Graduation

Graduations are times of immense joy for both the graduate and their families, friends, and loved ones.  When the graduate receives his or her diploma, the long days of study, hard work and sacrifice seem worth it for this one moment.

Our family is gathering to celebrate a graduation.  It is particularly meaningful, because of the events of the past two weeks.  The enemy tried his best to take the life of this young person.  However, those attempts were no match for the powerful intercessory prayers of his parents, family and friends, and the grace of God.    When it was all over, we praised God for His grace, and for allowing us to complete this test.

I looked up the definition of graduate, and it means someone who holds a degree.  Graduation signifies the completion of all the requirements necessary to become a degree holder.      We are all enrolled in God’s University.  This heavenly tabernacle of instruction is life changing and eternal for both disciple, and teacher.  There are many courses to take, and completion of each is necessary to successfully pass, and withstand the fiery tests of our adversary.   Spiritual courses such as prayer, fasting, solitude, silence, meditation, study are all critical requirements. Our book encourages us to “study thyself to show thyself approved, a workman who needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  Belief in The Son of God is prerequisite for entry into the university.   One of our professor emeritus, Peter outlined in one of his syllabi [2 Peter 3:18], that we are to grow grace and in the knowledge of Jesus, our Master Teacher.  Jesus told us to remain connected Him-the True vine [John 15:4] for knowledge of Him changes and sustain us through each tests, as we strive to finish the course.  Although, some tests, and trials may be difficult and long, in the end He promises that we will graduate, and become a degree holder.

For those who prayed for the life of this young person, we are pausing to celebration, and recognize this test was successfully completed, and the grade turned in.    Maybe, you are pausing to celebrate a crucial victory in a young person’s life that has, or is about to graduate.  Remember, you’re still in school, and another course is just around the corner.  No need to worry though, we already have the best Teacher and the best Book.

Spiritual House Cleaning

“Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life.”[Mark 10:12 NKJV]  The man who asked the question appeared sincere, and the question was a good one.  He wanted to know, after hearing Jesus what was required to gain eternal life.  Jesus looked into his heart noted the man needed some major spiritual house cleaning.  So Jesus told him to go and sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor.  The reply offered a promise, and a set of instructions.  Jesus said you will have treasure but not on earth, but in heaven.  Problem!  He had lots of treasure on earth right now.  And the instructions required him to picking up the cross, an object of ridicule and disgrace and follow Jesus. Give up position, prominence and become poor and the object of ridicule, what was Jesus asking?

Jesus was asking the man to rid himself of those things that strangle the life out of him, and focus his attention on Jesus who is the authority and finisher of our faith.   A little leaven spoils the whole. Too much stuff blinds and robs us.  We fail to see life. We fail to become what the world needs.   Things grab, hold, and weigh us down.  They become objects of our attention morning, noon and night.  We don’t see the hurting, lost, and wounded.  We are blinded by the adoration of others because of our wealth.  And we certainly don’t listen to the call of the Master.  Our lives are spent buying, organizing and storing our stuff. We have parties to show off our stuff.  We build fences and create elaborate system to keep our stuff out of the hands of thieves and robbers.  We build or move to bigger houses so we can buy more stuff.  Our possessions rule and control us.

Jesus told the disciples that it will be hard for the rich to enter the kingdom, not because he is opposes to wealth, but He understands what great wealth can do to the soul.  It [wealth] changes our perspectives and priorities.  Christ came to give us an abundant life.  He wants the church to show how to manage this life and all that is associated with it.   Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, then all the other stuff [possessions] will be added. Only then will our possessions serve a useful purpose.   Our focus will be to use them to advance the Kingdom.

Today, as you look around at your stuff, commit to a spiritual house cleaning, and put those possessions where they belong, under the control and leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Body Temple

First Lady Michelle Obama was on The View sharing her new book,  “American Grown” and recipes on healthy eating.  As I briefly watched I thought about how sick our country is health wise.  More and more of our children are obese along with their parents and guardians, and how difficult it is for our minds and spirits to be healthy when our bodies aren’t.

I encourage all of us, including myself to take another look at ways to create all around health.

“You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you, and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own.” I Corinthians 6:19 CEV

Our bodies are temples of the living God, entrusted to us to create love and life on earth.  We dishonor the sacred trust God granted us when we chose not to maintain these bodies as best we can.  From the beginning God gave us a plan for life-healthy life and living which included the body, the mind and the spirit.  Failure to follow the plan leaves us to the mercy of the enemy whose mission it is to kill, steal and destroy.

