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Do Over!!!

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“Do over! I wasn’t ready yet,” she yelled out as she rounded the tree laughing. This was the scene following our recent VBS where an impromptu game of tag broke out among the exuberant youngsters. It is the excited request for a do over that is rattling around in my head this morning.PlayingTag

How many times in life have we wished for a do over? Do you ever find yourself wishing you could make a better grade, or buy a different car? Would you invest your money differently or take a different job? Would you spend more time with your family? Come on, can I get a do over? Please?

No, I can’t! We live with the life we have created by the choices we have made.

BUT, there are some things we can do from this day forward.

We can choose to live under the weight of guilt and sin for all of the mistakes we have made OR we can choose the path of renewal each day. It’s true that we may bear the scars and consequences of our past, but that does not mean that those weights and burdens have to overcome us. Consider what the Hebrews writer has to say;

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

Truth be told, there is little benefit to being caught up in the past. Beyond learning from the experiences of life, reliving our mistakes over and over just feeds on the negativity they bring, and this  is guaranteed to bring you down. After trying over a thousand filaments for his incandescent light, Edison was asked if he had failed, “No, I have eliminated one more element that will not work for me.” Paul puts it this way;

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3.13-14)

We can use our experiences to help others on the path through life. Children understand, “you are going to make mistakes, but you certainly don’t have to make the same one’s I made.” By being open and transparent about the detours you have taken and curve balls you have missed, you are better suited to help others along the way. Taking that approach to life allows you to take your mistakes and extract good from the circumstances.  This may have been what Paul had in mind when he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8.28).

Think about it.

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Is There a Right Kind of Worry?

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WorryFor the most part, worry is wrong. Jesus teaches this during His sermon on the mount. Listen to His words when He says, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Mt 6.25ff)

Jesus plainly shows us that it is wrong to have great anxiety over material things such as what we will eat or wear. Worry about the mundane things of this earth is useless because it changes nothing and worry is faithless because it reflects a lack of confidence that God can and will take care of us.

 

With that being said, is there ever a healthy kind of worry? Yes, actually there is, although we might choose to use words like concern or care in place of worry. Take a look at what the apostle Paul says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (Phil 2.19-20)
Both Paul and Timothy are greatly concerned, even worried, about their brethren in Philippi. They were evidently facing some adversity that tested their Christian conduct (Phil 2.27-30) which could damage them spiritually. Paul was determined to send Timothy to help them due to Timothy’s deep love and sincere care for the Philippians. I believe we can say that both of these men were vitally concerned, or even worried, about the spiritual welfare of their fellow Christians.

 

This is not the only time Paul would feel great anxiety in his heart concerning all of the churches, to the Corinthians he said, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor 11.28)
Paul was not worried about how many times he would be put in jail, beaten, or shipwrecked, these are all worldly things. What concerned him was humbleness, teaching Christ, and standing up against false teaching. He felt great concern, anxiety, and yes worry, for God’s children who faced the kind of adversity that could weaken the spirit and their bond with God.

 

So we ought to try to conquer our fretfulness over the mundane, temporal matters of our earthly life, while realizing that there is a legitimate place for true concern and care for the spiritual welfare of others.



Words To Live By

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                From time to time I have had the privilege of looking through a ‘preacher’s Bible’. I am referring to that Bible which has been used by a preacher for many years. They are often easy to pick out among others. One of the first things you might notice is the duck-tape holding the cover together or the rubber bands around the outside to keep notes, bookmarks, and even pages from falling out. Speaking of pages, they are stained along the edges from many years of fingers seeking knowledge of God. You will not hear the crinkle of a ‘new Bible’ here.

OldBible2

                This Bible has circles and arrows pointing out one verse from another. Some places are underlined and others highlighted. CIA code breakers would have a hard time figuring out the pattern of how verses are marked and referenced. Greek words are scattered everywhere. So many notes can be found in the margins that you might think a whole book could be written from them alone. In fact, some have; Wayne Jackson wrote a book titled Notes from the Margin of My Bible.

                Thumbing through a Bible such as this is humbling. It becomes a diary and testament to one man’s love for his God. The weight and responsibility of a teacher of God’s word can be felt within the lovingly worn pages. I asked once, “how do you decide what verses to highlight? Are they just special to you or do you have some other pattern?” You see, I was interested so I too could have an impressive looking Bible. How foolish, how selfish of me.

                This kind, older preacher smiled and then chuckled. He went over to his desk and pulled out a stack of index cards three or four inches thick. They too were stained with age and use. He explained that when he was a young preacher his friend and mentor told him to begin memorizing scripture. “You’ll ne-er regret et”, he mimicked. The handwritten cards helped him memorize and keep scripture fixed in his mind. Only then would he highlight them in his Bible. I swallowed a lump in my throat as I flipped the pages. There was not a single opening without verses highlighted in one color or another, some in colored pencil, others in marker. Here in my hands was a lifetime spent following in the footsteps of the savior. My eyes tear up just contemplating the sacrifices he must have made through the years and the number of souls that will one day be in heaven due to one man’s humble dedication to God.

