Where Does Your Help Come From?

It seemed for a while that writing was a gift–a gift that I enjoyed. It began when I was selected to be Community Spiritual Director for an Emmaus community we were involved with. I started doing a weekly devotion for the Community. My sources of inspiration was seemingly unlimited. Nature, signs, conversations, and my best source of inspiration was our wonderfully unique grandchildren. I even started working on a book based on those devotions. It’s still unfinished.

I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve been absent quit a lot from this blog. Can I be truthful with you? I lost my inspiration to write. I could blame it on the Pandemic–my routine was changed. I could blame it on the Republicans. I could blame it on the Democrats. I could blame it on the news media. I could blame any of a number of things and events. But that wouldn’t be truthful. Call me Harry S. Truman if you like, but the BUCK STOPS HERE!

God confronted me this morning with a painful truth. I would rather truth be pleasant, but sometimes, often times, The Truth is painful. Here’s how it happened. I’m a pacer; and when the weather is decent, I walk around the yard. This morning I decided to walk the perimeter of our place. I started on the east side, then the back side, as up the west side (not that much of a distance; probably took me 1 minute), I looked up and I saw a deer traversing our front yard and enter the woods and stopped. I stopped to watch it. Then another deer crossed our front yard. The first deer was watching me. It came within 20 yards of me.

And in that moment, I was mesmerized by God’s creation. For a fleeting moment I thought, “I wish it was deer gun season!” But that thought left me quickly. One creation of God was watching another creation of God. That’s when the Painful Truth hit me hard! My inspiration for writing has been here all along. I just wasn’t watching! Forgive me, Lord, for I am an unprofitable servant.

And I remembered Psalm 121–“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” Please hear the plea of this unprofitable servant, don’t look at the headlines, look at the ONE who always sees us and patiently waits for us to see Him!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the Glory goes to Him!

One Resolution: One Secret!

Finally, this series ends today.  Whew!  And you may be a bit, call it “relieved” that it’s ending.  Let’s do a quick review. 

  • Most Resolutions are expressions of the human heart to find Contentment.
  • And we can make One Resolution that will last for the rest of our lives and give us Contentment:  Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel.  Not the gospel of our best efforts, but The Gospel Of God’s Best Efforts For Us. 
  • It’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ, But To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Do His Best Efforts For Us By Living In And Through Us With The Power Of The Resurrection!

And He Lives In Us And Through Us With The Power Of The Resurrection When We Make 6 Conscious Choices and make them a daily and all day long habit.  The first 5 are:

  1. Live With An Undivided Heart
  2. Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God 
  3. Find Your Unique Life Purpose.  Your Life Purpose Isn’t About The What You Do, But The Why! 
  4. Be Fully Alive In Jesus And Allow Jesus To Be Fully Alive In You.
  5. Live With Confidence That There Is A Resurrection For You In This Life And The Life To Come!

June 19, 1952 marked the beginning of a legend in television.  On this date Garry Moore hosted the first episode of what would be the hit show “I’ve Got A Secret.”  Contestants would appear on the show that had A Secret.  It might be something unique or unusual.  It might be some embarrassment or it might be something funny.  The four panelists would ask questions and try to “guess” their Secret.  Originally the contestant would receive $20 for each panelist who could not guess their secret and also a carton of Winston cigarettes, I guess because they were the sponsor for the show.  One unusual guest they had was Samuel Seymour who appeared on the show on February 9, 1956 at the age of 96, just two months before his death.  His secret was that as a young child, he was an eye witness to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Maybe it’s just me, but I could imagine the apostle Paul appearing on that show because he had a good secret that the world needed to know.  I can hear Garry telling the panelist, “Paul has a secret that will change every person’s future by changing how they live now.”  The panelists quiz Paul, “Is it some type of vaccine?”  “Yes, but not in the way most people think about vaccination.”  “Is it something you invented or made?” “Oh, absolutely not!” 

“Oh, is it something that has always been around?”  “Most definitely!”  “So it’s something you found.”  “Well yes, but really it found me!”  “Did you find the fountain of youth?”  (buzzer sound)  “No, I’m afraid you’re wrong.”

Do you think that Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan and Bess Myerson would want to know Paul’s Secret?  Would you like to know Paul’s Secret?  Is there really something that will change our future by changing how we live now?  Paul’s One Secret will.  What is Paul’s secret?  Here it is in Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT)

11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Now we come to the last and 6TH Conscious Choice for finding that deep, abiding Contentment and the way we can maintain this one resolution of living a life worthy of the Gospel.  And This Is The One Thing You Need To Remember Today:  Filter Your Life And Your Experiences Through Your Relationship With Jesus. 

