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The End Game Counts

Staying In Step with God

Silence

Gandhi once said “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Increasing speed increases friction which increases noise. We live in a world that knows little about silence. We yearn in our souls for some rest but generally intentionally do little to combat noise, busyness and hurriedness of our lives.

How many of us do what Jesus did by “… often retreating to lonely to places to be alone and pray.” [Luk 5:16] The antidote to the noise in our lives is the spiritual practice of silence. Jesus made it a practice. Part of the reason for needing space from the noise of life is needing silence. Some part of our prayers needs to be listening to God. Satan will always be in the business of moving me away from the presence of God to a position of doing something better for God. Social science calls that behavior modification.

You will never have the same peace and wisdom that the song writer had of old unless you are willing to
experience God as your refuge and strength. That is the antidote to hurried, busy and noise of life. When you make space for God to minister to your soul, you will not fear even if the very mountains around you give way and fall into the sea. Being in the presence of God is a place of refreshment. Today, nations are in a uproar, kingdoms are falling. God says repeatedly “Come and see what I have done….” “Be still, and know that I am God.” Take some time to listen to your Creator speak to your soul. Read Psalm 46.

RESTART: Too hurried, too busy and too loud … these three are the greatest reasons we lack capacity to enjoy life with Jesus. So what are we to do about it?

Busyness. That is the by-word for our society. Too much is going on. The tragic thing is that busyness is often confused with productivity. The habit of being too busy often turns into a lifetime habit. Brennan Manning is right when he said “If Satan can’t make you evil, he’ll make you busy.”

Distraction creates busyness and is a great weapon of Satan. It is the easiest for him to use. For me and for most everyone that I meet, the cell phone is the biggest distraction and second to that is Facebook on the cell phone. The great deception over the last 50 plus years are all of the gadgets we accumulate because we buy into the bill of goods that this latest gadget will make our lives simpler. There is some truth to it but we allow the distraction.

It is not that the gadgets are bad, but that we allow them to complicate our lives. The antidote to busyness is the spiritual practice of simplicity. Simplicity is about losing weight … the weight of activity and distractions that waste our time. But it goes beyond that. Not only do we have to lose the weight of busyness but we can best do that by creating space for Jesus to be in our lives. In order to know what God wants from us we have to listen and then do what He says. But listening is an intentional activity that requires the listener to be available to the speaker. To be available takes time. If we are reading our Bible trying to listen to God but keep checking our cell phone for messages, FB entries and other assorted social media alerts, we are not really listening for God to speak to us.

We live in a world characterized by too fast, too much and too loud. These are the tools used by the enemy of God to destroy His creation and us in it.

Most of my life I have been chronically in a hurry. As I tried to climb the ladder to success, everything was about hurrying up and doing it faster. My behavior pattern was characterized by continual rushing and anxiety. I was in a constant state of overwhelming anxiousness and sense of urgency. It is almost like an addiction of Too Fast. My behavior pattern was dominated by a continual rushing from one thing to the next accompanied by anxiousness that I missed something. I felt like I never had enough time. Success, I thought, was performing tasks faster and faster. But all that did was create more and more frustration with each delay. My life was an unrelenting sense of urgency.

Dallas Willard said “If you want to sense Jesus’ guidance and experience His presence on a daily basis, you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” In other words, slow down. Craig Knudsen says that the antidote to Too Fast [read being always in a hurry] is the spiritual practice of slowing down. A spiritual practice only happens as we take the time to develop it into a discipline. To develop a discipline we have to reduce the speed of our living and create space in our schedules for unrushed moments with God. Some have called this Quite Time. No matter what we call it, life with God, as with any relationship, requires time to build trust and openness. A good relationship requires times of sharing our hearts as well as times of listening to the Other. That only can happen through time.

On the appointed day that we meet God face to face, not once will God ask us how we did in our career. What He will ask is something like “What was your relationship like with my Son Jesus?” That is the hinge-pin to real lasting success. What will your answer be?

