves in things like his truth and his brand of righteousness, we again are safer. And the helmet of salvation might be the most important of all. When we're absolutely confident of our eternal destination, we're much less worried about what this world can do to us. ("What's the worst you can do? Send me to heaven a day early? Ha!")

·       Jesus: Jesus is, of course, the best answer. Not only does he forgive our sins and give us life (life eternally ... and life for today), but part of his reason for coming was to model a way of living and success, even in a corrupt, perverse, and murderous (toward him) generation.

·       Prayer: If God -- the Capital King of creation -- gave us dominion over the earth (He did in Genesis 1) ... and if we gave authority of this world over to Satan (we did in Genesis 3, which is why Satan is called, in scripture, the lower-case ruler of this world) ... then prayer is us inviting God back into our world and into our lives. Yes, God is the Capital King. He can do whatever he wants. But generally he waits for us to invite him into our situations -- including to "guard us from this generation."

In Christ's Love,

a guy who's

engraving invitations

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nov 8,9 - Psalm 12:2

Neighbors lie to each other,

speaking with flattering lips

and insincere hearts.

Psalm 12:2

We may not "officially" tell lies to our neighbors. Nevertheless, most of us lie all the time.

How? We wear masks. We project a false front. We reveal only the glimpses of reality that we want our neighbors to see.

And then we go behind closed doors.

·       For some, that's when the fangs come out. There may be flattering lips in public. But how often is it a saccharine "bless his heart" that masks our venom.

·       For others, the fa├žade we wear in public is … a brave mask. In reality, we are dying inside. We are lonely, defeated, and depressed. But we keep a stiff upper lip … because what else are we going to do?

·       Others of us are one pay check away from disaster. We are hanging on by our fingernails. We are worried. But we too but on a brave face.

Is it anger, fear, insecurity, addiction, loneliness, depression, lusts, or jealousy that leave you wearing a mask?

Or is it pride?

That’s the worst mask. We’re so conscious of our image that we never really let people in. We’re afraid that if they really knew us, they wouldn't really like us.

In the garden -- before sin -- people were "naked and not ashamed." Now, don't just think physical nakedness. There were no personal, interpersonal, psychological, or emotional worries. There was literally nothing to hide.

And best of all ... there was no fear of judgment from others.

But with sin, came judgment and shame. And the immediate cover-up began. Masks. Adam wore a fig leaf to hide from Eve. Adam hid in the bushes, thinking he could escape from God's sight.

Today, my goal is to get you -- one -- to admit that wearing the mask is not for protection. Masks are because of sin. Hiding doesn't make you or anyone safer. It only isolates the hider and exacerbates the problem. (Which is precisely where the serpent left Adam and Eve and wants to leave you.)

My second goal is to get you to find a Christian brother or sister that you can trust enough to lower your mask in front of. Your mask feels safe. It's really a prison. Find a Christian friend. Join the supportive fellowship of a confidential small group. Ask for a Stephen Minister (that is one of the greatest gifts of freedom our congregation can offer). Talk to a pastor.

In Christ's Love

a guy who's had to learn

that its not the superheroes

who wear masks

... rather its the people

who lower the masks

who are the truly brave






Thursday, November 6, 2014

Nov 7 - Psalm 12:1,8

Help, LORD,

for the godly are no more;

the faithful have vanished

from among men.

The wicked freely strut about

when what is vile is

honored among men.

Psalm 12:1,8

I sound like an old guy. "Things are falling apart. But I remember back in the good old days when ..."

Honestely .. in our generation, things ARE falling apart.

BUT it's nothing new.

I'm guessing that David wasn't even an old guy yet, probably not even 30, when he was saying, "I remember the good old days when ... But nowadays, 'the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished.'"

What should this tell us? Humanity's a mess. Always has been. Always will be.

The modern myth is that humanity is evolving morally. No. Just read the headlines.

Our hope doesn't come from us. Just as David knew that it didn't come from himself or his generation.

As another Psalm says, "My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:2. As this Psalm says, "7 You, O Lord, will protect us; you will guard us from this generation forever."

In Christ's Love,

a guy who needs his heart

protected from the obvious

evils of a generation,

but needs his heart protected

more from a generation's

subtle temptations