A Refresher.

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Anything that refreshes you without distracting or diminishing or destroying your final goal is a legitimate pleasure. | R. Zacharias

For all the times we’ve asked, ‘Is this good?’
For all the talks we’ve had on priorities…

The picture becomes clearer when you identify the object of your focus; everything else blurs into the background.

First, we identify our goal.
That is, to know His goal for us, the general calling, and what it looks like in our specific situations.

Then we will come to know what are the pleasures that we can fully enjoy, and which were temporary distractions to filter out as needed.

Were we made to live with such certainty and purpose?

(Lord, may Your work be done in us and through us.
Let Your will be done: Let focus what is Yours, let fade what is not.
And teach us to accept this by faith. Amen.)

And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head. From Him the whole body is fitted and held together by every supporting ligament. And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love. | Ephesians 4: 11-16

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An Unbroken Promise.

Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and their oath serves as a confirmation to end all argument. So when God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath. Thus by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be strongly encouraged.

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We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  — Hebrews 6: 16-20

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. — Hebrews 6:10-12 (NIV)

 

Matthew Henry explains:
The promises of God, which are founded upon these immutable counsels of God, and confirmed by the oath of God, may safely be depended upon; for here we have two immutable things, the counsel and the oath of God, in which it is impossible for God to lie, contrary to his nature as well as to his will.
What God’s design towards them is, in giving them such securities—that they might have strong consolation. Observe,
  • God is concerned for the consolation of believers, as well as for their sanctification; he would have his children walk in the fear of the Lord, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost.
  • The consolations of God are strong enough to support his people under their strongest trials. The comforts of this world are too weak to bear up the soul under temptation, persecution, and death; but the consolations of the Lord are neither few nor small.
  1. We are in this world as a ship at sea, liable to be tossed up and down, and in danger of being cast away. Our souls are the vessels. The comforts, expectations, graces, and happiness of our souls are the precious cargo with which these vessels are loaded. Heaven is the harbour to which we sail. The temptations, persecutions, and afflictions that we encounter, are the winds and waves that threaten our shipwreck.
  2. We have need of an anchor to keep us sure and steady, or we are in continual danger.
  3. Gospel hope is our anchor; as in our day of battle it is our helmet, so in our stormy passage through this world it is our anchor.
  4. It is sure and stedfast, or else it could not keep us so.
    First, It is sure in its own nature; for it is the special work of God in the soul. It is a good hope through grace; it is not a flattering hope made out of the spider’s web, but it is a true work of God, it is a strong and substantial thing.
    Secondly, It is stedfast as to its object; it is an anchor that has taken good hold, it enters that which is within the veil; it is an anchor that is cast upon the rock, the Rock of ages. It does not seek to fasten in the sands, but enters within the veil, and fixes there upon Christ; he is the object, he is the anchor-hold of the believer’s hope.

A week ago, we studied Jesus’ great sacrifice, His death, and His resurrection. It is all good and well.
But the heart of the message is that He is ALIVE.
Why is it easy to acknowledge His love and sacrifice, and to accept His love for us…
In our minds, we accept that He is alive.
But what does this mean for and in our lives?
He lived and fulfilled Scripture. He lived and died and fulfilled the Scriptures.
He was resurrected and fulfilled the Scriptures.
And what does this mean, but that all of Scripture — all the prophecies and promises — will one day be fulfilled… God’s plan is being carried out, even now.
Our hope is founded on Christ.
Neither our circumstances, nor our possessions, nor our status, our houses, our savings,  our moods and emotions, our health, our family, our goals or visions, not even our lives.
No…None of that is guaranteed; all of that can be lost.
Ahh, I suppose they were never ours.
These few weeks have been filled with more news of losses than usual.
Some conversations have yet to be had… And, God willing, in time, they will happen.
And the roads that are to end, may He clearly mark them off.
And the roads that He means to continue, may He clearly lead on.
And may we follow.
Father, we cling to Your promise:
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:20-21)
Matthew Henry:
What the word shall be: “This is the way, walk you in it. When thou art doubting, conscience shall direct thee to the way of duty; when thou art dull and trifling, conscience shall quicken thee in that way.” As God has not left himself without witness, so he has not left us without guides to show us our way.
The seasonableness of this word: It shall come when you turn to the right hand or to the left. We are very apt to miss our way; there are turnings on both hands, and those so tracked and seemingly straight that they may easily be mistaken for the right way. There are right-hand and left-hand errors, extremes on each side virtue; the tempter is busy courting us into the by-paths. It is happy then if by the particular counsels of a faithful minister or friend, or the checks of conscience and the strivings of God’s Spirit, we be set right and prevented from going wrong.
Father, show us that it is possible to live with certainty.
Do not let us continue to be tossed by moods, feelings, and circumstance.
Through faith (steps in courage), give us Your peace, let us have Your joy, let us live in Your love.
Let us live lives anchored to You…
Fulfill Your promises in us.
Amen.

