NOT QUITE SURE…2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

A recent change is noted.  Since I was two years old, my left leg has been thinner than my right one due to polio.  Always joked that a skinny anything is fine with me!

Until my wife mentions that my left leg seems more so than ever.  I don’t usually check out my legs passing a mirror.   But wearing shorts this summer, the difference appears somewhat alarming.

She even gets out a measuring tape.  The results?  Two and a half inches less circumference of my good leg over the other.  That’s quite a bit.  Wonder what this means?  Not sure.

Checking out websites on Post-Polio Syndrome indicates that muscle atrophy is a common symptom.  Followed by a growing weakness and then difficulty walking.  The slope can be a slippery one.  Am I on it?  Not quite sure.  Could be.  Then again, maybe not.

Paul talks in 2 Corinthians about something similar–‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’ (4:16).   All of us face ‘wasting away’.  Something goes wrong with our hearing, our eyesight, our memory.  Our ability to do all we used to enjoy ’til we no longer can.

A ‘wasting away’ happens to all of us.  Giving up this or that.  Involuntarily.  But not everything.  Paul talks about inner renewal that can happen daily.  At any age.

‘Wasting away’ physically can lead to more worship of the Lord… inwardly.  Added time in your Bible.  Praying and giving more.  Relying on Jesus.  Leaning on Him.  Meaning it.  Encouraging someone else.

Wasting away?  No way!  Maybe physically.  But joy will renew us as we cherish the Lord more and more.

Lord, we bow to you who know all about our future.  Thank you, Jesus.  Amen.

Advertisements

HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST… Ephesians 2: 11-22, Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 3:12

I was in excruciating, throbbing pain.   Thought I could wait for my appointment with the dentist.  No.  My root canal can not be put off.  My dentist has a responsive staff.  Told them I can’t stand it.  I’m here to stay.  Help!!

Got right in.  When the dentist returns from lunch, he immediately puts off what’s scheduled, and helps me.   A week later my wife and I fly off to my college reunion.  Free from pain…and freed of a thousand dollars!

What I’m not sure about is if I hadn’t already been a patient for many years, what they would have done for me?  Having that long-standing relationship helps.  Opens doors.

What do we receive when we trust Jesus?   Access to God Himself– ‘For through (Jesus) we both have access in one Spirit to the Father’ (Ephesians 2:18).  Access and admission to the King of Kings with ticket paid for by His only Son.

Hebrews 4:16–‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’.  This privilege of access has nothing to do with how good we’ve been.  It has everything to do with what Jesus has done–‘…in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him’ (Ephesians 3:11-12).

Our part?  To rely on Him.  That’s called faith.  To live a life dependent on the only truly dependable One.  Snuggle up a little closer.  Keep your relationship with the Lord filled with love and kind words of praise.  He’s the catcher able to handle any curveball thrown our way by the enemy!  Our catcher…in the sky!

Thank you, Lord, that you always welcomeus.  Because of Jesus.  Amen.

ANYONE WANT A NICE PIECE OF HUMBLE PIE?… John 1: 19-34

I’ve eaten lots of humble pie in my life.  There were those years I pastored a prestigious 600-member church.  Growth was instantaneous.  An assistant minister was added to staff early in my second year.  I was publishing in a variety of Christian magazines.  Climbing up the career ladder!  Rung by rung.  Though afraid of heights, I kept moving higher.  Or so I thought.

I hadn’t noticed, since I was mainly focused on myself and my career, that angels were at work.  Sawing ever so carefully through the upper rungs of that ladder.  Up I went, the rungs broke away, and down I came!  Humpty-Dumpty came a tumblin’ down!  That was decades ago.

I’ve learned that humble pie is an acquired taste.  What I had been feasting on was poison to my relationship with the Lord.  I thank Him for a hard fall as He was underneath me, catching me, cradling me in His loving arms, placing me back on my feet to move forward for Him.  This took awhile.

Disappointments and failures in your life?  The Lord will use everything in our lives when placed humbly at His feet.  You’ll be surprised, as I was, at His grace and care.