Live every moment Through Christ.  Accept every situation Through Christ.  Celebrate every joy Through Christ.  Endure every heartache Through Christ.  Face every battle Through Christ.  Confront every struggle Through Christ!  What does this mean, Through Christ?

I found some practical insights in the word Paul chose in this word “through”.  The Greek word is a simple word, “en”.  It means in, with, by, or through.  It’s a preposition.  Now for those of us who have been out of school for a long time, let’s go back to basic English and the parts of speech.  Miss Stutts, Brenda Pettus and Glenda Weir would be so proud of me right now for even remembering this stuff. 

A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to another word or phrase in a sentence.  Purists of proper grammar often insist that it is unacceptable to end a sentence with a preposition.  Sounds exciting, huh?  But there is more to both the Greek and to the meaning of preposition.

In the rules of grammar, A Preposition Indicates There’s A Relationship That Exists Between The Noun Or Pronoun And The Phrase.  There is relationship happening within the sentence.  Now, are you getting a hint to where I’m going?  In the Greek language this simple preposition has an even deeper meaning.  Not only does it mean that a relationship exists, but It’s An Established Relationship That Carries With It The Image Of A Relationship Of Rest—Not Action—But Rest.

Contentment Is Only Found In A Relationship Of Resting In Christ.  Are you tired of carrying heavy burdens of Grief, Fear, Guilt, Remorse, Bitterness, Resentment, Regrets, Worry, Anxiety To Name A Few? How’s that working out for you, carrying that heavy load day in and day out?  Is hauling that heavy weight around all day really working for you?  Are you ready to admit that it’s not working for you?  Then drop that load and take a rest in Jesus. 

Now my comments about prepositions—especially that word Through.  Cars have air filters, gas filters and oil filters.  The water in your home is filtered and you can add an additional filter for your water.  What is the purpose of filters and why are they so important?  Whether it’s oil, gas, air or water, it takes out the trash and impurities from them.  But the only way they work is for everything to pass through that Filter.  Then the Filter can take out all that junk before it does serious damage.

This is the same principle that Paul is talking about.  To find contentment, to live that life that is Worthy Of The Gospel, Filter Your Life And Your Experiences Through Your Relationship With Jesus

I think this is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “I will give you rest.”  In order to rest we must stop and let go.  How many times have you said, “I didn’t sleep well last night”?  It may have been because you were restless and you were restless because you didn’t let go.  Jesus invites you to release and let go of all that junk you are carrying around. 

It did not matter to Paul what his circumstances were—hungry or full, hot or cold, well dressed or dressed in thrift store clothes, in good times and in bad times—Paul filtered his life through the relationship he had in Jesus.  Do you do the same?  Or do you choose to hold on tightly to that fear, that pain, that dread?  Why do we choose to carry that heavy load that is absolutely unnecessary?

We carry unnecessary loads because we have Not Learned that We Can Do Anything Through Christ Who Strengthens Us.  Anxiety, fretting, worrying and all that junk comes because we are afraid to trust the relationship Jesus is offering us.  But you can trust the Relationship because of these 3 reasons:

1.  Whatever It Is That You Can’t Handle, Jesus Can!

He calmed the stormed, healed lepers, restored sight to the blind, caused people unable to walk to dance, sent a legion of demons scurrying like cockroaches off a bluff, transformed a corrupt tax collector into a generous servant.

He fed thousands of people with a kid’s lunch sack, stood his ground with the religious bullies of his day, gave hope to a dying criminal, raised Lazarus from the grave, and much more.  Quite an impressive resume’ wouldn’t you say?  Now what is it in you or happening to you that Jesus can’t handle?  You can trust Jesus because He can handle everything in your life.

2.  Whatever It Is That Troubles You, Jesus Cares!

He took care of the taxes for Peter and the others, He wept with Martha and Mary at the grave of Lazarus, He comforted that adulterous woman shamed in public with forgiveness, He wept over Jerusalem just days before His crucifixion,

He made a hero out of a woman who took the risk of breaking all the rules just so she could wash his feet with her tears and anoint them with extravagant perfume, He cared about little children—now what makes you think he doesn’t care about what troubles you? 

You may not understand why some things happen to you, but you can count on this: Jesus Cares About You.  And in the middle of all that pain and unanswered questions, Somehow He Gives Us Comfort And His Comfort Gives Us Rest.

3.  Whatever It Is That’s Too Heavy For You To Carry, Jesus Will!

I know Jesus will carry your load—because He already has.  He carried the cross that was meant for you.  Do I need to say anything else?  The nails that had been forged just for you, Jesus stepped in and said, “I’ll take those nails.” 

