Devastated but Hopeful

www.bible.com/72/hab.3.17-18.hcsb

My life is in shambles, like a tornado ripped through and left me with debris. In 2012, a powerful tornado whipped through our sister community of West Liberty and many echoed this statement. A church was completely destroyed, along with several downtown businesses. The town was leveled.

Habakkuk reflects upon the devastation that results from agricultural failure. The olive trees, the crops, even the stalls for livestock are all empty. For someone living in sixth century BC Israel, this was a fate akin to death. When the crops don’t come in and there is nothing on the trees, you are done. Habakkuk knew this well and cried out to God. But in the midst of the cry was a note of hope. That despite all of the physical evidence that as a nation, we are finished, God is still a God of salvation.

It’s hard to praise when there is no blessing. It requires a perspective that acknowledges the now, but anticipates eternity. While we suffer in the present, this isn’t all there is. Though the world around us is destroyed, He is not. It is the ability to see past our circumstances.

The people of West Liberty rebuilt their town, but even today you can see the scars. You too can be rebuilt, but there will be scars. If you are suffering today, know that you are not alone. Perhaps God is using this time to draw you closer to Himself. The rich young ruler was told to sell all of his possessions and follow Jesus. Will your faith be in jeopardy if you lose a few things? I would like to say, “Absolutely Not!” But I can’t tell I wouldn’t be shaken either.

We all need a note from Habakkuk today, both to be grateful for the blessings we have (knowing they can be taken away at any moment) and for praying that we don’t follow Jesus for the blessings themselves. God help us.

And may God bless you today. Thanks for reading.

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The Greatest

www.bible.com/72/1co.13.13.hcsb

Of faith, hope and love, the greatest is love. Why is that? Simply because love outlasts the others. Faith is temporal, for it will only be necessary until we see the face of Christ. Then we will know and be fully known. (Do not take this lightly, as faith is the basis for our salvation, and without faith it is impossible to please Him. While temporal, it is still extremely important). Hope too is temporal, in that when we see Him, our hope will be realized. (Again, this is not to say that hope is not needed. We depend on our blessed hope to endure this present darkness and press on to the light. We need our hope like oxygen for perseverance, the mettle or our maturity. Without hope we no direction or focus. We need hope, just as much as faith) But the greatest by far of the three is love. Love is eternal. Love is everlasting. Unconditional, forgiving love is our mainstay, which we will experience both now and forever.

How great this love is when the Father sends His own Son, proof of His love, to suffer and die, to take upon Himself the infinite wrath of God on our behalf. One day we will see his face, though I will ashamed, knowing that this eternal loving God had to suffer and die for my sins. I will week as I’ve never wept before for shame, that such a one, a perfect One, took my sins and curses upon Himself. I am a wretch before Him. And such love will raise his nail-scarred hand and wipe away my tears. What love is this, that would love me so completely? Such I have never experienced on this earth. Such is too wonderful, too hoped for, too fantastic for my imagination. Could I imagine such love? That without regret He would deem me worthy of such a sacrifice as His cross? Am I so valuable to Him as to deserve that love? I am worthless. But He has imparted to me by His grace such worth that I cannot take it all in. So I weep in gratitude. Through tear-filled eyes I behold my Savior and thank Him for His love. And I weep for those that didn’t embrace His offer of love. Such love is too powerful. Shall we ignore it?

God bless you on this Valentine’s Day. He loves you deeply. Don’t ever forget that.

Consider Others

www.bible.com/72/php.2.3.hcsb

Pride ever get in the way of a good job? Teamwork can be a great thing as long as no one cares who gets the credit. We know this verse is true even without having to read it. But somehow people continue to forget its lesson. Rivalry is the idea that a person will continue to raise the stakes in personal competition with someone else. Rivalry doesn’t make friends, but is always comparing itself, always looking to measure itself against someone else, trying always to be better, but not for the good of the other.

Conceit works in a similar fashion, only that it seems to puff itself up at expense of everyone else. Conceit demands worship and adoration. Conceit demand attention to such a great it did. No one wants to work with conceit or with rivalry.

Rather we want to work with someone who considers you more important that they, and vice versa. This is someone who looks for the needs of the group before itself, because he knows that when the group improves, he does too. A rising tide lifts all boats.

“Love one another as I have loved you”, said Jesus. How did He love us? He sacrificed his own needs for the sake of everyone else. I think Jesus would have made a great person to work with. Why not try to be Jesus for those who work with you today.

God bless and have a great day!

Mere Love

www.bible.com/72/1jn.3.18.hcsb

Surely love is too important, too deep, too wonderful to be merely love. Yet this is John’s contention this morning. Is it possibly that love be mere talk? To say “I love you” is just talk? From what I hear, that’s the extremity of commitment for some and a true test of relationship for others. Some count this as proof that they are ready for cohabitation. Mere love, mere expression without commitment. There is saying “I love you” and showing “I love you” by doing. This is the difference John is teasing out here. Saying “I love you” in the backseat of a car or online is far less significant than saying “I love you” before a crowd of witnesses at the altar. It is less meaningful than when holding your wife, tearful after a long and difficult day, weeping how much she wishes she could help people more, angry at the world for its unfairness, and to simply hold her, knowing she has borne you four children, remembering with her that there are good times, that is love. It is love to willingly do dishes when you know she hates to do them. It’s dropping everything at a moment to see what she needs two rooms away.

