Sunday, February 26, 2006

No Shortcuts

As we enter this season of Lent, many of our Pastors will be preaching on the temptations of Christ found in Matthew 4:1-11.

Jesus began His ministry in a wilderness and He ended it in a garden, and both places were places of intense struggle.

In the wilderness, the struggle came from external forces playing on His internal needs - His hunger.

In the garden, the struggle came from an internal turmoil - the dread of separation from the Father, and was compounded by external forces - the impending crucifixion.

In the wilderness Jesus faced what has often been called “the three types of sins in the world.” 1 John 2:16 calls them “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” All of temptation and all of sin falls into one of these three categories.

But take note of how Jesus dealt with it - He quoted Scripture:
“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” and finally,
“You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”

Not only did He quote scripture, but each of these scriptures comes from the book of Deuteronomy - the book of the Law.

Psalms 1 says “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

What this simply tells us is that there are no shortcuts. If Jesus had taken any of these offers, the rest of the book would never have been written, for there would have been no salvation.

There are no shortcuts for doing the right thing, in the right way.

“He took
no shortcuts.
He said
no ‘yeah, buts’
He was
all God and all man all the time
all the time…”

And sometimes we’re tempted to take shortcuts - we’re tempted to take the path of least resistance. But we can’t do that. We must face the pleasantries and the difficulties alike by looking to the Word of God and seeking His wisdom.

Father as we enter this time of Lent, we remember one of our creeds which states that Jesus is “very God of very God” and with that thought we recognize that we are “very man of very man” - and fallen at that. We confess that we do not always have pure thoughts, pure motives, or pure actions. Forgive us and direct us in this time of preparation and introspection. May our thoughts, our motives and our actions be pure. May our directives be for one purpose and one purpose only - that is for Your honor and Glory.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(I posted a version of this meditation in July last year, but felt that it spoke to the Lenten season and wanted to share an updated version of it here...)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Terms and Definitions

What do you think of when I say the word “hamburger?” Do you think of your local "Mom and Pop" restaurant? Do you think of Ruby Tuesday’s, Wendy’s or McDonalds? Or do you think of your Mother’s hand-shaped patties; of an iron skillet in the kitchen on a summer day? Or what about a lazy Saturday afternoon cook-out, with aunts, uncles, and cousins galore?
See, I don’t know what images the word “hamburger” evokes for you. So, when I say “hamburger” I don’t know what you’re thinking.

It’s the same thing with the word “Christian.” I don’t know if you think of Mother Teresa or Jimmy Swaggart. I don’t know which comes to mind - the person who is the same everywhere they go, or the “Sunday morning deacon” who is also the “Saturday night rabble-rouser.” I don’t know if you’re more familiar with “they shall know you are Christians by your love” or the bigoted “us four and no more” mentality.

I just don’t know what images the word “Christian” evokes for you.

Therefore, I shall henceforth drop the term “Christian” from my definition of myself and take up the name of “Christ-follower.”

In Acts 11:26 we are told that the disciples of Christ were “first called ‘Christians’ in Antioch.” The word “Christian” is from the Greek word Christianos (pronounced khris-tee-an-os) which literally means “a follower of the Christ.”

So, when I say “follower of Christ” there may still be some confusion of just what it actually means, depending on one’s understanding of Jesus, but not nearly as much as with the word “Christian.”

In fact, in our society today, in America, it may not be that difficult to say “I am a Christian” simply because it has become so generic. But saying “I am a Christ-follower” is a little more difficult and carries much more weight.

Are you a Christian or are you a follower of the living Christ?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

How do you stand?

In the midst of your occupation - how do you stand?
How do you stand in your walk?
How do you stand in your talk? - How do you stand?

We’ve heard the cliché (and I think even a song or two) that says, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Perhaps a better way to put it would be, “You ARE on trial for your soul - is there any salvation to save you?”

In other words, do you really believe what you say you believe? Do you believe it enough to live it?

I’m not talking about “in your face, hit you over the head with it, woe is me, martyr -complex” Christianity.

I’m talking about, “they will know we are Christians by our love” and “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory.”

If you’re in a situation where Christians are being made fun of, do you stand, or do you just keep silent? If sinful behavior or demeaning language, or crude joking is taking place around you, do you speak up, or “let them have their fun”?

