Tuesday, January 16, 2018

WAITING AND PATIENCE

I was just thinking about – WAITING AND PATIENCE.
When Peggy and I began our relationship together, we were in agreement that a passage of Scripture that was important to us was Psalm 37:4,5,7. This reference was engraved in our wedding rings to remind us of these important principles for life and their importance in our life together:
  • Take delight in the Lord – at all times and in all things.
  • Ask him to give you the desires of your heart.
  • Commit your way to the Lord - unconditionally.
  • Trust in him – implicitly.
  • Be still before the Lord – listen for his voice and direction.
  • Wait patiently for him – in all one’s ways and decisions.
Over the years, when sharing thoughts and counsel from this passage, it was not unusual for me to share that a word appearing in the Psalm is “rest” and would emphasize for us that one needs to “relax in the Lord while waiting patiently for His will and direction to be revealed.” The NLT renders Psalm 37:7, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” I wonder if these words were in the mind of the Hymn Writer when the words were penned:
Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
While obedience requires we adhere to the words of the Psalmist, some things are easier said than done. We all have moments when we act impulsively. These are times when we act before thinking through a situation or requirement and then have a measure of remorse because of our haste in acting and behaving in such a manner.
Years ago, Children’s Ministry utilized visuals that were a vital part of communicating Biblical Truths to the children. One of the Choruses used an octagon shaped sign that was held up and conveyed – “STOP and let me tell you what the Lord has done for me…” In a brief summary way, the words that followed were: “He forgave my sin. And He saved my soul, He cleansed my heart. And He made me whole.” The second stanza to that chorus stated: “Go and tell the story of the Christ of Calvary.” It was a compelling chorus that the children sang with enthusiasm.
It struck me that the idea of “Stop” and “Go” has tremendous value for each of us in our growing relationship with the Lord. It is a work in progress to “wait patiently” on the one who has a perfect plan for each of our lives. More and more, I am being reminded of this principle to “wait patiently” for His timing and will to be made known and done.
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

RELATIONSHIP

I Was Just Thinking About – RELATIONSHIP.

I often think of the persons who try to navigate through life alone. Some do it as a personal choice whereas others have lost oved ones along the way and continue their life journey alone. Ecclesiastics 4:9-12 defines the beauty of the personal and intimate relationship. The text states: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” I have always thought of this threefold cord that is not quickly broken as a couple being joined together in marriage in the Lord.

People handle their aloneness in various ways. Some live and enjoy reflecting on their past memories and the good times associated with them. Others look at their closeness to death and their departure that will bring them into the presence of the Lord, as well as their loved ones who have preceded them in death. What is an option for one in a lonely place? What fruitful and productive impact can there be when one is alone or isolated? A possible answer may be Luke 5:16 that indicates: "Jesus withdrew into lonely places and he prayed." Jesus would often seek out the alone places for solitude and non-interruption. Rather than a place of despair, it was a place of hope for Him. These moments produced and promoted positive changes in His life and ministry.

In 1920, Robert Harkness penned the words to No Longer Lonely. The lyric is:
On life’s pathway I am never lonely,
My Lord is with me, my Lord divine;
Ever present guide, I trust Him only,
No longer lonely, for He is mine.
                          Refrain
No longer lonely, no longer lonely,
For Jesus is the friend of friends to me;
No longer lonely, no longer lonely,
For Jesus is the friend of friends to me.

I shall not be lonely in the valley
Tho’ shadows gather, I will not fear;
He has promised ever to uphold me,
No longer lonely! He will be near.

May you find hope and take refuge in the fact that the Lord is always with you and will never leave or forsake you.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Monday, January 8, 2018

