Word of the Day

Life and Peace

Romans 8: 6        NIV

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

I am sure we all want life and peace. Jesus said he came to the earth to give us abundant life (John 10: 10) and I certainly do not want to frustrate his purpose in my life. I am equally convinced that you want the peace of Christ flowing through your life along with the abundant life he brings. I wish, sometimes, there was nothing I had to do to position myself for all the blessings of the Father. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Our Father has blessed us with every blessing in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 1: 3). How, though, do we have all that blessing manifest upon us routinely? As to peace and life, Paul answers that question for us today in this verse from Romans. Our minds must dwell on the things of the Spirit rather than on the things of the body or of the world.

You’ve all heard this verse before, but I wonder how well we hear it. This makes sense, of course, but it is much easier said, and agreed upon, than actually done. The world and all its pleasures are before us daily. We live in the world and must interact with it. It can be a challenge to live in the world and yet not be part of it. It is hard to interact with the world all day and at the same time keep our minds on the Spirit. None the less, that is the way to peace and life.

One hears a great deal of talk these days about intentionality. It means to be purposeful about the minutes of our day rather than blowing about with the wind. It means to make some determined choices and let those guide our day rather than just bumping along from one stimulus to another.

If, when we awaken in the morning, we immediately turn our thoughts and hearts to the Lord, it is much easier to stay in that place with him and with the Spirit all day. You can actually stay linked with the Spirit all day, even when you have to go to work, do the shopping, pick up the kids, etc. All the tasks of life are easier when you stay connected with God’s Spirit.

Notice that the mind is governed, or ruled, either by the flesh or the Spirit. What are the things of the flesh that attract us? Well, it is all the things of the world, isn’t it and things our body wants. It could be sleep, food, television, wine, social activity and more. None of these things are bad, are they? God is not trying to deny us these things, but it can be a question of priority. Are these things which gratify the flesh the focus of our attention? Are they more important to us than the things of the Spirit? The verse says that when our minds are ruled by these things, it is death. When our minds are governed by the Spirit, we are always led to life and peace. That sounds nice. So, we need to learn the skill of focusing our minds on the things of the Spirit and then staying connected there even as we travel through the world. The Spirit will always lead us into blessing. He will always show us the way of peace and life. We have only to fix our minds on him and he will bring us love, joy, peace, life and the blessing of God. That is a good plan. So what are you thinking about today?

Who’s in Charge Here?

Colossians 3: 15      Amplified

Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].

This is good advice, isn’t it? You may sometimes hear, “Let peace guide you.” In this verse, Paul teaches us that peace should be the controlling or ruling principle in all our ways and decisions. That certainly has implications for personal decisions when we don’t have that calm assurance inside. Clearly, we want to stay away from those choices. God often guides us by peace so we have learned that if we don’t feel peace about something, we best leave it alone.

The real substance of this verse, though, is about our interrelations with others. Paul says to let peace guide your thoughts and decisions as it relates to other people. When you have a decision to make which affects others, as most decisions do, you should not only consider but give first priority to the decision which promotes peace among you. Perhaps that is not the choice you would select but that is why Paul felt it necessary to teach this. As much as it depends on you, stay in peace with everyone (Romans 12: 18). There are times when there is a cost to you for peace, but the long-term benefit outweighs the short-term desire or inconvenience. Besides, it is what God has told us to do. Isn’t that reason enough?

There is another way to apply this verse. Paul points out that all believers are part of one body. God didn’t call us into service as just a hand or just a toe but rather as one body all working in harmony to His service. That necessarily means that He didn’t call us into a body of Baptists, or a body of Methodists, or any other denomination you can name. In truth, He hasn’t separated us even into Catholics and protestants. And for the real kicker, Jesus is Jewish, so we are of one body with Messianic Jews. There you are! What a family! One body made of such different parts yet called and commanded to work together for the accomplishment of the master’s purposes.

Jesus is the head and we all parts of his body. Since when did the pinky finger start telling the feet where to go? That just ends in chaos and chaos is what we have been experiencing in the church, but we are coming to the end of all things and our Father, He who is Father to every one of us, has called us into unity. You don’t have to agree with me all the time nor do you have to agree with anyone 100% of the time. We do, however, have to work together in the unity of peace in Christ and if we truly are in Christ then we are members of his peace too which he left here specifically for our use.

Jesus doesn’t really care if you don’t agree with the doctrine of that church down the block. He didn’t tell us that we must agree all the time, but he did command us to live and work together harmoniously. He requires our decisions to consider what will preserve and even increase the peace amongst us all. There is one thing upon which we all agree: Jesus is Lord. And that is enough. One church, one body, in Christ.