Those verses in John’s Gospel are about John the Baptist.  What grabs me is the success he’s having.  Everyone’s coming out to the desert to hear him.  Multitudes repent and are baptized.  How would I have felt with such a response?   I know!

But not that John.  You can ask him and he’ll tell you that it’s not about him.  It’s all about Jesus.  Humble pie made of honey and locusts.

Share what Jesus has done for you.  Praise Him.  Love Him no matter what.  Humble pie!  It’s an acquired taste!

Our God, we praise now and forever!  Amen.

 

COME ON! GROW UP!… Ephesians 4: 1-16

‘Come on!  Grow up!’  Easier said than done.  Now that I’m older, seems like I have lots of ‘growing up’ to do!  It’s true.

What does it mean to grow up?  Ephesians 4: 15– ‘Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him…’ (ESV).   The call to follow Jesus.  Lifelong–at least from the moment of conversion.  Total–not flirting with the fun parts only, ignoring the inconvenient or unpleasant.

Grow up in Him.  That’s it!  Never will be a time, in this life, when I can say that I’m fully grown.  Always more.

So , why do I have rooms in my life’s ‘house’ where God is not welcome?  Secrets I hope known only to me.  Sins engrained as unholy habits.  Know what I mean?

Growing up is a total commitment.  Getting serious about God in ALL my life.  I look at the twists and turns in my life, and I’ve seen that God has been with me, even when I’m terribly lost.  He’s my faithful companion– on the good roads and even those littered with pot-holes, many of my own making.

In His hands, nothing will be wasted.  Guilty times will weigh less as He lifts the burdens.  Isaiah 43: 25 says, ‘I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.’  Pot-holes…all filled!

One thing more.  This business of growing up?  It’s all about being in Christ and all for His glory.  Not growing up for us alone but for Him… who is our All in All!

Lord, help us grow up to be more like Jesus.  Amen.

VERSES TO DYE FOR!… Hebrews 4: 12-13

Over the years, I’ve visited many parishioners at various hospitals.  Like Englewood Hospital in New Jersey, where my two sons were born.  Or peddling my moped across the George Washington Bridge to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center; and, of course, numerous ones in Western Washington.  One medical procedure used on parishioners involved a special dye that would highlight problems only detected by that special dye.

The Bible is that for us — like a surgeon’s scalpel.  The author of Hebrews says, ‘…the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered…’ (4: 12-13).

Like a dye that reveals physical problems, the Bible opens up our lives to God’s scrutiny like nothing else can.  If you have no desire at all to change, totally satisfied with yourself, and want nothing to do with the things of the Lord, then don’t read the Bible.

While there is ample comfort and encouragement found in its pages, the Bible is much more than that.  Like a surgeon who needs to remove something in our body that’s playing havoc with our health, so God’s Word penetrates, getting right to the heart of the problem, showing us where we need help and change.  To grow healthy… in Christ.  Interested?

Do your work, Dr. Jesus!  Show me what I can’t see.  Make me more like yourself!  Before I die, give me that special dye!  So I can be like you, Jesus!

Lord, we want less sin in our lives.  Help!  Amen.

WHAT’S MISSING?… Psalm 132: 15-16

Awhile back, my wife and I attend a worship service at a church I served as assistant minister right after graduation from Princeton Seminary.  A prestigious church, with a membership of over 1500.  Had a pastoral and administrative staff of about 20.  Weekly staff meetings.  Lots going on.  Much to do.  But something was missing.

Back to that worship service.  Instead of two services, they now have one.  The choir sounds good.  I recognize some church members from the past.  It’s good to see them.  But what happened to the church that now has 60-70 at worship?

One of my former youth group members asks me why mainline churches are in decline.  Imagine she has her own in mind.  What has happened?

Didn’t know what to say, for I’ve been off the scene for many years.  However now I can see more clearly what has been missing which has taken such a toll.  What is it?

