1-3 Thank God! He deserves your thanks. His love never quits. Thank the God of all gods, His love never quits. Thank the Lord of all lords. His love never quits. 23-26 God remembered us when we were down, His love never quits. Rescued us from the trampling boot, His love never quits. Takes care of everyone in time of need. His love never quits. Thank God, who did it all! His love never quits!
Psalm 136, verses 1 thru 3 and 23 thru 26; from The Message (MSG)
“You never know which way his mind is headed!” I suppose that’s what those who know me best would say about yours truly. And this morning would verify that declaration. In this morning’s discipline, I admit that I was a bit discombobulated. So, I took off my headphones and started talking with The Spirit. I’ve found that always helps–the talking with not just talking to. He told me to check out this morning’s Verse of the Day, compliments of Bible Gateway. I thought (there I go thinking again) that I had checked the New Living Translation as my chosen translation. But somehow (I wonder how? Wink, wink!) it came up in The Message.
I find looking at different translations helps me understand a passage better and gives me fresh insights. Now, if you are a one translation person, that’s OK. But just try it sometime when you are relaxed. Any who, I also love The Message and the ways that Eugene Peterson and his crew would turn a phrase that really shined some light in me. Though I love the richness of the King James Version when it comes to the Book of Psalms, occasionally The Message opens my eyes. This morning was one of those mornings.
There are actually 2 phrases from this Psalm that prompts these musings from me. The first one is in Verse 24: “Rescued us from the trampling boot“. Trampling boot! Now that’s exactly what Satan does! He wants to trample us down and squish the life out of us like we are nothing but a bug. Sin is The Trampling Boot! I know that lots of folks don’t like the idea of “sin”–but it’s real; very real. And though there are many definitions of sin out there, here’s mine: Sin is living outside of God’s design, purpose, and will for us. It’s being someone other than who we were designed to be by God.
And where do we find God’s design, purpose, and will? Simple–it’s in The Bible. It will never be found in socially acceptable norms. It’s not discovered in the latest cultural fads. It’s not found in the views and opinions of others. And it’s certainly not ever found in our feelings. It’s found in our relationship with Jesus and The Bible. Living outside The Book is where Satan wants us to be. It’s the only way his boot can trample us! Why is there so much anger in our culture today, especially when it comes to the traditional and orthodox faith? Because they are being trampled by Satan’s boot–and since they can’t stop Satan they turn against us who are doing exactly what Paul reminded the church at Corinth to do:
We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; He’s already a friend with you.
2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 10; from MSG
Oh, that other phrase. Here it is: His love never quits! If you are feeling that trampling boot, remember His love never quits! His love isn’t a sign of approval on your lifestyle. His love is for you. His love is an active force working to get you out from under Satan’s trampling boot. His love is working to bring you back–back to your original design; back to your original purpose, back to where your will is to do HIS Will! And to those who vainly believe they will be happy if the church would just approve and bless their lifestyle, it won’t change a thing. Only by being transformed by God love and learning how to be who God made us to be, can we experience peace, joy, and hope. So, surrender to Jesus lock, stock, and barrel. And He will rescue you from that trampling boot!
6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, 7 for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today! 8 The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness. 9 For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did.”
Psalm 95, verses 6 through 9; from the New Living Translation
I was nearly 7, I think, when my Papa Burbank died. I remember they called it “hardening of the arteries”. Today we know it as plaque buildup in the arteries. Now they can do things to help open up the flow of blood and avert death. Back then there wasn’t anything they could do for it. My reading for this morning, Psalm 95, and it’s verse about hardening of the heart, got me to thinking about him and his cause of death.
And though the miracles of modern medicine helps us today avoid the same outcome as Papa Burbank with our biological heart, it’s the spiritual heart that is in danger today. Spiritually speaking, we are at our Meribah. In case you’re not familiar with Meribah, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version. God had miraculously delivered them from Egypt and a life of slavery. He provided food in the form of manna every day. And when they complained about Heaven’s Food, God provided them with quails. Now there water supply is all but gone. I compare this to having nothing to drink before a procedure or surgery. You’re not really thirsty until you can’t have anything. So they turn against Moses and whine and complain, complain and whine, because they are so thirsty. Remember that God delivered them and has provided everything they needed up to this point. Now, why in Heaven’s Name would they start doubting God? Simple, it was what was in their hearts and it was hardening those hearts.