Lighthouse Evangelism

Psalm 40: 3      Passion Translation

A new song for a new day rises up in me
every time I think about how he breaks through for me!
Ecstatic praise pours out of my mouth until
everyone hears how God has set me free.
Many will see his miracles;
they’ll stand in awe of God and fall in love with him!

How sweet are the sentiments of David towards his heavenly father. There are many kinds of relationships we can have with Yahweh but the emotional connection David displays is the most enviable of all. When was the last time ecstatic praise poured out of our mouths? Do you know anyone whose praise to God is as deep and meaningful? David was known for his public praise. In fact, he danced himself out of his robes once. It made his wife mad. She wanted him to be cool, show some decorum. He was the king, after all. David was not the foremost king in his own mind though. In his mind he was a minor king who served THE king.

More than anything, though, he loved (and still loves) our God. Yahweh wasn’t a Godly deity reserved for religious duty or rituals. David loved God and served Him out of that love. It is not too much to say he adored Yahweh. He learned to trust God and from that position of trust, they forged a fabulous bond.

Every morning David arose with a new song of praise and gratitude in his heart. Can you even picture what ecstatic praise looks like. David said ecstatic praise poured from his mouth. It wasn’t a trickle. It was a flood. What an image! It must have been a praise gusher, so much praise that David could not contain it. Then again, he didn’t want to. It seems he took great joy in praising our Lord and God.

This is such a beautiful song and verse. One person described it as romantic. It does have that feeling from the romantic period doesn’t it? Such beautiful poetry describing such intense and intimate emotions. I am moved by the end of this stanza. This is evangelism as we have not imagined it.

David said the praise poured out of his mouth so jubilantly that everyone heard about the greatness and the kindness of God. Now that is how we are supposed to evangelize the world. Praise God so freely and excitedly, declaring His great works and tender mercies to us that a hurting world flocks to the Lord of the rescue. David went on to say that miracles will abound and as a result, not only would people be astounded but that they would fall in love with our beloved, Yahweh, God, and His son. Can you picture this? It is beautiful and romantic. The perfect image of the love of our souls saving the entire world. That is, after all, why God sent Jesus to the world, to save our wretched souls.

God is worthy to be praised. Not only has He saved our souls from eternal torment but He is pouring out His blessing upon us right here and right now. He has picked our lives up from the ashes and given us robes of praise. He has bathed us in the glory of His dear son. I don’t know what it takes for us to praise Him as did David, but I would like to find that ecstatic praise not only pouring but gushing out of me. I would like to hear exuberant praise, instead of canned songs. I want God to hear our hearts even more than our voices, hearts that call out to Him with desperate passion. I want to be like David and see people flock to my Lord because I have become great at singing His praises.

Please stop for a moment today and consider this passage. Try to imagine what David must have looked like and what he must have felt. Put yourself in David’s shoes and imagine yourself praising God in that fashion. See miracles flowing out of that praise and thanksgiving so that everywhere we go, everywhere you go, people get healed and saved. You are a lighthouse. None of us will have to say much when people see what God has done. We don’t have to preach. We don’t have to cajole. When they see our joy and God’s love, they will fall in love with Him. What an amazing vision that is.

My Part / Your Part

Psalm 9: 3

For when you appear, I worship while all of my enemies run in retreat. They stumble and perish before your presence.

I have enjoyed our jog through the Psalms. I am continuing it, you may have noticed. Each Monday I will continue our journey through the psalms. This is one I found when we did Psalm 9. It was so good that I saved it for another day. I love this, don’t you?

In it I see our partnership with Yahweh. This partnership is such a huge and important revelation. Jesus said we are to abide in him. As we abide, he makes our hopes and dreams a reality. In today’s verse we see our part in the partnership. It is worship. We communicate with the Father about our perceived needs but then we roll the care of it over to Him and enter into worship. I even hate to say we pray about our need because we get such weird and convoluted ideas about prayer. I just talk to our Father. I tell Him what I am thinking, what I think I want and what I perceive my needs to be. Then I let it go.

Some of the things we think we need, we don’t. It may be something entirely different that we need. We can give our senior partner room to fill the need even though it is filled differently than we think it will be. Some of the things we think we want may not fit in with the rest of our lives. They can end up being a burden. Father knows that so He will re-direct us and give us something that works better in our lives.

It is exciting to me to think that our enemies run in retreat while we stand in worship. That is really crazy when you think about it, but it is not unprecedented. In 2 Chronicles 20 we see this very thing happen. The minstrels played their instruments and the singers sang while God routed the armies of the enemies. Wow!

