Where Hope Lives

Does your spirit need a lift today?

Consider this; there’s a passage of scripture that’s a virtual door to a room filled with eternal optimism. No, it’s not a place where everything gets suddenly fixed, it’s a place where hope lives. It’s a place where vision clears and burdens get lighter; and the door to the room swings on a hinge of “therefore”. The words were penned by a man of sorrow and distress, who in the midst of bewilderment chose to open the door:

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; “The Lord is my portion” says my soul, therefore, I hope in Him!”   – The Prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-24 NKJV

“Therefore, I hope in Him”…that’s the hinge. Because of His unfailing compassion, there is reason to hope. Perhaps you would like to step into the room today. If so, think about His faithfulness, catch a fresh glimpse of His kindness, and get a fresh breath of encouragement…

Squirrels are Punks (re-post)

I know there are things about squirrels I should appreciate, but to be honest, they’re punks. I mean, try to spend a few moments out on the deck reading and see what happens. Recently I did, and as usual here they come with their endless chatter and “barking” at me for sitting in the area they consider theirs. As I listened, I thought, “You know, that reminds me of some people I know…” but then it happened. From the corner of my eye I noticed a hummingbird less than three feet away and I totally forgot the squirrels. Hummingbirds are amazing. Their flight, their movement, the special nature of encountering them, all speaks of God’s creative genius and I thought, “You know, that reminds me of some people I know…”

Here’s the deal, you’re probably going to encounter a “squirrel” today; perhaps a co-worker, a friend or a family member. It may even be a voice from the past still barking in your mind. Unfortunately you can’t use a BB gun on them (like I do sometimes with squirrels), but you can ignore them. Sure, they’ll still be doing squirrel impersonations, but somewhere around the edges of your life is a “hummingbird”. They’re the ones quietly going about their day with a quality and demeanor easily missed. It’s the person whose voice may not always be heard, but is full of Christlikeness. Take a minute to drop by their office or invite them to lunch and appreciate the way God has developed their character.

For the record, I formally apologize to all I’ve been a “squirrel” to and will try to knock-off the chatter. For those of you who are hummingbirds to me…I sincerely thank God for you. You’ve brought much insight about our Savior and the uniqueness of His creative genius!

“Buy the truth and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” – Proverbs 23:23

(originally posted 7/2014)

An Open Letter to Christian Leaders

Lately, it seems like the cultural erosion has turned into a mudslide, and tolerance is the new litmus test for spiritual validation. And with so much being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness, what are we to do as Christian leaders? The answer I believe is found in a quote regarding Nehemiah and the great challenges he faced. The odds were not in his favor and the challenges were great; however, he was empowered by God in the midst of difficulty to accomplish the work. In his comments regarding Nehemiah chapter 3, Warren Wiersbe says this:

“The word “built” is used six times in Nehemiah 3 and means “rebuilt”. George Morrison (Morning Sermons, p. 249) reminds us “that for this restoration no new material was needed. In the debris of the ruined masonry lay all the material required…and it seems to me that is always so when the walls of Zion are rebuilt”. It is not by inventing clever new things that we take away the church’s reproach, but by going back to the old truths that made the church great in ages past. They lie like stones in the dust, waiting for some burdened Nehemiah to recover them and use them.”

Are you a “burdened Nehemiah”? I know many of us are. We’ve prayed. We’ve wept. We’ve conferenced. We’ve paced the floor. We’ve adjusted church by-laws. We’ve lobbied…and much more. Now it’s time to get to work rebuilding. And as we do, I believe there are three things we need to be confident in articulating:

