Mew Mercies

Connecting Points

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Today’s Topic: New Mercies                                                             

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:76-77 (ESV) 76 Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. 77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.

I have discovered in a new and fresh way the solutions to misery and despair.

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you that I hesitate to share them for fear that they be minimized to a self-help system rather than be honored as the God-given process of restoration that it is. But I will share it anyway, and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you in the application of these truths from a humble and surrendered heart and protect us all from the pride of using these steps to simple serve self.

1.    Admit that there is nothing we can do to change the situation. Don’t go on to number 2 until you really understand this first one. Years ago my brother and I painted barns in North Dakota during the summer to help pay for college. I hated heights, but faced my fears and climbed those 25 to 40 foot extension ladders anyway. I remember one time when I was on the top of a ladder about 20 feet high, and needed it moved to reach the next section of wall. I did not want to come down and face the fear of climbing it again. So in unison, my brother tried to move the base of the ladder as I pushed off from the wall and moved the top. We quickly discovered the danger of that move and I climbed down the ladder and moved it.

 That’s exactly what God has said to me in the past twenty-four hours. “I won’t move the ladder as long as you are on it. Get off and I’ll put it in a spot where you can climb out of the hole you are in.” Not mostly off. Not just on the bottom rung. Get completely off the ladder. You can’t change the situation, but God can.

2.    Focus on God’s promises rather than on possible solutions. Once you get off the ladder, let God put it where He wants. He did not ask you to get off the ladder and give Him directions as to where to put it. He alone knows where it should go. Stop trying to advise God. At this critical time of surrender, the reinforcement of pride is NOT what is needed. Suggesting solutions strengthens self, and that is exactly what God desires to suppress. Deny the desire to determine the outcome, even if we can justify it by claiming that we are only making suggestions.

3.    Allow the love of God to overwhelm your hatred of what is happening. It is not the solution that ultimately satisfies us – it is the reality of the love of God for us no matter what happens that completely satisfies. His steadfast love is our comfort. Not His power to work a solution. Not His judgment on those who have sinned. Not even the memories of His past work. His love alone is what sustains us. The incredible experience of His arms of love wrapped around my hurting heart is what gives life when all that I could see was the darkness of death.

4.    Choose to serve Him no matter how you feel. Yesterday morning started out for me with the recognition that the teacher needed to be taught. I was a mess of emotions. (see yesterday’s Connecting Points if you missed it at https://lifelinkdevo.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/overwhelmed/ ) What really bothered me was the knowledge that I had several very important appointments coming up during the day. I wanted to cancel them all, but knew I shouldn’t. I choose to not let my emotions dictate my service to my Lord, even though sometimes I forget that and cancel anyway. But yesterday I was determined to live for my King even though I didn’t feel like it.

10:00 AM – I went to the hospital to sit with the family of a long-time friend who was having serious cancer surgery. For the next two hours I would have the opportunity to visit with several member of the family and share spiritual wisdom with them directly from the Lord. It was a blessing to see how God is working behind the scenes in their lives to draw them into a closer and more personal relationship with Himself.

4:00 PM – I met a college student for coffee. She has been struggling with an emotional issue of her own, and it was absolutely amazing to see how the Holy Spirit filled me with words designed specifically for her situation. It is so good to be constantly amazed by God.

7:00 PM – I led a Bible Study in the book of First Peter with a small group of people that meet every Thursday night. It is absolutely my favorite way to serve my Lord. I love to teach. The release that God gave me as I led the group to understand the deeper truths of Scripture was refreshing and restorative. After the meeting I received an encouraging email from one of the participants in the group, and it blessed me immensely. I experienced the mercies of God that are new every morning, and today I am alive again.

Four steps to renewal, each contingent upon the previous and upon surrender to the Holy Spirit. Don’t turn it into a quick-fix plan for every emotional moment of your life, because soon you will be worshipping the plan rather than the Person who designed the plan. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Pastor John

OVERWHELMED!!!

Connecting Points

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Today’s Topic: Tough Assignment                                                    

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:79-80 (ESV) 79 Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies. 80 May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!

 

I am the teacher, yet need to be taught;

I have some questions about what life has wrought.

I want to be blameless, Your Word have I sought;

Yet deep in my heart a war is being fought.

