Archive for February, 2011

An Enduring Promise

…but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness. Psalm 89:33 NRSV

MP900443601[1] Many scholars read the Bible as a series of covenants that culminate in the New Covenant made possible by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. God’s covenants were like contracts. They were mostly conditional agreements, with an ‘if’ clause followed by a ‘then’ clause. The ‘if’ clause spelled out the responsibilities and requirements God’s people had to fulfill. The ‘then’ clause specified God’s promised benefits and actions. Those covenants could be summarized by saying, “If you do this, then I will do that.”

Covenants are like contracts.

MP900438585[1]In those covenants there was a reciprocal expectation that both parties had. God’s people expected that God would do all that was promised. God expected that God’s people would do what they promised. Both parties were mutually expectant!

As history unfolded, one covenant gave way to another. This happened because God’s redemptive plan continued to unfold, and God’s people proved unreliable and unable to hold up their end of the agreements. One covenant superseded another, until the New Covenant. At that point God promised grace to all those who had faith in Jesus Christ.

Still, there is one covenant that stands out from the others. God’s covenant with David included a unique clause. God promised to establish David’s throne forever. That part of the covenant was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The ‘if’ clause warned the descendants of David not to forsake God’s law. God promised that if they were disobedient they would be punished, but God’s love for David would endure. God would be faithful to the promise made to David, no matter what!

God is faithful, no matter what!

That covenant reveals something very special about the God we love and serve. It shows us that God’s purposes will endure no matter how humankind responds. God’s purpose was to establish a royal line that would lead to Jesus, the King of Kings. Nothing would stop that from happening!

MP900400681[1]  Today, as people of the New Covenant, God deals with us in much the same way. God expects that we will live by faith, walk in love and submit to the leading of God’s Spirit. When we don’t, God patiently corrects us and continues to mold us. God does not abandon us or stop loving us. God continues to act in love despite our shortcomings.

God will not abandon you.

So we have a great God, who is totally committed to loving us and keeping the promises made to us. But we too have a part. We have a high calling we must remain faithful to.

Covenants are two-way agreements. God has done, is doing and will continue to do God’s part. We have to strive to be just as faithful in the execution of our part. Take a moment today to thank God for God’s faithfulness to the promises made. Then trust those promises as you continue loving and serving the Lord!

Live today trusting in God’s covenant promises!

Prayer:

Covenant God, you are ever faithful to your promises. I trust you, and believe that you will do all you have said you will do. Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness. Help me now to do my part, to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, and to love you with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength!

Amen.

 

Do What Works!

…live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 1 Peter 4:2-3 NRSV

MP900400690[1] The American Psychological Association (APA) is a nationwide organization that promotes psychology. According to their website, they strive to advance the application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

Since psychology is all about thinking, feeling and behaving, you would think that the APA would be very interested in promoting the kinds of moral guidelines that promote human well-being. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily the case. The APA is a scientific organization, and it is not in the business of promoting any particular moral or religious code.

But I imagine that the APA would agree with the principle behind Peter’s words. He is telling his brothers and sisters in Christ that enough is enough. He knows they have tried all kinds of self-indulgent behaviors. They have followed every passion and desire. They have gone their own way, and almost drown in the sea of sin.

Now it’s time to look at where all those behaviors have left them. Sin has not enhanced their lives. Carousing has failed to bring them peace. Lawless idolatry hasn’t saved their souls. None of their sinful behaviors have done them any good at all!

MP900422224[1] If what you did didn’t work, then why would you keep doing it? That’s a question a psychologist might ask. I think it is also what’s on Peter’s mind when he tells his readers to stop living by human desires, and to start living by the will of God.

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Enough is enough! It’s time to go a different way. It’s time to march to a different drummer. It’s time to follow Jesus Christ, and to live our lives for him. That’s what works. That’s what brings peace, promotes love and infuses lives with joy!

I imagine that even the APA would agree that we should do what works. I have followed Jesus, and I can tell you, it works! Why not join me? Leave sin behind, and go God’s way!  

 

A Blooming Faith

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22 NRSV

If your faith were a seed, what kind of fruit would your seed bear? Is it fruit that gives mouthfuls of sweetness? Is it fruit that carries life-sustaining nutrients? Or is it the kind of fruit that leaves a bitter aftertaste?

The seed of faith is designed to take root in the soul and grow until love blossoms, and the fruits of the Spirit are evident. That tells me the fruit that comes from faith in Jesus Christ is the best fruit of all!

Soon winter will begin giving way to Spring. The seeds hidden in the earth will send green shoots up through the dirt. There is amazing potential in those seeds to blossom into beautiful flowers and delicious nourishing fruit.

Recognizing the potential that’s in the seed of faith planted within us, let’s start preparing for our spiritual springtime. That means nurturing that seed, and letting God grow it into the kind of plant that blossoms with love! After all, when properly tended, a single seed can bear the fruit of the Spirit, which is the fruit of love!

Blooms

Real Money

Happy are the wise.There is no better income than finding wisdom. Nothing has a better payoff than having understanding.  Proverbs 3:13-14 adapted

A pastor I worked with and deeply respected told me, “There is never a money problem, it’s always an idea problem.” In other words, money is never the real issue.

