A THOUGHT

Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? II Peter 3:11 (The Message)

I woke up the other morning with a thought running through my head: Live in the light of eternity. I’ve been pondering that phrase over and over. What does it mean to free ourselves of the parameters of this temporal life and live as if eternity were already with us, for, in truth, it is. What would it be like to live with abandonment under the reign of Jesus Christ? What alterations would we make?
For starters, I thought of Paul’s determination to “[forget] those things which are behind, and [to reach] forth unto those things which are before” (Phil 3:13). The failures and the successes are all behind. They belong to another time. I am to learn from them; cast them on the stream of time; and let them go. Look forward to the things God has ahead.
I will forgive just as my Father has forgiven me. Eternity doesn’t permit unforgiveness. There’s no place for grudges, bitterness, or demonstrations of pettiness. Instead, I can shower love and pray blessings on friends and foes alike.
God is our Father. I must become even more aware of my brothers and sisters throughout the world who are part of the Family and Body of Christ. God is not exclusive. All are welcome in his Family. Eternity is an opportunity to practice oneness in Christ. I can help to bear someone else’s burdens; weep and rejoice with others; and build others up. And I can find ways to encourage his love to flow through me.
Living in eternity’s light will find me walking in the Spirit and abiding in Christ. I will listen for his every word and watch for his appearances. I will be sensitive to his direction. I will fellowship in his presence and look forward to my times with him.
I will be kind to others, preferring them before myself. I will practice compassion; become a healer; pour myself out for others; and be broken bread for a hurting world. I will intentionally make time and room in my heart for others.
“All things come from [the Lord]”(I Chron. 29:14), and everything I receive comes from his hands. In eternity’s light I will enjoy his blessings and embrace afflictions confident that when he plows, he purposes a crop.
I will crucify everything prefixed with “self-“, e.g. self-conscious, self-made, self-image, self-esteem. The list goes on. I give myself far too much credit and attention while at the same time accept far too much guilt. In eternity’s light I will welcome opportunities to deny the flesh and die to self (Galatians 2:20).
I will live praising, rejoicing, and worshiping. My joy is in the Lord. He is worthy of and inhabits the praises of his children. We rejoice in hope and trust of him and his Word, knowing he does not fail, and his Word is true.
In eternity’s light I will rest in Christ. I trust him. I root out all anxiety. Jesus is peace and speaks peace into our trust and obedience. Trusting his faithfulness dispels fear, suppositions, and anxiety.
I will submit to his discipline. A good father loves and wants only the best for his children. A wise father does what is needed to train and teach his children for maturity. I will welcome his discipline.
I will wait on him trusting that he is always working and that he will “present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).
I will see Jesus everywhere and in everything. The God of the universe is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent.
In awe, I will live with thanksgiving for unmerited blessings, goodness, and mercy that have followed me and brought me to live in the light of eternity.
Now it’s your turn. This is just an introductory list. How would you begin to live in the light of eternity?

Father, we know that once we are born, we have eternal life. Open our understanding of how, then, we should live. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

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NEVER FORSAKEN

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

 

How many times have you quoted Jesus’ departing words to his disciples, those words that were intended to strengthen and comfort them (and us): “Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). When we’re children, we remind ourselves of this word so that we’re not afraid – Jesus is with me. And when we’re navigating the rough patches of adulthood, those words still keep us going. Jesus is with me.
But, truth be told, the tangible presence of our Lord is sometimes missing during the unexplained. We may not see him when we’re suffering injustice. When the pain pushes us to the point of despair, we may look around for Jesus and wonder about that promise.
I was thinking about this word of truth from Matthew, and it must be true because Jesus said it, and wondering how it could occasionally seem so baffling. There are times when we just don’t see Jesus. So how can he always be with us—even until the end?
And then I remembered something we often proclaim—we are the hands and feet of Jesus, and he lives in us. With the Holy Spirit and Jesus living in us we are to be the fulfillment of that promise to one another and to a very lonely world. We are to comfort, love, encourage, uphold, bless, heal, and be everything God would minister through us for the occasion.
In my international work, we send teams around the world, but it’s always to places where we have established “feet on the ground,” those people who represent us and speak and act for us. Just like that, we are God’s feet on the ground acting and moving and speaking for him. We are God’s reminders that he’s always with his children.
Yes, we are all to live by faith, and we realize his presence never leaves us, and he won’t forsake us. We practice abiding, living, and having our being in him. And we know that nothing separates us from his love (Romans 8:35-39). But if we are to allow him to continue to grow in us, we must obey him in making ourselves available channels through which his Spirit can flow and bless and refresh. And we are to be humble and receptive to the other members of Christ’s Body who are sent to walk with us.
Do you know someone who needs to see Jesus just now? Someone who would love to have him show up? Be there—for him and for them.
Sweet Father, thank you that all your promises are yes and amen. Help us to see our part in their fulfillment. We give you all glory. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