I know that with blood my life has been bought;

But all of my joy is slipping to naught.

A fresh sense of hope and love must be caught;

I am the teacher, yet need to be taught.

 

Dear friends,

I am behind closed doors. I am struck down in my heart with the reality that right now, I am sure that those who fear the LORD cannot turn to me and see His testimonies.

Tragedy has struck my family in ways I cannot fully explain, but is testing every fiber of my faith. I know in His faithfulness God has afflicted me, but anger and fear are overwhelming the application of truth.

I long to be blameless and not bring shame to my LORD in how I respond, but I don’t know if I can righteously balance justice and grace. I know God will show me the way, and as I wait on Him my strength will be renewed. God knows I need those intellectual truths to captivate my heart, and I surrender to the work He is doing.

Is it hard? Beyond description.

Is it debilitating? My emotions are raw and thin.

Is it impossible? My mind opposes the promise of God that with Him nothing is impossible.

Is there hope? If not, I would not be writing to you and baring my soul.

Please pray for me and my family. Satan is doing all he can to destroy the work of Jesus Christ. The enemy has now made it personal. I need to know how to stand in the promised victory of God.

Pastor John

Wasted Energy

Connecting Points

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Today’s Topic: Wasted Energy                                                         

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:78 (ESV)  Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.

I don’t have the energy I once did. Age, weight, and conditioning all contribute to the problem. I get tired far too fast.

Yesterday I helped my son track down a deer he had shot on Sunday evening. Up and down the ridges I went, circumventing trees and deadfalls, all the while looking for that tell-tale sign of blood in the leaves. After finding the first one, we went looking for the second one. When we saw the first drop of blood there was a surge of renewed energy that motivated both of us, because this was the deer we really wanted. All my son could remember seeing was lots of tall, widespread antlers.

We followed a very sparse trail of sporadic drops of blood up the hill for about thirty yards, and then it was gone. So we started a grid search of the area. I walked, and walked, and walked. I took every possible escape route the deer would have taken along the side of the huge forested ridges. Up and down and around we went for over an hour, but not once did either of us see any sign that the deer was mortally wounded. He’ll be bigger next year.

There was a valid purpose for expending that amount of energy, and the possible outcome kept us motivated. But I have discovered in my personal life that I expend far too much energy on things that deserve none. Those things make me tired. If I had to classify all of those things under one heading, I would label it “Fixables”.

I think I am a fixer. It is a fleshly flaw. I will no longer try to justify it. I reject it as sin. I have never been nor will I ever be given the responsibility of fixing anyone but myself. And I am certainly not responsible for fixing what other people do, even if they do it against me.

I have wasted so much energy in my life trying to fix situations and people. I have wasted even more energy trying to fix my own image when someone else has done something to destroy it. I react very poorly when a lie is told about me, and I immediately attempt to fix it. What I have not accepted in the past is that the choice to fix is a product of the belief I have chosen that I have the right and responsibility to fix it. How wrong!

Read today’s verse carefully. Here’s the New Living Translation to help – Bring disgrace upon the arrogant people who lied about me; meanwhile, I will concentrate on your commandments.

The Author responds in two ways to the wrongs committed against him:

  1. He tells God what happened and asks Him to handle it;
  2. He goes back to studying God’s Word and will for his own life.

No wasted energy. How refreshing. How much more time I am going to have to do the will of God because I’m not wasting time doing work I am not called nor equipped to do. Imagine how much more is going to be done for the glory of God because I’ve stopped trying to protect the glory of self. Just think – more time and more energy, capped off by more peace because I know the outcome is in the hands of the One who in His faithfulness has allowed this affliction to happen to me.

So today begins an exciting adventure of faith. The first step is to let go of the belief that I am supposed to fix wrongs. Once I let go of that, I can stop spending the energy it would have taken to do what I am not responsible to do. Then, having let go of my security ropes, I can fall into the arms of my Lord and enjoy His peace that passes all understanding, because I know – I KNOW – that He has it under control.

I’m energized!

Pastor John

Be Thankful

Connecting Points

Monday, November 26, 2012

Today’s Topic: Be Thankful For It                                                      

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:75 (ESV)  I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

I trust you had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends. As for me, it wasn’t so good. That would be the conclusion based on the physical facts:

  • quarantined to a basement bedroom for all of Thursday because of severe intestinal flu; (first Thanksgiving without food in my life)
  • continued quarantine from close contact with family on Friday; (do you know how hard it is not to play with grandkids?)
  • felt better on Saturday – attempted to eat brunch – didn’t work.

