Thought for January 23– Day 23 of the new year
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Our times seem to be becoming ever more difficult. Cancel culture, perceived racism, homeless in the streets, and the destruction of past norms, all seem to point to a need for mercy and grace. We hear from all sides this is the “new normal.” Nevertheless, if this new way of seeing the world leaves out our dependence upon God, I want no part of it. Instead in our times of need, my reach must be much further than my grasp and my vision must be more than what I perceive. God is here and He is willing to hand out both lavishly and perfectly the love of mercy and grace. Today I am in need, so please forgive, and pour out your mercy and grace, as I do so for you. Renew in my heart the desire to seek God before any other solution.
Thought for January 21 – Day 21 of the new year
Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The Christian race is ongoing. All those who have gone before are our observers. We are required to run without the baggage of a thousand regrets. The past of our lives is always the greatest hindrance to our progress. Regret, shame, and guilt slow our progress. We must just let it go and run. It is extremely easy to think and say the race is about the final checkered flag. Yet it seems so far away. I need to just concentrate on the next step, the next few feet. It is about perseverance. It is about focused continual action. The accomplishment of one step is an encouragement to make it to the next after that.
Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” ——————————————
It is recorded that as Sir Walter Raleigh placed his neck on the chopping block of his execution, the executioner asked, “Does your head lie easy, Sir Walter?” Answering the man holding the double-edged ax, “It matters not, my friend, how my head lies, provided my heart is right.”
The state of my heart is my decision. My soul can be a stone with an associated hardness and lifelessness, or it can be a thing of hope, caring, forgiveness, and love. I cannot allow ideology to supplant God’s will. I cannot let my wants, needs, desires, and my own personal demand for control, take the place of God’s will. My alliance with God’s perfect will, my decision, makes me who I am. It is an act of God’s renewal of me.
Revelation 21:5 “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is difficult to understand. Visions of beasts, horses, fire, judgment, and images that are simply unimaginable. It is just weird. But then again, I am weird too. To the world my belief is weird. I am weird enough to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, survived in the wilderness 40 days, walked on water, healed the sick, raised a man from the dead, was hung on a cross, and rose from the dead, was and is God and now sits at the right hand of the Father. If I am weird, so be it. Join me in my weirdness. Perhaps, our stubborn defiance of the norm will make a difference in the world.
Colossians 3:9-10 “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
In California, winter snow is delegated to the high mountains. The stark contrast of white is seen from the valley and is a welcome sight knowing the coming summer will have enough water. Winter is the far edge of spring. At this point in my life, I too am at the far edge of my beginning. At this time of year, I listen to the rain rhythmically on my roof. The leaves have been raked, and all else has been put away for protection. In the summer we pray for rain. In winter we pray for sunshine.
Nevertheless, with winter comes a promise of spring. Spring is putting off the quiet for the new. I look forward to the spring. It is about pressing on to bigger and better things. I am not exaggerating when I say last year was tough. As I move on with my life, I often must stop and remember to cleanse my mind from the negative and fill it with the wonder, splendor, grace, and mercy that pours from the creator. Renewal in the knowledge of my image moving toward the image of Jesus.
Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
Webster was right when he said, “Justice, sir, is the great interest of people on earth.” Without justice, there is no hope or expectation of continuance for our culture. A just society must first acknowledge a moral law higher than itself: a supreme lawgiver to whom even the most powerful are held into account. America’s founders writing the Declaration of Independence, in the very first sentence acknowledged the existence and dependence upon something greater than themselves. Our nation is founded on a supreme, objective basis of justice and righteousness. Justice is not a whim of whoever is in political power at any given election cycle. Justice is based upon the supreme lawgiver. To substitute man-made morality or even personal political ethics as a new standard is just folly. God’s perfect justice is established by His unchangeable nature. To set any other ultimate measuring stick of justice is foolishness.
James 2:10,12,13 “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, for judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy, mercy triumphs over judgment.”
This quote from James is a “hard saying”. It is not hard to understand. It is very plain and simple. It is hard because we all deserve justice. James is saying that, if you make your life into a world of compliance and keeping of the law but fall short in one minuscule and seeming nonessential point, you deserve and should be accountable for judgment. It doesn’t matter if you went to church every time the door opened or gave all that you had to ministry, if there is one spot, one little blemish, there will be judgment. Judgment is required. But if I show mercy, if I show love to the undeserving, if I go out of my way to be merciful, then I will be shown mercy. My mercy is a sign of God’s mercy. God exercises mercy with delight and His mercy rejoices and overcomes His justice.
Lord, reveal to me today, ways to show people mercy. Restore in me my want to forgive and forget. Let mercy begin in me.
Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
The world seems not to have changed from the days I was growing up in a town next door to a military training base. My father was in the Naval reserve and so our home was to be shipshape. Everything had its place, and everything should be in that place. I grew up with an expectation of proper behavior.
I have spent years living and breathing in the world of expectations of other people. Living in constant threat of disappointment of the socially acceptable norm. My ingrained nature is one of trying to live up to someone else’s imposed expectation. I failed a lot. Trying as I might, I could not be what the world expected because their expectations never included mercy. Now I live in mercy. I have experienced it. I have cultivated it. I have a great need for it. I cannot exist without it. And when it becomes a part of me my life finds truth, purity, holiness, peace wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, and victory. My years of living in this great mercy causes me to show mercy.
Lord, remind me again and again that in your mercy I need to show mercy.
Romans 8:35, 37-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.:
Paul decided. Facing persecution, arrest, deprivation, and worldly uncertainty, he decided not one of the things in his life that would destroy him would separate him. He decided there was nothing that would be a valid reason for separation. He was convinced. Yet, there are many Christians walking around like the walking wounded. Head held low, hoping against hope that the day ends without calamity. Living as if hell is greater than heaven. Sure, the world tries to separate. But for me, I refuse to live like a zombie crying and growling, stepping through life without hope. I refuse because I have decided. I stand up, put on a smile, and am well assured. I decide to open the gates of hope and assurance. I choose to make a fundamental decision to accept God at his word.
Lord, I have decided that you are able to keep to that which I have committed to you. I will walk in that assurance.
Ezekiel 36:25-28 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will be my people, and I will be your God.
Assurance blossoms in repeated conflict. The discouragement is caused by losing sight of the promise of God. Stand up, repeat the words of faith. The Lord’s power and goodness are not diminished by your conflict. When we are torn apart, God still lives. When we are discouraged, God still loves us. When we are in danger, God still reaches out. When evil stands in the door, God still is your protector. When discouragement haunts you, God is there to remind you of his very presence. God is beyond appearances. You will be my people, and I will be your God.