“Moses”

Moses isn’t generally known for writing a Psalm, but he did. Psalm 90 is a record of his praise to the Lord. Have you ever thought about the years he kept sheep for Jethro after leaving Egypt the first time, and what he may have learned from it? Here was a man who knew lavish privilege and extravagance every day of his life who suddenly found himself on the edge of civilization. And the new environment had only simple provisions, shepherd responsibilities, and a breeze for mood music…but that’s where he saw the fire and heard the voice of God. Consider this verse from his psalm:

“Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God.” – Psalm 90:2 HCSB

How many times while leading the Hebrews through the wilderness did Moses probably stand at the door of his tent, watch the sunset, and think back to those days keeping sheep and recount all of the events that came afterwards? Sometimes we simply need to do that; go out on the back deck or take a walk and contemplate God’s rich goodness toward us. Near the end of his psalm are these words:

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…” – Psalm 90:17a NKJV

Have you considered how His beauty is displayed through your life? The many ways He’s been faithful is a testament to His lavish goodness, “…may we rejoice and be glad all our days!” (v.14b)

Social-Issue Sucker-Punches

With “tolerance” becoming the new litmus test for public legitimacy, perhaps you’re feeling a little intimidated these days. If so, a few quick thoughts on the matter may help when the next verbal “sucker-punch” comes along at the workplace or family reunion.

Punch #1A question designed to invoke a negative response. This is where you’re immediately on the defense and sounding like an “anti-whatever” person. For example, “Are you for same-sex marriage?” Of course, saying “no” means you’re a bigot, right? The better way is staying focused on what you’re for, not what you’re against. With the example of same-sex marriage, God’s design for marriage is the best. It doesn’t matter if the challenge is regarding same-sex marriage, open-marriage, polygamy, living-together, or something we haven’t even heard of yet, God’s design is best; one man, one woman, faithfully committed to love each other for life. Regarding social issues such as marriage, race, immigration, etc. what are you FOR?

Punch #2“Love” as a Christian standard you’re violating by speaking up. This one is very effective in silencing many Christians. The premise is that if you hold a conviction regarding morality (and speak about it), then you’re not showing Christian love and being judgmental. Of course, most of us don’t want to be viewed as judgmental and uncaring, so it creates a fear of being misunderstood. Don’t fall for it. Love is not God’s only attribute. Yes, thankfully it’s a wonderful, amazing part of who He is, but at the same time, He’s also holy, sovereign, and righteous. To communicate only one dimension of His nature would be theological infidelity and a missed opportunity to accurately frame the high price Jesus paid in order to offer the incredible gift of salvation.

Punch # 3Morality verses in the Bible are mostly Old Testament, so they don’t apply to New Testament times. This one is a typical half-truth (which is a whole-lie). Yes, the Old Testament contains the Law given to the Hebrews regarding their way of life; personal, public, worship, family, etc. And yes, we live under the New Covenant, however, that didn’t negate moral principles. For example, murder is still wrong, stealing is still wrong, lying is still wrong, coveting is still wrong, sexual sins are still wrong, and so on. Jesus not only affirmed the Old Testament moral code, he expanded on it to include the heart and not just a superficial appearance of it (such as adultery in Matt. 5:27-28).

As a final thought, it’s good to remember that it’s not about “winning a debate”, but being “ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15). Our job isn’t the outcome; it’s to be prayerfully obedient (and hopefully somewhat ready for the occasional sucker-punch).

“Real”

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life…” – 1 John 1:1 NKJV

There real truths of God are steadfast and timeless. They’re not subject to cultural winds or self-serving leaders; they transcend time and human events. The Apostle John said the points he was presenting weren’t opinion; they were heard, seen, and handled with “3-dimensional” interactions.

Would you say your faith journey has been “3-dimensional”? The Christian life isn’t a spectator sport; it’s about hearing the voice of God through the Holy Spirit, seeing Jesus at work in our lives (and those around us), while also spending time handling His Word on our own. “That which was from the beginning” is still relevant every single minute of every single day…

“Big”

Zacchaeus may have been a “wee-little-man” as the children’s song goes, but he had a big appetite for getting ahead in life (hence the position as the hated Chief Tax Collector). Whether driven by the desire to compensate from being bullied and kicked around as a runt growing up or just pure greed; he had no problem working for the Romans to oversee the taxing of fellow Jews.

However, when Jesus came along, everything changed. Zacchaeus found something he didn’t even know he needed; forgiveness. And after his encounter with Christ, he wanted to give away his wealth from the overflow of a new heart. No longer was there a big need to get ahead; there was a big smile as Jesus spoke these words:

“Today, salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:9-10 NKJV

What’s the big “center-piece” of your life? Is it wealth or position, or the joy of God’s forgiveness? May our smiles be broad today when we think of His grace and our influence be big for the sake of His name.

“Greatness”

Power is a whispering liar and always promises more than it can deliver.

For example, pursuing inner satisfaction and contentment through control never ends with genuine peace. However, Christ can deliver the inner serenity we seek, but His way is one of a servant.

The original disciples struggled with reconciling the concepts of power and service. On two separate occasions Jesus stopped and specifically rebuked their notions of greatness. On one occasion, when James and John desired privileged seating in the new kingdom, they even boasted of being able to handle everything Jesus could (drink the same cup and be baptized with the same baptism). But Jesus calmly spoke of a different mindset:

“…but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43b-45 NKJV

What’s your idea of greatness? If you’re a minister, are you content to be known as a “pastor” or do you secretly hope to be identified more as a great “communicator”? As a believer, are you content with serving “as to the Lord” (regardless of who sees it), or do you secretly hope to be recognized by your peers “for your sacrifice”? We all struggle with it; perhaps in the role of parent, student, employee, etc. May our lives today be “but to serve”…and according to the Lord; that’s greatness.

“Workers”

In ancient times, someone looking for work would be grateful for the chance to tend a vineyard. However, in Jesus’ parable of the workers (Matt. 20), the joy of getting hired in the morning was replaced by envy and anger as new hires were added. Was it because the owner came along and treated them poorly? No, it was because of what happened at pay-time. When the wages were passed out, the early morning hires got a denarius; but so did the rest. EVERYONE got the same pay regardless of the hours spent working, so suddenly the idea of fairness crowded out the joy of getting work. And at the end of the parable, the owner says this to the ones unhappy:

Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” – Matthew 20:15 NKJV

The pursuit of fairness can be a minefield of danger, for the measure we use is often flawed. What seemed “fair” in the morning became “unfair” later in the day; and it all had to do with expectations. The first ones made a contract for a denarius, but the later ones agreed to work and trust the owner to give them “whatever was right” (v.4, 7). Excitement with God’s provisions can get neutralized quickly if our eyes are on others instead of Him. We’re recipients of grace, not entitlement. He is good, what He chooses is right and we must trust that His motives are too.

“Return”

The touch of the Master is special.

Luke records where ten lepers were crying out to Jesus for healing. In response to their requests, Jesus instructed them to go show themselves to the priests. As they went, their bodies were healed, and at the moment of cleansing, one of them returned to give thanks. Then Jesus said:

…‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well’.” – Luke 17:17-19 NKJV

As it was in the Gospels, many today benefit from God’s intervention, but not all truly acknowledge His benevolence. The one that returned to Jesus desired to specifically show his gratitude. It isn’t to say the others weren’t happy and thankful to be healed, but only one made the extra effort to return and show it. In the end, they were all physically clean, but only one was pronounced “well”.

How’s the heart today? Is it well? Life comes at us fast, and prayers flow in the midst of battle, but don’t forget the “return”.

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