The Weakest Link.

THE LAWS OF THE NAVY

by Adm. R. A. Hopwood, RN

Now these are the laws of the Navy,
Unwritten and varied they be;
And he who is wise will observe them,
Going down in his ship to the sea.

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As naught may outrun the destroyer,
So it is with the law and its grip,
For the strength of a ship is the Service,
And the strength of the Service the ship.

Take heed what you say of your seniors,
Be your words spoken softly or plain,
Lest a bird of the air tell the matter,
And so shall ye hear it again.

If you labour from morn until even,
And meet with reproof for your toil,
‘Tis well, that the gun may be humbled
The compressor must check the recoil.

On the strength of one link in the cable,
Dependeth the might of the chain.
Who knows when thou may’st be tested?
So live that thou bearest the strain!

When a ship that is tired returneth,
With the signs of the seas showing plain;
Men place her in dock for a season,
And her speed she reneweth again.

So shall ye, if perchance ye grow weary,
In the uttermost parts of the sea,
Pray for leave, for the good of the Service,
As much and as oft as may be.

Count not upon certain promotion
But rather to gain it aspire;
Though the sightline may end on the target
There cometh perchance the miss-fire.

Can’st follow the track of the dolphin?
Or tell where the sea swallows roam?
Where Leviathan taketh his pastime?
What ocean he calleth his own?

So it is with the words of the rulers,
And the orders these words shall convey;
Every law is naught beside this one:
Thou shalt not criticise, but Obey.

Say the wise: How may I know their purpose?
Then acts without wherefore or why.
Stays the fool but one moment to question,
And the chance of his life passes by.

If ye win through an African jungle,
Unmentioned at home in the press,
Heed it not. No man seeth the piston,
But it driveth the ship none the less.

Do they growl? it is well. Be thou silent,
If the work goeth forward amain.
Lo! the gun throws the shot to a hair’s breadth
And shouteth, yet none shall complain.

Do they growl, and the work be retarded?
It is ill, be whatever their rank.
The half-loaded gun also shouteth,
But can she pierce target with blank?

Doth the paintwork make war with the funnels
And the deck to the cannons complain?
Nay, they know that some soap and fresh water
Unites them as brothers again.

So ye, being heads of departments,
Do you growl with a smile on your lip,
Lest ye strive and in anger be parted,
And lessen the might of your ship.

Dost deem that thy vessel needs gilding,
And the dockyard forbears to supply?
Put thy hand in thy pocket and gild her —
There are those who have risen thereby.

Dost think in a moment of anger
‘Tis well with thy seniors to fight?
They prosper, who burn in the morning,
The letters they wrote overnight.

For many are shelved and forgotten,
With nothing to thank for their fate,
But that on a half sheet of foolscap
A fool “Had the honour to state.”

Should the fairway be crowded with shipping
Beating homeward the harbour to win,
It is meet that lest any should suffer,
The steamers pass cautiously in.

So thou, when thou nearest promotion,
And the peak that is gilded is nigh,
Give heed to words and thine actions,
Lest others be wearied thereby.

It is ill for the winners to worry,
Take thy fate as it comes, with a smile,
And when thou art safe in the harbour
They may envy, but will not revile.

Uncharted the rocks that surround thee,
Take heed that the channels thou learn,
Lest thy name serve to buoy for another
That shoal the “Court-Martial Return”.

Though a Harveyised belt may protect her
The ship bears the scar on her side;’
‘Tis well if the Court should acquit thee —
But ’twere best had’st thou never been tried.