Game Plan

2016 is a gift of God. The world is in chaos but make no mistake, our Sovereign God has it under control. For sure, appearances may not be the reality. We live in a world that is desperate for solutions to problems. We in our individual lives are desperate for ‘fixes’ and sideline or even forget the counsel of God.

If 2016 is a gift of God, then what can I do in 2016 to experience His presence and grace? Three questions permeated my thoughts last year and I am going to continue to pursue them this year.

First, how do I better listen to God and do what He says?

Second, how do I better trust Him for protection and provision?

And third, how can I learn to better serve others by always doing what are best for them regardless of my own desires?

Those are the goals of my game plan. And it originates from a heavenly source.

God speaks to us clearly. We need to restart. Listen to what God says about restarting … and He never uses the word. “My child whom I love and have compassion for, take to heart what I’m telling you; collect my counsels and guard them with your life. Tune your ears to My world of Wisdom; set your heart on a life of Understanding. That’s right—if you make Insight and not your insight a priority, and won’t take no for an answer, searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt, believe Me, before you know it you will discern the reality of God and you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.” [Pro 2:1-5 Adapted from MSG]

 

2016 Restart

My word for 2016 is RESTART.Featured Image -- 655

The whole Advent season including the New Year’s Celebration is all about restarts. Lots of things in life need restarts. My laptop this morning needed a restart. Relationships can dry out and need restarts. Restarting is a time to reflectively think how things are and then restart them with a different mind set. “If you always do what you have always done then you will always get what you have always gotten.” We cannot  restart without letting go of the past. We need a restart because we tend to either grab things we should not have in our possession or hold on to something too tightly. Restarting may mean eating humble pie and asking forgiveness. Restarting may mean loving someone unlovable.

Looking back on this past Christmas holiday and thinking about the meaning of the Advent Season, I believe it is God’s offering all mankind a restart. The whole point of Jesus coming to live among us was to offer a restart. Just like the gifts at Christmas, restarts come in all sorts of size and shaped packages. In God’s eyes, Christmas is actually an all year event. His gift to us is always under the ‘tree’ for us to pick up and open. God’s restart gift has little to do with doing something different by opening a resolution and much to do with opening a relationship. No matter where you are God is there too. He is waiting with His gift. Jesus tells us to “Change our mind and the direction we are going, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” However, restart with God means that we need to do just one thing. There is only one thing separating us from God. Why not today restart with God, placing your trust, surrender and faith in Jesus. It will change your life and you do not have to contend with those pesky new years resolutions that mostly never work.

Night Sounds

Going to my Grandpa’s house was a real treat when I was 6 years old. In my memory are distinct sounds associated with that place. At that time they lived in a small village in the Adirondack Mountains. It is a big old rambling home made of brown colored river stone. Lots of big Maple trees grew around the house.  The house was located on the edge of some woods.

I always stayed in a bedroom in the back of the house on the second floor. The kitchen with its big wood-burning stove the color of gun-metal was in the back of the house too. The only way to get to my room was through the kitchen and up this creepy dark spiraling staircase. My older brother told me that the reason Grandpa kept it so dark was so the ghosts could sleep. “And that creaking noise that you hear as you step up the stairs is just the ghosts being disturbed as you walk. So walk lightly.”

Every morning before daylight I would hear my Grandpa go out the kitchen door and down into the coal cellar and shovel coal into the furnace. One morning I got up and came down to the kitchen and followed him. It is dark, cold and scary down there. While he shoveled coal I swept the floor. Fairly soon I began to hear a tapping in the pipes all over the house. Shivering I moved closer to Grandpa.

“Grandpa, is it true what my brother told me?”

“What did he tell you Lee?”

“He said that the tapping came from small green ugly gremlins trying to escape the furnace through the pipes so they could catch small boys like me.”

“Well that story sounds better that the plain fact that the tapping is the hot steam expanding the iron pipes in the house as it heats up. Not to worry. No little gremlins allowed in my furnace.” I made a mental note to go hit my brother with something at the first chance.