It’s said that you are what you eat. And that’s so very true. And here is something even more true: You are what you allow into your spiritual heart. And this is where our culture, and our United Methodist Tribe are at. Too many have allowed the bladerdash and flummery of progressive theology into their hearts. Our culture has jumped in Doc Brown’s Time Traveling Delorean and arrived before The Fall (that’s when Adam and Eve messed up) and bought lock, stock, and barrel into Satan’s lie that we are capable of being our own god. That given the right information (that’s what many call the “forbidden fruit”), we are free to choose our own path by determining our very own version of what is right and what is wrong.
The result is that the life-giving flow of “blood” has been blocked and denied access to our spiritual heart. And that heart has become hardened. And without treatement, that heart will cease to function and we will die. Remember my Papa Burbank! And there is no medicine or medical procedure that can restore that flow of life-giving blood. And there is no hope that neither progressive nor liberation theology can change this outcome. There is only one way, one source to prevent our hearts from this inevitable outcome.
If only you would listen to His voice today!
Psalm 95 verse 7
His Voice will never, I mean NEVER, contradict His Word that we know as The Bible. Our hearts are like Jeremiah (chapter 17, verse 9) described: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” That’s the Bad News, folks. But now for the Good News. Ezekiel said (chapter 36, verse 26): “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Like those poor, pitiful Hebrews, so many have forgotten how that through the ages God has been faithful to lead us to the life that sin has stolen from us. Physical heart transplants are amazing. But what’s more amazing is Spiritual Heart Transplants. So, if your heart has become hard, then there’s only one place to go–and that’s at the foot of The Cross!
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians chapter 6, verses 19 and 20; from the New International Verse
Well? Which are you? A Not? Or a Knot? Me? Well, I guess I need to be truthful. Sometimes I’m a Not and on occasions I am a Knot. A Knot is someone who is tightly held by their own stuff. A Not is someone who is liberated from that and all other stuff. Speaking only of here in the good old U.S. of A., so many–too many–are held tightly to their stuff. And many of these knots also want Jesus–but still be connected to all their stuff.
Progressive theology wants people to believe that they can have Jesus AND their Knot! But clearly Paul had other ideas when he wrote this letter to the Corinthian church. You see, they were tied to a lot of their stuff–and that stuff was contradictory to both God’s design and what it means to be holy. The Greek word translated NOT means ABSOLUTELY NOT! We are NOT our own. We are NOT in charge and certainly NOT in control of our lives. And, my friends, that is NOT a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a great thing to be a NOT!
Listen again to verse 20: You were bought at a price. And that price was paid on that cruel Roman Cross on the outskirts of Jerusalem. If we are, call it “a Christian” or as I prefer, “a follower and disciple of Jesus”, then we are NOT any longer under the control and influence of anyone or anything–other than God! We can’t do what we want, be what we want, and still follow Jesus! NOT at all. NOT at all! So be a NOT and not a KNOT! Are you clear on this?
As I am sitting here at my desk, wondering what to write this morning, I admit I was at a loss for words. Yes, mark this day on your calendar that this Wordsmith had no words–doesn’t happen very often. But then I turned in my chair towards my right. I don’t know why; it must have been my Best Companion, The Holy Spirit. And there it was on that wall.
My wall of crosses. Each one is different. Some I purchased. Others were gifts to me. Yet, each one tells the same Wonderful Saga–of the God who went searching for me–breaking through the barriers that kept me away from Him. And for a brief moment, I forgot…forgot that when I feel like I have nothing to say–I have much to say about The Cross.
I had nothing to say at first this morning–but I have so very much to boast about. It’s nothing about me–but all about HIM! And here’s the verse the my friend, The Holy Spirit, gave me to share with you this morning:
Galatians 6:14-18 14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. 17 From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus. 18 Dear brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
When you are at a loss for words, remember these words of Paul–Boast About The Cross! It was supposed to be me, supposed to be you on that Cross, but Jesus took it FROM us, FOR US! So love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM, by boasting about the Cross of Jesus!
