Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

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ETERNITY CONFIDENCE INDICATOR – Nov. 23th

November 23, 2012

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Heb. 11:1

I am very content to be missing all of the excitement of Black Friday – endurance shopping and large crowds. That seems more like an enhanced interrogation technique that needs to be banned. However, I am interested in the results of Black Friday. I am anxiously awaiting the final tallies like they are the scoreboard of my favorite team. I am very concerned about the condition of the US economy and Black Friday is a good indicator of what is going on out there. The amount of cash that will be shelled out on this day is a good indicator of how consumers are doing.

I have not talked with anyone who is very “bullish” on the US economy. It is possible that I am in the middle of a bunch of eeyores. I tend to live on the cynical side of the fence, which is fine if the world really is falling apart. However, if it is not falling apart, I would like to inoculate myself (maybe it will work). The Black Friday turnout will be a good indicator as to whether we “eeyores” are in the minority.

I hope to be in the minority because our attitudes matter more than most of us are willing to admit. We all can accomplish great things and endure hardship if we have confidence in the future. This fact is why consumer confidence is tracked. The fundamentals of an economy can all be sound but if consumers are not confident in the future then it is bound to languish.

Confidence directly influences attitude and attitude matters. Atttiude matters because of its influence in every aspect of our lives, including our spiritual lives. The optimism that we feel in our spiritual lives is linked to our confidence in the future. Eternity confidence is called hope. Hope is such a big deal that it is mentioned over 120 times in the Bible. Every believer should aptly be called hopeful.  We are to be people of faith. Hope is in the definition of faith. Therefore, we are to be people of hope. Our confidence in eternity should overflow into every aspect of our daily lives.

Have you been languishing in your faith? Maybe you should try tracking your hope. The bars on this graph show the confidence of consumers in the US over last several years.

Your hope shouldn’t look like that. Our hope is not tied to our economy or anything else from this world.  If your eternal confidence is all over the place than your faith is probably languishing. Our hope should look like the line on this graph. It should be ever increasing as the assurance of our salvation grows through sanctification.

It is always good to periodically get back to the fundamentals.

  • What are you hoping in?
  • What are you day-dreaming about? Is God in it at all?
  • Do you have conviction in God?
  • Do you have conviction in the things of the Spirit that can’t be seen?
  • Do feel your faith crumbling due to a lack of conviction?

Every follower of Christ needs to be reminded that our hope is not in this world. There is nothing in this world worth hoping for since it will all be gone one day. We aren’t taking it with us. What have you really achieved if you gain all that you’ve hoped for in this world and lose your soul?

Let’s get our confidence on what really matters and lasts, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the hope that will never disappoint. Set your mind and your hope on the Spirit and the things of the Spirit and you will be amazed at the growth in your confidence (your faith) and your eternal optimism.

PRAYER: Lord, Thank you for giving me a future that I have confidence in. Lord, you know that I have such a tendency to hope in all of the wrong things. You are surpassingly more valuable than anything this world has to offer me. Father, I set my hope in you this day; I place all of my confidence in you.  I know that I am a child of God and there is nothing that this world can to do me except disappoint if that is where my hope is.  My hope is in you and I know that you will never disappoint me. Praise be to your name.    Amen

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GOD IS (NOT) MY BUDDY – Nov. 22th

November 22, 2012

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! Psalm 33:4

It seems like most people have a very similar tendency.  If we are shown an image enough times we begin to accept it as real even when we know it is a caricature. Caricatures are used all the time to help communicate a point. I have seen characteristics exaggerated to highlight what can be overlooked. I have also seen caricatures used to simplify that which is hard to fathom.  The problem is when the caricature becomes so engrained that we begin to believe the distortion.

Most of us are familiar with maps of the United States like this one:

What is the largest US state?  Most of us know that Alaska is the largest state, followed by Texas. However, I think many people fail to grasp the true size of Alaska. We become so familiar with this common map of the United States that our perception of Alaska is that it is just a little bit bigger than Texas. The reason Alaska has to be shown at the scale it is on the map is in order to get it to fit. This map puts Alaska into scale for us.

Alaska is big. It is really, really big.  I mean no offence to my friends in Texas but y’all need to come up with a new slogan.

Our God is like this. God is so big that we have to use caricatures to simplify Him, so that we can explain and understand Him. The scale of God is indescribable. Louie Giglio does a great job in this video, giving us a perspective of the indescribable-ness of God.  It is so important to occasionally take our eyes off of our God caricatures and behold the true scale of the Almighty.

This is the Milky Way. Just consider that God made this with the breath of his mouth; our small, little, insignificant, backwater of the Universe that still contains billions of stars just like our own.  God not only created that but the entire Universe, with a word.  Let that sink in – with a word!

