Winning the Lottery

August 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Have you ever wondered what you would feel like if you won a million dollars in the lottery? Or came into a huge inheritance? Or discovered oil on your land?

I don’t play the lottery. And I have no millionaire relatives. And I don’t own the mineral rights to our land. So, none of these windfalls are likely to be coming my way. However, I do have an imagination. And from time to time I have allowed myself to fantasize about how I would react if I suddenly came into a huge amount of money.

I’d be overwhelmed with joy.

I can see myself now, outside, dancing in my front yard, and shouting “Woohoo!” until the 100+ degree Texas heat causes me to drop over with exhaustion.

With that in mind, I felt  rather guilty when I read today’s verse from Biblegateway.com:  “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches” (Psalm 119:14, NIV).

Hmmmmmm. When was the last time I was outside, dancing in my front yard and shouting “Woohoo!” about God’s word?

Yet time after time, the Scriptures declare themselves to be a treasure far surpassing the most opulent worldly wealth.

In Psalm 19, the psalmist declares God’s words to be  “more precious than gold,  than much pure gold,” (Psalm 19:10a, NIV). In another place, the psalmist writes, “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold,” (Psalm 119:72, NIV).

At this writing, gold is selling for just under $1200 an ounce;  silver’s a bit cheaper at about $18 per ounce.  But who of us would turn up our noses at thousands of pieces of silver and gold?

Yet often my Bible gathers dust while I watch TV. Or devote my attention to things that have no eternal significance.

Do I really believe that God’s word is more valuable than anything this world offers?

If so, how should that be reflected in my life?

Just wondering.

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Forgotten by God?

August 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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There are times when I wonder if God has forgotten about me. Ironically, I rarely feel this way in times of great difficulty or trial. When bad things happen, I am hard-wired to cry out to God. And generally in those times I sense His presence, comforting and sustaining me.

Nor do I wonder about God’s presence in my life when he is tangibly pouring out his blessings.

Most often, I wonder where God is during the dry times of life, the times when I feel like I’m wandering in a desert. Or when it seems as if I’m feeling my way through a thick fog bank, not knowing which way to go or what to do. When things aren’t particularly bad or good, but life itself seems like an exercise in frustration.

That is when I want to stand on my front porch and cry out into the gray cloud banks surrounding me, “God? Are you still there?”

As I cry, I am often greeted with stony silence. I look. I listen. I cry out again, but He is nowhere to be seen or felt. It is at those times that I feel like the psalmist who wrote, “Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?” (Psalm 88:14, NIV).

Yet in the midst of that fog, God has not left me without comfort, for it is in times such as these that I look to His word and am reminded of his watchful care. Jesus said “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows,” (Luke 12:6-7, NIV)

Even when I cannot feel Him, cannot sense His presence, God reminds me that He is there. For if He does not forget a single sparrow, and he numbers the hairs on my head, He has not forgotten about me.

And so I must put away fear and despair, and trust in the One who knows the location and behavior of every molecule in the universe–even when I cannot sense his presence.

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The most quoted (and least believed) Bible verse.

July 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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If I were to ask you what is the most frequently quoted Bible verse, you probably would answer, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.”

But what if I asked you to name the most frequently quoted and least believed Bible verse?

There might be some debate on this one, but I think that Romans 8:28 is the prime candidate: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We love to quote that verse to other people when they are faced with trials or tragedies. However, when we’re the ones who are hurting, that’s usually the last verse we want to hear.

Some of that is understandable. When we are in the midst of deep grief, often our emotions are so jumbled up that we can’t think rationally. All we know is that we are hurting and we can’t see any good that can come from our pain.

But often, even when we have moved out of the initial shock of grief, we still ask the question: “God, why?”

When we look at a trial or tragedy and say, “How could God let this happen?” we are acting in unbelief. Worse than that, we are accusing God of wrongdoing. Such a question assumes that somehow God has promised that nothing bad will happen to us.

But God never made such a promise.

What he did promise was that if we love him and are called according to his purpose, he would work everything together for our good.

If we believe that, the question, “Why, God?” becomes moot. The proper response is, “Yes, Lord. I don’t understand what’s happening right now, but I know that you do. And I will trust you and rest in your wisdom, goodness, and sovereign love.”

What are you trusting him for today?