WEEPING

I Was Just Thinking About – WEEPING.
In too many instances, when it becomes known that a man has cried, he is viewed as being weak or unstable. This generalization has had a subtle impact in terms of human emotions. Matters of great importance, gravity or significance are such that weeping and tears are appropriate rather than the stoic posture some choose to embrace. I think of the concern expressed in Nehemiah 1. Nehemiah makes an inquiry about the welfare of the Jewish people (Verses 2-3), “I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me: The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” How does Nehemiah respond to this distressing news? Verse 4 informs us of his response: “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
There is an interesting moment in the life of David after he had been captured by the Philistines. In Psalm 56:8 he wrote: “You have kept count of my tossing, put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” A commentator suggests: David was going through a difficult time. He begins this sad Psalm with the words “Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me” (Psalm 56:1). David was, at the time he wrote this psalm, a prisoner of war, and he had reason to cry and be sorrowful. David says that his struggles are recorded in God’s book (verse 8), and he asks God to put his tears in His bottle. What does this poetic language mean? Does God really have a bottle where all our tears go? Are the events of our lives really written in a book? The idea behind the keeping of “tears in a bottle” is remembrance. David is expressing a deep trust in God—God will remember his sorrow and tears and will not forget about him. David is confident that God is on his side. He says, in the midst of this troubling time: This I know, God is for me (Psalm 56:9) and In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (verse 11).
Weeping is appropriate not just in times of difficulty or situations deemed impossible. Tears are an indication of deep concern and that which touches the heart. If it touches my heart, my tears are noted by the Lord and it touches His heart as well. On a very sad day following the death of Lazarus, it is said in John 11:35 that “Jesus wept.” He was weeping over the unbelief of the present group but long range he was looking at the lack of faith and ultimate rejection of “the resurrection and the life” in the future.
I do appreciate the words recorded in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Trust in the Lord in and for all things. He wants His joy to be in you so that your joy will be full and complete.
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

DUE DILIGENCE

I Was Just Thinking About – DUE DILIGENCE.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is largely a Medical Training Facility. The doctors are also Professors and their students accompany them as they make rounds or visit with their patients. I was really caught off guard when during three different screening interviews I was asked: “Have you thought about suicide?” Most recently the phrase – “the past two weeks” – was added to the question. It impressed me that some people may easily become overwhelmed when they hear they have cancer – especially if they also hear that it is untreatable. A dear friend of ours just heard that and is in a Swing Bed Rehab due to at least two brain tumors. When my wife went to see her, she was exuberant that she will soon be in heaven and joined together with some of her loved ones who have preceded her. The word that would be most suitable for her is nor suicide but anticipation.

These type situations caused me to think about the reality of due diligence in one’s life. What is the ongoing focus and commitment on the part of the child of God? First and foremost, there has to be the presence of an unshakable faith. Hebrews 11:6 states: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who approaches Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly (diligently) seek Him.” There is this reminder in Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” To exercise diligence requires a great measure of commitment and discipline. The word means: “that which done or pursued with persevering attention.”

If persevering attention is a basic requirement, Jeremiah 29:13 indicates the result: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with ALL YOUR HEART.” There is the prominence of “ALL” once again as we come to the Lord and seek Him. When one approaches the Lord with ALL of one’s heart, there will be the joy in the presence of the Good Shepherd who knows us and calls us by name. Our reality is to respond affirmatively to Him and to follow Him unconditionally. When we obediently do so, we will hear His whisper to us: “Peace Be Still.” It has caused one to recall the words of a Hymn: “O soul, are you weary and troubled?” If so, what should one do? The refrain states: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

Even though one can become burdened and/or overwhelmed by the unexpected, the reality of God’s Word is unshakable. If one diligently seeks Him with ALL of one’s heart, He will be found and be present with you during your times of uncertainty and distress. I trust that is your relationship with The Good Shepherd.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Friday, January 5, 2018

YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING

I Was Just Thinking About – “YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING”

With our family and in ministry, a simple and basic passage of God’s Word was always a central part. It is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” The NLT words it: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

In my mind, while there are several emphasis points in these two verses, the word “ALL” is inescapable. We are to trust in the Lord with ALL our heart. In ALL our ways, we are to acknowledge Him. I associate the words of a consecration Hymn with these words: “ALL to Jesus, I surrender; ALL to Him I freely give.” While these are very moving and compelling words, they are not always easy to apply. The clutter of our own mind and understanding interfere with our full embrace of “ALL” in reference to the Lord and our commitment to His will and that which is on His heart and mind that is best for us.

In the devotional: Get More Strength For The Journey, Joseph Stowell wrote about Proverbs 3:5-6: “We can choose to live lives that are driven by random impulses and feelings or by a trusted point of reference. And here is a major warning: Without a trusted point of reference, we are all in big trouble. At the core, we are fallen people. With great regret, I have come to realize that my first instincts in a given situation are usually wrong. They may feel right at the moment, but in the long run they prove to be destructive.”