Make this a model for your entire life, especially your work life. Let God lead you. If you will spend time reading the Word and communicating with your Father, you will find you have more time rather than less. I have seen it many times. Our Father is a multiplier, even of time. You do your part which is prayer, study and worship and God will take care of the rest. The next thing you will see is the backs of your opponents and the appearance of new opportunities. Be blessed!

It’s Your Choice

Deuteronomy 30: 19           NOG

I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.

Are you familiar with this verse? I want you to be. It is so very powerful and can change your life. In fact, this is a great one for you to meditate on. The piece of it I wish to highlight today is the word “choose.”

God has offered us life. He has offered us blessings. Death and the curse entered the earth in the Garden of Eden. So, both life and death and blessing and the curse are out there for the choosing. The interesting aspect is that we get to choose. I always smile when I read this verse because I hear it this way, “I have given you the choice between life and death, the blessing and the curse. Let me give you a hint. Choose life and blessing.” It is like God is trying to clue us in on which one to choose. It seems ridiculous at one level. We should be smart enough that He does not need to give us a hint and yet, it is a forebearer of a truth. We often make the wrong choice. We choose death instead of life and the curse instead of the blessing. Why would we do that?

Let me ask you a different question. Supposing you rather have life and blessing, how do you make that choice? What mechanism is in place for choosing? That is the main issue, I believe. Do folks know how to choose life? In how many ways do we choose the curse instead of the blessing? I believe most Christians do not realize there is a choice, how to make the choice, or how they are making the wrong choice daily.

One of the most poignant events in the Bible is found in the book of Joshua. As the book opens, Moses has just died. He, who was the liberator of Israel, who led them for years through their long sojourn, who importuned God for them, prayed for them, taught them, and cared for them, is dead. Now what? Shall the nation of Israel fall apart right there, having never crossed over into the promised land? It is a climactic moment is Judeo-Christian history. It could have all ended right there, on the wrong side of the Jordan. Instead, God appointed Joshua to be the leader of His people. How would you like that job, following in Moses’ footsteps? It must have been pretty frightening for Joshua. God took him aside, though, to give him the secret of success, to be his coach and mentor. God told Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1: 7 – 9).

I know that was a long quote but you need to see it all. Right here God gave Joshua the choice to fail or succeed. He even gave him the crib notes for the test. In other words, God didn’t make success a mystery. Success or failure lay at Joshua’s feet so God showed him the path to success. He gave him all the secrets. That is what God does.

Here is my point. Father wants us to succeed so He has given us the cheat sheet. “Here are all the answers,” He says. All we have to do is use them. How many points do you find in the quote from the book of Joshua? I counted seven. The real question is, how many of them are we doing. This is how we choose life and blessing. Joshua didn’t have to take God’s advice. We know he did because he enjoyed success and led the nation of Israel into the promised land. He chose blessing. He chose life.

Here are two of the big seven. One, do not fear. If we live in fear, we fertilize death and curse. Second, and this is a really big one, meditate in this Word day and night. When we meditate in the Word, we are actively choosing life and blessing.

This passage from Joshua teaches how to choose to live in the blessing. We need to follow where the Lord is leading. We need to communicate with him so that we see his ways generally and the specific path he points out for us. We can choose to be blessed. We can choose the abundant life Jesus said he came here to give us. I think if you will follow the advice God gave Joshua, if you will learn how to commune with Jesus and actually do it, that you will find yourself in overflow of everything good. Please, choose life, choose the blessing. It’s your choice.

Hope and Trust

Romans 15: 13             NIV

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Most of us are attracted to this prayer and the idea that we may be filled with joy and peace. There are a couple of interesting nuances, though, that we should look at.

First, Paul calls God the God of hope. Then at the end of the verse his prayer is for us to overflow with hope. Third, this overflowing hope comes to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, let’s just think about hope for a moment.

Hope is the precursor of faith. Faith is believing that what you once hoped for is a spiritual reality and will manifest physically. Faith is knowing that what you hoped for and then prayed for is yours in Christ Jesus. Many of our prayers begin with that simple hope though. So, hope is the beginning point and our Father is the God of hope. He is the source of hope. Without Him, there is no hope and that is so true. Hope, joy and peace are in Him and the Holy Spirit brings all three to us through his power. He is the actuator, Father is the supply.

Lastly, there is a key element in this prayer. Paul indicates that we have a role too. We are initiators. This is a grand machine with you, your father and the Holy Spirit all as parts. The initiator must begin the process and as the initiator you do that through trust. Paul understood, and thus teaches, that God is able to fill you with all joy and peace but only as you trust Him. I wonder, too, if we are filled to the depth of our trust, almost as if our level of trust establishes the size of our tank. God will give us all we can hold, all we want but it is in relationship to our ability, or willingness perhaps, to put our trust in Him. Whatever your trust God for, whatever you believe Him for, that is the requisition form which is filled by the Holy Spirit. You place the order. Tell the Divine Trinity what you want, what you are believing for by placing your trust in God to bring it to you. Trust plus the God of Hope and the power of the Holy Spirit equals the blessing of God flowing through you and on you in abundance. Be blessed!

