Friday, July 29, 2011

#82 Insurance or Assurance?

Isaiah 32:17 The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.

We live in a world that requires us to have our assets and ourselves protected. We have car insurance to make us whole in the event of an accident or crash. We have home owners insurance to take care of our houses and tool sheds. Medical insurance takes some of the bite out of health related expenses. And in the event of death, we have life insurance to give those left behind some monetary means to move on without us.

Commercial after commercial pitches us the idea that one company can cover our insurance needs better than the "other guy" who may want to sell us coverage. Please don't get me wrong. I am not against insurance and yes I have various types of insurance to protect my own family. However, we should note that insurance does not remove risk or the results that arise after tragedy; it only seeks to compensate for, replace, or repair that which was lost, destroyed or damaged.

I am so glad that God is not in the insurance business. God does not seek to just compensate, replace, or repair. He does not promise to give us monetary salve to help us pay our way past a lost. God does so much more; He seeks to give assurance of something better than what we have or can obtain on our own.

God does need an appraiser to come out and try to see just how little He can pay to get by and keep His costs down. No, He appraises the situation Himself and basically says to us, "You have nothing of value for Me to restore. Therefore, I will give you an inheritance of eternal assurance!"

I submit to you all that God is not in the business of selling "fire insurance" to protect us from the flames of hell, but rather He is in the business of granting eternal assurance of a life that is not of equal value to this one but far superior.

The question comes down to, "What do we really want out of this life?" Do we want want to cling to the fleeting value of material possessions and a life that will end in eternal separation from God or do we want assurance of something that does not have earthly value: eternal life lived out in the very presence of the Almighty.

I would have to side with the mighty Joshua in this matter when he said, "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,...But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." I hope that is your faith commitment today as well friends; that you want God's assurance above all else in this world and that by His grace you will stay firm in your stance for Him.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for loving us more than we can comprehend. Your love grants us peace, understanding, and salvation. Teach us, oh Lord, to trust in You and Your assurance and to place our faith completely in You day by day. We praise You and as we ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, July 22, 2011

#81 Spiritual Zugzwang

Matthew 7:14 "...narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

My childhood afforded me the opportunity to spend lots of time with my grandparents. It was a real blessing to be able to do so. Across the road from their house was my great-grandmother's home. My great uncle, Jerry, lived there with her.

From time to time I would go over and visit with my uncle Jerry. He was a neat sort of guy with a hippy mentality, but he was also one who enjoyed playing chess so he eventually taught me the basics of the game. And basic playing level is where I have stayed really because I never took time to study or practice the game that much.

Recently, however; I was reading and came across a chess term I had never heard: zugzwang. I know it looks crazy to even try to say it, forget knowing what it means right? Well, it's actually quite simple. Zugzwang refers to a point in the chess game where each move a player makes is detrimental or harmful to their game.

I think that sometimes our lives get into this type of trend. Like a chess game, we make certain moves maybe without realizing or understanding the long-term impact of those moves. The pieces of our lives get shuffled around, we lose some of them, and sometimes before we realize what really happened we find ourselves trapped where each step we take causes even more harm to us or the people around us.

Jesus spoke of two paths on this earth. One is broad and easy to find; so much so that most people discover this path and it leads to destruction or we might say eternal separation from God. The other path Christ mentioned was a narrow one that is found by fewer people, and it leads to eternal life. If you and I live in such a way that we ignore godly counsel, do whatever we want when we want then we may end up in a spiritual zugzwang that sends us spiraling down the broad path to destruction and separation.

But one of the awesome things about our Lord is that He has the ability to step in and help us make decisions and change our direction to such extent that we not only escape spiritual zugzwang, but we will also be led to the narrow way that leads to eternal life.

Where are you today my friend? Are you trapped in a series of bad decisions that keep making trouble in your life, or are you walking by Jesus' side along the narrow way? If you are on Broad-way today, why not choose to follow Christ, why not let Him lead you to make good decisions that you too might taste and see that the Lord is good. Sometimes life can make us feel like there is no way out of our bad decision roller coaster, but Jesus can and always will provide some way out for us, and His way certainly leads to eternal life.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for being so awesomely wonderful. Thank You for being willing to rescue us when we see no way out. Please forgive us for our sins today, and please show us how to walk along Your narrow way. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, July 15, 2011

#80 Square and True

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...

Not too long ago the toilet in our downstairs bathroom developed a leak and ruined the carpet in that bathroom. I know, I know who would ever put carpet in a bathroom, but that's what was there until this leak happened.

