Monday, May 18, 2009

Who You Rely Upon

Each morning when I start up my computer I see it.

The website that I go to has it built into its template.

This page has the up-to-date headlines from around the world.

And one part of that page always lists the current status of the stock market; whether it is up or down; and what the current level is.

The down days seem to have outnumbered the up days a lot recently.

This morning I was waiting in the orthodontist's office. I saw a Time magazine. The cover spoke of how the economy had changed the outlook for jobs over the next decade. Inside the magazine was an article that gave statistics and details to the story. The article included a map of the U.S. and broke down what job growth in each state was anticipated to be in the near future.

If you lived in Texas, Nevada, Florida, or Georgia, the numbers weren't comparatively bad.

If you lived in Michigan or Ohio, well...maybe you want to consider moving to Texas, Nevada, Florida, or Georgia.

Things have been good in the past.

Not so good currently.

What will the future hold?

Isaiah prophesies about a time to come, after God's judgment has been poured out on God's people.

In that day the remnant of Israel,
the survivors of the house of Jacob,
will no longer rely on him
who struck them down
but will rely on the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 10:20 NIV)

Isaiah's people had known good days back when the David was king.

But the kingdom broke up.

Then the people would become slaves.

What would the future hold?

Notice two things:

1.) The people would no longer rely on him who struck them down. Why would you rely upon anything that would turn on you? (Anyone thinking of your 401(k)? How 'bout that company that had been in existence for years and once provided you health care or a steady paycheck?)

Things we've depended upon for years are now being seen for what they are...temporary.

Is it possible that in this economy, we may have a unique opportunity to turn away from things that have proven themselves unworthy of our trust?

2.) Isaiah offers hope but he is not talking about all of Israel. He is only speaking about the remnant. A small group, a minority of the nation, will rely upon the LORD.

That can be disheartening, can't it? Wouldn't you think EVERYONE would turn and trust?!

But no. The prophet is clear. Twice in a couple of verses he tells us the remnant will rely upon the Living God. The remnant will return.

If you are feeling like a small minority in your faith, don't be discouraged! You're in good company.

May you look to the Holy One to provide daily bread in your life.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Unjust Laws

"Obey the law" we tell our children.

We believe that most laws are for our good. And they probably are.

But not always. Sometimes laws do more to mess people up than to help them.

"Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,"

What types of laws might be "unjust"?

What would "oppressive decrees" do?

...deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. (Isaiah 10:1-2 NIV)

This passage in Isaiah is a pronouncement of God's judgment against God's people, Israel.

Do you think God has judgment to pronounce against God's people today, for similar types of sins?

Have we valued "the law" of the land above "the rights of the poor"?

"What rights?" we might wonder.

Well, it seems like food, shelter, and clothing are pretty basic. Everyone should have access to those things.

And in our culture we expect medical care and education to be pretty basic.

Have our laws withheld justice from the oppressed? Have we failed to make sure the least and the last are protected?

I have to confess nearly everyone I know would be outraged if they saw widows becoming prey or orphans being robbed. Most of the people I know are pretty decent folks and they'd step in if they noticed something so heinous happening.

But if you're like me, it seems more likely that we might not even be aware of those who suffer from an unjust world. It is easy to insulate ourselves from "the poor" and "the oppressed" even if we don't mean to.

We may be totally oblivious to the ways our laws in the city, county, state, or nation are unjust.

I was recently with a group of my peers from around southeastern Michigan. We were looking at the unemployment rates for twenty or so counties in the state. At the time (several months ago), the percentage of adults looking for work but unable to find it was double-digits for every county...except one... Washtenaw County, where most of us live.

I'm guessing most of the numbers have gone up since then. However, compared to nearly everyone else in the state, we were doing pretty well.

I was reminded again of how privileged we are, even in this economy. Even though our community has not been untouched by the difficult financial times.

Layoffs, shrinking 401K's, and foreclosures have seemed to wake us up to those types of needs.

Maybe we'll begin to wake up, not only to our own needs, but to the needs of those around us.

Maybe such circumstances will help sensitize us to the less fortunate who live close by.

Maybe we can train our eyes to see where our society has allowed some to be robbed or others to become prey.

Maybe we can step up, speak up, and protect those who need it most.

I hope so.

Grace & peace

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Your Situation & God's ANSWER

Your Situation & GOD'S ANSWER:

This was sent to me the other day. It's something that we might want to refer to every once in awhile.

