reasons

It is not good to compare ourselves with others, but it is wise to learn from others. Paul wrote: “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” (I Cor 11:1) It is interesting to examine reasons for words and actions. Of course, God alone knows hearts… and what He has accomplished in hearts.

For example, Peter gave the Good Confession when Jesus asked what people were saying about Him: “Who do you say I am?” “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus blessed Peter… but He knew the reason for his friend’s perfect answer: “This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.” (see Matt 16:13-20) In other words: “Right answer, Peter! But don’t take credit for it…”

Mary poured out the precious content of her alabaster jar despite the criticism of other believers in the room. Why did she do this? Perhaps Mary was so grateful her brother Lazarus had been raised from the dead that she was willing to offer her most treasured possession. Or perhaps God had revealed the true worth of His Son to Mary because she had once chosen simply to sit at the Master’s feet. (see Luke 10:38-42) Jesus gave another reason for Mary’s extravagant action: “Leave her alone… It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.”(John 12:7)

Sometimes the best examples to follow are those who humbly choose simply to abide in Christ… with no fanfare. Such disciples tend to have an ever-increasing appreciation of God’s amazing work and a willingness to ‘become nothing’ so Jesus can become ‘everything.’ Paul knew he had not arrived (see Phil 3:12-14), but he gave the reason for living the way he did: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) In other words: Jesus is the Reason.

One day God will honor His children who aimed to listen to the Master’s voice and follow Him. They will be caught off guard by the praise of the King: “But Lord, when did we do this? We only did what You led us to do. Any reason for good in our lives on earth came directly from You. We did not realize when we loved a homeless person, or visited a guy in prison, or took care of a sick friend, or helped feed the hungry or cared for the orphan or served the widow… we were actually serving You. Jesus, You are our Reason… and You deserve all the glory.”

“Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” (Matt 25:34-40)

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working

IMG_1613This past Saturday, our oldest grandchild Wilkes turned 5! Celebration adjustments had to be made, but it was a wonderful day. We are so thankful!

IMG_1524 Eighty-two years and two days earlier, my daddy was born. Rex Davis had his 87th birthday this past week! We are so thankful!

A couple of weekends ago, Susan and I made a day trip to Foley, Alabama to celebrate another March birthday. John Turner turned 16! It was a fun celebration with Bar-B-Q, cake, and reminiscing.

I was privileged to officiate John’s mom Terri’s wedding with Daniel LaCoste almost four years ago in this town close to the coast, so we knew most of the people at the surprise party. Susan deserves the credit for loving Terri, John, all the extended family, and so many others we’ve met over the past 16 years. When Susu becomes your friend, it is for a lifetime.

We were in the next room signing a large poster for John when I overheard Terri’s conversation with a guy in the kitchen: “They drove down from Atlanta this morning.” The friend said, “Wow, that’s a long drive for a birthday party.” Terri said, “You know they took John into their home when he was three days old. They took care of him for seven months, until I got out of jail. Then I also lived with them for two more years.” The friend replied, “Terri, this is what I love: you overcame your past. Look at you now!” She replied, “But I’ve messed up a lot more… and still do…”

IMG_1603God is always working. It is important to look back and remember the highs and lows, the successes and failures, and the power of the Father’s love — exhibited by Himself and His people. He is able to enter any hopeless situation; He can redeem any lost soul; nothing is impossible for Him. And He invites us to be a part of the story… with our own weaknesses and imperfections. “Visit her; take care of a baby; give of yourself and your emotions; forgive; pray; invite your community of believers to join in — you will need them; notice how I work through My people; marvel at the power of love; learn how ‘I never stop working.’”

“So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute Him. In His defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’” John 5:16-17

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courage

I’ve talked with my students this semester about persecution many have undergone and still endure for the cause of Christ since Jesus overcame death. On the last day of school before we shifted to online teaching, a friend and co-worker shared some of his experiences growing up in Bulgaria, one of the many European countries overtaken by Communism in the last century.

img_1606The boys listened intently to Filip as he spoke of a land with little freedom and encouraged us to realize the blessings we so often take for granted. When asked how many times he had been arrested, Filip could not be exact: “There were too many times for me to count.” Guns were held to his head, threats were made to his family, and once he was attacked by being rammed while driving in his town. His vehicle was totally destroyed and Filip was left for dead inside the crumpled car. “I don’t know how it happened, but God rescued me and saved my life.”

I asked, “Why would you keep risking your life to share with others about Jesus when you knew the grave danger?” He replied: “My people have no hope outside of Christ. They were taught there is no God, so they had no future, and no purpose in life. Jesus called me to tell them the Good News. You cannot say ‘no’ to such a command. I knew He was with me… and if I died, I would be with Him forever. When God is with you, you have courage.”