When resorting to “your own understanding,” there is all kinds of inner turmoil that occurs. One of the contributing factors is the tendency to think one knows more than he actually knows. I had a Seminary professor who would occasionally indicate: “One of the best things you can know is what you don’t know!” Over the years, I have found that I sometimes come to conclusions without having sufficient data to reach my conclusion. I don’t want to inordinately dwell on my recent physical situation but when I was told that I had Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma, my understanding was that Stage 4 meant the cancer had entered an organ and that I had 6 months (more or less) to live. While I wasn’t filled with panic, my mind raced in terms of what I needed to get done to make things as smooth and easy for my precious Peggy. Meeting with the Doctor who will prescribe the Chemotherapy to combat this cancer, altered my understanding dramatically. He was positive encouraging, spoke of “cure” rather than loss of life.

I wonder how often one misses God’s best and perfect plan/will for one’s life by drawing conclusions that are not based upon adequate knowledge of God and His plan, will and way for one’s life. The key is to deal with the word “ALL” and to surrender ALL to Him.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Monday, January 1, 2018

BINDING AND BONDING

I Was Just Thinking About – BINDING & BONDING.

My life changed abruptly on December first. It necessitated time in both Clinic appointments and as in patient in UAB Hospital. I have always found it interesting to observe people’s facial expressions. As I sat in the Waiting Room, some people sat there alone and were relatively expressionless. It caused me to wonder what was going on in their mind and inner being. Most people were there for various Cancer treatment and care. Some expressions indicated a helplessness as well as a loneliness. If I had been able to minister to them, what would I say? What would I do?

Two passages of Scripture that came to mind touched my own heart. The first was Psalm 147:3,5 – “(The Lord) heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” The second passage is Isaiah 61:1-3 (Selected). “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…to give them…the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.” The broken-hearted and heavy-hearted are near to the heart of the Lord. Those who have been informed of and begun treatment for cancer may possess a faint heart and spirit. When informed they are a Stage 4 patient, it conveys they may have only six months to one year to live.

What would be helpful for most of these people? What would bring them encouragement and/or a glimmer of hope? I think of the bonding factor as being a hug from God, a reassurance of His love, plan and purpose for one’s life, and the fact that all things will work together for the good – those who are called according to His purpose. Words that mean the most for me are: Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory.” The NLT expresses it: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

The other passage is II Corinthians 12:9, “But he (The Lord) said to me: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It is always beneficial to wrap one’s mind around the all-sufficiency of God’s Grace for all of one’s life. Equally beneficial is to remember “His mighty power that is at work in us.” We should feel free to personalize the text that His Power is at work IN ME.

These two passages are like a large hug from the Lord that remind one that He still cares and He remains in control of all details that pertain to one’s individual life. Do you sense God hugging you today? Do you sense His presence and closeness to you today?

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.





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Monday, December 25, 2017

THE DAY

I Was Just Thinking About – THE DAY.

Christmas morning –a day that will be marked by gleeful children, a mess as carefully wrapped gifts are torn into, busy households and a family meal around the dining table. All of this is a great time for happy reunions with family and friends.


But – one night long ago in a busy little town of Bethlehem, people were scurrying to find places of refuge so they would be able to meet with the tax collectors. One couple – Mary (who was pregnant) and Joseph - arrived and were too late to find any place of refuge available. The inn-keeper allowed they could have a place in the stable. They took it. It wasn’t too long before that stable become more of a throne room of heaven. I love the summary given in Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT), 
“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” Jesus Christ manifested God’s great love (John 3:16) and came to redeem His own (John 3:17).

After being startled by an angel, Shepherds would leave their flocks at night to see for themselves this great event they had been told about. Angel Choirs would burst into song because the Savior was born. Wise men would journey a great distance to see this child. The King would later issue a purge of all male children under the age of two so there would be no king-rival to him.

Emily E. Elliot (1864) penned the beautiful words of:
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
      Refrain:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

The crowded and commercialized world does not have too much time or room to celebrate the occasion marking the birth of Jesus Christ. Weary and over-spent, it is more of a necessary festivity than a time for worship and offering gratitude to God that He loved us so much that He gave us His Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life in Him. Have you made room in your heart and life for Him? Does Jesus reign there as your Ruler and King? He is there for you! Just reach out by faith and receive Him - God's Gift to you - today.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.