And the guilt, pain and condemnation of every sinner?  He Carried That, Too.  Now, tell me, what is the weight that is crushing you that you continue to lay beneath?  What is it that you are afraid to tell Jesus about?  Do you honestly believe He doesn’t know about it?  He handled that burden then on the Cross, and He can still handle it now with Love, Grace, and Mercy.

Why filter everything through Jesus?  Because He gives us the strength—

  • To Overcome Temptations—
  • To Go Through Life’s Difficult Times—
  • Strength To Do What We Have To Do—
  • Strength To Be The Body Of Christ To Do The Things He Wants Us To Do In His Name—Teaching, Reaching, Sharing Are All Done Through His Strength.

I do not want to meddle right now; I want to get personal with you.  In any audience it’s very highly probable that there is some need, some pain, some sorrow, or some shame that is weighing heavy in a heart.  Or maybe you are carrying the heaviest burden of all:  the emptiness that will not go away.  Yours may be the heart that is longing for deep and abiding contentment but you’re restless; you’re hurting; you’re burdened.  The Secret is learning to rest—to rest in Jesus by Filtering Your Life And Your Experiences Through Your Relationship With Jesus.

Because you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:

Let go of that whatever it is that you are grasping onto tightly—fear, anger, grief, shame, whatever—and filter it through Jesus.  And the One Secret will not be a secret any longer to you.

There’s a song by David Crowder that hit me hard. The title is Come As You Are. He wrote it based on an old hymn, Come, Ye Disconsolate. Disconsolate is an old word we don’t use anymore. It means to be without comfort, unhappy. You can find comfort, and you can be better than happy–you can be joyful. But it only happens as you filter your life and experiences through Jesus:

6 Conscious Choices and make them a habit.

  1. Live With An Undivided Heart
  2. Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God 
  3. Find Your Unique Life Purpose.  Your Life Purpose Isn’t About The What You Do, But The Why! 
  4. Be Fully Alive In Jesus And Allow Jesus To Be Fully Alive In You.
  5. Live With Confidence That There Is A Resurrection For You!
  6. Filter Your Life And Your Experiences Through Your Relationship With Jesus

One Resolution: One Hope!

Live With Confidence That There Is A Resurrection For You!

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Hope is the sustainer of life.  It’s the motivator for action.  It’s the promise of tomorrow.  Life without hope is like a car without an engine, a jet without wings, a train without tracks.  You just aren’t going to be able to get anywhere.

We are in the 5th week of looking at One Resolution that will give our hearts the one thing it longs for most of all:  Contentment.  The One Resolution that provide deep and abiding Contentment is to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  Not the “Gospel of Our Best Efforts” but the Gospel Of God’s Best Effort For Us.  It’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ, But To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection!

This Life Of Contentment grows out of 6 Conscious Choices that we make over and over.  Review time for the first four:

  1. Live With An Undivided Heart—Your loyalty and allegiance is to Jesus and His Work in our world.
  2. Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God—We focus on each other and those who are not here yet. 
  3. Find Your Unique Life Purpose.  Your Life Purpose Isn’t About The What You Do, But The Why!  To reveal God’s love in ways that meets the deepest needs of others.
  4. Be Fully Alive In Jesus And Allow Jesus To Be Fully Alive In You—and the only way this happens is to live with Great Resolve, remembering that our Goal in life is to be just like Jesus in our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions.

In order to reach this Life Of Contentment we need more than a best guess estimate.  Sometimes when we have a problem with our car or an appliance we want to know how much it is going to cost us.  Without a thorough diagnostic, the best they can do is to give us a best guess estimate.  But in this life in grace, we need more than a best guess estimate.  Let’s pick up where we left off last week at Philippians 3:15-16 (The Message)

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

Many people are drowning today—drowning in grief, drowning in fear, drowning in despair—all because they don’t have the One Hope.  Oh, they had hope, but not the One Hope.  They had hope in the stock market, hope in a political party, hope in that relationship they thought would never end, or hope in their own ability.  And now they have cast their lot with some of the most miserable people in the world—those who have lost hope, and keep looking in the wrong places, or worse—have given up ever finding hope. 

When human hope fails, there is another kind of hope—the One Hope—that does more than sustain us in the wilderness times of our life.  This One Hope enables us to dream again and live again and it’s the one thing you need to remember—Live With Confidence That There Is A Resurrection For You! 

How confident are you of God’s grace?  Do you trust God enough to live in confidence that the grace Jesus showed people like Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman, that thief on the other cross, Peter, and an overly ambitious Pharisee named Saul is the same identical grace He extends to you?  Or do you believe that it’s another, less powerful grace that He offers you?