Just as we receive peace as a gift from God, so we may also receive His courage. First steps of faith might be tentative, emotions don’t always disappear, the enemy often whispers fear and doubt… “But if God is for us, who can be against us?” Our God is perfect love… and “perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18) “We will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” (see Psalm 46) “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Mark 6:50) “Yes, be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (James 5:8 – Living Bible)

Richard Wurmbrand was arrested in Romania on February 29, 1948. He remembered from his studies as a pastor that “Do not be afraid” is recorded 366 times in Scripture… once for every day of the calendar, including Leap Year, the day he was arrested. He spent 14 years in prison. God is kind to give such thoughts in the midst of our trials. We, in turn, can speak boldly to a confused, fearful world in search of hope: ‘Look to God! He has provided everlasting hope and life through His Son Jesus Christ. Turn away from all wrong, receive His love… live in Him!’

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered,’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

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new wine

Brooke Ligertwood, a member of Hillsong United, wrote a song called New Wine:

In the crushing; in the pressing
You are making new wine
In the soil, I now surrender
You are breaking new ground
So I yield to You and Your careful hand
When I trust You, I don’t need to understand
Make me a vessel; make me an offering,
Make me whatever You want me to be
I came here with nothing; but all You have given me,
Jesus bring new wine out of me.
Where there is new wine, there is new power,
There is new freedom, the Kingdom is near
I lay down my old flames to carry Your new fire today.

Once we see Jesus is everything and realize He has graciously saved us and placed us in His Body, we realize, as Scripture teaches: all things are in His hands. “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

“OK, Lord, all I can do is present myself to You and say: ‘Have Your way.’ You know the purpose of my existence. You know what will bring You glory. I admit my inabilities and trust You completely. Bring forth lasting fruit… pleasing to You.”

The honest prayer of surrender is no small thing. It takes a lifetime for some of us to reach, but it is precious to the ears of God. Out of love, He has purchased us. With perfect attention, He has been molding us into the image of the Son. He receives the offering of ‘ourselves’ with great joy.

Jesus Himself came to this position. “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for Me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings You were not pleased. Then I said ‘Here I am – it is written about Me in the scroll – I have come to do Your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7)

Though God’s will involved the Cross, the Son completely trusted Himself into the purposes of the Father. “I will do what You show Me; I will teach what You direct; I will drink the Cup You have given Me. For You alone are God and I trust You with all of My heart.” May we follow in His steps.

“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12: 1

New Wine ©2017 Hillsong United

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look up

Jesus explained that much chaos will cover the earth before He returns. “So when all these things begin to happen, stand straight and look up! For your salvation is near.” (Luke 21:28; The Living Bible) Another translation reads: “So when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (NIV)

When nations are in “anguish and perplexity,” when worry rules the day, when hardship is common… “look up.” When the world is paralyzed by fear, the children of God are to be confident. We too must deal with difficulties… but we know Who is in control… and we remember the truths of God. This world is temporary; God’s Kingdom ruled by love is eternal. Health, wealth, and ‘happiness’ are fleeting positions. ‘Do you know Jesus? Are you living in Him?’ These are the most important questions.

I’ve written before of the Wurmbrand family, who lived during a very difficult period of world history. They were well-educated Jewish atheists in Romania, and they came to Christ shortly before the outbreak of World War II. After the war, as Communism overtook much of Europe, their son Mihai was only six years old. He remembered his father being taken to prison not long after standing in a large assembly in Bucharest and denying the lies of the new government while defending the truth of the Gospel. Richard ended up spending over thirteen torturous years in prison.

Mihai’s mom Sabina also spent three years in prison. He recalled the priorities of his parents as they lost all material possessions and their freedom for the Lord. “My mom never behaved with more dedication than with those who caused us the greatest harm… these would be the people my parents would invite into their home. She would say: ‘To be a Christian is not like being a weight-lifter or other sportsman who trains at a specific time every day. To be a Christian, you have to take the opportunity right when it is most difficult.’”

I see more failures in my life than successes, but Paul reminds us to “forget what is behind” and to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (see Philippians 3:12-16) As we look up and see the Father has placed us in His Son (see Ephesians 2:4-7) and given us His Spirit as Helper and Comforter, we can boldly live (with words and actions) the lives of love that will draw others to hope. God gives us the “excellent way” (I Corinthians 13) and we can love our neighbors, our enemies, our families, and one another like Christ loves us. Look up… and live with confidence!

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment. In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.” I John 4:7-19

(Mihai’s quotes are from The Torchlighters: Heroes of the Faith Episode 6,© Christian History Institute)

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