We get so familiar with the caricatures of Jesus holding us, carrying us, comforting us, defending us; all of which are very true and demonstrate wonderful characteristics of our God. However, there is a gigantic scale distortion in those images. We may begin to think that we are on God’s scale if those images are all that we behold. We can default into thinking that our glory is almost as important as God’s glory. It is so very important to take our eyes off our caricature aids and behold the grandeur of our God.  Behold the scale of the universe…that is just a word of God Almighty.

How does your glory stack up against that?

PRAYER: Lord, … wow … you truly are awesome. You know that I have a hard time even understanding your grandeur. Thank you for helping me grasp just a small portion of it. Thank you for showing me how absurd it is to worship myself or anything else on this small little planet that you have given us. Lord, give me perspective to live my in awe of you. You are great beyond my understanding. I give you all the praise and glory that I am capable of giving.   Amen

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BUT I DON’T WANNA BE SLAPPED – Nov. 21th

November 21, 2012

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.” Luke 6:27-29

My goal in writing these devotions is to honestly reflect my own daily Bible reading. Honestly, I am not feeling it this morning. I awoke in a rather sour mood. The reality of my bad attitude just adds a spice of irritation to my emotional cocktail.

I know the source of my discontent. My attitude is directly linked to the sour task scheduled for my day. I have to spend half of my day meeting with lawyer types preparing a defense for an anticipated lawsuit. My company, which means me since we are a small business S corp, is going to be sued and I don’t even know specifically why. It is bewildering and it just goes on and on. Yet, the damage to our reputation continues unabated. One look at my personal finances will tell the story of their impact. It feels very unjust when the law is used as a hammer and you the nail.

I prefer obedience when it is theoretical.  It is much easier to follow Christ when my enemies aren’t real; when they aren’t trying to take my money; when they aren’t striking me; when they aren’t abusing my reputation. The fact is that I really don’t want to offer up my other cheek. The only cheeks that I want to offer up are to be kissed and they’re not on my face. I think that we can all agree that I probably don’t have a “Christ-like” attitude at the moment.

I thought I had forgiven these people but I realize that I have more work to do. It is painfully evident that may sanctification is not complete. I need God to continue His work on my heart because I am not reflecting Him well. Jesus, in Luke 6:32, makes it very clear that there is no benefit in loving those who are nice to us. The statement is made when we show mercy and kindness to those people who have been jerks and worse to us. God’s mercy is on full display when we are willing to do good, bless, and pray for those who sue us. The fact is that God was kind to me when I was ungrateful and evil; He showed me mercy when I was his enemy. (Luke 6:35-36) What am I if I don’t do the same? It is not about my enemies. It is not about me. It is about the glory of God.

I am going to confess the sin of my disobedient attitude and I am going to love these people who are coming after me. Not because they deserve it but because of Christ and the mercy that he showed me. My prayer is that somehow, in my doing good, blessing and praying for my adversaries, God will be glorified.  That will be worth a few slaps up-side the head.

OK – I am much better now; bring on the lawyers.

PRAYER: Lord, Forgive me for my unloving attitude. Forgive me for acting just like every other sinner in this world. Forgive me for not reflecting your mercy and goodness.  Lord, you can may these struggles that I am facing go away. Please do that; take my adversaries away but if that is not your will then give me strength. Show me how to do good to them; show me how I can bless them.  Father, I pray for them. They need you more than anything else. Please draw them to yourself that they may become your children.   Amen

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A MERE SPIN MASTER OF THE RIGHT – Nov. 20th

November 20, 2012

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life…” Deut. 30:19

The US presidential election is over but that has not stopped the political pundits from continuing the “spinning” of their party. I realize that intelligent people can mine data for salient facts. However, the simple answer can be pushed aside in all the analysis. My analysis of the election – people voted for the candidate that they feel will provide the best future for themselves and their families. We will find out if it was a good choice. The only other arena with as much advocate “spinning” is religion. 

There is an on-going battle raging between secularists & religion; atheists and God-believers. I am typically cast on one side of the debate. However, is it a debate that I should be having? Christians often get caught up in debating issues that we are convinced will affect our lives and the lives of our family.  We forget our purpose. We cast as foes the very people that we are sent to reach. We alienate, through the pursuit of our own self interest, the people who need the clear choice of the gospel presented to them.

I don’t want to be a mere spin-master of the right. I want to cut through all the spin and distraction of religious issues to clearly speak what I believe about the choice before every person. I want to be like Moses and be able to say that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  I want my “foes” to know that they are not my foe. I want them to know that I desperately want them to choose life. That is my message, spin free.

