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Archive for August, 2010

Preoccupied

8 Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—
the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Yesterday I kept coming back repeatedly  in my mind to the thought that the way to love others is to love Jesus.  Loving Jesus is the key.  Those who worship are engrossed  with something or someone, or else it wouldn’t be worship.  Yesterday’s options included being preoccupied with myself or with God.  I have discovered that the time to become preoccupied with God doesn’t begin when I get to the church house.  That hour is the overflow of the rest of the week.

I was captured by the four living beings mentioned in Revelation 4.  That phrase “…Day after day and night after night they keep on saying…”  It sounds like to me that they were preoccupied with the One who created them.  I realize that their activity was in concert with their created purpose in  heaven, however, my joy today is to be preoccupied with the One who loves me.

And to think that the highest of God’s creative joy is the child of God.  Being preoccupied with Christ is a natural thing for those who are believers.  In a world where there are thousands of options, I find a wonderful reminder that staying in His presence causes me to  say something like… “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty— the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

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Predicated on Love!

1I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,


How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My guilt upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr’s, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

©1995 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music
Words and Music by Stuart Townend

Our ability to love ourselves, our spouses, our children, our deepest friends, the folk at the church much less at work, including total strangers is predicated on His love for me.

Smith told me.  It’s his fault.  Oh, it was the need to stand at the cross and stay there until you become a believer in Christ.  The preacher in me heard that with my ears and hurried up and agreed with him “…you ought to stay until you grasp just how deeply He loves  you.”  It was Paul, and two John’s that pushed me out in the water of the second half…and I have been in over my head in it trying to figure out how deep. His love really is beyond comprehension.  Paul reminded me in the letter to the Colossians how much he loved strangers he had never seen.  I was captivated to consider how I am doing with the ones I know.   They had the commitment to believe in Christ as he.  Their pastor was a friend of Paul.  Paul fell in love with them because he, Paul,  fell in love with Jesus.  I figured it out…the key to loving others is loving Christ.  That was one of those things that I tasted again for the first time.  I knew that!  God was rattling that around in my heart, my mind, and it was captivating my emotion.  Paul was actually executed because he loved the ones that Jesus loved.

It’s gut check time!  Especially for a guy who “has done church” for so long…assumes he knows how to love his wife and kids…doing something and doing something out of the right motivation can be two different things.

He told me that He loved me.    Over the past several years I have gotten to where I could hear Him say those three words down deep in my own heart…took a while, but I am getting it.  I love others out of the overflow of my love for Jesus…how’s it going with my – wife, children, in-laws, out-laws, church folk, non-church folk – strangers…

How does loving them reflect the depth of my love for God?  It might take me a few minutes…

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S   18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

O   Listening to John share his heart about how the life of one who believes and is one of what John called “…the children of God…” Listen to what he said earlier in 1 John 3…2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,[a]we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  We shall be like him.  His life will be reflected in the way we live.  Since I am preaching today on the church, I was reminded that when we become a believer in Christ by faith, and His presence lives in us, then we begin to read the Truth of the Word of God, His life becomes alive in us.  We start reflecting His life.  It is normal.  For the first time in our lives, we genuinely care about someone other than ourselves.  We love and care for our spouses, children, and one of the unique  expressions is that we love the church family.  We care about them.  It becomes a natural part of our relationship to Christ.

A   He specifically tells me to make sure that the love I have  some tangible expression to it.  Action!  NOT just words and tongue…  Today I  think of Ed Williamson, who will be having open heart surgery to have his aorta repaired on Tuesday.  He will be at church, and we will have a chance to pray for him.  I am praying this day for Leigh, Linda, Hazel, and several others that are struggling.  I especially pray for Tim and Susan Spurling, who are driving to Charleston to put Ashley Taylor on a flight to Dallas, then to Chicago, across the North Pole to Chongching, China where she will minister by teaching English at a university there for ten months.  Susan just moved her son into college this past week and now her daughter is flying to China.  I have a special friend who moved his two boys in yesterday.  He drove home to a  quieter home last evening.