That may sound strange to anyone struggling with mounting MP900443794[1]debt and dwindling income. To them money is the answer. If they just had a little bit more, if they could just hit the lottery, then everything would be better.

I’m not sure everything would be better. I do think they would have less financial stress, but that doesn’t mean their lives would be better.

What we really need are some new ideas, and some new ways of doing things. What we need is the kind of wisdom and understanding that helps us to rise up, meet our challenges, and go in a direction that’s consistent with God’s plan for our lives.

With that kind of wisdom, understanding and decision making ability, we would be able to see our way through the tough times. We would be able to stay on course and continue serving God. Best of all, we would be able to be happy and hopeful, even in the most difficult of times.

MP900309399[1] Money is nice, but wisdom is better. Investments are good, but nothing gives a bigger payoff than understanding. So pray for wisdom. Ask God for understanding.

Then you will discover the richest treasure there is!

Your Master Gardener

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2 NRSV

MP900431723[1] What makes a Master Gardener? To qualify for that title, a person must possess an extensive amount of knowledge and a variety of skills, all designed to help plant life flourish. These are expert horticulturists who educate the public and assist with landscape management.

Jesus let us know that God is the Master Gardener of our lives. That means God knows everything there is to know about us, about the soils we are planted in, the nutrients we need, and what we can become when properly pruned.

Today’s video is a reminder that God is working on us, like a loving Master Gardener, bringing us to the best soil, and feeding us what we need to blossom into the people we were created to be. To watch this video, just click here.

The Best Way

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:18 NRSV

MP900178811[1] “What can I do to make up for what I’ve done?” That’s a question we’ve all asked. When we make a mistake, cause a problem or hurt someone, we want to want to right our wrong. We want to make up for the troubled we caused.

So we try to find ways to undo what we have done. We apologize. We make promises to change our ways. Then we do things to make amends. All of that makes good sense, and can help restore broken relationships and lost trust.

Pad of Paper & Pen The only problem is that whole approach tends to turn life into a score card. Every mistake and every misstep gets recorded and awaits some corresponding act of restitution. Of course, if  all our wrongs were recorded we  would be quickly overwhelmed by the enormity of what we owe. We would be enslaved to a never ending quest to pay off our mounting debts. There’s just no offering big enough, and no apology long enough to undo what we have done.

We owe an enormous debt.

That’s where forgiveness comes in.  Forgiveness wipes the slate clean. Forgiveness offers us the opportunity to start again, with no debts to pay.

In Old Testament times, God gave people a complex system of offerings and sacrifices to follow for atonement. But ultimately the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin. Then, with Jesus, God made the ultimate sacrifice. His sacrifice provided redemption once and for all for all who accept his saving grace.

God’s forgiveness is a gift of grace, given in love and at great MP900382868[1]cost. It is a gift that is completely undeserved and unearned. Therein lies the problem. We need it, but we can’t earn it. All we can really do is to admit our shortcomings, and throw ourselves into the grace filled arms of Jesus Christ. All we can do is accept the unfailing love he has shown for us, and the forgiveness he offers.

God’s forgiveness is a gift of grace.

The truth is, where there is forgiveness of sins, there are no offerings required. All that is needed is an open heart, that is penitent toward sin and receptive of God’s grace.

So what can you do to make up for what you’ve done? You can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. You can ask for and receive the forgiveness God is offering. Then you can step forward as one who is redeemed, restored and forgiven!

Forgiveness copy

Prayer:

Forgiving God, I have fallen short of the mark. I need your cleansing, redeeming, restoring grace to forgive my sins and to wipe my slate clean. Thank you for the love that gives me a new start!

Amen.

Getting God’s forgiveness is the best way to go!

Do What’s Right

His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. Isaiah 28:26 NIV

MP900431118[1] For the most part, I try to do what’s right and avoid what’s wrong. The trick is knowing what’s right!

Lawrence Kohlberg was  a psychologist who studied moral reasoning. He found that at the most basic level what’s right is what gets you the things you want. At a higher level, what’s right is defined by what is required for social order. But at the highest level, determining what’s right depends on higher moral principles.

That tells me if I want to do what’s right in a particular situation, I have three ways I can go. I can follow the rules. Following the rules will help me get what I want. If I go a little bit further, I could try and be a good citizen and follow the laws of the land.

MP900399592[1]But if I’m looking to be a good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ, then I  will turn to the principles God gives in the Bible for faithful followers to follow. Those principles don’t negate rules and laws. They transcend them. That’s because they come from the author of all wisdom!

All this comes from the LORD Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom. Isaiah 28:2 NIV

In the end, doing what’s right depends on what I want. If I want to satisfy my own selfish desires and indulge in a pleasure-filled life, then I should follow the rules for worldly success. If I want to live at peace and keep myself out of trouble, I will follow the laws of the land.

But if I want to please God, I will go one step further. I will apply the principles given me in God’s Word to set my course, to guide my behavior and to live a life of faith!

MP900422534[1]I like Kohlberg’s work because it reminds me that I have a choice. What I do depends on what I want. You have a choice too.

Let’s choose the higher ground and practice the principles God gives. Then we will get what we really want: the presence and power of God at work in our lives! What more could anyone ask for!