Sunday, March 17, 2013

Who Owns My Lips?


The difference between a compliment and flattery is often motive. A compliment offers genuine appreciation for a quality or action seen in another person. The goal of flattery is usually self-advancement through gaining the favor of someone else. Compliments seek to encourage; flattery attempts to manipulate.
In Psalm 12, David lamented his society in which godly, faithful people had disappeared and been replaced by those who speak deceitfully “with flattering lips and a double heart” (v.2). They had said, “With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (v.4).
The question “Who owns my lips?” is a good one to ask ourselves when we’re tempted to use insincere praise to get what we want. If my lips are my own, I can say what I please. But if the Lord owns my lips, then my speech will mirror His words, which the psalmist described as “pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (v.6).
Perhaps a good way to show who owns our lips would be to begin each day with David’s prayer from another psalm: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).
A careless word may kindle strife,
A cruel word may wreck a life;
A timely word may lessen stress,
A loving word may heal and bless.
—Anon.


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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Broken Bones


Years ago, I played collegiate soccer as a goalkeeper. It was more fun than I can describe here, but all that fun came at a hefty price—one I continue to pay today. Being a goalie means that you are constantly throwing your body into harm’s way to prevent the other team from scoring, often resulting in injuries. During the course of one season, I suffered a broken leg, several cracked ribs, a separated shoulder, and a concussion! Today, especially on cold days, I am visited by painful reminders of those broken bones.
David also had reminders of broken bones, but his injuries were spiritual, not physical. After David’s moral collapse involving an affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, God firmly disciplined him. But then David turned to Him in repentance and prayed, “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice” (Ps. 51:8).
God’s chastening was so crushing that David felt like his bones were broken. Yet he trusted that the God of grace could both repair his brokenness and rekindle his joy. In our own failure and sin, it’s a comfort to know that God loves us enough to pursue and restore us with His loving discipline.
Father, open my eyes to see my failings, open my heart
to receive Your discipline, and open my will to embrace
Your loving purposes. When I fall, I pray that You will
make me whole and restore my joy in You.


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Friday, March 15, 2013

Jesus’ Eyes


We were in line at the ice cream store when I noticed him. His face bore the marks of too many fights—a crooked nose and some scars. His clothes were rumpled, though clean. I stepped between him and my children, using my back to erect a wall.
The first time he spoke, I didn’t hear him clearly and so just nodded to acknowledge him. I scarcely made eye contact with him. Because my wife wasn’t with me, he thought I was a single parent and gently said, “It’s hard raising them alone, isn’t it?” Something in his tone made me turn to look at him. Only then did I notice his children, and I listened to him tell me how long his wife had been gone. His soft words contrasted with his hard exterior.
I was duly chastened! Once again I had failed to see beyond outward appearances. Jesus encountered people whose outward appearance could have turned Him away, including the demon-possessed man in our reading for today (Mark 5:1-20). Yet He saw the heart-needs and met them.
Jesus never fails to see us with love, even though we have scars of sin and a rumpled nature that shows in our stutter-step faithfulness. May God help us to replace our haughtiness with Jesus’ heart of love.
Father, may the focus of our lives never disrupt
our ability to see others with the same eyes that
Jesus sees them. Grant us Your heart.
May we yearn to introduce others to You
.


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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Black Boxes


Commercial aircraft carry two flight-data recorders called “black boxes.” One logs the performance and condition of the aircraft in flight, and the other records the conversation of the crew with air-traffic controllers on the ground. These boxes are insulated to protect against extreme temperatures and are fitted with underwater locator beacons that emit sounds to the surface. After an airplane crash, these boxes are retrieved and the data carefully analyzed to determine the cause of the crash. Air safety experts want to learn from past mistakes, among other things, so they won’t be repeated.
As Christians, we too should look at mistakes from the past and learn from them. Paul, for example, alluded to some of the mistakes the Israelites made in their journey from Egypt to Canaan. He wrote that because God was not pleased with them, many died in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:5). Paul went on to explain that “these things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age” (v.11 nlt).
The inspired Word of God is written for our instruction for living (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Thank You, Lord, for the guidance of Your Word.
For Your holy Book we thank You;
May its message be our guide,
May we understand the wisdom
Of the truth Your laws provide.
—Carter


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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Living Testament


Watchman Nee was arrested for his faith in Christ in 1952, and he spent the rest of his life in prison. He died in his jail cell on May 30, 1972. When his niece came to collect his few possessions, she was given a scrap of paper that a guard had found by his bed. On it was written his life’s testimony:
“Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and was resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ—Watchman Nee.”
Tradition says that the apostle Paul also was martyred for his faith in Christ. In a letter written shortly before his death, Paul exhorted his readers: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble . . . ; but the Word of God is not chained” (2 Tim. 2:8-9).
We may not be called upon to be martyred as witnesses to the reality of Christ—as millions of His followers through the centuries have been—but we are all called to be a living testament of Jesus’ work on our behalf. No matter the outcome, from a heart of gratitude for God’s gracious gift we can tell others what Jesus has done for us.
The Christ of God to glorify,
His grace in us to magnify;
His Word of life to all make known—
Be this our work, and this alone.
—Whittle