P  My prayer Father is that our relationship will deepen today.  I want to love those you love especially those in our church family…people with whom I have chosen to walk side by side and share life with them.  Your Presence is real in me.  Cleanse my own heart this morning as I partner with your Holy Spirit and see you speak life into the lives of those gathered there.  May your Word come alive.  As people bring their burdens to you today…may they learn to trust you.  May we be preoccupied with your loving kindness and absorbed in your grace…help us as we learn to walk out the Truth that you speak into our lives – help the sin to be removed and your life to glisten… Change my heart O God!

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7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.

O  John is obviously helping the readers know that Jesus is God and not the figment of someone’s imagination.  He describes him as light – one in whom no darkness dwells.  He reminded me that he lives in a dark place where darkness is seen and enjoyed.  There seems to be two or three groups he implies are around.  There are those who live in complete darkness and I would call those folk people who have never seen the light.  Then there is the group that has seen the light – those who have become believers in Christ and live in His light or allow His light to shine in them.  Then there are those who claim to have fellowship with Christ and yet when you look at their lives it is filled with darkness.  Claiming to be a person that fellowship with Christ by faith can be seen.  The indicators here are that they have fellowship with one another and they live a life that is filled with forgiveness.

A  What gripped my own heart today was my need to take inventory of my own walk with Christ.  I am a child of God. Oh, how I remember specifically the time and place I became a believer. On top of that, I am humbled to know that He has placed his hand on my life and called me to be a pastor and for 37 years I have been in a pursuit of following that calling in my life.  I know I am called to shepherd the flock God has given me as well as be an example for the flock over whom God has given me leadership to follow.  Maybe it is just me and there are no others who struggle with the distance between what I am and what I am expected to be as a Christian leader.  Maybe all the other leaders in the church feel complete harmony as they walk a life of purity and sinlessness.  I long for the day where I can walk pure before the Father.  I enjoy the daily journey as God through his Son under the power of the Holy Spirit Who so lives in me.  I am blessed and I am trusting God today that he will help me as I fellowship with one another and live in the privilege of the forgiveness of sin.

P  Thank you Father for speaking again to my own heart.  I will admit to you that I struggle with the daily aspects of my own selfishness and desire to direct my own life.  I thank you that I have family with whom I can fellowship.  They are precious to me.  Help the relationships to deepen in Christ.  I am glad that the battle for the forgiveness of my sins was finalized in the finished work of Christ on the Cross and the blood that He shed on that cross was sufficient to save me from my own sins.  Let the glory of all that shine like light from within my own heart.  May the world see You in me, today.  I am humbled and honored!  I stand amazed.

So many have done something with this song…this is another visual expression of the same song except is is sung by Phillips Craig and Dean

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15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[b] them by the truth; your word is truth.

The enemy seeks but to kill, steal and destroy.  Christ comes that we might have life.  Here in this prayer he prays that I will be protected from the evil one.  He doesn’t pray that the enemy doesn’t affect me…simply for protection.  My assumption is that the last thing the enemy wants is for the people of God to gather in the house of God and lift up and praise the Name of the Lord.  The last person in the world he would want doing that is those who lead in worship this morning…but I am protected today…not from the presence of the enemy, but I am in the firm grip of the Savior today who will guide and lead us as we worship.

I hear the disciples being taught by Jesus in another time when they asked Him to teach them to pray, to pray “…deliver us from evil…”  I am protected.  His name is at stake.  He lives in me.  The enemy is alive around me.  I am reminded again this morning that resurrection power lives in me.  I am reminded that once I was separated from God and did not have His presence in me and now I have been brought near to God, near to the heart of God, by the Sacrifice of Christ.  I am His Child.

God, I am depending on and standing in your protection.  I am depending on your Truth to speak to the hearts of people.  I again am reminded that the only thing I will do today that is infallible is to read scripture.  You says that he will sanctify me with the Truth.  I seek to hear from You and be changed by Your Truth today.  I will be reading Truth today and proclaiming what the Lord says from it. Teachers will fill our classes and they will be reading Truth today.  Empower them by your Spirit to speak it and may the Truth be heard today.  It is what You do today and not what we do… I will depend on Your protection as I proclaim the Truth.

