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Archive for March, 2013

Contingencies gnaw at the soul. Unknowns wreak havoc where peace is to prevail.

What’s your “Plan B?” Are you keeping your options open? Who or what is on standby in the unlikely event of the unexpected?

The world urges us to hedge our bets, cover all our bases, diversify and reduce exposure with sophisticated strategies for risk mitigation.

Divided hearts divvy up loyalties among the best alternatives of lesser gods and call themselves wise for doing so. It is the fool who lays up “treasure” for himself and isn’t rich toward God. (Luke 12:13-21)

God is our only hope who is unwilling to be anything less than our only hope.

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He washed His followers feet while they contended for supremacy.

He pursued redemptive peril while others sought self-protection.

He plead with the Father for the welfare of His church while His church planters prayed themselves to sleep.

He willingly surrendered to His captors while a so-called friend surrendered his soul to betrayal.

He preserved the dignity of those made in His image while suffering disgrace in their feeble hands.

He endured heartless injustice so that guilty offenders might be shown mercy.

His flesh was torn by the whip so that wounded hearts might be healed.

He bore the weighty bulk of His cross to lift the burden of sin from rebel’s backs.

Tools of torture punctured His body securing ransom for debt humanity could never repay.

Legions of angels He held at bay that we might become temples of the Living God.

Romans 5:8–9 “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

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Genuine prayer is a great act of humility.

It is a sincere expression of need and hope intertwined and directed to the only One who can lift us from our fallenness. It is an admission that we are wholeheartedly deficient, desperate for our Creator to do in us, for us, and through us what we could never do ourselves.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – Jesus (John 15:5)

Our pride despises this posture, preferring self-sufficiency over submission. But blessing comes only to those on bended knee.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

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I don’t like to lose and I don’t know anyone who does. Given our choice, I imagine everyone would prefer victory over defeat; the higher the stakes, the greater the passion for coming out on top.

But losing is a fact of life. No one wins all the time. So what do we do when faced with loss?

Without glossing over the pain of defeat, it can actually be a great gift. While missing out on immediate reward, loss is full of potential for long-term gain. But that gain is contingent upon our posture.

To a tender, teachable heart, defeat offers humility, correction, endurance, wisdom, repentance, understanding, and growth of all kinds. To a hard heart, loss produces bitterness and resentment, not only toward victors, but especially toward God.

In the crisis of losing, the greatest of gains is a greater dependence upon God, a hunger and appreciation for the refining work He longs to do which winning alone would never accomplish.

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You can find them just about anywhere. Organizations, states, movements, even nations have been ruled by them. They show up in churches where power is up for grabs. They feed on control and indignantly bail out when none is to be had.

They seem bigger than life, loud and full of swagger that steals the spotlight wherever they go. But truth be known … they’re small, shallow posers preserving their fragile lives with a furious, yet feeble bark and bite.

No need to fear them.

They have far more reason to be afraid. Arrogance is laughable in the heavens where there is but one God, holy and utterly supreme. It is a costly gaffe to mistake the love of God for a willingness on His part to yield His throne to any whom He created. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

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Have you ever come home bloodied by a bully? Do you know the pain of heartless torment? Can you remember enduring abuse, helpless against cruel aggression?

That kind of suffering scars the soul like nothing else. It’s confusing, humiliating, excruciating, enraging. Those afflicted this way are desperate for deliverance, but they want more. Vengeance seems a sweet antidote for injustice, a passionate plea made by the least of these.

Imprecatory prayers (as they’re called), cries for harm against one’s enemies are not forbidden, but neither are they encouraged. Perhaps they are allowed for the purpose of ridding our hearts of resentment. Venting the venom of retribution makes room for the miracle of mercy.

Our Father in heaven allows us to honestly unload our bitter baggage and assures us that He is more than able to exact justice with perfection. We can release our tormentors to God’s capable care and walk a path of restoration full of freedom and hope. In time, we might find ourselves praying again for our enemies … pleading with God for their welfare instead of their ruin. (Matthew 5:43-45)

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Growing up on the plains of Oklahoma, I was accustomed to the annual stampede of tornadoes that came with spring showers. They were breathtaking to behold from far away; terrifying if twisting toward our home.

With sirens blaring our family would go underground, huddling safe and secure until the threat passed by. Despite the danger to our stuff on the surface, our sanctuary beneath the storm was saturated with gratitude for personal protection.

What a precious gift it is to have a hiding place in the storms of life.

More terrifying than any tempest this world might spin up is to be “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)

We can lose a lot “above ground,” suffer immense hardship, yet endure gracefully if shielded by the grace and mercy of God. Hope rooted in God’s unchanging goodness is a steadfast song of thanksgiving and praise.

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