Long story short is that we had to tear out the old carpet and then go back down with more floor covering. We decided to put down some 1/4 inch board material to level up the floor to the kitchen floor and then put down the 12" x 12" vinyl tile. All was going well until I put the first piece of under board down and discovered that the room was not very square. The goal in building a structure is to make it as square as possible. Square does not refer to the shape of the room or building but rather to the corners and angles that make up that room or building.

Our house is 110 years old this year so I am not sure if is was ever square to begin with or if being around for 110 years has caused it to sag and settle in a few places. Either way we had to attempt to lay flooring in the currently very un-square room. This proved to be a challenge in that you could not measure off one wall and calculate your angle and make appropriate cuts. I had to measure each side and then connect lines and form angles based off of multiple measurements. Needless to say, I had to cut some pieces more than once.

Eventually the flooring was down and by all accounts it turned out rather nicely. As I reflect back on the experience of trying to match up square tiles and wood to a very un-square room it made me wonder how we ever match up to the God of the universe.

He is so amazingly wonderful, honest, compassionate, loving, kind, faithful, and all together awesome that when we come to Him in our frail, sinful, and out-of-whack condition there is no way that we can ever match up squarely to Him.

He is perfectly "square and true" so to speak and we are the 110 year old farmhouse bathroom that does not have a square corner in it! But the beautiful thing about it is that He is the Master Craftsman and He has the ability to take the sinful mess that makes up our lives and change things to the point that in the end we become a beautiful work of art because we have been shaped to reflect the skill of the Master.

How is it with you today friend? Are you all out of whack and suffering from living a life that is not "square and true"? Why not come to Jesus just now and let Him mold and shape your future so that you match up to Him. We will never match up to Jesus because we work hard enough to do so, we will only ever match up to Him when we surrender our will to Him and our will becomes replaced with His perfect, humble, selfless will. By God's grace may we all surrender to the Lord so we can be recreated in His perfect image.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for loving us even when we are all messed up. Please take us and make us more like You today so we too can be counted square and true because of what Jesus has done in our lives. We thank You and praise You in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

#79 Obscured Vision

1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face;..."

Windshields are rather important components of a vehicle wouldn't you agree? I mean if your windshield is clean and free of obstructions then it makes the task of driving that much easier in the sense that at least you have one less thing to occupy your time.

I can recall back when I used to work doing rock drilling and blasting. The company I worked for in North Carolina issued each of us a truck to use for work. We could drive it home and it was basically our responsibility to keep it clean and have it serviced at the shop when the time rolled around.

My truck was a 1997 Ford F-150 with a long bed and a 5-speed manual transmission. I really like my truck and I took pride in what the company gave me to use. It was washed regularly inside and out. Despite working in and around muddy road construction and rock quarry sites my truck almost always looked great including having the tires shined.

One day I needed to clean the inside again and part of that entails cleaning the windshield. Cleaning glass has never been my favorite task, but I wanted the windows to be clean so I did it. This particular day I was short on towels to clean the glass so I used what I thought was a clean rag in my tool box. Little did I know the rag had been used to clean up some spilled hydraulic fluid and was placed back in my tool box by someone else. So instead of cleaning my windshield I actually smeared a very light layer of oil all over the inside of my windshield. Talk about a mess!

Once I realized what I had done I was sick. I tried and tried to clean the residue off the glass but all my efforts seemed only to smear it more. Night driving became a nightmare because the glare from on-coming headlights was amplified by the thin layer of oil. Mineral spirits became my best friend when I dabbed some on another rag and finally got all the oil off.

Looking back on this incident makes me consider our relationship with Christ. Even though we have had our sins cleaned by His precious blood we still have some trouble seeing Him clearly. No, we don't often say it, but if the truth be told many of us are still "smeared" a little when it comes to our spiritual vision. The "windshield" of our hearts, so to speak, need more clarity. We need desperately to come completely to Jesus and not hold anything back from Him. It is only through full surrender that we can be completely clean.

Our sin separates us from God and unless He takes away all the residue of sin we are not and cannot be clean from our wicked ways. Don't you long for a full cleansing? Don't you long to see Christ face to face instead of looking at Him through the dim, clouded vision of this life? Join with me just now in fully surrendering our hearts to the Lord. He will give us clarity that we never thought was possible.

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank You for being such an awesome and wonderfully powerful God. Today, Lord, we need You to clean us up completely. Many of us have come to You in the past, but we have allowed compromise to creep back in and mess us up. Please forgive us for our failings and please accept us where we are. Take us, Lord, and make us whole I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.