Grace & peace

You say: 'It's impossible'
God says: All things are possible
(Luke 18:27)

You say: 'I'm too tired'
God says: I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28-30)

You say: 'Nobody really loves me'
God says: I love you
(John 3:1 6 & John 3:34 )

You say: 'I can't go on'
God says: My grace is sufficient
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

You say: 'I can't figure things out'
God says: I will direct your steps
(Proverbs 3:5- 6)

You say: 'I can't do it'
God says: You can do all things
( Phil ippians 4:13)

You say: 'I'm not able'
God says: I am able
(II Corinthians 9:8)

You say: 'It's not worth it'
God says: It will be worth it
(Roman 8:28 )

You say: 'I can't forgive my self'
God says: I Forgive you
(I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

You say: 'I can't manage'
God says: I will supply all your needs
( Phil ippians 4:19)

You say: 'I'm afraid'
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear
(II Timothy 1:7)

You say: 'I'm always worried and frustrated'
God says: Cast all your cares on ME
(I Peter 5:7)

You say: 'I'm not smart enough'
God says: I give you wisdom
(I Corinthians 1:30)

You say: 'I feel all alone'
God says: I will never leave you or forsake you
(Hebrews 13:5)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

6 Things God Hates

There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,

a lying tongue,

hands that shed innocent blood,

a heart that devises wicked schemes,

feet that are quick to rush into evil,

a false witness who pours out lies,

and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV)

Any of those surprise you?

Probably not the lying or the false witness.

You'd probably agree the shedding of innocent blood is a problem.

No one likes the idea of people rushing to do evil or devising wickedness.

But haughty eyes (the KJV reads "a proud look")?

Is that really as bad as lying?

Apparently it is on God's scales of justice.

The word means "to exalt self" or to be "too high or lofty".

That gives insight into Psalm 131:1 which reads,

My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.

Sometimes we concern ourselves with matters we ought to leave to God.

I have a friend of mine who is fond of saying, "That is above my pay grade."

"Those issues are beyond me" is what he is saying.

I think we need to remind ourselves of that once in awhile.

And we need to always have that attitude, don't we?

The church has not always been know for its humility, have we?

Think about it. If this is an attitude GOD HATES, (that's what we read in Proverbs 6, right?), then it is an attitude we need to TRADE IN!! Get rid of. Or run from as fast as we can.

Do a check on yourself as you go through the day today:

- Do I consider myself better, smarter, or more deserving than others?

- How might that affect the way I am able to see God in that person's life? (Remember, "when you've done it to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you've done it unto me"!)

May God help us to be in the process of being shaped into the image of Christ in our attitudes.

Grace & peace

Monday, May 4, 2009

Guard Your Heart

Do you remember this song?

Oh be careful little eyes what you see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see

It was a song I learned as a little child. It may have been in Sunday School. It might have been in our home. But I learned the words long ago.

And I continue to be reminded of the truth.

I thought of that song this morning as I read Proverbs 5:23

Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

Out of the heart flow decisions,





our destiny.

For example, suppose you have a choice of how to use a couple of hours. You can either spend time on your favorite hobby (hunting, golf, surfing the net, a night out with the guys/or girls having fun)


you could spend that time with your child, your parent, your spouse, or someone else who would appreciate your attention.

What do you choose?

Here's another one. You're by yourself and your going to listen to some music or watch a movie or surf the web. And you have a choice. You can go to that site or song or show that looks very attractive, (but you know at best it's a HUGE waste of time and at worst it's not something you'd want to tell grandma or the pastor about)


You can shut it off and go do something that would be a better use of your time.

What do you choose?

Here's one more.

You go the kitchen to have a snack. You could have some fresh fruit...


you could have that last, extra-large piece of cake or dive into a bag of chips.

What do you choose?

In many ways, we have already made the choice BEFORE the moment of truth arrives.

Another song on this very subject, entitled appropriately enough, "Guard Your Heart" says:

The human heart is easily swayed
And often betrayed
At the hand of emotion
We dare not leave the outcome to chance
We must choose in advance
Or live with the agony
Such needless tragedy

Guard your heart
Guard your heart
Don't trade it for treasure
Don't give it away
Guard your heart
Guard your heart
As a payment for pleasure
It's a high price to pay

For a soul that remains sincere
With a conscience clear
Guard your heart

I don't know who wrote it. But they were right on.

So how do you guard your heart? Here are a few thoughts:

- Practice Sabbath: God tells us 1 day out of 7 is set aside to be kept holy, without work. Life gets out of balance in a hurry when every day is spent running and rushing. Our heart becomes open to attacks from a variety of places.

- Be Intentional about your Activities: Find the things that consistently draw you closer to God, make you aware of the Spirit's presence in your life, and regularly incorporate them into your day or week. Maybe that is a walk in the woods, sitting down with your Bible and a cup of coffee, listening to music that increases your faith, reading e-mails from well-meaning pastors... Whatever. Find your activity and do it regularly.

- Seek out Faith Partners: Who are the people that draw out God's best in you. Find a few of the people who encourage you to allow the image of Christ to be shaped in your life and calendar regular times to be with them. (You know, SUNDAY AT 11AM is a great time for you and your family!)

- Choose in Advance: If there are areas where you know the battle is being fought, decide up front what you will/won't do. If the battleground is food, plan ahead of time what you're going to eat. If the battleground is gossip, decide who you might not seek out and what topics you'll try to avoid. If the battle is entertainment such as movies and websites, do your best to be accountable to someone else.

Guarding your heart is a lifelong challenge. But the prizes for doing it are unbeatable, both for you and those you love.

May we encourage each other to guard our hearts.

Grace & peace