Homeward Bound

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I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:14–19, NIV 1984).

My Musings – It is easy to understand why Jesus would say He was not of this world.  He created it.  He left the glory of Heaven to dwell amongst His creation for a time, but it was not His Home.  We, on the other hand, have known nothing other than this world. On our own, there is no where else we can make our home.  Strangely enough, when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we become aliens to the only home we have ever known. Now, home is where He is.  Where He is not, no longer is our home.

Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, so that where He is, there we may be also.  But as long as we draw breath, that place is not yet fully prepared for us.  Not ready for our homecoming.  In the meantime, He sends us out into the world, just like His Father sent Him.  Once His work was finished, He returned home.  Once our work is finished, whatever it is that He has specifically sent us to do for Him, we will be called home too.  So until that specific thing is done, we go about with the general commission He gave all His children.  To go out into the world and make disciples.

My Advice – Our task may be big or small.  But even if it is small, if done faithfully, it will be no less important to Him than the big task He might give others.  And it will receive the same commendation — “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21, NIV 1984).  Sometimes, even the smallest of tasks, if left undone, can have the largest of consequences.  It may seem like a small thing to you, but be faithful.

Keeper of the Spring

The late Peter Marshall, an eloquent speaker and for several years the chaplain of the United States Senate, used to love to tell the story of “The Keeper of the Spring,” a quiet forest dweller who lived high above an Austrian village along the eastern slopes of the Alps.

The old gentleman had been hired many years ago by a young town council to clear away the debris from the pools of water up in the mountain crevices that fed the lovely spring flowing through their town. With faithful, silent regularity, he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt that would otherwise choke and contaminate the fresh flow of water.

By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal clear spring, the mill wheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, farmlands were naturally irrigated, making the view from restaurants picturesque beyond description.

Years passed. One evening, the town council met for its semi-annual meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary figure being paid to the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of the purse, “Who is the old man? Why do we keep him on year after year? No one ever sees him. For all we know, the strange ranger of the hills is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer!” By a unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old man’s services.

For several weeks, nothing changed. By early autumn, the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon, someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A couple days later, that water was much darker. Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks and a foul odor was soon detected. The mill wheels moved more slowly, some finally ground to a halt. Swans left, as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.

Quickly, the embarrassed council called a special meeting. Realizing their gross error in judgment, they hired back the old keeper of the spring, and within a few weeks, the veritable river of life began to clear up. The wheels started to turn, and new life returned to the hamlet in the Alps once again.  — Charles R. Swindoll

Like Father, Like Son

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Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:10–11, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Can people see the Father in us?  What evidence can they see that might help them see?  I am not talking about miracles.  I am talking about a transformed life. For “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV 1984).

My mom once remarked that I was becoming “just like your father.”  I counted it as a compliment (I miss you dad!).

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What would make her say such a thing?  She saw mannerisms, behaviors and character traits in me that reminded her of my dad.  Not in appearances (how I looked), necessarily, not hereditary.  But things I had learned from him by being brought up by him, nurtured by him, taught by him, and loved by him.  Like father, like son.  But I would also be proud to have someone say about me, “like Father, like son.”

My Advice – “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:11–13, NIV 1984).

 

 

A Tale of Two Natures

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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”  (Philippians 2:3–8, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The contrast between our old nature and new nature could not be more apparent than in these few verses.  We can not “hyde” our old nature.  It can only be transformed.

Our Old Nature

Selfish Ambition – Being chiefly concerned with one’s own personal profit or pleasure, and by a strong desire and determination to achieve success, with little or no consideration for others.

Vain Conceit – Having an exaggerate sense of self-importance and an excessively high opinion of one’s abilities, or worth.

Our New Nature

Unselfish Servanthood – Willing to attend to the needs or wishes of others before one’s own needs and wishes.

Obedient Humility – Submission to others coupled with modest view of one’s own importance in deference to the importance of others.

Our example is Christ.  He had the exact same nature of the Father. “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”  (Isaiah 46:9–10, NIV 1984).

He had no selfish ambition.  He “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”  There was no vain conceit, only obedient humility.  Submitting to the will of the Father. First by setting aside His divine nature and “being made in human likeness.”  Second, by becoming “obedient to death – even death on a cross!”  Crucifixion.  The most horrific and humiliating form of execution ever devised.

My Advice – “[O]ur attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  He is not asking us to do any more for Him than He was willing to do for us.  What have we given Him?

I Gave My Life For Thee

I gave My life for thee, My precious blood I shed,
That thou might ransomed be, and raised up from the dead
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?

My Father’s house of light, My glory circled throne
I left for earthly night, for wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?

I suffered much for thee, more than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitterest agony, to rescue thee from hell.
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?

And I have brought to thee, down from My home above,
Salvation full and free, My pardon and My love;
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?