Do you believe that the mercy Jesus lavished on lepers, the blind, the possessed, the woman caught in the act of adultery, is the same mercy He lavishes on you?  Or do you think that He shows some other lesser form of mercy on you?  Hope, the One Hope is built on the truth that in Christ God has only One Love that is full of grace and mercy for everyone.  This grace and mercy that God freely lavishes on everyone has a reason and a purpose:  that we become what we were created to be:  an exact reflection of our Creator!  And because we are not yet that complete image of our Creator, that Grace And Mercy Has A Resurrection With Your Name On It!

In 1993 a song written by Jenny Yates & Garth Brooks made its début, and in 1994 made it to #3 on the Country Western charts.  The song was “Standing Outside The Fire”.  The chorus of this song says so much more than I ever could.  It goes like this:  Standing outside the fire, Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.  This is what life is like without the One Hope—just merely survived.  Like the lyrics from this song, There’s this love that is burning deep in my soul constantly yearning to get out of control wanting to fly higher and higher I can’t abide standing outside the fire.” 

The life God offers us is not found standing outside the fire, outside of the risks.  Sure, there will be times when we get burned by the risks, the fire of stepping outside our comfort zones.  But it’s in the fire of God’s Holy Spirit that we discover what it really means to be fully alive in Jesus and Jesus fully alive in us!  Jesus took the risk, not just in becoming human, but in going to the Cross. 

Yes, he got burned by His creation, but it didn’t stop Him.  Yes, he got burned by the pain of the Cross.  But even that Cross didn’t stop Him.  He went through the fire because He knew, He knew that the Resurrection was in that fire and the only way to reach it was through the trials and sufferings.  And why would He do that?  Because Of His Unconditional Love For Us.  He knew that if He didn’t experience Resurrection we never would.  We have the One Hope that will never let us down because There Is A Resurrection With Our Name On It!  Because of His Resurrection, we can have a Resurrection In This Life and The Next Life.

1.  He Gives Us Resurrection Over Sin

How do you suppose Peter felt when confronted with the truth that not once, not twice, but 3 times he denied Jesus?  Jesus told him he would, but Peter was so confident.  But he did the unthinkable—more than deny Jesus, he abandoned the One who called him “The Rock!”  Then those crazy women came with a tale of Resurrection—and it wasn’t good news to Peter—because Peter would have come face to face with the One he denied. 

Others May Have Been Finished With Peter, Peter May Be Been Finished With Peter, But Jesus Wasn’t Finished With Him. That’s why the angel said in Mark 16:7—Tell His disciples and Peter that He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see Him there, exactly as He said.”  The Resurrection came for Peter and 50 days later, Peter helped lead thousands to Jesus.  What The Resurrection did for Peter, it does for us.  We may have given up on ourselves and others may have given up on us, but not Jesus—because He has a Resurrection right now with your name in it!

2.  He Gives Us Resurrection When We Doubt

The epitome of doubt isn’t in the story of Thomas—it’s in the story of a man named Cleopas and his unnamed friend in Luke 24.  Cleopas and his friend are going back home.  There was nothing left for them to do.  By their own admission, they “Had Hoped” Jesus was the Messiah—Had Hoped but now they doubted.  They knew Jesus had been crucified—and even heard the rumor of the Resurrection.  But all they knew for certain was that the tomb was empty—beyond that was only speculation.

They Had Hoped, but now it seems like wishful thinking.  But Jesus takes the time to come to those who were struggling with doubt.  He comes to those who “Had Hoped” but now wondered and doubted.  Why come to Cleopas and his friend?  Because Jesus had A Resurrection and they needed A Resurrection.

3.  He Will Give Us A Resurrection When We Die

He gives us a Resurrection when we sin and when we doubt because He wants us to experience Resurrection when we die!  We do not have to live in fear of death because the only One who conquered death gives us the assurance that we will overcome death.  John wrote in 1 John 5:13—My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. 

We do not have to face our death with feelings of uncertainty, wondering if we will make it.  You do not have to be afraid to die, you don’t have to be afraid to LIVE!  Because of The Resurrection and God’s unconditional love there is a Resurrection with your name and my name on it.  You can count on God! 

Why can you count on God?  Philippians 1:6—There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. 

God started this great work of grace to make you and I what we were created to be:  to be the exact image of Him, to be just like Him in every detail.  But we are not there yet—we are an unfinished project.  But God has no unfinished projects.  One day we will be God’s finished work, and He will step back, look at us and say, “You look just like me!”

God promises a Resurrection then because He gives us Resurrection now!  And because He gives us a Resurrection now, we can count on the Resurrection then.  Your One Hope is this:  There Is A Resurrection For Us With Your Name On It!  When we sin, when we doubt, and when we die, Jesus shares His Resurrection because, well because He’s The Resurrection!

Because you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, Here’s Your Next Step:

Bring whatever you “had hoped” to Jesus for YOUR Resurrection today.