Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First Love

This past weekend, I went to Chinatown in Downtown Portland with a couple of friends.

It didn’t take us long to discover why no one we had talked to had ever been there before.

There wasn’t much to it, but shops, restaurants, and a Chinese garden you had to pay an arm and leg to see.

It was also located in one of downtown’s worst districts.

At the main entrance, the Union Gospel Mission was serving hot soup to those who lived in the homeless camp to the left of the archway.  Some man offered me a new hat.

But we also saw things I hope to forget:
A blatant lifestyle abominable in the sight of the Lord.
And a man so high on drugs, it was hard not to notice.

My first thought was: “Apart from Christ, this is the best life they will ever have!!”

My second thought was: “Why am I not a part of what they’re doing?”

Because. . .
  • “By GRACE [we] have been saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:5)
  • “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his MERCY he saved us.” (Titus 3:5)
  •  “While we were yet sinners, CHRIST DIED for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Why is our best life yet to come?
Why are we appalled at blatant sin?
Why don’t we want to join in?

Because GOD reached out His arm of salvation to you and to me and made us His own.

We love Him because He FIRST loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How can I get more from my "Quiet Time"?

I’m not much into New Year’s resolutions.  But every year, I have good intentions – especially to be more diligent with Bible reading and study. 

It’s mid-February now.  Taking inventory on how it’s been going this year hasn’t been too encouraging. 

So I’ve asked myself the question, “How can I get MORE from my ‘quiet time’?

Anyone else asked this same question? 

My 91-year-old Pastor often reminds us that “the Word of God is to the soul what food is to the body.”  We need His Word as much as we need three meals a day.

The trouble is. . . I often mistake hunger for His Word as a need for something else.

Maybe these tips (put into practice!) will help each of us dig into His Word more deeply this year.

Tip #1 – When sitting down to read His Word, have a pen/pencil in hand and a notebook right next to your Bible. 

Plan on writing down SOMETHING you learned or that spoke to you directly that day.  This tiny “gesture of activity” will prove as a reminder that His Word is full of hidden treasure.   Look at reading Scripture as an overwhelming opportunity to dig for that treasure.  

“I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.” (Psalm 119:165)

Tip #2Read out loud.

Reading Scripture out loud doubles the effect.  Reading silently involves only the eyes and the mind.  Reading out loud brings two more channels into the impact.  You’re not only reading the written page, you’re speaking the truth, and hearing it spoken.

“Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth.” (Psalm 119:43)

Tip #3 – Look for a word, short phrase, or even an entire verse and commit to meditating on that thought throughout the day. 

This may involve writing the thought on a 3x5 card or a sticky note.  But keep it ready on your mind to turn your thoughts toward throughout the busyness of your day.  Don’t let “quiet time” be the only time in a given day that His Word is in your thoughts.  We need its nourishment “all the day.”

“Oh, how love I thy law!  It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)

Tip #4 – Saturate your reading with prayer.

Begin with the prayer: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalm 119:18)
Pray the Scriptures – Turn the words of Scripture into conversation with God.
Close with prayer – To be truly impacted by the truth of Scripture, we need more than methods or even helpful habits.  We need the Spirit of Truth guiding us into the truth and working it into our lives.

“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law, 
yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.” (Psalm 119:33)

How can I get more from my “quiet time”?
·         Eagerly anticipate it.
·         Read the Scriptures out loud.
·         Plan to meditate on a particular thought throughout the day.
·         Saturate it with prayer.

No matter how busy our schedules, one or all of these tips are possible.
And necessary.

As necessary as sitting down to a meal.

So. . . .Are you hungry?

“How sweet are thy words unto my taste!   
Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Whate'er my God ordains is right

Attended the funeral today of a godly woman who suffered colon cancer for several years.  She is now at rest, free from pain and suffering! 

We sang a hymn that was a comfort to her in her most severe moments of pain. 

Only a true child of God – saved by grace – can sing these words with conviction and joy, as she did.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Holy his will abideth;
I will be still whate’er he doth,
And follow where he guideth:
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I cannot fall:
Wherefore to him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right;
He never will deceive me;
He leads me by the proper path;
I know he will not leave me:
I take, content, What he hath sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away,
And patiently I wait his day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking;
My God is true; Each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right;
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet am I not forsaken;
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I cannot fall:
And so to him I leave it all.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What is Greatness?

If someone were to ask you the question, “Who was the greatest person who ever lived?” what would be your answer?

Moses?  King David? the Apostle Paul?  Abraham Lincoln?

What about. . . .John the Baptist?

Jesus said, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11)

But why?  Why was John the Baptist considered the greatest person who ever lived?

He wasn’t the son of a king.  He was the son of a common, elderly couple.
He was despised by many and eventually decapitated.
He lived in isolation. 
He fearlessly rebuked the people for sin.
He lived a separate way of life.
He didn’t even become a priest (like his father).

But when his miraculous birth was announced, Gabriel told Zacharias he would be “great in the eyes of the Lord.”

John would be the promised prophet who would prepare the way for the life and ministry of the Messiah.  He would point many to Christ.

But Gabriel also said he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, “even from his mother’s womb.”  God’s Spirit would be in total control of his life.

Others would have a huge influence – his godly mother and a wicked woman who arranged his death.

But the greatest influence on his life would be that of the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist became “great,” because of who GOD made him to be.

But listen to what Jesus said next:  “Notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Because greatness isn’t determined by. . .
What kind of human influences we’ve had in our lives, or haven’t had.
Who our family was, or wasn’t.
What we did for the Lord, or what we didn’t do.

True greatness is determined by what GOD has done in our lives.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re called . . .
"the least",
"greater than", or
"the greatest".

If we’re seeking to be filled with His Spirit – letting HIM have total control – we’re considered “great in the eyes of the Lord.”

“GREAT” . . . .because of what God is making us to be.

(Click here to listen to the lesson on "Elisabeth and Herodias.")