NO HIGHER HONOR

Some years ago my good friend Mike Neale penned a worship song titled “No Greater Audience”. If you aren’t familiar with it I suggest you ‘Google’ the title or “Michael Neale” and listen to the words. I cried the first hundred times I heard it – down to a lump in my throat now, and sometimes I do still tear up. The essence of the song has to do with praising God and the chorus speaks of having “no higher honor than to sing a song of praise to my King”
In a recent reading of a chapter in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis I was again reminded of the honor we have in serving the Lord. God has work that he wants done, and while he could certainly magically cause all that work to just “happen”, I believe He wants, even prefers for his children to “be his hands and feet”.
And what an honor it is to be used by God. Of all my experiences as a follower of the Lord, my greatest thrills and my most heartfelt moments have been in service to God. I taught a men’s 35 week discipleship class for eight years and I recall seeing men change their attitudes and their priorities. I had wives call me asking, “What have you done to my husband? – he isn’t the same man.” I would respond that it was the Lord’s doing – not mine, but inside I would feel this warm glow, knowing God had used Michael Warnock to do his holy work – there is no aphrodisiac like it.
I too could observe the changes in the men as they became less prideful and judgmental, more forgiving, tolerant, and loving.
Are you being used by God? It can start out small – serve a couple of hours in a soup kitchen or be a greeter in your church on Sunday mornings. Don’t you just love it when someone grabs your hand and welcomes you – or perhaps gives you a big hug? Well, I can promise you the person greeting you is just as delighted and they experience an inner joy that comes only from the Lord. He surely rewards those who serve him.
Be Blessed

Compromise

Compromise. I keep coming across the word compromise. Just today in two separate devotions the authors spoke of the church making compromises with world opinion.
News Flash my friends – we don’t make compromise with world opinion – any compromise we make is concession to Satan’s rule over this earth. The Bible makes it plain who rules this earth – Ephesians 2:2 calls him “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”
Who do you think the “sons of disobedience” are??? They are the very people of world opinion who deny the Word of God, who twist and rephrase it to ‘tickle their itching ears.”
In Revelation John calls Satan the “deceiver of the whole world” (12:9) and Paul wrote to the Corinthians,”…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (4:4).
Understand my friends, compromise means each side makes some concession. What may I ask you does Satan concede? He has yet to surrender his dark rule over this world and though he knows he is ultimately defeated, he has not given up on corruption of our hearts and minds and stealing our children and our neighbors. Furthermore what of God’s Word do we want to concede to Satan?
When you put on that whole armor of God remember it is against the rulers, against authorities, against powers of this dark world, and against spiritual forces of evil that we struggle
Make no compromise with this world. Stand firm – remember you are Christ’s ambassador (2 Cor 5:20), “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…” (2 Cor 4:5).

True Faith

True faith is never an accident; it is intentional, willful, deliberate and uncompromising. It requires that we meet certain conditions, that we allow the teachings of Christ to dominate our total lives from the moment we believe. We must be willing to be different than others. The effort to enjoy the benefits of redemption while enmeshed in the world is futile. We must choose one or the other, and faith quickly makes its choice, one from which there is no retreat.

The change experienced by a truly converted man or woman is equal to that of a person moving to another country. The regenerated soul feels no more at home in the world than Abraham felt when he left Ur of the Chaldees and set out for the land of promise. Apart from his own small company he was a stranger to everyone around him. He was called ‘Abraham the Hebrew,’ and if he spoke the language of the people among whom he took up his dwelling place, he spoke it with an accent.
This journey from Ur to Bethel is taken by every soul that sets out to follow Christ. It is, however, not a journey for the feet but for the heart. The newborn Christian is a migrant; he has come into the kingdom of God from his old home in the kingdom of man and he must get set for the violent changes that will inevitably follow.

One of the first changes will be a shift of interest from earth to heaven, from men to God, from time to eternity, from earthly gain to Christ and His eternal kingdom. Suddenly, or slowly but surely, he will develop a new pattern of life. Old things pass away and behold, all things will become new, first inwardly and then outwardly; for the change within him will soon begin to express itself by corresponding changes in his manner of living.

The transformation will show itself in many ways; in what the new Christian allows to fill his mind, in where and how he spends his time and money. Old friends will scoff and ridicule him. Old haunts and practices now offend him.
We must all look in the mirror and ask that person looking back if we are indeed at odds with the world, are we like a fish out of water? Do we relate to this world with a pronounce accent that is discernable, obvious to all whom we encounter?