ADVENT

 

 A voice of one calling:  “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; straight in the desert a highway for our God.”  Isaiah 40:3

 

 

 

In the liturgical church, the season of Advent precedes Christmas and is a time of waiting and preparation for Jesus’ birth.  It should be a time of reflection and of readying our hearts for a season of renewal in Christ to see what new thing he will birth in us.

 

Matthew 25 tells us about wise and foolish virgins.  They were all waiting for the bridegroom to come so they could participate in the festivities.  Five of the women had spent time in preparation, making certain they would be ready for the bridegroom’s arrival.  The other women either hadn’t prepared or hadn’t anticipated the long wait.  All the virgins knew the bridegroom was coming, but only half of them had gotten ready for his arrival.  The other half missed the whole event. 

 

Advent charges us to prepare for Christ’s inauspicious coming, not the gawdy commercialization tempting to distract us in so many ways.  Even the shopper’s countdown to December 25 is filled with a sense of urgency.  But Advent quietly draws us into relationship with him, into his peace, into his love, into his wholeness.  Yes, it’s a precious time of waiting and preparation.

 

Here are just a few things we can do to get ready for Jesus:

 

Thoughtfully, reread the Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel (1:5-56; 2:1-20).  Prayerfully, in your mind’s eye, become a participant of the wonder of Jesus’ incarnation.

 

Make an Advent Wreath, light a candle each week, and read an Advent devotion (www.cru.org).

 

Meditate on the meaning of Christ’s coming for the world.

 

The French verb, manger, means “to eat.”  How could this possibly relate to the life of the Babe lying in the manger?

 

List the many ways Emmanuel has affected your life.

 

Find ways to demonstrate Christ’s love for others (http://adrielbooker.com/family-advent-activities).

 

Sit quietly in contemplative prayer, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak.

 

To enjoy this beautiful season, we have to intentionally engage with Christ Jesus rather than getting distracted by the mad rush of buying, and cooking, and festivities.   Do the shopping and cooking and celebrating, but keep Jesus at the forefront of everything.  (A little preplanning helps.)

 

May this Advent season find us all closer to our Lord, sitting with Mary at his feet, and not busy about so many things that we miss out on his coming.

 

Father, the world is so much with us that we often miss out on the joy of being in your presence.  Remind us to stop and wait for you; to be still and know.  Our hearts are willing.  Help us to rest in you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

 

EVERYTHING YOU NEED

…his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness… II Peter 1:3 (KJV)

I’m learning to use my new “Think Pad,” after the demise of my ancient laptop. My technician friend spent about an hour with me yesterday explaining the new features. And then he left a full-page list of directions among which are these sorts of instructions: Think twice before installing software that didn’t come from the manufacturer. Do not install browsers that didn’t come from the manufacturer. Don’t install malware software; you already have it. You have everything you need.
If there are any of you who don’t understand computer jargon, essentially my technician said, Just use what was installed by the manufacturer and not anything that comes from anyone else. You already have everything you need. And his note was written all in capital letters, which in computerese is like shouting or at least strongly emphasizing the message.
As I reflected on this, I thought about the times I look outside God’s provisions for an easier or better way to address my concerns. Perhaps that person could give me insight; that new book might shed light on the matter; or there may be a technique I haven’t yet tried. You know what I mean.
I recently was tempted to fret about a relational matter. I examined the situation from one side and then the other. I stewed about what seemed too complex to unwind. I knew to cast my cares on the Lord, but as soon as I had the opportunity, I hashed the whole thing out with a trusted person. Of course, that didn’t bring satisfaction, so I thought about contacting a counselor. In the meantime, I had created more than a tempest in a teapot.
I wish I’d had Ric’s directions to remind me to use only what was installed by the Manufacturer. You already have everything you need. God has, not will, already provided everything we need that pertains to life and godliness. He has said that we’re not to be anxious about anything but to pray and give thanks, and then God’s peace will fill our hearts and minds.  And there are so many other wonderful promises we can access when necessary.
After struggling with my concern and allowing it to distract me from the peace and trust that was already mine in Christ Jesus, I released the care and cast it on the Lord just as was advised in the Manufacturer’s directions. I haven’t added an inch to my stature or changed the circumstances, but I’ve put the issue where it belongs—on Jesus’ shoulders. And he’s giving grace that I need to move forward.
I’m going to keep Ric’s reminders close at hand: You already have what you need; use only what came from the Manufacturer; don’t add anything to that.