Love is more than speech. It is action, commitment, a willingness to follow through with the promise of “I do.” Love isn’t just between humans either.

For the love we experience with God is much more. For his did God demonstrate His love for us? Did He scrawl “I love you” on the face of the moon? Did He send a Valentine’s card in the mail? He sent His Son. His only Son into a world that He knew would be hostile to him. He sent His Son to suffer and die for the sins of the world, to receive into Himself the extremity of His wrath for sin. You see, our God is an angry God, angry at sin and the men who commit it. Since Adam God has weighed and counted the sins of the men, preparing them for His wrath. God’s Justice must be served. God prepared a place called Hell to receive the souls of the damned for eternal torment and suffering to a degree we are not familiar. Sin is costly, and it must be paid for.

But the Love of God must also be satisfied. For His love is just as intense and infinite as His sense of justice. And there was only one answer to the intensity of His wrath, and that was the willingness to endure it through the perfect sacrifice of His Son on Calvary. For as infinite as His wrath is, so must also be the One willing to endure it, and that can only be Jesus, the God who became Man, and the Man for all of us. This is the Love of God.

Cards and flowers say love, but what really shows love? Don’t merely say love. Mean it. Do it.

God bless you today.

Give Me A Reason

www.bible.com/72/eph.2.10.hcsb

I heard the wisdom shared yesterday from that sage of the human condition, Mark Twain, “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” This verse presumes to answer that second question. Did you catch that? What is our purpose? Why are we here? “We are His creation” this He is our Father. We were made by Him who is filled with purpose, direction, and meaning. How could we not share in that? But this creation is something special, for we are created “in Christ Jesus”. This is a recreation, a reconstruction of who we are based on our salvation in Christ. For who we once were was marred irrevocably by sin and corruption. But Jesus has changed all that. Jesus has given us new life and purpose. Where once we had natural talents and abilities, now we are renewed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But why go to all this trouble? Ah, but we were created “for good works, which God prepares ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” God did lay out a plan for you and for the gifts He would empower you with to accomplish His purposes. The path has already been made. We have but to follow. You have been created to do good. To do God’s good. Today may be the day you find out why, I hope it’s good news.

God bless you all today.

Armor

www.bible.com/72/eph.6.11.hcsb

We are soft and squishy. The artisans of war and conflict have known this for centuries. We tend to bleed easily. And so it became necessary to cover ourselves, first with clothing, leather and so forth, and then with more sturdy materials, like tin, bronze and iron. Today there is steel, Kevlar and carbon-fiber meshes. But the game and the purpose is still the same, to protect the softness and vulnerability that is our flesh.

So how does this translate into the spiritual realm? Does this mean that our souls are also soft and squishy, and that they too can be pierced? The armor we are called to wear was forged by no man. It is the armor of God. God is both smith and bearer of this armor, and He offers it to us for our protection, for we are His children, and His soldiers. We bear His armor. We march for Him.

But this armor, if you notice, is not for marching. It is for standing. This armor becomes for us an edifice, a fortress of refuge that protects us from the darts of the devil. This armor is composed not of steel and leather, but of faith, truth, and the gospel. Our very fragile soul is protected by the truth that has saved us. So that the true weapons of the enemy are falsehood and deceit. Hmmm.

Something to think about on this Sunday morning. God bless you today!

(By the way, illustration is not mine, I am borrowing it for illustration. If this is your artwork, please comment)

Almost Persuaded?

www.bible.com/72/rom.8.38-39.hcsb

I believe that Paul’s letter to the Romans predates Felix’s speech where he says to Paul, “Thou almost persuadest me to be a Christian.” What a contrast. Though many of us are Christians today, are we fully persuaded as Paul was that we would never be separated from the love of Christ?

Now most would say, “Yes, of course I am persuaded, even convinced. I will never be separated from the love of Christ.” There are times in my own life that my certainty came into question, as 8’m sure there have been in yours. After I lost my first church back in 1997, I wasn’t even sure if I was in the will of God, let alone His love. Now I’ve got nothing on Paul, who was not only often rejected, but often stoned, beat, and nearly killed by many churches. But I can tell you that it hurt very much. I was in a depression for a year after it happened. My poor wife bore me up, but even she had her limits. If I wasn’t in school at the time, I probably would have given up completely. I spent a year out of ministry, just trying to figure out what God wanted with me. He finally called me back in, and blessed my wife and I exceptionally, but only after we had been broken and cried out to Him in desperate prayer. We discovered He had not abandoned us after all, but put us through a time of suffering until we learned to come back to Him. Until we were persuaded once again of His love.

I imagine some of you are going through a similar time. Maybe worse, maybe not, but you are questioning if God has a purpose for you. God put you on his planet for a reason. You may not find out what it is until you see Him, but I believe even the child born who cannot have a “meaningful” life has a purpose to serve in this world. Be faithful, be broken before Him, be the vessel He needs you to be. Be persuaded that even now, He loves you. Never let go of that.

God bless you today my friend.