It is my prayer that your faith stands out like a giant among midgets. Blessings

Spiritual Disciplines

When someone starts to speak to us about ‘spiritual disciplines’ our eyes kinda roll back in our heads and we by default assume a defensive posture. Discipline of any kind is contrary to our nature and I would propose that is of our ‘fallen’ nature. Surely God didn’t create “in his image” a nature rebellious to discipline.
I should clarify the term as it is used here. The verb form generally suggests chastising, reprimanding, or in the extreme, punishing. But our present focus is on the noun form. Here we speak of discipline as a routine or a regimen, something we adhere to as a regulation. There are legal disciplines we term laws and authority. There are any number of disciplines we impose on ourselves, such as work, exercise, diet, sleep habits, and even self-control. We unite with society demanding the disciplines of morality and ethics from our neighbors.
So what are spiritual disciplines and how are they any different than those we have listed? Where is the authority for these disciplines? What penalty do I invite by my ignorance or refusing to abide by them?
Dallas Willard, in The Spirit of the Disciplines, and Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, have compiled a list of spiritual disciplines and practices they believe were modeled in the life of Christ. These disciplines are typically organized into two categories: the disciplines of abstinence (or “letting go”) and the disciplines of activity.
Disciplines of Letting Go
Solitude, Silence, Fasting, Frugality, Chastity, Secrecy, and Sacrifice.
These practices allow us to relinquish something in order to gain something new. We abstain from “busy-ness” in ministry, family life, and work. We stop talking for a while to hear from God. We give up buying another material possession to experience God more fully. First Peter 2:11 warns us to “abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” Identify what is keeping you from experiencing greater strength and perspective. Do you talk too much? Are possessions controlling you? Are you too worried about what others think? Choose disciplines that will help you become more dependent on God.
Disciplines of Activity
Study, Worship, Prayer, Fellowship, Confession, and Submission.

Dallas Willard writes, “The disciplines of abstinence must be counter-balanced and supplemented by disciplines of engagement (activity).” It’s choosing to participate in activities that nurture our souls and strengthen us for the race ahead.
Abiding fully to these disciplines is no more possible than fully obeying the Ten Commandments, living by the Beatitudes, or wholly exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit.
Remember you are a sinful being. The Bible refers to our bodies as vile and lowly (Phil. 3:21); earthy and corruptible (1 Cor. 15:48-50). Jesus indicates that evil things pour forth from it to defile humankind (Mark 7:20-23), and Romans characterizes it as having a throat like an open grave, a tongue and lips full of deceit and poison, a mouth full of cursing and bitterness, and feet in a hurry to shed blood (Rom. 3:13-15).
It is no wonder we find discipline such a challenge. But we must not lose heart. Spiritual discipline is not a matter simply for the mind or will; it is an activity of the body. We must intentionally choose to pick up the Bible and study it, meditate on it, and pray its passages. We must intentionally go to church, sing praise and worship to God and fellowship with other Christians. Your times of solitude, silence and secrecy, your fasting and frugality are all things we do with our body – not simply think about doing.
Spiritual discipline is a choice we make to honor and obey our Lord. Some have suggested that such is the only way we can draw near to God and make ourselves available to his abundant blessings.

Peace

Peace – we find the term used two hundred and fifty times in the Bible, not including peace-loving, peaceable, peaceably, peaceful, peacefully, and peace-makers.

In the Old Testament the most common usage is the Hebrew word salom or shalom. The less familiar New Testament Greek word is eirene from which we get the name Irene. There are a few other words we render ‘peace’ from the Hebrew text but their meaning differs no more than black and indigo. When you think about our English word peace there are few synonyms. Thesaurus’ best attempt is tranquility, and it adds quiet but I envision ‘quiet’ as icing on the cake.

I chose Peace as our topic today as I meditated on our approaching celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

I would ask you at this point to go back to your ‘peace place’. For some of it is a place we can no longer go. It may have been as your mother read you a bedtime story. It may have been wading a trout stream or just sitting in an easy chair, fire embers dying away, draining the last of your hot chocolate. It was a time that everything was right – not everything in the world – just in your world – for that moment in time.

Some of us find that ‘peace place’ frequently – perhaps daily. It is my prayer that you know and visit your peace place often. My wife gets up earlier in the mornings than I do most of the time. And when I get up I often find her on our patio, coffee on the table, her devotional and Bible in hand, gazing off into space. I know she is at that moment at peace. I would not disturb that for all the world has to offer. I know that my entrance into the scene is to bring her back into a world of errands and chores, and living life in a fallen world.

The apostle Paul was very much aware of the significance of being at peace and that the Lord’s peace transcends all understanding (Phil. 4:7) As you read Paul’s epistles note that he opened each one with the salutation, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.

Jesus was not heralded as the Prince of Peace without reason. His promise of peace was both immediate and eternal. Imagine you and I go to see a movie that I have already seen. In the movie there is a threat against an innocent child and you might become anxious or cringe in anticipation. Yet as I already know the outcome and know the threat is not forthcoming you would see a sense of peace or tranquility in me and appropriate that peace. Jesus knew the end of the story. He knows the end of your story and mine.

He told His disciples “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27) and “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This is the peace Paul painted as "transcending all understanding", not an ordinary or commonplace type of peace. This was God's own peace – supernatural, beyond our understanding. Jesus knew the disciples were going to face uncertain days in the future, especially between the time of His death and the giving of the Holy Spirit some two months later. That was a promise of both immediate and eternal peace. His peace.

The eternal peace Jesus promises is that which we find as He healed the bleeding woman and the woman who anointed Him at the Pharisee’s home. He said to them “Go in peace, your faith has healed (saved) you”. (Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; 8:48) Our peace is predicated on our faith. More faith = more peace.

You and I can have that peace that transcends all understanding in this troubled world only in Christ Jesus. We can know that we know that we know that our long awaited and longed for peace is promised and secured for us in heaven. Those peaceful moments we are blessed with now will multiply a thousand fold and be unending.

Twice in the book of Revelation God promises to wipe away every tear (Rev. 4:17; 21:4) Those verses cover a lot of ground. To wipe away every tear means to do away with anything and everything that would stand in the way of our joy.

It is my prayer that you know the peace Jesus promised. Trust Him – have faith in Him and you will find that peace.

The Prince of Peace is coming – Hurry, hurry!