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Seeking God with All My Heart

July 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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I love the book of Psalms. For many years it has been the centerpiece of my devotional life. A few years ago I decided to take on the challenge of memorizing Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the book. I’m only about fifty verses in, but the richness of this psalm never ceases to amaze me.

One phrase that has caught my attention and refused to let go is found in verse 2: “How blessed are those who. . . seek [God] with all their heart,” Psalm 119:2 NET

I often have found myself pondering those words and wondering what it means to seek God with all my heart. Does it mean that I become a monk, isolating myself and praying 24/7? Does it mean that I neglect my family and sit around reading the Bible all day long? Does it mean that I become like Anna the prophetess (Luke 2) and practically live at church?

As I was thinking about these verses, one day God brought to mind two others that shed some light on what it means to seek God with all my heart.

Paul told the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing,” I Thessalonians 5:17 KJV. We know that he doesn’t mean we are to be on our knees every waking moment. Rather, Paul meant that believers should be in a constant attitude of prayer.

Another helpful statement came from the Lord Jesus. He said that we are to “above all pursue His [God’s] kingdom and righteousness,” Matthew 6:33 NET. In other words, our first priority is to seek or pursue the Kingdom of God.

What, then, does it mean to seek God with all my heart? Putting it simply, it means that He is first. He is my top priority, my greatest desire, my highest joy. He comes first in all I do, say, or think. He governs my decisions, my use of time and money, and all my interpersonal relationships.

It means I am like the man who found a treasure hidden in a field, and who sold all he had to buy that field, Matthew 13:44.

May God grant us all the grace to seek Him with all our hearts today, and every day.

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Fanning the Flames

July 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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I’m not much of a camper. As a matter of fact, my idea of roughing it is staying at a hotel where they don’t put a mint on your pillow each night. But when my children were young, I sacrificed my comfort twice a year to attend our church’s annual Father-Son and Father-Daughter camping trips. Often these weekend camp-outs were held in March and proved to be quite chilly affairs.

As a result, I became quite good at building fires.

Because I found it difficult to sleep with rocks digging into my back, I was usually the first one up every morning. When I would step out of our tent into the frigid morning air, my first thought was to get the fire going as quickly as possible. By now the wood had burned down to tiny coals and only a thin wisp of smoke trailed up from the fire pit.

I’d get some fresh twigs and leaves and put them on top of the coals, blow on them, and in a few seconds flames would break out. Then I’d put on more wood and it wouldn’t be long before I had a good strong fire burning again.

In recent years, I’ve begun to look at my spiritual life–and particularly my daily devotions–that way.

When I wake up in the morning, my spiritual condition is often like burned-down coals in a fire pit. There’s some smoke, but not much flame or heat. My task every morning is to fan into flame my joy, zeal, and love for the Lord. I have a routine that includes reading five psalms, a chapter of proverbs, several chapters from other portions of scripture, six or seven prayers from a prayer book titled “The Valley of Vision”, and reading some devotions by Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon. The routine takes almost an hour, but by the end of it, I’m ready to go out and face whatever challenges God may send my way.

Is your daily time with the Lord focused toward a goal? Or are you just going through the motions of reading from the Bible and praying because that’s what Christians are supposed to do?

Consider looking at your time with God as an opportunity to fan into flame your love for Him every day. It will change your outlook on the entire day.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,” (2 Timothy 1:6, NIV).

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The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

July 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

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Years ago, when I was serving as pastor of a small church, I occasionally did a Q&A on Sunday evenings. The congregation affectionately called it “Stump the Pastor.” It kept me on my toes, because the people always came with what they thought were unsolvable theological questions.

One week, one of the young people asked a question he was sure would leave me baffled: “If God only put people on planet Earth, why is the universe so big?”

I smiled and replied, “That’s a no-brainer. No matter how big the universe is, God is bigger. We see His glory and power reflected in the vastness of the universe.”

Since that time, I’ve given thought to that answer and feel I need to revise it just a bit.

God is not only larger than the universe, He is infinitely larger. The universe is so massive that now, with space-based telescopes such as Hubble, we can probe deeper than we ever have before. Yet astronomers still cannot plumb the depths of space, still cannot find the end. But the universe is finite. It does have an end.

When we understand that our God is infinite, we realize that this vast universe in which we live is little more than a grain of sand in comparison with God.

Now, about those problems we have that we think are too big for God to handle…

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV)

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