PRAYER: Father, Thank you for giving us a clear choice. Thank you for providing a way of escape from death and curses.  Lord, give me wisdom to know what debates I should engage in. Give me the strength to be willing to sacrafice my own self-interests for the purpose of your gospel. Open my eyes to those who feel like foes and love them as you do.   Amen

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ACHIEVING THE IMPOSSIBLE – Nov. 19th

November 19, 2012

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you , neither is it far off.” Deut. 30:11

I am a triathlete. I feel a little silly about claiming that title but this year I completed my first sprint triathlon.  I have been surprised by the consistency of the responses. They always seem to have some variation of “I could never do that”.  That makes me laugh. Now that I have experienced one, I realize that most people can finish a sprint triathlon with a little training.  The reason they don’t even try is due to what they are telling themselves, “I can’t”. My goal is to do an Ironman. That does not seem possible at this present time but I have a plan. I know that after I have done an Olympic distance and a 70.3 distance that I will then have the confidence to achieve an Ironman. I am going to break the “impossible” into achievable tasks until the “impossible” is ordinary.

Many folks are caught in the same “I can’t” mindset in their spiritual life. They have struggled for years with obedience and consistency in spiritual disciplines. We can get so focused on our defeats that “I can’t” is all we hear.

I am here to tell you that you can! Whatever you are struggling with may seem impossible at this moment but it is not. The impossible is achievable when you break it down. I fail all the time but I focus on the victories, achieved through the Spirit, that are taking me down the slow road of sanctification.  My task, every morning, is to set my mind on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:3-8). I do this through reading my Bible and prayer. This focuses my mind on what I love the most, which strenghtens me to kill sin before it’s sin. John Owen in “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers” gets it right:

“Rise mightily against the first actings of your distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. Do not say, “Thus far it shall go, and no farther.” If it have allowance for one step, it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel – if it once break out, it will have its course. Its not acting is easier to be compassed than its bounding.”

Too often, we play with sinful thoughts and give them a small place in our life, where we can affectionately caress them. We cannot control sinful desires. It is just  a matter of time before those sinful desires break out. Killing sin is much more achievable when it is a thought, before it has made a channel through our life. We need to take a stand like the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf and tell sin, “You shall not pass”.  

You can do this. It is not too hard. It is not impossible. Jesus tells us in Mark 9:23 that “all things are possible for one who believes.” Believe and break it down: Set your mind on the Spirit; remind yourself of what you love most and what you want the most; then FIGHT – fight for the control of your mind; kill every one of those sinful desires as they spring up; refuse to let them pass, but take them one at a time. Don’t worry about the whole day, just deal with the one thought before you at this moment. Kill it, praise God for it and soon you will be through a whole day. You can do this, it is not too hard, neither is it far off.

PRAYER: Father, I believe; Help me in my unbelief.  I believe that through the power of your Spirit that I can have victory this very day. Lord, I need your strength; help me to achieve what is impossible in my life without you.   Amen

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SCARED BY GENGHIS KHAN – Nov. 18th

November 18, 2012

“This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:9b-11  

I have been listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast series, “Wrath of the Khans”. I cannot grasp the horror associated with the subjucation of so many great societies by those Eurasian nomads lead by Genghis Khan. I can only imagine the emotions of terror that would rise up in my mind out of concern for my family and friends if a Mongol like army were sweeping in from Montana to destroy my way of life. Yet, the inhumanity of man is nothing new. It is seen throughout history. It can be seen every day in the news. Strip the news of the inhumanity of war, terrorism, oppression, murder, rape, abuse, deception and thief and there will be little left. We are masters at doing bad things to each other. When the Pslamist asks, “What can man do to me?”, I answer with, “A lot – that is why I have a concealed weapons permit and guns”. The question is can they can do anything to us that matters eternally? Jesus tells us in Matt. 10:28, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” We should not miss the point that man can do bad things to us, even kill us. God did not save us to make our physical life better. Sometimes he does, but that is not his purpose. He saved our souls for eternity. We get all messed up when we confuse our situation with our relationship with God. Faith draws upon the Spirit to bear witness that we are God’s children – a Father is always for His own child. When God is our Father, that can never be taken away. That would be something worth fearing but we don’t have to fear our Father losing his grasp on our souls. The gain or loss of lesser things, even our own life, is not crushing when we know that God our Father is for us and nothing can take that away. Our souls are secured when threats are challenged by crying out to an exalted God, who is our Father.

PRAYER: Father, you are great and greatly to be praise. There is no one like you. It is you who hold me in the palm of your hand. It is you who knows all about me, even the number of hairs on my head. You know me better than I know myself. You know all my needs. You know the secrets of my heart.  You are my Father, the keeper of my soul. It is in you who I trust. You are may all in all.  It is to you that I give all of my praise.  You are worthy of nothing less than my all.   Amen

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CONFUSING THE EROGATE WITH THE SUPEREROGATE

November 17, 2012

I was recently driving home from a business trip.  I was listening to a podcast by Econtalk  regarding John Locke and the rationing attempts following Hurricane Sandy. They used an example to explain a couple of words that I was not familiar with; erogate and supererogate .