  1. A High View of God – like Nehemiah, our approach and narrative should be true to the sovereign holy nature of Almighty God. It’s time to speak of God in the way we’re called to. He’s not some cosmic buddy that needs flippant, hipster descriptions to gain acceptance. He’s the One who spoke the universe into being. He’s the One who will have the last word. He’s the One who is righteous, but still made a way for us to know Him. He’s God, we’re not, and an accurate sharing of the gospel tells the whole story, not just the easily-received parts.
  2. The Authority of Scripture – we need to be “People of the Book”. Stories, illustrations, etc., can be helpful, but we must be anchored to the scripture itself, not a loose adaptation. We’ve got to stand flat-footed and say, “The Bible says…”, and speak of its authority. Yes, dialogue can follow and cordial debate can often be productive, but at the end of the conversation, it may come down to standing on a biblical principle simply because that’s what the Word says…and that’s enough.
  3. A Willingness to Define Good – the concept of “good” is often considered relative, but when it comes to moral issues, we must be willing to define “good”. Yes, there will be those who will feel judged, and will accuse us of having all sorts of reprehensible characteristics, but we cannot let the bullies set the agenda. We cannot forfeit truth for peace, because in the end we’ll have neither.

It’s my sincere prayer that we join together and re-build. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a suit or a t-shirt on your given platform this Sunday…preach the Word! Be bold and courageous, for our God is mighty to save!

Psalm 23 (6b)

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23:6b NKJV

“Where will you live forever? In the house of the Lord. If His house is your “forever house”, what does that make this earthly house? You got it! Short-term housing. This is not our home. ‘Our homeland is in heaven’ (Phil. 3:20).”

– Max Lucado, “Traveling Light”

“….what is referred to by “house” is the family or household or flock of the Good Shepherd. The sheep is so deeply satisfied with the flock to which it belongs, with the ownership of this particular shepherd, that it has no wish to change whatever.”

– W. Phillip Keller, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good…

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23 NKJV

Psalm 23 (6a)

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” – Psalm 23:6a NKJV

“Our moods may shift, but God doesn’t. Our minds may change, but God doesn’t. Our devotion may falter, but God never does. Even if we are faithless, he is faithful, for he cannot betray himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He is a sure God. And because he is a sure God, we can state confidently, ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’”

– Max Lucado, “Traveling Light”

“He looks on my life in tenderness, for He loves me deeply. He sees the long years during which His goodness and mercy have followed me without slackening. He longs to see some measure of that same goodness and mercy not only passed on to others by me but also passed back to Him with joy.”

– W. Phillip Keller, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”

The path of rich abundance…

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” – Psalm 23:1-6a NKJV

Psalm 23 (5b)

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” – Psalm 23:5b NKJV

“So we, like sheep get wounded. And we, like sheep have a shepherd. Remember the words we read? ‘We belong to Him; we are his people, the sheep he tends’ (Ps. 100:3). He will do for you what the shepherd does for the sheep.”

– Max Lucado, “Traveling Light”

“In a sense we are a stiff-necked lot, and were it not for Christ’s continuing compassion and concern for us, most of us would be beyond hope or help. Sometimes I am quite sure Christ comes to us and applies the oil of His own Spirit to our minds in spite of our own objections. Were this not so, where would most of us be? Surely every gracious thought that enters my mind had its origin in Him.”

– W. Phillip Keller, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”

Consider the precious oil of the Good Shepherd…

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” – Psalm 23:1-5 NKJV

Psalm 23 (5a)

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” – Psalm 23:5a NKJV

“What if your Shepherd did for you what the shepherd did for his flock? Suppose He dealt with your enemy, the devil, and prepared for you a safe place of nourishment? What would you say if I told you he has done exactly that?”

– Max Lucado, “Traveling Light”

“It is not always apparent to us what tremendous personal cost it has been for Christ to prepare the table for His own. Just as the lonely, personal privation of the sheepman who prepares the summer range for his flock entails sacrifice, so the lonely agony of Gethsemane, of Pilate’s hall, of Calvary, have cost my Master so much. When I come to the Lord’s Table and partake of the communion service which is a feast of thanksgiving for His love and care, do I fully appreciate what it has cost Him to prepare this table for me?”

– W. Phillip Keller, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23″

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” – Psalm 23:1-5a NKJV

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