Once a day, in the early morning after Grandpa had fed the furnace, the freight train came through town pulled by steam locomotives. I had asked several times “Grandpa, can I watch the trains … please” but always the answer was “it too early.” The tracks came from the east, wounding back and forth up the steep valley. Before coming through our village that sat on the side of the mountain, the tracks ran across a river on a trestle. Early in the morning, long before I would hear Grandpa, I would hear the lonely sound of the train’s steam whistle way off in the distance as it made its way through the valley. I loved that sound. I used to love hearing the steam engines coming up the trestle through the valley into town. The grade was so steep that a single engine could not pull the train alone.

One morning long before daylight, Grandpa came into my room with a kerosene lamp and woke me up. “Hurry and get dressed. I have a surprise for you.” Just then I heard the lonely whistle in the distance. “Are we going to see the train” I asked?

“Sure let’s go.” So off we went. Cutting through the woods we reached the tracks crossing the street. A big white wooden pole with boards crossed on the top with the words STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN written on them marked the crossing. Grandpa took me over to the sign and we stood there. He was holding my hand tightly. Around the bend came the train. Four big black steam engines with a brass bells and railings came into view. They were huffing and puffing in unison as they pulled the rest of the train up the grade.

What an awesome sight. Almost immediately I could feel the earth under my feet tremble as the big beasts belching white steam and black smoke rumbled down the track toward us. I moved closer to Grandpa. I love the sounds and the feel of the engines but they were a terribly awesome sight to me. As the train rumbled by a blast of steam enveloped us. It was like standing in a cloud.

Christians Living Under Sharia Set Powerful Example For US Brethren

 

December 07, 2015

By Jack Minor

A Repost

Christians living in the Middle East are showing their American counterparts how God’s people are expected to stand in the face of real persecution and adversity.

Many times in America, we talk about the persecution being foisted on God’s people, especially in recent months as the homosexual crowd is becoming increasingly militant in demanding acceptance of their sinful lifestyle. In addition, pro-life Christians are now in the crosshairs following the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

However, whereas these attacks are real and God’s people need to remain strong, we need to keep things in perspective to make sure we do not fall into a bout of self-pity. The worst persecution we are facing in America today pales in comparison to what our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing in the Middle East.

Twenty years ago, there were an estimated 1.6 million Christians living in Iraq before the United States invaded the country under the Bush administration. They are among the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world. However, during the occupation of Iraq and subsequent withdrawal of troops under President Barack Obama, that number has now dwindled to under 400,000 with some estimates as low as 200,000.

It would be easy to blame this genocide on ISIS, but in reality this is not an isolated incident. Christians living in Muslim countries, including those under Sharia law often face persecution, including death simply for being a Christian, much like what occurred under the Roman persecutions in the first centuries of the early church.

In Yemen, Muslims murdered two Christian men for the crime of converting to Christianity from Islam.

Morning Star News reported in September that one man was murdered by a member of Al Qaeda who ambushed and shot him 15 to 20 times. In October another Christian was shot and killed for the crime of leaving the Islamic faith. A friend said “A lot of people didn’t like that he was a convert. I think it is because of his faith; there is no other reason to kill him.”

In Egypt and Pakistan, a Pew Research Center survey report in 2013 revealed that 88% of Egyptian Muslims and 62% of Muslims in Pakistan favored killing people who left the Muslim religion. This view is also shared by majorities in Malaysia, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories. Other Muslim countries have smaller numbers, but still enough that it should raise concerns regarding assimilation by the vast number of Muslim immigrants that Obama wants to resettle in America.

This belief about the death penalty for apostasy is not theoretical. An Egyptian mother of two had her throat slit for becoming a Christian. Then, to add insult to injury, police gave the Christian family ten days to sell their property and get out of town.

A young girl in Uganda was continuously beaten by her father after converting to Christianity at an evangelistic meeting. Her pastor said her father told those who came to her aid that “our daughter must be killed according to Islam, because she has become apostate.”