Do your friends and colleagues know you are a Christian, or do you only speak of it when you’re around other “known” Christians?

There is a way to stand, and still love - they are not mutually exclusive behaviors. We have only to look to the example of our Savior. He loved, but He was intolerant of injustice, and He was intolerant of sin - in any shape, form, or fashion.

Paul said that we are to “believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths” that Jesus Christ is Lord. He did not say, “believe in our hearts (all the time) and confess with our mouths (when it is safe and doesn’t affect our jobs, our friendships, or our social standings) that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

He must be Lord all the time, or He is not Lord at all!

How do you stand?

Father, I lift up those who are having a hard time standing. It is difficult. In the midst of our professional lives, where we must “make our living” where we must not “rock the boat” where we must “maintain our professional edge” we often fear ridicule and being ostracized. We fear the consequence of being “one of those…”

In the midst of our social lives, where we “let our hair down” where we “go to have fun” where we want to be “one of the gang” we fear laughter and mockery. We fear being “left out…”

And in the midst of our family lives - Oh God! - In our family lives, it is sometimes so difficult. These are the folks who know us best - the ones who knew us “before” and know us “during.” These are the ones who see us when we’re tired, and hurting, and vulnerable. These are the ones who see how we react ALL the time.

Father, may we just wrap ourselves in the mantle of Your Grace and Love and wear that wherever we go, whomever we’re with. May we not be afraid, or ashamed to Stand. “And having done all - to stand…”

In the Name of the One who never waivered - our Lord and our God… Amen.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

When Winters Come

I wrote this poem about 4 years ago while we were driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway. I thought of it this weekend as snow blankets most of the country...

Spring will come again...


When Winters Come

I love the mountains in winter
when you can see their soul.
No leaves to hide their feelings
no brush to take control
of the depths.

Every curve and every contour
every rock and log that lays
Seems devoid of all deception
bearing wide as if to say…..

“Here I am, as you now see me.
I’ve stood the test of time and pain
Burning wildfires, greedy loggers,
blight and drought, torrential rains.”

“Much like you,” the mountain tells me.
“When winters come,
(and winters will).
Hold fast the truths that lie within you
Prepare your heart
with ‘peace, be still’”

“Make sure your roots are deeply grounded
Make sure your paths
are well defined.
Hold the strength of your convictions.
A peaceful soul
will help you find,

that Spring will surely come again.”

Betty Newman ©2002

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Almost Famous!

Many thanks to John at Locusts and Honey blog for giving me my 10 minutes of fame!

I really enjoyed filling out the interview. Some things I knew right off, and some things I had to think about - great exercise!

Thanks again. I really appreciate your asking me to participate.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

"If I had not a..."

(English teachers, please forgive me…)

Can you remember times when you said, “If I had not a…” as in “If I had not a gone to work this way…” or “If I had not a been there…” or “If I had not a called her when I did…” and then realized the “great outcome” that came from your actions?

Some times we simply call these things “coincidence” and think them merely happenstance. Someone once said that “coincidence is when God acts, but prefers to remain anonymous.” I like that.

If, in Acts 14, and especially verses 5-7, Paul and Silas had not been in fear of their lives (as they were many times) they would not have traveled to Lystra and Derbe. And, if they “had not a” gone there and preached, they would not have planted the seed that resulted in what they found when they went back nearly 5 years later - namely Timothy!

Don’t think of your days as being controlled by mere chance - think of them as more like “cogs on a wheel” that are designed by God. Look for God’s hand in your life - and you’ll surely see it!

Father, I pray for all who are reading this devotional, that they would indeed see Your hand in their lives. Touch them where they live, in their homes, in the schools, in the office, in the fields, and in the very arena of their lives. May they actually look for Your presence and feel Your Spirit within their lives.

May they pause this morning and listen for Your voice directing and setting the course for their footsteps this day, and every day. I pray for those whose lives they touch and for those who will touch their lives - for their spouses and children, their colleagues, their friends, and yes, even those who represent difficulties.

Lift them Father, in word, in spirit, and in an understanding that You are in control, and You are everywhere they are and everywhere they go and You even control the end results so that they can say, “If I had not a…” and know, “Thus directed the Lord…”

In Jesus’ name - Amen