                I have fondly recalled all of that to hopefully encourage you in this; teachers, preachers, dads, moms, Christians, we all grow weary from time to time. Life presents us with trials that will test our faith. Sometimes we just seem to run into a case of writer’s block that lasts longer than we hoped, and other times we are afraid to become more for God than who we are now. During those times, might I suggest, if you can, look at an old duck-taped, rubber-banded, circled, arrowed, and edge darkened ‘preacher’s Bible’ and consider that God has blessed us with a great gift…His word, direction, and love, all waiting for us to simply reach out and accept it. You just may be awed at how humbling and inspiring it can be.

Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. (Jer 15:16)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  (Jos 1:8)

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psa 1:1-3)

Lord, Give Us More

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I cannot take credit for the list below, but neither can I remember where I received it from. Regardless, I found it encouraging and wanted to share with you.

It is often the case that when one is promoting a position, and another stands in opposition to that position, efforts are made to discredit the one who stands in opposition.  This is often accomplished by “name-calling” and “false-labeling.”  However, such tactics should not dissuade one who is standing in the right.

  • If opposing homosexual marriage is being homophobic, Lord, give us more homophobes!
  • If demanding strict obedience to the Bible is legalism, Lord, give us more legalists!
  • If opposing divorce, except for the cause of fornication, is idealistic, Lord, give us more idealists!
  • If opposing women leadership in the church is chauvinism, Lord, give us more chauvinists!
  • If dressing modestly is prudish, Lord, give us more prudes!
  • If opposing abortion is right wing, Lord, give us more right-wingers!
  • If believing in the inerrancy of Scripture is fundamentalism, Lord, give us more fundamentalists!
  • If total commitment is fanaticism, Lord, give us more fanatics!
  • If believing one should be a virgin when one marries is Puritanism, Lord, give us more puritans!
  • If believing in creation is foolish and unenlightened, Lord, give us more fools!

No matter what names the world and even some Christians may call you, if you stand for the truth, the Lord will call you “right.”  Give it some thought.

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I Jn 1.5-7)

Are You a Slave?

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James begins his epistle by talking to Christians about how they face trials in life which test their moral character and loyalty to God. Simply existing or surviving through temptations is not enough. Our spiritual reaction and earthly conduct matter to God.

Chains

                He talks about serving the lord from the position of being a bondservant. See how he begins his letter, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.” James is not the only one to say this; Paul, Peter, Jude and John all identified themselves as servants, bondservants, and even slaves! Slaves? Really? I thought that we were to be free in Christ, after all, Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. (Jn 8.32)

                Isn’t a slave a person who is bound in chains and forced to do what his master says? Aren’t they deprived of their personal freedom? Well, yes, that is exactly right. In most cases this results in poor treatment, harsh punishment, and social upheaval. Just look at how the Hebrews were treated in Egypt.

                Jesus is a different type of master however. He said to “take up our cross and follow Him.” (Mt 16.24-27). Could it be that He understood because He too had a cross to bear? Christ also said for us to ‘ take His yoke upon us’, that He is ‘gentle and lowly in heart’, and ‘we will find rest in Him’ (Mt 11.29).

                Perhaps we misunderstand sometimes simply because we have just not had the right experiences. Would it be different if we had witnessed what happened in this story?

                The meaning of doulos (servant) is well illustrated in the story told by Clayton Wallers: They were in Africa trying to translate the N.T. into five different dialects and came to the word “redeemed.” They would take each word and explain it as fully to the people as possible and then asked them what word in all five dialects explained it best. They spent 30 minutes explaining the word “redeemed” and asked them for the correct word. The word they gave meant, “to take the neck out.” The translators decided they needed to explain the word better, so they started all over, but the men said, “No!” They said they understood exactly what the word meant but that the translators did not understand the word they gave back as its meaning. Back when the slave traders came over to capture their people they put their necks in chains. If one of the locals who was rich enough and a freeman he could buy back one of these people and they would “take his neck out.” Their custom then was to bow down in front of this person and become his slave voluntarily for the rest of his life.

                This is exactly what Jesus has done for us! He has spilled His blood so that we could be purchased in our sinfulness, cleansed by Him, then set aside for God’s use for life, and as a faithful servant we have the hope and promise of eternal reward with Him in heaven after we depart from this world. If that is what it means to be a bondservant of God, then put the chains on me! How about you? Are you a willing servant of the Lord? Think about it.