Some may say while this is horrible, it is more of a cultural issue than an Islamic one that affects those living in the Middle East. However, a father of six living in the UK was recently captured on camera being beaten with a pickaxe. The man suffered a shattered knee cap and broken hand. He has been targeted multiple times for converting to Christianity from Islam and was even featured in a British documentary on the subject of mistreatment of Muslim converts to Christianity.

Through it all, these brave Christians, regardless of gender or age have remained steadfast in their refusal to recant their faith, even if it meant death.

This is important for American Christians. As a result of the nation being founded on Biblical principles and God’s people acting as the salt of the earth, Christians in America have been largely insulated from the persecutions that their brethren around the world in Muslim and Communist countries have had to endure as a normal way of life.

Now that God’s people have begun to lose their saltiness by becoming spineless and less willing to take bold stands for Biblical principles, God’s hand of protection is gradually being removed. As a result, Christians can expect to face more persecution as they refuse to be ashamed of Jesus Christ and Biblical principles.

Sadly, with more and more denominations and Christians begin to crumble in their opposition to same-sex marriage now that it is the “law of the land,” these compromisers will make it that much harder for those of us who refuse to change to accommodate the new spirit of the times. The world, not being able to understand the idea of having a final authority in the scriptures and convictions that will not change, will point to these Christians who deny the faith and assume they are the face of Christianity. When this happens we must be even more resolute, regardless of what it may cost us.

During the Roman and subsequent persecutions, many people came to Christ because when they saw the joy on the face of the Christians when the lions charged them or they were being burned at the stake. They realized that what these people had was not just some personal belief but something real, and they decided they wanted that same thing.

God’s people in America have a golden opportunity to learn from their brethren across the ocean and not buckle in the midst of withering enemy fire. General Patton once said, “when under attack advance; artillery very seldom shortens its range.” This lesson is a vital one for us to day. Victory lies in advancing, not in compromising.
Read more at http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/2015/December07/074.html#RPbOKimb9JmvxKUk.99

Plan With Discretion

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. [ESV]

There is wisdom that a man needs in order to just get along in this world. It is that same wisdom as the book title claims: All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, published twenty-five years ago by Robert Fulghum. It has become a simple credo known around the world. It is the wisdom of the world that says that the only real confidence is self-confidence. It claims that we are the creators of our own futures and therefore we must lean on our own understanding. Do not get me wrong. I am not advocating that we not use the grey matter that God has given us. He expects us to plan with discretion. He expects us to use our heads in our living out life. What mistakenly do is prop up ourselves with our own wisdom. What God expects is for us to use a companion wisdom that we learn to depend on as an overriding protection. Left to our own wisdom, we do an incredibly poor job of practicing unconditional love, unbiased justice and non-situational righteousness. [Jer 9:24]

We fail to comprehend the limits of our wisdom. History and science teach us over and over again the foolishness of leaning only on our own understanding. We also fail, without input from our Creator, to understand how brief our life is with its corresponding experience. It is impossible to drawn right conclusions that go beyond our experience and life-span.

There is another wisdom that has eternal value, which puts us in right relationship with our creator. It realizes that self-confidence goes only so far. This is the wisdom that only can come from listening to God and doing what he says. If we say to God ‘we trust You’ then He understands it to mean that we depend on Him for everything that we need and preserving us from evil. If we trust God for wisdom [listen to what He and then do what He tells me] is the result of our being persuaded that God is the only object of confidence. We learn to become more and more satisfied with His insight and faithfulness. Everything in our minds that contradicts God’s promise, needs to be condemned and banished.

“Not in a creature, the best, the holiest, and the highest;

Not in any creature enjoyment, as riches, strength, and wisdom;

Nor in any outward privilege, arising from natural descent and education;

Not in a man’s self, in his own heart, which is deceitful;

Nor in any works of righteousness done by him;

Not in a profession of religion, or the duties of it, ever so well performed;

Not in frames, nor in graces, and the exercise of them;

No, not in faith or trust itself: but in the Lord, the object of all grace, and in him only;

In Jehovah the Father, as the God of nature and providence, for all temporal blessings;

And as the God of all grace, for all spiritual blessings, and all the needful supplies of grace;

And for eternal happiness, which he has provided, promised, and freely gives.