Pretty much a blown holiday, right? Again, if all there was to consider were the physical facts then the answer would be a resounding “YES!” But there was another element at play in the whole set of sickly circumstances – the hand of God, who in His love and faithfulness was afflicting me so that I would grow. Here’s what I am learning:

  • First, from a physical standpoint, STOP EATING SO MUCH! Please don’t ask me to eat spaghetti for a while, and for sure don’t let me follow spaghetti an hour later with a huge hot fudge sundae. I am determined to treat the temple of the Holy Spirit with the respect and honor that He deserves.
  • From a spiritual standpoint, the 119th Psalm has been a life-altering challenge as I continue to make my way through it verse-by-verse. Here are the verses that I highlighted in my YouVersion Bible on my phone while I was flat on my back in bed –

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. (Verse 37)

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. (Verse 48)

* This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. (Verse 50)

When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; (Verse 59)

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. 68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. (Verses 66-68)

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (Verse 71)

I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. 76 Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. (Verses 75-76)

*  May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame! (Verse 80)

There’s a whole lot of work to be done to continue to absorb all the truths that God is teaching me through those verses. Truths like trusting His character rather than my circumstances; focusing on the eternal not the immediate; pursuing His ways and not my own; and last but absolutely not least, the shame of sin!

I didn’t change the title of today’s Connecting Points on purpose. Last Monday I wrote about being thankful no matter what. This Monday, I write it again, with a deeper understanding of the truth. It is the will of God that we be thankful in everything, and because of His love and faithfulness He is showing me how to do that. Thank you, Father, for the afflictions that are delivered according to your faithfulness. May I embrace them as gifts from you that will improve our relationship.

Pastor John

Thankful for Affliction

Connecting Points

Monday, November 19, 2012

Today’s Topic: Be Thankful For It                                                      

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:67-68 (ESV) 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. 68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.

We arrived at the hospital yesterday at 1:45 PM and were met in the hallway as we got off the elevator by Tim’s sister and her husband and son. After hugs and greetings, they showed us to the waiting room where the rest of the family was gathered. There were many tears as we greeted each member of our family and then were introduced to the members of Barb’s family.

Barb is my cousin Tim’s wife who had undergone heart valve replacement surgery just four days earlier. She wasn’t going to survive, and the family had come together to say goodbye to this 59-year old servant of Jesus Christ. The reports from the doctors were that she had less than a few hours to live. She was being kept alive by a heart/lung machine and respirator.

For the next ninety minutes additional family members arrived and we listened and shared as we all tried to comfort one another. Then, following a time of devotions and prayer in the waiting room, the nurse came in and said they were ready in the Cardiac Critical Care room where Barb was. The family filed down the hallway and into the room, circling the bed. I asked the nurse for time for the family to say goodbye. After some powerful prayers of thanksgiving – that’s right, thanksgiving – for the grace of God, the faithfulness of Barb’s life, and the certain hope of glory for all who trust Jesus as Lord and Savior, we sang a song…

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

Praise You In This Storm by Casting Crowns

Then it was time. One by one all of the medications were shut off, followed by the heart/lung machine, and finally the respirator. Eight minutes later the heart monitor read zero, and Barb was in the presence of her Savior Jesus Christ. No more suffering, no more pain, and never any experience on her part of death, for Christ has conquered death for all who believe and it had no power over her.

The afflictions of this life are God’s powerful invitation into deeper intimacy with Himself. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.  This one thing I know now more than ever – I can count it all joy when I meet trials of various kinds,  for I know that the testing of my faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)

God is good, and always does good, so I can truly thank Him in all things at all times.

Pastor John

Live What You Believe

Connecting Points

Friday, November 16, 2012

Today’s Topic: Walking the Walk                                                      

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:66 (ESV) Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.

Just moments ago Pastor Dennis Pond passed this bit of wisdom on to me. It may surprise you, as it did me, where it came from. I’ll tell you after you read it.

It’s impossible to bring about the kind of effectual change you want to see around you without truly living out your values in a personal way.