I remember playground games. Whether it was softball, kick-ball, football
or dodge ball, we would divide into teams.
Sometimes the teacher would select captains, sometimes 2 would just
volunteer. But one thing I remember most,
is that in the process of selecting teams, no one wanted to be the last person
picked. It meant people didn’t see much
in you, that you lacked the skill necessary to be a vital part of the
team. Being picked last was often
humiliating. As we celebrate Communion,
I want you to know that in God’s eyes you are never the last person picked for
God’s team! Let’s look at today’s
passage from Ephesians 1:3-14 found in The
3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ,
and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations,
He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole
and holy by His love. Long, long ago He
decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He
took in planning this!) He wanted us to
enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved
7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His
blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of
penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!
He thought of everything, provided for everything we could
possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a
long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him,
everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
11-12 It’s in Christ that
we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got
our hopes up, He had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part
of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.
13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard
the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves
home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment
on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us,
a praising and glorious life.
is the most important day in your life.
Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not next week or next year. This leads me to the one thing you need to
remember from today’s message: God speaks of his relationship with you in
permanent, irrevocable terms of adoption, ransom and guarantee. God chooses you, and that will never change.
If you’ve ever felt unsure about your usefulness in God’s plans or
if you are acceptable to God, then I want you to pay close attention for the next
few minutes, because these few verses tell you three important things about You
in God’s eyes. Embrace these 3 truths into your life, you will
experience a greater sense of self-worth and more spiritual confidence than you
have ever known.
1. You’ve Been On
God’s Mind From The Beginning.
back to my image of standing on the playground.
At first, you were just part of a crowd, but now selections have been
made and now you are standing alone, and the captain who has the last pick,
says “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to take them.”
I think all of us can relate to this feeling; we all know what it is
like to be the last chosen—the least talented in at least some area—academically,
athletically, musically, and so on. But
there is an area where you never need feel that way: Your Relationship With God.
Probably all of us have wondered, at one time or another, “If they
had it to do all over again, would they choose me? Would they hire me? Would she marry me?” Maybe some of you have even thought, “If Jesus
had to do it over, would He die for me again?”
Some of you may believe that you have been such a disappointment to God
that you would have been better off not to have been born. The message from God is the exact
God knew that you would be
where you are today in all areas of your life.
He knew you would be here at this moment and for some, it may have been
a rough ride. There may have been
mistakes and disappointments along the way and you may have wanted to give up
many times. Even though your past may be
littered with failures, it doesn’t change the fact that God Loves You, He Chooses You,
And He Believes In You. You have
been, are now and will always be on His mind and in His heart. This is RANSOM!
2. You Belong To
God, And That Will Never Change.
This passage defines your
relationship with God in permanent terms.
It says, first of all, that we have been adopted. The citizens of Ephesus understood the
significance of adoption,
because it was common in their society. Adoption wasn’t just a case of parents
choosing to provide a home for a parentless child.
Paul said, “You’ve been Adopted
into the family of God. Get comfortable because
He’s not going to give up on you.”
3. Everything You
Need, You Can Have.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross
just to abandon you now. God is
generous. He doesn’t withhold His kindness,
His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His compassion, or His blessings from you. He showers you with kindness. He will lavish His generosity on you, If
You Are Willing To Receive It.
not just about your physical needs; he is referring to your spiritual and
emotional needs as well. God will give
you All The Joy You Need—All The Love You
Need, All The Faith You Need, All The Mercy You Need, And
truth is, He Wants To Shower His Kindness
On You. Everything you need, He
wants to provide.
See your relationship with God
in a new way—in a non-adversarial way.
God isn’t mad at you. He isn’t
sorry that He chose you. And if He had
to do it over, He Would Die For You Again. Why? Before
you were born, you were on His mind
and IN His heart. He chooses You
to be His very own. You belong with Him,
and that will never change. And He will
be with you every step of the way, blessing you with what you need each and
How do I know
this? Even more important, how can YOU
know this? You and I can know this
without a doubt because the
Holy Spirit is given as our guarantee.“Guarantee” Is A Term That Means The Assurance That
Another’s Obligation Will Be Fulfilled.