Trust in him at all times…” John Gill, Exposition of the Bible

A Rolling Together

 

Many times I have heard people say: I have prayed about this matter and I am hoping that God will make it happen.” Often the verse from Proverbs 16:3 will be quoted: “Roll your works upon God, and your thoughts shall be established.” [MKJV] I have even said it. I have prayed about something and the very act of praying made me feel that God should respond since I did my part and prayed about it. Oftentimes Christians use the phrase “I prayed about it” they actually are using a euphemism meaning “We did our part so now God you do yours.” So what does it mean to ‘commit’ my activities to the Lord? The Hebrew word implies a rolling together of my activities with God’s. Wait a minute. God is sovereign over everything. The Bible makes that very clear. Rolling my plans into His means His plans become mine. What if my plans seem better or more expedient or less painful? As long as I have those doubts about the wisdom of God, then I will never be able to transfer a burden off of my back. I will never stick my head into the yoke that Jesus offers to share with me.

It is one thing to have ambition. It is another to have what I would call a holy aspiration; being ambitious for God’s will to be done here on earth. If I commit or roll my plans onto the Lord, my ambitions take a back seat. “What about the results you might ask?” God is less interested in my results than in my establishment as a Christ-one. My actions are only the results of my thoughts. Is my mind settled on doing my plans or making my plans in line with His? As I learn patience and wait for Him to act, He will establish my thoughts that are in line with His plans. It is like bowling. I pick up the bowling ball and I roll it toward the mark, the pin that is going to have the most effect on the others. The pin I am aiming at is Jesus Himself. I want to roll my works toward Him so that he can aim my thoughts that will affect my endeavors.

Shadow’s Warning

Andrew, young man in his sophomore year of college, who grew up in an atheist home setting, had made it his life’s goal to be an Olympic gold-medal diver. He spent every waking moment training individually and with the college team toward that goal. Peter, one of his teammates and a friend, who trained just as diligently as he did, was an outspoken yet respectful Christ-follower.

Sunday was a mandatory non-training day to give their bodies a chance to rest and rebuild. They were used to rising early for training during the week so it was natural on Sundays they would meet up at the college coffee to chill. Andrew always thought it just a little weird that Peter was so adept at turning a discussion often toward Christianity. Andrew listened politely. He had to admit that what Peter shared from the bible made sense, sometimes. He even debated with his friend but that is as far as he wanted to go. Several times he was almost persuaded to ask Christ into his life. Almost. But ‘first things first’ were his motto. His focus was on getting to the Olympic stand and having that gold medal hanging around his neck.

One night, intending on going to the library for some research, he found the library closed. He stood for a moment wondering what to do next. Always thinking about training, he headed for the pool. He had gotten into the habit that semester of always carrying his trunks in his backpack. He got to the pool and found the door open but the lights were off, He did not know where the switch box was located. However, as the pool had large skylights and there was a full moon overhead, even though it was a little dark, there was enough light to practice by. He dug his swim trucks out of his backpack, changed and climbed up the 10-meter diving board. Stepping onto the board Andrew walked to the end. Looking down at his feet he turned around to position his feet on the board correctly for his first dive.

As he shifted his feet and weight of his body, his mind was running through some of the coaching tips he had gotten earlier that day. Lifting his head and straightened his body for the dive, he raised his arms straight out from his body sideways before bringing them together in front of him. Suddenly he froze. There on the wall was his shadow from the moon and it looked like a man on a cross. A chill went through his body and a disturbing sense of dread that something was not right. Suddenly it all sort of made sense what Peter had been sharing with him for months. He could not put off Jesus calling him. He took a step forward on the board away from the edge and knelt down. He prayed a simple prayer and somehow that sense of dread left him. As he stood up he heard a door closing at the end of the pool. Then he heard a rattling of keys and the next thing he was bathed in a flood of light as the lights came on. Now he could see the maintenance man by the electrical panel. Then he saw something else that put a chill into his heart. Looking down he saw that the pool had been drained of water.

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