Father, thank you for the many ways you remind us to listen to you and to rely on your provisions. Forgive me when I forget. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

MOODS

The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the LORD.'”  I Kings 20:28

 

Have you ever awakened feeling glum?  And the day hasn’t even begun.  For no reason, it’s a “blue Monday.”

Oswald Chambers says that when we’re experiencing that sort of mood, we’re to kick it out.  That may be well and good for Mr. Chambers, but I’ve discovered I have more success when I wait it out.  Essentially, remembering that we can cast any care on our Father, praising and thanking him, his peace will surely fill our hearts in his time.  Rather than fretting, waiting in trust for him to appear always works.

In the story mentioned above, the Arameans had mistakenly thought that God only brought deliverance in the mountains.  Typically, we are already joyful in him when we’re on a mountaintop, but the Arameans didn’t realize that God is still there when we’re down in a valley.  In fact, he’s everywhere and waiting brings the peace that he’s promised.

 

Lord, remind us to keep our focus on you so that we’re not dominated by our emotions or moods.  You ARE the God of our ecstasies and even of our low moments.  Thank you.  AMEN.

THANKSGIVING

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:18

 

 

I’m so glad that the verse in I Thessalonians doesn’t say “for all things give thanks.”  That would be a pretty tall order.

Once again my sweet mother has spoken to me even though she’s been with the great Cloud of Witnesses for a few years now.  I picked up one of her journals and was thumbing through her collection of thoughts and submissions.  I was happy to find the recipe for zucchini bread that I lost years ago and quickly purchased all the ingredients needed to bake up that family favorite.

But the entry that brought joy was a list she had made.  At the top of the page, Momo had written, “Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One.”  Momo mentioned our country, her Christian parents and family, her children, and her friends and neighbors.  And then she went on to mention their little dog and “the privilege of summer vacations” [in various places].  She even mentions their home location “with all the conveniences close.”  Momo lived with a heart full of thanksgiving so that it was easy to be grateful for the obvious as well as the small things of life.

My parents remain two of my heroes—not because they were perfect or I always agreed with them.  I admire them because they followed Jesus to the fullest of their understanding of his teachings and ways.  Even when it went against personal preferences or opinions, they followed Jesus.  Perhaps that’s why Momo lived with a heart of thanksgiving.

This year I cannot begin to list all the things for which I am thankful, but at the top of the list I would have to write, “my parents and my family.”

 

Lord, I have a godly heritage, and I thank you that I was led to you at a young age.  Thank you for the genuine examples of godliness that blessed my formative years, and help me to bless the little ones in my family that they may grow and love and serve you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

TRUE RELIGION

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:20

 

The Sermon on the Mount is the essence of Jesus’ teaching and the Gospel.  Many of the religionists of Jesus’ day found him annoying because he took the Law and applied it in uncomfortable ways.  Through the 1500 or so years since the Law had been given, the religionists had managed to twist and compromise the Law so that it would be easier to obey and more complimentary to their comfortable lifestyle.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The Law focused on the outside—acts that could be admired as righteous or those acts that could be condemned as wicked and which rendered their perpetrators as outcasts.  Jesus made everything more difficult by interpreting the Law to encompass the motivation and the heart condition of its adherents.

For example, in Matthew 5:21-42, Jesus begins each new topic with something like, “You’ve heard it said [in the Law]…but I say…”  Where the Law says don’t commit murder, Jesus says don’t even be angry with someone or call him demeaning names.  Where the Law says don’t commit adultery, Jesus says don’t even think wrong thoughts about a woman.  Jesus is looking at the heart condition that initiates the sinful behavior.

Sometimes we’re not far removed from those hypocritical Pharisees who seemed right on the outside but were filled with unrighteousness on the inside.  We have to be convinced that the thing of most concern to our Father is our personal relationship with him by which everything else is determined.  If our heart is right, our attitudes, our words, and our behavior will be right.  We will act out of who we are and not who we pretend to be.

Remember that old metaphor about the cup of tea?  When the cup is agitated, only what’s inside will come out.  When Jesus fills us, any bumps along the way allow him to spill over and saturate whatever and whomever is around.  No pretense necessary.

 

 

Lord, change our hearts constantly; fill us with your Spirit; and cause us to glorify you in all we think, say, and do.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.