However, even small, incremental steps can minimize and in some cases reverse the damage done.  The choice is up to us.  We can have a more abundantly life filled with all the best things God want for us.  And at the same time, have a strong body ready prepared and ready to meet those divine assignments.

Ask God to help you get your whole body prepare for what lies ahead, and then follow the plan.  Your body will thank you.

 

It is Well With My Soul

It is not too much to say that all real growth in the spiritual life-all victory over temptation, all confidence and peace in the peace in the presence of difficulties and dangers, all repose of spirit in times of great disappointment or loss, all habitual communion with God-depend upon the practice of secret prayer.” Author unknown.

Recently, my meditation readings have focused on peace-peace within, bold peace.  “Where there is peace, God is” said George Herbert.  Our minds are kept in perfect peace, when we focus on Him, not them.  Romans 12: 1-2, strongly encourages us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto Him.  Do not be conformed to the same manner of thinking, behaving and reacting to the world.  How can this be achieved?  Peace.

There comes a peace that even in the face of tremendous pain or challenges we can experience a peace that passes all understanding.  That peace is the peace of Christ, since he is the Crown Prince of Peace.  Peace is part of His divine nature, His essence. The Lord blesses his people with peace (Psalm 29:11).  It is Peace that rides along side us and hovers over us when we rest at night filling our soul and spirit with blessed assurance.  Peace gives us strength from day-to-day.  Peace strives to keep unity and does not create strife.  Peace is never anxious, because with prayer and supplication and thanksgiving, petitions, requests are made known to God, knowing full well He can handle it. Peace is the legacy Jesus leaves with his children (John 14:27), “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”  Peace, glorious peace.  As this day unfolds, rely on that peace. Fill every corner of your mind with peace, knowing all is well your soul.

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day signals the first official day of summer. What are your plans for the day?  Going to a family picnic, or the pool? Maybe you’re off to do a bit of shopping, or going to visit with friends or loved ones.   Whatever your plans remember the reason for the day.  The purpose of Memorial Day is to salute those who fought and died while serving in the armed forces.

God established memorials early in mankind’s history.  Memorials are mental markers.  They help to recall the significance of an event.  They are also visible reminders used to teach and pass on history to the next generation.

So, pause for a moment to give thanks for servicemen and women for their sacrifices, and remember those still serving, including their families. And while you’re at it, please give thanks for those saints past and present who suffered, died, and offer prayers for those experiencing persecution right now for the gospel.  They also deserve our prayers for advancing the cause for Christ.

 

Roadwork

There are different seasons in the Midwest: fall, winter, spring and construction.  Around Easter, provided the weather is just right, little orange cones start popping up along with lilies and crocuses.  Highway construction crews begin their annual process to repair our roadways, highways, and byways.  I got to thinking about our roadwork that occur within the different seasons in our lives.  In Matthew 7:13-20, Jesus tells the disciples there is a narrow gate to life, and few will find it.  There is also a broad way that many will travel on.  This one leads to destruction.  Isn’t it interesting how when we see the roadways ahead, instead of staying on through the narrow path, and we begin our own construction projects?  We try to broaden these roadways, creating our own little superhighway. There are those who tunnel under it [the narrow way], going underground hiding those sins which so easily beset us.  We create elaborate suspension bridges in attempts to go over it, trying to hold up the broken pieces of our life.  And if all else fails, we ignore the stop, caution, danger, and warning signs, hoping the challenges and/or difficulties will just go away, as we continue to ease on down the broad way.

However, our roadwork is flawed, and never sustains us. It cracks and crumbles from the imperfections, from the sin. And all our patchwork is flimsy bandage which won’t hold. It is like the man who built his home on sand which fell.  Unless, we choose to travel that narrow way, and seek the One who created the gate in the first place, the  consequences will be and are, broken, shattered, lost lives.

This season as you travel and see those little orange cones and merging signs, take a moment to remember that God does the best roadwork.  The job He does is flawless and will last throughout eternity.

I’m Still God

The heavens declare my glory.  I’m still God.

My loved one has died. I’m still God.

I lost my job.  I’m still God.

My business is failing.  I’m still God.

This is our wedding day.  I’m still God.

Our daughter graduated.  I’m still God.

I went on a mission trip to Haiti.  I’m still God.

Our home was destroyed. I’m still God.

It’s a boy!   I’m still God.

My candidate won.  I’m still God.

The team lost.  I’m still God.