 The example was to suppose that you have a life ring and you see a person drowning.  You know that you can throw the life ring and save that person.  You will be able to get your life ring back so that there is no significant expense to yourself. It is a pretty horrible person who would refuse to exert the effort and expense of throwing a life ring to a drowning person because that is an erogatory task. A moral person is obliged to do this type of task. It is a reasonable and normal duty that we owe our fellow human beings.

 Now, let’s suppose that you do not have a life ring and there are riptides and other strong currents that have trapped this drowning person.  You decide to swim out to this person and rescue them at great personal risk to your own life. That is a supererogatory task.  That response exceeds what is expected of a normal moral person.   

 These words and this example got me to think about Romans 10:14

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14  

I think that we consider sharing our faith as a supererogatory act.  However, there is typically no great personal risk. Our lives don’t hang in the balance. There is no great expense to our finances. Yet, their eternal condition is just as perilous as the drowning person in our example.  Telling someone what Christ means to you is not responding beyond what is required or expected, when you consider the unbelievers plight. It is an erogatory task. It is our duty as reasonable moral people.

 Someone may counter with the argument that the person doesn’t know that they are drowning; they don’t believe in God or hell. However, I believe in hell. I believe that the only means to escape condemnation and eternal punishment is through Christ’s work on the cross where he condemned sin in the flesh. That is the life ring that I have to throw. My decision to throw that life ring is not dependent upon whether the person will catch it. I have no control over that. Therefore, my speaking the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is still an erogatory task for me. It is my normal and reasonable duty, based on what I believe, to evangelize.

What kind of person am I if I were to refuse? I think this video by Penn Jillete puts the Christian’s erogatory duty into perspective.

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AIMING THE LAMP OF MY LIFE- Nov. 17th

November 17, 2012

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” Luke 11:34-35  

I have been watching what I eat. It is not because I am a picky eater. I am the opposite of that. I have to watch what I eat because I can easily pound 4,000 calories. I know what happens when I consistently do that; I don’t like those results. Therefore, I am willing to give up ice cream because I prefer fitting into my pants more than having dessert.  I have freedom but I have given it up because I want something better. We have similar decisions that effects our soul. This world if full of light & darkness. Gods’ word is a light shining into this dark world (Ps 119:105, Prov 6:23). However, it has no effect unless it gets inside. Once inside, God’s light will clean house. There is no “twilight” living for a person filled with the light of God but it has to get in. Therefore, it comes down to our eyes – the lamp of our body. Our eyes will either let in light or darkness. They are dependent upon what we set them upon. This is not difficult to understand. Most just don’t want to think about it. We want to live like there are no consequences to what we do & don’t do. When we set our eyes on the darkness of this world (I know what the spiritual ice cream is for me), that is what you will become – the darkness of this world. When you don’t set you eyes on God’s word & the things of the Spirit, that is going to have an impact. We want to think that a diet of filth will have no impact on our spiritual health. How absurd is that?  We do what we want most. What is that for you?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for being the light in the very dark world. Lord, fill me with your light; remind me every time I am confronted with an appealing dessert of this world. I don’t want that darkness. I don’t want to suffer the effects of letting that darkness into my heart. I delight in you; you are better than anything this dark world has to offer. Lord, today I will set my mind upon you and all the things of your Spirit; help me.   Amen

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TEST DRIVING GOD- Nov. 15th

November 15, 2012

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather me scatters.” Luke 11:23    

I am going to purchase a used car and I am already dreading it. My car buying experiences have never been what I would describe as fun. There are an assortment of questions, a lack of answers, and never enough time. I hate the hard sell. What I want is a deal that includes a perpetual test drive. I want a risk-free deal. I want to drive a car until it finally falls apart. Then I will know its real worth  and can pay for what I have received. Shockingly, no one is offering that deal. God doesn’t even offer that deal.  However, there are a lot of folks who approach Him in exactly this manner. They are on a perpetual test drive with God. They are continually negotiating with God. They are hesitant to commit because their deal may necessitate them changing. Many don’t even realize that they have settled into this compromise position. They may have said a prayer but they have not gone all in. They are “associated” with God but not fully with God. The Church is full of folks on perpetual test drives. They are cruising along thinking all is well; they think they have done just enough to get their ticket to heaven punched without having to risk too much. Jesus tells us in Matt. 7:22-23, that there will be many “christians” shocked to find out that their test drive didn’t cut it.  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Cor. 13:5

PRAYER: Lord, examine my heart; show me all of the areas of my life that I am holding back. Lord, I want to be all in; I am with you. Help me with those areas where I am not.  Amen

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