MORAL

As the wave washes clear at the hawse pipe,
Washes aft, and is lost in the wake;
So shalt thou drop astern all unheeded
Such time as these laws ye forsake.

Take heed in your manner of speaking
That the language ye use may be sound,
In the list of the words of your choosing
“Impossible” may not be found.

Now these are the Laws of the Navy,
And many and mighty are they.
But the hull and the deck and the keel
And the truck of the law is — OBEY.

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The fifth law of the navy is my favorite. 
The third is one that I must learn.
The seventh, I should start to claim.

The beauty of unity is founds through obedience and humility.
This is not a unity that compromises Truth.
This is the unity we’re called to have.

But when we are in Truth, why do we war?

 

…Are you finished with pride? (Am I?)
Are you finished with holding grudges? (Am I?)
Are you finished with who-said-what and who-wronged-who? (I’m trying.)
Are you finished with the pain that I see tearing you apart? (May I help?)


(If we found who was wrong, and who was weak…
Will we point fingers, or will we offer a hand?
The chain is as strong as its weakest link.
If you found the weak, will you strengthen every link so together, we may bear the strain?
Friends, if we do not strengthen, then the fault is ours when the chain breaks.)

Father, make us peacemakers, and give us peace — Your peace
Do not let us go to the grave with these grudges. 

Lord, remember us
Father, help us.

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Convictions this week

Seek and recognize wisdom:
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.  — James 3:17-18

Accept wisdom and do it:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. — James 1: 22-25

A Man’s Purpose. A Man’s Heart.

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.

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Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find?

The righteous who walks in his integrity
— blessed are his children after him!

Who can say, “I have made my heart pure;
    I am clean from my sin”?

The glory of young men is their strength,
    but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.

— Proverbs 20 (excerpts)


Yes, even as we speak, do we know what we’re asking for? 

What is in our hearts?
Do we even know?

Lord, You see all of this.
May You continue Your work, and show us who we are. (Psalm 139: 23-24)

Teach us and lead us, Father.
To know ourselves, and our purpose.


 

 

Matthew Henry on Proverbs 20:

v. 5

To get knowledge by them. Some are very able and fit to give counsel, having an excellent faculty of cleaving a hair, hitting the joint of a difficulty, and advising pertinently, but they are modest, and reserved, and not communicative; they have a great deal in them, but it is loth to come out. In such a case a man of understanding will draw it out, as wine out of a vessel. We lose the benefit we might have by the conversation of wise men for want of the art of being inquisitive.

v. 6

It is easy to find those that will pretend to be kind and liberal. Many a man will call himself a man of mercy, will boast what good he has done and what good he designs to do, or, at least, what an affection he has to well-doing. Most men will talk a great deal of their charity, generosity, hospitality, and piety, will sound a trumpet to themselves, as the Pharisees, and what little goodness they have will proclaim it and make a mighty matter of it.
But it is hard to find those that really are kind and liberal, that have done and will do more than either they speak of or care to hear spoken of, that will be true friends in a strait.

v. 9
This question is not only a challenge to any man in the world to prove himself sinless, whatever he pretends, but a lamentation of the corruption of mankind, even that which remains in the best. Alas! Who can say, “I am sinless?” Observe, 1. Who the persons are that are excluded from these pretensions—all, one as well as another. Here, in this imperfect state, no person whatsoever can pretend to be without sin. Adam could say so in innocency, and saints can say so in heaven, but none in this life. Those that think themselves as good as they should be cannot, nay, and those that are really good will not, dare not, say this. 2. What the pretension is that is excluded. We cannot say, We have made our hearts clean. Though we can say, through grace, “We are cleaner than we have been,” yet we cannot say, “We are clean and pure from all remainders of sin.” Or, though we are clean from the gross acts of sin, yet we cannot say, “Our hearts are clean.” Or, though we are washed and cleansed, yet we cannot say, “We ourselves made our own hearts clean;” it was the work of the Spirit.

v. 29
1. Let not old people despise the young, for they are strong and fit for action, able to go through business and break through difficulties, which the aged and weak cannot grapple with. The glory of young men is their strength, provided they use it well (in the service of God and their country, not of their lusts), and that they be not proud of it nor trust to it. 2. Let not young people despise the old, for they are grave, and fit for counsel, and, though they have not the strength that young men have, yet they have more wisdom and experience. Juniores ad labores, seniores ad honoresLabour is for the young, honour for the aged.

