No Pain, No Gain!

Connecting Points

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Today’s Topic: A Spiritual Work Out.

Today’s Text: 1 Timothy 4:7-8  “Exercise yourself toward godliness.  For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come”

I hurt. I know why. I used muscles that have been inactive for too long. Last Saturday and the following Monday I cut branches, trimmed bushes, raked leaves, and stomped on literally dozens of feet of mole tunnels. My legs and arms are still sore. I need more exercise.

That got me thinking about spiritual exercise, and then yesterday an email came from Daniel Henderson of Strategic Renewal. He wrote about the kind of exercise we all need – the exercise of the mind so that it is renewed according to godliness. His four step plan made perfect sense, so I share it with you today giving Pastor Henderson full credit. Thanks Dan.

 The Eternal Exercise Plan

First, I can exercise my feet, standing firm, “planted in the house of the Lord.”  I find it sad when people mature physically but shrink into spiritual pygmies because they stop choosing to plant their lives in the place of passionate worship.  I want to keep “pressing on” in my pursuit of God in my everyday practice of His presence.  Someday, I want to be that old dude who the young people laugh at (but secretly admire) because he is unrestrained and cuts loose in worship, even if he looks a little goofy.  I don’t want to stay home and watch “senior citizens’ church” as long as I can stand among the godly with my heart soaring in His presence in the courts of our God.

Second, I can exercise my tongue, “declaring that the Lord is upright.”  When this kind of praise frames the substance of my speech there is little room left to whine about the parts that don’t work and complain about my pain.

Third, I can exercise my heart, trusting fully that “He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”  Of course, energy wanes, days get lonely, and the scoreboard of significance becomes blurred – but the Lord is still my security and there is no unrighteousness in Him.  I will trust and obey these great truths – and be happy in Jesus.

Finally, I can exercise my eyes, focusing on the reality of eternal significance, not just the earthly vapor of this physical life.  Paul says it this way: “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  As a child I sang, “Be careful, little eyes, what you see.”  As I approach the finish line I must sing, “Be careful, little eyes, HOW you see.”

(Thanks to Daniel Henderson of Strategic Renewal for today’s Eternal Exercise Plan.)

 Now the tough part – being disciplined enough to exercise every day.

 No Pain, No Gain!

 Know Pain – Know Gain!

 Godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6)

 

Fire-Walking

Connecting Points

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Today’s Topic: Fire Call

Today’s Text: Zechariah 13:8-9 (ESV) In the whole land, declares the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. 9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ”

Today I have nothing but simple thoughts from the midst of a fire.

  • The fire is guaranteed by God.
  • The fire is designed by God.
  • The fire is controlled by God.
  • The fire is a test of my faith in God.
  • The fire refines my faith in God.
  • The fire motivates me to call upon God.
  • The fire produces confidence in God.

 

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.

Psalm 66:10-12 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11  You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12  you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

Isaiah 43:2-3 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3  For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.

Isaiah 48:10-11 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11   For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

James 1:12  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

1 Peter 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5  who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8   Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9  obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

My simple goal today is to be a fire-walker.

Cost and Care

Connecting Points

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Today’s Topic: The Cost of What He Did

Today’s Text: Isaiah 44:22-23 (ESV)  I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. 23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.

 Cost and care are proportional. That which costs little gets cared for little. That which costs much gets cared for extensively.

Homeowners understand this principle. We know the cost of the home, so we invest even more in its care. I am in the process right now of preparing for a complete exterior maintenance project including soffit repair, siding repair, and new paint. It’s an investment of time and money that is necessary to maintain the value of the home. I care because I know what it cost.

Many today do not care about their spiritual condition because they don’t understand the price that was paid on their behalf so they could have their sins forgiven. Many don’t even know that they need their sins forgiven.

But the saddest condition is found in the hearts of those who claim to know their need, have asked for forgiveness, but then walk back into the ways of sin with little regard for Jesus. Equally sad are those who put on a new exterior paint job of righteousness but inside live for the pleasures of the immediate and long for the value of pleasure, power, possessions, and posterity offered by this world. If only they knew the cost of what they claim to possess in Christ.