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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Riches Of The Soul


With the hope of winning a record jackpot of $640 million, Americans spent an estimated $1.5 billion on tickets in a multistate lottery in early 2012. The odds of winning were a staggering 1 in 176 million, but people stood in lines at grocery stores, gas stations, and cafes to buy a chance to become rich. Something inside us makes us think more money will solve our problems and improve our lives.
A man identified in the Bible as Agur had a different perspective on riches when he asked God to grant him two requests before he died.
First, he said, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me” (Prov. 30:8). Integrity is a key to living without anxiety. When we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. Deceit enslaves; honesty liberates. Second, he said, “Give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me” (v.8). Contentment springs from trusting God as our supplier and gratefully accepting what He provides. Agur said of the Creator that He “established all the ends of the earth. . . . He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (vv.4-5).
Integrity and contentment are riches of the soul that are available to all. Our Lord is pleased to give these treasures to everyone who asks.
Contentment does not come from wealth—
It’s not something you can buy;
Contentment comes to give you peace
When you depend on God’s supply.
—Branon


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Monday, March 11, 2013

Thankful In All Things


My daughter is allergic to peanuts. Her sensitivity is so acute that eating even the tiniest fragment of a peanut threatens her life. As a result, we scrutinize food package labels. We carry a pre-filled syringe of medicine (to treat allergic reactions) wherever we go. And, when we eat out, we call ahead and quiz the wait staff about the restaurant’s menu items.
Despite these precautions, I still feel concerned—both for her current safety and for her future safety. This situation is not something I would naturally be thankful about. Yet, God’s Word challenges: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). There’s no getting around it. God wants us to pray with thanksgiving when the future is uncertain, when heartbreak hits, and when shortfalls come.
It’s hard to be grateful in difficulties, but it’s not impossible. Daniel “prayed and gave thanks” (Dan. 6:10), knowing that his life was in danger. Jonah called out “with the voice of thanksgiving” (Jonah 2:9) while inside a fish! These examples, coupled with God’s promise that He will work all things together for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28), can inspire us to be thankful in all things.
Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain.
Thanks for homes and thanks for fireside
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
—Hultman


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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Extravagant Gifts


When I was pastoring a small church, we faced a huge crisis. Unless we could complete the extensive renovations necessary to bring our building up to the proper safety codes, we would lose our place of worship. A desperate time of fundraising ensued to pay for those renovations; but of all the money given, one gift captured our leadership’s attention.
An elderly woman in the church donated several hundred dollars to the project—money we knew she could not spare. We thanked her for her gift but wanted to return it, feeling that her needs were greater than the church’s. However, she refused to take the money back. She had been saving for years in order to buy a stove and was cooking on a hot plate in the meantime. Yet she insisted that she needed a place to worship with her church family more than she needed a stove. We were astounded by her extravagant gift.
When our Lord observed a widow putting two mites (the smallest of coins) into the temple offerings, He praised her for her extravagance (Luke 21:3-4). Why? Not because of how much she gave, but because she gave all she had. It’s the kind of gift that not only honors our God, but also reminds us of the most extravagant of gifts to us—Christ.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what can I give Him—give my heart.
—Rossetti


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Sunday, February 24, 2013

God’s Lighthouse


The Mission Point Lighthouse was built in 1870 on a peninsula in Northern Michigan to warn ships of sand bars and rocky shores along Lake Michigan. That lighthouse got its name from another kind of lighthouse, a mission church, which was built 31 years earlier.
In 1839, Rev. Peter Dougherty answered the call to become pastor of a church in Old Mission that was made up of Native Americans who lived farther south on the same peninsula. Under his leadership, a thriving community of farmers, teachers, and craftsmen worked side by side to build a better life for the community.
When believers in Christ work together in unity, their fellowship of faith provides spiritual light in the world’s darkness (Phil. 2:15-16). Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
The Mission Point Lighthouse warned ships of danger, but the original Old Mission Church provided spiritual direction to all who would listen. Believers do the same individually and through our churches. We are God’s lighthouse because Jesus lives in us.
You are called with a holy calling
The light of the world to be;
To lift up the lamp of the Savior
That others His light may see.
—Anon.


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Saturday, February 23, 2013

No Simple Recipe


For our grandson’s birthday, my wife baked and decorated a gigantic chocolate chip cookie to serve at his party. She got out her cookbook, gathered the ingredients, and began to follow the simple steps involved in making cookies. She followed a simple recipe and everything turned out well.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life was like that? Just follow a few easy steps and then enjoy a happy life.
But life is not so simple. We live in a fallen world and there is no easy recipe to follow that will ensure a life free of pain, loss, injustice, or suffering.
In the midst of life’s pain, we need the personal care of the Savior who lived in this world and experienced the same struggles we face. Hebrews 4:15 encourages us: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Christ, who died to give us life, is completely sufficient to carry us through our heartaches and dark experiences. He has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4).
Jesus knows there is no simple “recipe” to prevent the heartaches of life, so He entered into them with us. Will we trust Him with our tears and grief?
When the trials of this life make you weary
And your troubles seem too much to bear,
There’s a wonderful solace and comfort
In the silent communion of prayer.
—Anon.


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