A Fresh Start.

 

“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.”
(Isaiah 43:19)

This is old, but God’s truth remains even when times and trends do not.

On Good Friday, the pews will be a bit more full.
And again, on Easter Sunday.

But what of the Sunday after? And the Sunday after that?

And what of all the weekdays in-between?

What is the reason for your faith?
Where is your heart as you sit there?
Where is your mind as you read and sing these old hymns?
Where is your soul?
Where will your soul go after all this?

Why do you go to these ‘religious observances?’
…Is it just that — to observe?


Dear friend,
Jesus offers so much more than a seat on a pew a few times a year.

This coming Friday and Sunday, when you go, will you promise not to sell yourself short?

Will you come before God to pray now, with the questions on your mind?

And this Sunday (and/or Friday), will you go with an open mind and open heart to see what He has to say to you?

I’m excited for you.

It’s time for a new start.
He offers one.

Will you take it?

A place for pain.

“He knows us far better than we know ourselves… and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.“|Romans 8:27-28

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On Sunday morning, we woke up to news of loss.
A celebration now overcome by fear.

What then?
Unexpected by us, but not unexpected by Him.

What are we to answer?
What are we to think?

I don’t have words tonight, but the truth remains the same.

God is good.
He is at work. Even in this.
And if He allowed it, it will be for our good, and for His purpose.

So many times, we wish things were otherwise. We try to push pain away, numb it, avoid it…

But “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

So, dear Christian.

Perhaps this pain, this suffering, is meant to lead you closer to Him.
To see that our time here isn’t forever.
This isn’t Home.

Today, if life around you looks chaotic and you’re not sure what to do…
Stop where you are… Look up.
Pray to God for direction.

(That’s where I am this Monday morning. I know He’s here, too.
‘Blessings’ came on the radio this morning as I was driving today and I was thinking of the news. And it was a blessing.)

The Gap.

Where the hounds run
Track me in my sleep
When I can’t trust the company I keep
When I’ve push passed the point of pressing on
You’re what I’m counting on… | J.M.M.

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The moment you realize the truth, if you believe it, then you begin to live and measure everything by it.

At that moment, you realize the gap between what should be and what is.

We all fall short.
(Short of the standard to which we ought the live by.)
He does. I do.

What, then, Christian, is our role?
How do people who fall short benefit each other by coming together?

But You said:

  • Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
  • Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
  • …Encourage and build one another up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Not withdrawal, not fear, not exclusion (of the seekers visiting your church) or seclusion from other believers, but to come and gather.
To come together — to help them find this Truth, and to encourage each other to keep walking to You.
In faith, to stand together, to hold fast, to lift up.

Teach me what this means.
Teach me what this looks like.

Provide those who stand for You.
Teach me how to stand and to walk.

Who are those who still stand with You?
Will You place me there?

Examine your intent.

Our world judges primarily by outcome.
What other choice do we have? We do not see the heart.

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We sigh, for we know our best intentions may end with no visible results.
And acts that glorify the self may appear to reap bountifully with much applause.

(How tempting to focus on the latter, or shrink back from the scars of the former.)

And yet.
Yet, we have a God who sees not the results, but the heart.
He is not blinded by mere results as man is.
No, but He looks on the heart (ref. 1 Samuel 16:7).

So, Love.
Be not discouraged.

Do not let fear freeze you in inaction.
Our time trickles silently away.
We shall not get back the time we let slip away.

No. Learn from mistakes, but do not dwell on the losses.
Do not focus on ‘what if’ and ‘if only.’
You are given what you have.
Be thankful and learn the joy of gratitude.

Our heavenly Father sees.
He sees our hearts, He knows our needs.

If you feel lost today, examine your heart:
ask for a pure heart, for clean hands.

He guides.
Always has. Always will.
Until we see Him.

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.

For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters.

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.

He shall receive blessing from the Lord,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.

This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah

— Psalm 24:1-6

Dayenu.
(It would have been enough.)

“…And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelations 7:17 b)