God paid an unimaginable price for the forgiveness of our sin. We owed Him our lives, and He gave us His life. Read carefully this well-known passage of God’s Holy Word and try to imagine the emotional and physical pain God suffered as He placed Himself in our deserved position of death. Don’t skim it – it’s God’s truth! Digest it.

Isaiah 53:1-12 (ESV) 

1   Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2  For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3   He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4   Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5   But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6   All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8  By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9  And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10  Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12   Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Now that we have a little more understanding of the cost of what we possess, maybe we will care about it a little more.

Jesus Did It!

Connecting Points

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Today’s Topic: He Did It!

Today’s Text: Isaiah 44:22-23 (ESV)  I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. 23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.

Yesterday afternoon was Liam day. Every Tuesday my wife and I take one of the school-aged grandchildren and spend some alone time with them. We play games, do projects, have fun, and eat supper together. I wish I could do it with the grandkids who live a few hours away.

Anyway, yesterday it was Liam’s turn, and after we finished the birdhouse painting, the Easter egg decorating, and the Swedish pancake supper, we sat down to play a game of attack Uno. After winning the first game, grandpa was already at Uno in the second game after playing his next to last card. Liam, whose hand was loaded with cards, was next to play. A slight smile started in the corner of his mouth as he reached for a card. The smile grew as he laid it on the discard pile. He spoke with excited enthusiasm and said, “I trade hands with grandpa!”

He couldn’t control himself any longer. He had just played a trade hands card and now only had one card in his hand while I sat there sorting through 20 of them. On the next turn around the table he played that last card and won the game. He laughed. He jumped. He showed off that contagious smile of his. His enthusiasm was abundant as he repeated the same phrase over and over again. “I did it! I did it!”

While it is a great story, it’s not a perfect analogy of what happened on the cross, but it will suffice for my heart for a while. Hanging on the cross, Jesus traded hands with us. I had a losing hand which guaranteed my eternal defeat. Jesus had the winning hand. In the game, I would never have initiated the trade, but Jesus did. He took my losing hand as His own and gave me a winning hand I didn’t deserve. My trade with Liam was forced upon me, but Jesus traded willingly. He did it!

As I thought about that trade, I was reminded of its cost from the prophetic twenty-second Psalm. Read the selected verses carefully as it describes the scene and emotions of Christ on the cross, then notice the highlighted words at the end.

Psalm 22:1-31 (ESV)
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest…I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”…Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. 19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! 22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him…The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. 29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. 30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

Shout it. Jump around. Laugh with unspeakable joy. Jesus did it!  Jesus did it!

 

The Cross Qualifies

Connecting Points

Monday, April 14, 2014

Today’s Topic: The Cross Qualifies

Today’s Text: Colossians 1:12-23 (ESV)  …giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Recently I was asked to make application to serve on the board of directors of a world-wide mission organization. As a part of the application process, I need to furnish the president of the mission with a full resume listing my experience and qualifications for the position. As with any application for a position, whether volunteering or seeking employment, there is always a question of whether or not the boss will think we are qualified.

It is very easy to live under the burden of performance-based qualification. The chains of this bondage are powerful, causing us to live in constant fear that we haven’t done enough to be qualified or that others have not noticed what we have done so that they will qualify us. “Who has qualified you?” That question drives us more than we might be willing to admit.

I discovered the answer to that nagging question many years ago, and because I have told the story before I won’t go into detail.  But for me, the chain-breaker was the following passage of Scripture. I simply want to share it with you and let the Holy Spirit minister God’s grace to your heart as you study it. I think it is an appropriate place to start this holy week of remembering Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. It resolves the eternal conflict of qualification once and for all.

Colossians 1:12-23 (ESV)
12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

 

Now, who has qualified you?

Ask It!

Connecting Points

Thursday, April 10, 2014

 Today’s Topic: Ask It!

Today’s Text: Psalm 77:2 (ESV) In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;

 

When it comes to finding something that has been misplaced, I am the worst! What’s really upsetting is that I am usually the one who misplaced it. You’d think I’d be able to remember where I put it, but I waste a lot of time looking in all the wrong places.

When we are searching for something we must look in a lot of places where it isn’t before we find the place that it is. Sometimes we are fortunate and find it quickly. Other times we search for days. In the midst of the physical search we are also doing a mental search of all the possibilities. We ask ourselves all kinds of questions about what we were doing, where we went, and so on. That is all part of the process of reaching a solution.