Dad doesn’t remember me.  I’m still God.

He ran away.  I’m still God.

They loved my new book.  I’m still God.

Lord,  I’m lost.  I’m still God.

Lord, thank you.  I’m still God.

God is still God regardless the common property of our everyday experiences. Whether delight or despair, triumph or tragedy God is and always be.   This knowledge should strengthen our faith that no matter the circumstance God is and will always be.

His Guidance

Today, I need the guidance of the Lord to see me through this day.  I need to walk according to His steps, not mine.  I need to be receptive to His leading and his sweet call.  I need to close my mind to the sounds of this world, and listen for His voice.  One word utters to my soul brings clarity.   His clear voice reassure me that I’m on the right path, and the decisions to be made are underpinned by His wisdom.  Then I will experience the peace that passes all understanding.

Lord, I open my heart to you this day.

Open My Heart

Humility Plus

A gracious friend recently shared she is studying and working on the spiritual discipline of humility.   1 Peter 5:5 [NIV] states,  “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.”   Familiar with some works by noted author and theologian Jonathan Edwards, I reviewed an article he wrote on the subject, and found it to be in alignment with this passage.  Edwards stated that, “The man who is under the influence of a humble spirit is content with such a situation among men, as God is pleased to allot to him, and is not greedy of honor, and does not affect to appear uppermost and exalted above his neighbors.”  Humility is not arrogant, proud, exalted, it does not seek to be in the front row.  Humility is no respecter of person. It lovingly considers our status to be equal children made in the image of God.  Edwards summarized his article by pointing out that humility:

  • Seek for a deep and abiding sense of your comparative lowness before God and man.
  • Know God.
  • Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before Him.
  • Distrust yourself.
  • Rely Only On Christ.
  • Renounce all glory except for Him.
  • Yield yourself heartily to His will and service.

Self-examination and quiet reflection is designed to gain insights.  I certainly have and will continue to do so on the topic.  For in looking at this essential characteristic, I know I must continue work on being more humble.  Our culture does not extol this virtue.  Let’s face it, there are not as many stories shared about the truly humble.  Could you, at this moment name 10 people who you consider to be humble?  Who would be on your list?  Family members, celebrities, sport figures, politicians, historical personages, etc?  Right now millions of people around the world, myself included have spent precious resources developing and organizing information to promote themselves, their causes or interests.    Self promotion is the new normal, and much of it does not lend itself to being humble.   As children of God, we are instructed not to think more highly of ourselves.  Because there is an inherent danger in promoting a message, and being the messenger.   Even Jesus, at different times told those he healed to not broadcast who healed them to others.  Clearly, our Lord understands the insidious temptations involved, as well as our own self-interests.  He experienced it during his earthly ministry.  There were those ready to thrust Him into being a King even among his disciples.  But Christ came to serve.

In Isaiah 57:15, scripture tells us God inhabits the humble, and requires us to walk humbly with Him Mic.6:8.   Our Lord gave us the perfect portrait of humility when He emptied himself, and became a willing servant, even to the cross.  Picture the evening when he washed the disciples’ feet.  How could the Lord stoop to do such a thing?  Our Lord is always the benchmark. Humility speaks to us to open a space in our hearts for others.  The disciples needed an example, and now in this age there are many, many others needing real life examples of Christ-like humility.  When we perform our work with a humble spirit we bring glory unto the Lord.   No matter the occupation, season, calling or the recipient, it is to be carried out just as Jesus washing those feet.   Oh yes, humility is an essential part of the Christian experience, and it creates true servants of the most High God.

 

Purpose

God told the prophet Jeremiah that before he was formed in his mother’s womb He knew the thoughts He had for him. God had set Jeremiah apart to be a prophet. He was purposed for a very particular assignment. An assignment with an expected (good) end. It is amazing to think how much God loves and wants for us. That even before our first heartbeat, God already has the best possible plans for us.

Throughout scripture you find stories of real life people who discovered their purpose. Whether it was to lead a nation, birth a king, warn individuals, provide protection, or bring salvation to the world, there was a specific, glorious purpose. Whether you call it destiny or purpose, you should take comfort in knowing God has it already laid out. His plans for us are the very, very best. Each plan specific and carefully designed only for you.  When you are feeling down, uncertain about the direction of your life, seek the Creator. Ask God, what are your plans for me? Help me to find them, Lord. And also say to God I am willing to do and go wherever. Then re-purposed “you” into the divinely designed vessel by God for an expected end.