It comes from a Hebrew word that means “a pledge”—God has made
a pledge to fully restore you back to His Intended Design—To be the you He
created you to be. Until that work is
finished He gives us the Holy Spirit, as His Personal Pledge.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is the assurance that God’s
commitment to you will not stop until the final result—We become exactly like
Design—The Perfect In Every Detail Reflection Of God. We come to the table, the ONLY Table where it
all starts, where we are called to live, and one day where it will be completed—the
Table of Grace…
week it’s rather simple: Find where God
is at work and join with Him. After all,
He has chosen you to work with Him! Or, find a place where you
know God wants to work, and get started.
After all, He wants you to work with Him!
Well, this morning I’m waiting to leave to take my lovely wife, Debbie, to the surgery center for some minor surgery. You do know the difference between minor and major surgery, don’t you? Minor surgery is what someone else has–major surgery is what I have! No seriously, I do not take what is about to happen to her lightly. I’ve read those “disclaimers” about all that can go wrong. Really, no surgery is minor. But let me quickly get to the point.
Debbie has been having chronic sinusitis. And it’s not only affected her sinuses, but also fluid has built up behind her right ear drum, making it difficult to hear. Besides, everyone knows how annoying it is to have all that stuff behind an ear drum, am I right? Scans revealed a small cyst on the right side of her sinuses that is causing that sinus fluid back up, all the way to her ear. Dr. David told us that by removing that small cyst, it should allow all that fluid to drain out. Her body will function as it is designed, and hopefully this works. Otherwise, it may require the insertion of tubes to keep that nasty and annoying fluid from impairing her ability to hear.
Well, what does all that have to do with the Kingdom Life? I’m so glad you asked. The fluid behind her ear, that feeling of her ears being “stopped up”, started somewhere else. Her sister and I offered to put a vacuum cleaner up to her ear and see if we could suction that fluid out. She didn’t go for it.
You see, the problem isn’t in her ear. The source of the problem is somewhere else. Can you see a spiritual truth developing here? Until the cause is fixed, the problem persists. It’s easy to get fixated on what others are doing wrong. The chaos of my Tribe right now is being caused by this very thing. By pointing the finger at what others are doing wrong, it’s easy, so very easy to ignore what’s wrong with us. We think that the ills of our culture can be fixed if we can just get all those others “fixed”
Well, guess what. Treating symptoms will not cure the illness. Ask Debbie about this. Multiple shots and rounds of decongestants, antibiotics and multiple shots haven’t done a thing for all that fluid behind her ear drum. The problem is somewhere else–something growing where it shouldn’t be growing. So Dr. David is going to remove that “shouldn’t be there foreign object” so that her sinuses and ears can function like they are designed. Until that cyst is removed, nothing will be as it should.
Have you had your “AHA!” of where all this is going? If you haven’t, then let me draw you a picture; and explain it with a passage, actually a song written by one of the most prolific song writers ever: Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Without Dr. David having ordered the CT scan, without the radiologist knowing how to interpret the results, Debbie’s only hope would be more of the same–meds and shots. But those will not solve her problem. That foreign-it-doesn’t-belong-there object needs to be removed. I wish I could take her place and let the doctor work on me–but that won’t solve her problem.
Truth Time: I’m good at hiding the truth about me from myself. I’m better at hiding the truth about me from others. And so are you–unless we follow the advice of this song: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you.”
But don’t stop there. That next line is the all important one: “and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” The truth is that for God to lead us along that path of everlasting life, sometimes there are things that get in the way of us following. There’s a technical term for those things that get in the way of following Jesus. It’s called SIN. Sin is that foreign object that gets in the way of us living the way God designed us to live.
So, today, focus on this Psalm. Ask God to point out those nasty, annoying “cysts” that’s getting in the way and causing problems, lots of problems. Then yield and submit to that Divine Surgical Procedure we called “Redemption”. Allow Him to remove that sin in your life. Oh, and be sure you go back for regular “scans”, the struggle against sin isn’t over, yet. But it will be some day–it will be!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!