I think the same thing is true about our search for the peace of God when we are in trouble or when we are hurting. There is a process that is affirmed in Scripture, and maybe if we accepted the fact that God understands the process we could unload a lot of guilt from our hearts.

I find the process illustrated in the life of Asaph, who wrote the seventy-seventh Psalm. Read these verses carefully. (This is your chance to meditate on God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit teach you, not me.)

Psalm 77:1-15 (ESV)
1 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. 2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. 3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah 4 You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I consider the days of old, the years long ago. 6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: 7 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? 8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah 10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. 15 You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

Now, check out verses seven through nine. Asaph has just stated that his spirit is making a diligent search to find comfort in the time of trouble. His search begins with questions:

  • Has God stopped being good?
  • Has God stopped loving me?
  • Are God’s promises no longer valid for me?
  • Do I now have to earn everything from God because He forgot His grace?
  • Doesn’t He care about me any more?

Most of us would beat ourselves up over asking such questions. Maybe our well-intentioned Christian friends would advise us to repent of such questions because they show a lack of faith. We certainly feel guilty for even starting down the road of doubt. But look at the process through which Asaph goes. After asking the questions, he indicates he took a break to meditate and contemplate what God would say in response. That’s what Selah means. As his mind gets clarity, he identifies where God wants him to find the answers to his questions. He will appeal to the previous faithfulness of God and his work.

  • God’s right hand has never failed to uphold me.
  • His mighty deeds are consistent throughout history and testify to his faithfulness.
  • The path God has chosen for me is in perfect harmony with His holy nature.
  • What other option do we have that can give such hope and security as our great God?
  • I am one of your redeemed people. You bought me with the price of your Son’s life. I am a child of God.

And Asaph rested! Selah.

Go ahead. Ask your questions. But after asking them, take a break and listen for God’s response. You will find the hope and peace for which you are searching.

Seek It!

Connecting Points

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

 Today’s Topic: Seek It!

Today’s Text: Psalm 105:4 (ESV) Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!

I’m not sure we fully grasp the concept of victory. We may understand it in some things, but I’m convinced we don’t make the same application to our spiritual lives. Let me explain.

Last night the University of Connecticut defeated the University of Kentucky for the NCAA basketball championship. The winning team had their picture taken as they hoisted the national trophy above their heads. They were wearing t-shirts that read “Lone Star Statement”. For as long as the members of that team are alive, no one will ever be able to take that away from them. They will always be able to say they were the victors. Those who call them losers can be corrected with a reminder of the trophy. Each team member can reject any and all temptations to believe that they fall short of the glory of final victory. Each and every accusation of inability can be dismissed as inaccurate. For the rest of their lives they carry the testimony of victory.

Why is that so hard for us in our spiritual lives? Why do we so easily succumb to the accusations that we are inferior, unqualified people who fall short of the glory of God, when in Christ Jesus we have been made victorious for all eternity? Why is Satan given so much authority to influence our thinking and behavior when he has already been defeated?

The answer to all of the above questions is the same – we choose to deny what victory means and believe that it has not really been accomplished. We choose to ignore the Presence of the Victor in our lives and allow the one who has been defeated to convince us that there is something left to accomplish.

That’s why studying God’s Word and absorbing it is so important. That’s the reason the Apostle Paul said to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). The renewing of our mind is based on the established fact already presented by Paul in Romans 8 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS! Why is it so hard for us to understand that? The indwelling Presence of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit has already won the victory for us because Jesus was not defeated on the cross. He rose from the dead and conquered Satan. Jesus cannot be defeated. His victory is eternal, and it is the present reality of all who are in Christ. We cannot be defeated. Christ’s presence in us has sealed us as His forever. We do not have to live in the agony of defeat any longer. We stand with Christ on the highest pedestal hoisting the trophy of the cross over our heads, wearing white robes that read “Eternal Statement.”

F.B. Meyer puts it this way: The disinfectant of Christ’s Presence is ever warding off the germs of deadly temptation. The mighty arm of the Divine Keeper is always holding the door against the attempts of the adversary.

Christ is victorious. In Christ we are victorious. “Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) The Presence of Christ means we walk as victors in all things.