I don’t remember ever hearing an altar call, an invitation to accept Christ.  Seems as if we assume that all attending must be believers. Were they?  How would we know?  Like planning a party but forgetting to invite anyone, wondering why no one shows up.  Could that be what’s missing?  The invitation?

Psalm 132:15-16–‘I will abundantly bless her provisions;  I will satisfy her poor with bread.’  The next verse is key to what’s missing–  ‘Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy’ (Psalm 132: 16).

Pastors sharing salvation.  Extending the invitation.  Not assuming that others know Him, fearing to leave them behind.   What a shame to miss out on the very best that God has for us… and our churches!

Lord, make us bold to share Jesus’ salvation with others.  Amen.

FROM MY COLLEGE YEARBOOK… 2 Timothy 3: 16-17

In 1970 I graduated from Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute.  Our yearbook was called the ‘Arch’.  Named for the main entrance brick archway.  As graduating seniors, we were to choose a Bible verse that would be printed below our names and photos.  I chose 2 Timothy 3: 16–‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness…’  A good choice.

But why this verse?  Hopefully, not to fill in some required blank on my yearbook information page!  Another thing off my ‘to-do’ list.  Knowing me, I wonder!

Don’t get me wrong.  I know where truth can be found.  The older I get, the more I believe the Bible.  I’ve been around those who think the Bible is myth and fable, unscientific and outdated, bigoted antiquity.  I’ve heard their arguments.  I can sniff them out from miles away.

I’ve studied under some enrolled at a seminary that used to stand solid on God’s Word.  Past tense.  I’ve been in a pastor’s Bible study where one stomped out of the room because someone, me and a few others, felt that God’s Word trumped their vaunted ‘human wisdom’.

I’m glad I chose 2 Timothy 3: 16 for that yearbook.  My only regret is not adding the next verse.  The one about being a man of God, one thoroughly equipped.  As I look back, I can see some disconnect between knowing and living.  Between my head and my heart.  But with the Holy Spirit’s help, the dots start to connect between my mind and my will,  having a faith that works.

Can’t add that verse back into my old yearbook, but can decide to live for Him today.  Present tense.  To apply… what I know in His Word.  Join me?

Lord, for your trustworthy Bible, we thank you.  Amen.

IT’S GREEK TO ME!…Ephesians 5: 15-21

I’m easily perplexed trying to find God’s will.  ‘What do I do, Lord’?  Over the years, I’ve learned not to worry about little things like what color socks to wear today or what’s for dinner.  It’s the bigger issues that I have in mind.

Ephesian 5: 16 talks about ‘…making the best use of our time because the days are evil’.  How true!  The older I get, the more I realize that time is slipping by, and that this world is never going to get better on its own.

Verse 17 urges us to ‘…understand what the will of the Lord is’.  The next one tells us not to get intoxicated with wine.  Liquor, money-grubbing, pornography, gossip or selfishness– whatever intoxicating sin grabs hold of us.

Instead, ‘be filled with the Spirit.’   When I said that the Apostle Paul ‘urges’ us…that’s not totally accurate.  The verbs ‘do not get (drunk)’ and ‘be filled (with the Spirit)’ are not suggestions.   They’re commands!

Verses 19 through 21 contain four adverbial participles, which modify verbs.  Here the verb is ‘to fill’, as with the Holy Spirit.  This is God’s will for us.

First adverbial participle– speaking in a biblical way.  How?  By letting God’s thoughts flow through us.  Guarding our tongues.  Encouraging someone in need.

Second participle is about songs and melodies.  I love to sing.  Some don’t or can’t.  We always can… within our hearts producing overtones of joy and gladness.

Third.  Giving thanks.  Certainly God’s will.  Thanksgiving… all year long!  As in today!

Fourth participle.  Submitting to each other.  Showing more concern for others than we normally would.  Taking a ‘back seat’ once in a while.

God’s will?  Not so much Greek after all.  Check out those four participles.  They’re His will for your life…and mine!

Lord, we are thankful for you.  Amen.