New Wine

1 Timothy 5: 23

No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

Paul in writing to Timothy included this statement at the end of his discourse about elders. It is actually awkwardly placed between two statements that are about the sins of others. So, maybe Paul was attempting to communicate to Timothy that a little wine, even among the elders is not sinful.

I have always held that being Christian must not necessarily be synonymous with being a tea-totaller, or completely abstaining from alcoholic drinks. People will remind us that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water to wine. I still hold this position. One need not completely abstain, but then again . . ..

The culture in the United States has quickly changed from the occasional social cocktail to a beer culture. In just a few years we have seen the complexion of restaurants change dramatically. There are fewer and fewer eateries which do not serve alcohol and more and more pub like establishments. In fact, even the movie theaters now serve alcoholic beverages. You can’t have a party without serving alcohol. People used to be concerned about offending someone by serving alcohol. Now you are more likely to offend someone if you don’t. It is a change, no doubt. I think a discussion is needed without putting a judgment on it. We don’t have to say this is good or that is bad to consider how those things affect us and how we want to think about them.

Christians have gotten swept up in this change too. Being a Christian doesn’t seem to affect everyone’s drinking habits or the way people think about alcoholic consumption among Christians. In fact, you might be surprised how often people give me gifts of alcohol even knowing I am a minister and pastor. I am not offended but I am always surprised.

It is funny how we label ourselves sometimes and what we think those labels mean. For some, the definition of a Christian includes being a non-drinker. There doesn’t seem to be a label distinguishing drinkers and non-drinkers. What label do you wear that says, “Yeah, I am open for getting together drinking?”

So here is what I have observed. A lot of us call ourselves Christians but there is wide disparity among us on almost every level. I think, though, that our Christian name tag should separate us. It seems to me that my life in Christ ought to be a major facet of my life, not just another jewel in my charm bracelet. It  ought to be bigger and should identify me as if to say, “This is my self-identity. I am in Christ and he colors my world.” Instead, I see groups of people getting together, all of whom call themselves Christians but they get together over a beer or bottle of wine rather than the Word. Again, let me be clear, I am not criticizing anyone having the occasional drink but my observation is that we have departed from that paradigm. Now, the drink is the central figure and we park Jesus at the curb. I recently saw a Christian post this question, “If you were an alcoholic drink, what would you be?” This isn’t a criticism of that person but rather an observation that this is where we are as Christians. I think episodes like this should stimulate a conversation as to whether this is where we want to be. If the answer is, “Yes,” then so be it but I think many Christians might want to consider if we have gone too far.

Personally, I think we have. When I see Christians getting together to drink but never to fellowship over the Word then I wonder if we still have the right to label ourselves Christians. It seems the drink has become more important than the Son and that we should wear a different name tag which more accurately describes us.

I am not saying that I never have a drink. I just recently visited Ireland and we were treated to some of Ireland’s finest. However, I am home now. It was lovely sampling Irish culture but that was for then. It is not part of my culture or routine. I tell you this to prove to you that I am not advocating that every Christian must become a strict non-drinker. That is a decision we each must make with God but if alcohol is more important or plays a more significant role in our lives than Jesus, then there is certainly something to be concerned with. I don’t think food, or drink, or sport, or work, or anything should occupy a bigger part than Jesus. And I certainly think as Christians we are supposed to look and act differently from the world. I also think we are supposed to want to.

I wonder if we haven’t taken grace a bit too far when it comes to alcohol. I can only tell you what I have observed and that is that many Christians seem more interested in their drink than in their Lord. There is nothing wrong with watching football with your friends and having a beer or the occasional drink but when the party is more important or more prominent in our lifestyle than seeking Jesus, the Christ then I don’t know how worthy we are to be called his disciples. It’s also okay to go to the football party and not drink alcohol and it needs to be okay for each of us.

I don’t write this today as condemnation of anyone. I also do not intend that any of us have a license to judge others. I write this today to get you, all of you collectively, to ask if this is who we are and who we want to be? Have we gone too far with being relatable that there is no meaningful distinction between us and those who do not profess Jesus as Lord? I intend to stimulate some thought and hopefully a dialogue. What are the hallmarks of Christians? I want us to think about who we are as a people and what we stand for. I want us to consider where Jesus stands in our lives compared to all the worldly pleasures that are available. Are there boundaries and who should set them for us? The Christian culture has changed as much as the social culture and we should ask ourselves if we like the direction.