Frances Ridley Havergal, 1860.

 

 

 

Go On

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I have much to learn about this, but it is hard to understand because I am slow to learn. In fact, though by this time I ought to be teaching others, I still need someone to teach me many of the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. I still feel the need for milk, not certain that I am ready for solid food! I rely too much on milk, like an infant, not as acquainted as I should be with the solid food teaching about righteousness. I know that solid food is for the mature, and only by constant use can I train myself to distinguish good from evil.  I eagerly desire to leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.”  (a personal adaptation of Hebrews 5:11–6:1, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Not being a trained theologian, I suppose that my musings might be considered by many as elementary teachings.  At best, somewhere between milk and solid food, perhaps.  My hope is, however, that in some small way others can learn along with me as together we mature in the faith. With minds, hearts and actions working together to help us live Godly, Christlike, Spirit-filled lives.  Becoming more and more grounded in the foundation of the Word, increasingly connected to the Heavens through a growing intimate prayer life,  bolstered by fellowship with like-minded believers, as we are mentored by them and we in turn become able to mentor others.

My Advice – Let’s not remain infants.  Let’s move on to maturity.  I wrote “Got Spiritual Milk?” as a primer for discipleship.  I invite you to check it out at my “Store.”

Closer Than It Appears

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I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:10–14, NIV 1984).

My Musings – A mirage is an optical illusion, something that you believe you see but that isn’t really there.  As you move towards it, you don’t seem to make any progress in getting any closer.  Sometimes, our Christian walk seems a lot like that.  We “press on” and keep “straining toward what is ahead,” but the progress seems all too slow.  Like a mirage it appears to keep moving away from us.  Progress that is illusory.  Sometimes thinking that you believe you see some degree of progress, and at other times feeling that the progress isn’t really there.

While we must forget the life we left behind, sometimes it is good to look back to see how far we’ve come, than it is to look forward to see how much further we have to go.  Like rowing a boat out to sea.  The horizon keeps moving, not getting any closer.  Yet looking back, the harbor is shrinking into the distance.  Yes, we have made some progress.  Now turn our gaze forward again.  Is that land appearing in the distance?  Now keep our eyee fixed on the “prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.

My Advice – We have not “already obtained all this,” nor have we “already been made perfect.”  But keep pressing on.  Keep straining forward.  Do not grow weary or lose heart.  If you do these things, you will soon find out that the objective (Christlikeness) in the mirror (our reflection of Him), is closer than it appears.  Certainly closer than when you first put your faith in Christ.

Where Are Your “Eyes” Fixed?

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Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:1–3, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Look where you want to go, because you usually end up where you’re looking.  If your focus is on the problem, you may not see the solution.  This is a paraphrase of Dr. Dan Diamond, motivational speaker, author, coach and disaster physician, from a WebEx I attended today.

What’s hindering (making progress slow or difficult) us from growing in our faith?  Why do we get so easily entangled (caught up or involved) in worldly things (“the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does” – 1 John 2:16, NIV 1984), that take us off course?  Are we really looking (“fixing our eyes“) where we want to end up?  If not, why are we so surprised that we don’t end up there or that the progress in getting there is so slow?  Think carefully (“consider”) about these questions.  Then maybe we can throw them off and “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

My Advice – “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” (Yogi Berra).  Fix your eyes on Jesus.  You’ll end up where you’re looking and not someplace else.

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 My book “Got Spiritual Milk?” can help you keep your focus.

Facing Down Fear

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“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”  (2 Timothy 1:3–9, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “He knew sometimes some fear can be good. When you are afraid things are going to get worse if you don’t do something, it can prompt you into action.  But it is not good when you are so afraid that it keeps you from doing anything.  He decided if he ever got the chance again, he would get out of his comfort zone and adapt to change sooner.” (from “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, M.D.).

Fear can paralyze.  Especially when we feel powerless to do anything about what is causing the fear.  When the “foe” we face is “faceless” and is poorly understood.  But there is very little that should cause such concern in those of “sincere faith.”  For what is there that can cause us any lasting harm?  “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4–5, NIV 1984).

No one has that power over God’s children.  So, do not give in to a “spirit of timidity.”  Move out of your “comfort zone.”  Confront your fears with “a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”  Do this by “fanning into flame the gift of God.”  “Adapt to change.”

  • And what is this gift? – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:8–10, NIV 1984).
  • And how do we fan this “gift” into flame?Try prayer.  Try the Word.  Try fellowshipping with and being accountable to other believers.
  • And how do we adapt to change? – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern [spirit of timidity] of this world, but be transformed [fan into flame] by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2, NIV 1984).
  • And how do we renew your mind? – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”  (Philippians 4:8–9, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Let’s live a holy life.  “Not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.