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The great theologian, George Strait, starts singing a song “The Breath You Take” telling the story of a man who was supposed to be on a plane for a business trip and finds himself in the stands of his child ball game watching him play ball.  The child was blown away that his father was there. And the dad’s response kind of sums up what Nancy and I felt about being in Alabama this past weekend at T. J. and Mylissa’s wedding.

But life’s not the breath you take, the breathing in and out
That gets you through the day, ain’t what it’s all about
You just might miss the point trying to win the race
Life’s not the breaths you take but the moments that take your breath away

I know it’s not scripture and most likely George Strait did not preach anywhere yesterday.  However, the lyric …you might miss the point trying to win the race…Life’s not the breaths you take but the moments that take your breath away… crawled all over me as we left to come home yesterday.  Nancy and I both made a commitment that we would be there.  Since Nancy’s dad and mother had both graduated to heaven it was important that we support the family and I am glad that we did.  The wedding was a very spiritual experience.  Watching these two young people tie the knot was made more special because the two of them both were preparing for the ministry.  T. J. is a young preacher and they both are hungry for mission work and ministry.  I watched as three generations of “Joy’s” entered the ministry.  Nancy’s dad was a pastor, her brother is a pastor, and now T. J. and his wife are focusing their life’s energy in ministry. I guess one of the most moving parts of the wedding was when she placed the ring on T. J.’s finger.  The ring was his grandfather’s that had been resized and prepared for that day.

They say that good fruit always comes from good root.  That is especially true in this setting for the three boys that Billy and Mary Jacque have had have seen with their own eyes what it is like for a mom and dad to be committed to each other.  I say quite often in my own preaching that if you want to be happy, then stay single.  If you want to make someone else happy get married.  Mary Jacque for some years now has had full blown Multiple Sclerosis and is totally dependent upon her husband to do absolutely everything for her.  He gets her up every morning, bathes her, dresses her, puts on her makeup, and puts her in her chair, helps her get where she is going.  He feeds her every bite of food she eats, carries her everywhere she goes, and cares for her deeply.  They raise three children, he is the lead pastor at a growing church in Tuscaloosa, AL overseeing a multiple staff, has coached his kids in all of the sports, preaches revivals and attends ball games at some major college in Alabama and it ain’t Auburn.  He spends his life giving it away to make others happy.  He is blessed beyond measure.  He is one of my heroes.  Life has not been a cake walk for Dr. Joy…but it has been a blessed one.

Nancy’s brother, Billy, preached at Hillcrest Baptist Church yesterday.  It was a moving experience to see this amazing young man preach with great passion.  He reminds me so much of his father.

I rode back thanking God that it is not just about breathing in and out and making money and meeting schedules and making sure you get it all right.  Sometimes it is about the things that take your breath away!

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Green Pastures!

10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them.

Psalm 23 – The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want – He makes me to lie down in green pastures…

Yesterday I was captivated by the song that Cindy Cruise Ratcliff sang called “Still”…  Here I watched as the Lord was already seated with His disciples.  He saw the people coming.  He tells the men to have the people to “sit down”.  I was reminded of my own natural tendency to have to be moving and wiggling all the time when we were at Arby’s yesterday.  Kimberly is always such a servant and is our “go to” person when we need some more drink while at the restaurant.  Every time we finished eating something she was ready to take the trash off the table…constant movement.  I stopped her in the middle of what she was doing and told her to sit down…be still… I am not picking on Kimberly for I have been that way my own self on too many occasions.  I had been surrounded by movement all day long…hustle and hurry were the words of the day.  I hear Jesus say to me today, sit down.

But the piece that caught my attention was the comment that there was plenty of green grass there.  He didn’t tell them to rest and pull up a rock…there was plenty of grass for His sheep to find rest and satisfaction…Psalm 23 speaks of green pastures and still waters.  I am reminded again that it is in His presence that I find rest.  It is sitting at His feet that my soul finds nourishment and refreshment.  It is not in the relentless pursuit of what’s next…but in the green pastures and quiet streams…in what we already have…or better yet it is part of the joy that flow from the Father’s heart to my own soul through the love and care of a deep love relationship that is mine because Jesus himself.  He is here.  He loves me.  He calls me His Sheep.  He cares for me.

You can’t be fed on the move.  You have to be still.

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