So, now comes the question: What kind of effectual change do you want to inspire around you?

[We are to have an] ever-present sense that we are not here to simply survive life.  We’re here to preserve and protect it; and we’re here to teach others to do the same so that they might live full and satisfied lives.

If you haven’t begun to apply your values and beliefs into action, I want to challenge you to begin today.  And just to be clear: Standing and living for what you believe in doesn’t mean becoming a fanatical zealot.  It starts with simply preparing and protecting yourself and those around you.  From there, you share your experiences and knowledge with those who will listen.  Once the process begins, you’ll see a remarkable thing begin to happen:  Your beliefs and passion will become a natural part of your life and community.   You will begin to see yourself “become the change you want to see…”

This short challenge to live out one’s beliefs came from Tim Schmidt, the publisher of the Concealed Carry Report and founder of the United States Concealed Carry Association.

The spiritual application is obvious. We must “become the change we want to see” in our culture. But unlike the patriotic pursuit of our right to bear arms including concealed weapons, it is time for Christians to stop concealing the spiritual truth we carry. It is time for us to walk the walk and talk the talk, and to do so publicly. Unless we understand that in Christ we are here not simply to survive this life, but to preserve and protect people’s lives from the coming destruction of sin, there is no real hope of change.

Thanks Pastor Dennis for this great reminder, and thanks be to God who teaches us good judgment and knowledge through our belief in His commandments. May we inspire change around us by how we live.

Pastor John

The Father’s Integrity

Connecting Points

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Today’s Topic: God’s Integrity                                                           

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:65 (ESV) You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word.

Two little girls were counting their pennies.

One said, “I have five pennies.” The other said, “I have ten.”

“No,” said the first little girl, “You have just five cents, the same as I.”

“But,” the second child quickly replied, “my father said when he comes home tonight he would give me five cents, and so I have ten cents.”

Trustfully, she counted what her father had promised.

What a Father we have in heaven, who always, without fail, deals with us according to His Word! Imagine what it would be like if He didn’t. Well, he would be like us then, wouldn’t he? We are those who make promises and then do not follow through. We use words to pad the pleasures of the present with no promise intended. We make statements of intention designed to validate our external image in the eyes of others, but quickly destroy all such validation when we do not do what we said we would do. Imagine if God did that.

Author Peter Eldersveld tells of a rich Christian who had a large company of employees, and many of them owed him money. He was constantly trying to teach them something about Christianity, and one day he hit upon a plan. He posted a notice for his employees to see that said,

“All those who will come to my office between eleven and twelve o’clock on Thursday morning to present an honest statement of their debts will have them canceled at once.”

The debtors read the notice with a great deal of skepticism, and on Thursday morning, although they gathered in the street in front of his office, not one of them went to the door. Instead they gossiped and complained about their employer, and ridiculed the notice he had posted. They said it didn’t make sense.

But finally, at 11:45, one man jumped forward, dashed up the steps into the office, and presented his statement.

“Why are you here?” the rich man asked him.

“Because you promised to cancel the debts of all those who would come as you instructed,” the employee replied.

“And do you believe the promise?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Why do you believe it?” persisted the employer.

“Because, although it was too much for me to understand, I know that you are a good man who would not deceive anyone.”

The rich man took the bill and marked it “Paid in full,” at which time the poor man, overcome, cried out, “I knew it! I told them so! They said it couldn’t be true, and now I’m going out to show them.”

“Wait,” said his benefactor, “it’s not quite twelve o’clock. The others are not entitled to any special proof of my sincerity.”

When the clock struck twelve, the forgiven debtor ran out waving his receipt in the face of his fellows. With a mad rush they made for the door, but it was too late. The door was locked.

God deals with us according to His word – forgiveness for those who ask, and judgment for those who don’t. His Word is never not fulfilled. There is perfection in every action of the Father. He never has to overlook one word to accomplish another word. He never compromises His Word for anyone.

And for me, that is praiseworthy, for the Father is dealing well with me!

 Pastor John

Additional Scripture References:

Ps 119:17 — Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.

Ps 13:6 — I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Ps 16:5 — The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

Ps 16:6 — The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

Ps 18:35 — You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.

Ps 23:5 — You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Ps 23:6 — Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Ps 30:11 — You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

Ps 116:7 — Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.