Thursday, October 10, 2019

Integrity


According to C.S. Lewis, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.’

One might think it an easy thing to do - after all don’t we all want to be known as a person whose character and word can be trusted?  However, as with most simple ideas, its truth is rooted in a far deeper meaning. 

In order for us to be a person who consistently does the right thing, we need to know what the right thing is. A bit obvious, you might think, and that would be true. The difficulty comes in discerning who determines the right thing. It’s the age-old question: “What is truth?”

Some would say, it’s no big deal - you just decide for yourself. If it seems right to you, and you aren’t hurting anyone else, it’s fine. Others come down on the side of feelings. On any given day, your truth can be determined by your emotional state. What is true one day, when all is well with your world, may seem all wrong when you’re feeling sad or discouraged. 

Truth isn’t something that can stand on such shaky ground. It cannot shift and change according to our circumstances or feelings.  We need a plumb line, a resolute moral code, by which to measure our beliefs. We cannot say something is right or wrong if truth hasn’t first been established.

Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). His word is truth. God has given us the “code book.” It will stand for all eternity. His truth never changes. It doesn’t conform to current social norms. It doesn’t change from culture to culture or age to age.It is simply and always the truth.

We need only look at the lives highlighted within the pages of scripture or the lives of the people around us to see what happens when we try to live apart from God’s truth. Time and time again a life lived disconnected from that truth tumbles into despair, while a life lived with integrity is a life lived to the fullest. 

Living a life of integrity is a daily surrendering to God’s will. In our humanity popularity, convenience, fear, materialism, selfishness and the desire for comfort war against our desire to live with integrity. We often fail to make the right choices, but we have a God who forgives, forgets and redeems.

The human soul longs for the stability and freedom that comes from knowing what is true. His word is truth.

“16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” IITimothy 3: 16,17

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31,32



Friday, October 4, 2019

Something New


Here in Texas we are still awaiting the arrival of the first cold front. We long for the day when the wind blows in from the north, dropping the temperature and sweeping away the heat and dust of summer.  We dream of pulling warm sweaters and cozy quilts out of our closets, pouring a hot cup of tea and snuggling down with that book we've been saving for just such a day and wonder if it's too soon for a fire in the fireplace.

We know better than to look for a magnificent blaze of color throughout our landscape, but here and there we catch glimpses of autumn peeping out of the branches. It's an annual miracle - this changing of the colors - the precursor to a season of deep rest.

The science behind this dramatic turning of leaves from green to gold, red, orange or russet is fascinating - a small peek into the wonder of God's creation. At the same time another change takes place in the tree - one we cannot see. As the leaves fade, a chemical is produced at the base of the stem that slowly separates the tissues that support it and also suspends the growth of the tree. When the winds blow, the leaves give way and fall to the ground leaving a tiny scar to mark the place where they had been. Now the tree settles in for a time of rest. To all appearances it is dead, but it has simply slowed down. Throughout the winter it waits until the time is right for it to begin to burst with new life.

We often find ourselves in a season where it seems the abundant we life we long for and have experienced in the past is dead. It comes to all of us - times of sorrow, illness, unexpected circumstances or just plain weariness - times when what was productive and fruitful is no longer working. We long to see things improve - to put the heaviness and discouragement behind us and find new life.

God allows these times to come to us. Just as with the trees, He knows it will eventually be for our good. When they come, He invites us to rest in Him - to allow Him to sever the old, heal the wounds and prepare us for something new. While we wait He works. Without the sloughing off of the old, there can be no new growth. It will come, in its time. In the meantime, He calls us to come rest our weary hearts and allow Him to draw us ever closer.

“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43: 18,19



Friday, September 27, 2019

Talking To My Father



For good or ill, none of us can minimize the importance of the role of a father in the lives of his children. Whether or not we have known the blessing of a good earthly father, we can all have the Father our hearts long for. 
This Father has millions upon millions of children yet He knows you as though you were His only child. In fact, He knew you before you ever drew your first breath. He wrote your story with a good, purposeful plan in mind. He made you with gifts and talents and a unique personality. He knows you by name and has written it on the palm of His hand.  
He not only knows your name, He knows your heart. Nothing is hidden from Him. He has promised that He will never abandon you, no matter what, and He has never broken a single promise. He rejoices with you in your joy, and in your pain He holds you so close you can sometimes feel His breath against your cheek. 
When you come to Him with your failures and sin, He not only forgives – He forgets. Time after time He picks you up and sets you back on the right path. 
To be loved in such a way is almost beyond our understanding. Equally miraculous – this beloved Father, the One who created the heavens and the earth, longs to have conversation with you. He wants to hear your voice. He wants to know what troubles you. He wants to hear you say thank you for the blessings He pours into your life and to hear your praise so your heart will be reminded of who He is. 
We call it prayer – this talking with our Father. We have often misunderstood it – especially when our side of the conversation seems to fall on deaf ears. When an answer doesn’t come immediately or the answer is no, we feel He has somehow failed us. In reality, He is answering every prayer with wisdom, love and purpose. 
We have a Father who loves us unconditionally and longs to draw us close. His heart is blessed when His children call His name.
“I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.” Psalm 116: 1,2
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.”   Psalm 139:16
Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fasting



Matthew 6: 17-18  “But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Eugene Eagle had a terrible problem. He couldn’t fly. For the first few months of his life he had done well enough with this flying business, but lately he simply couldn’t get off the ground.

One day, while taking a stroll along the seashore, he chanced to meet the Wise Eagle. Eugene had never spoken to him before, although he certainly knew about him. He ranked in importance only a little lower than the Eagle King. Eugene mumbled a polite greeting and stopped in astonishment as the great eagle spoke his name.

“Eugene, I have seen you walking here on the beach many times.  Why do you not fly like your brothers and sisters?”

“Oh -oh,” stammered Eugene. “I certainly would like to , but I can’t seem to manage it. I flap my wings ever so hard and nothing happens. I seem to be stuck to the ground.  I long to soar above the clouds like the others. I want it more than anything.”

“I couldn’t help but notice the gold chains you’re wearing on your legs, Eugene. How did you happen to come by them?”

Eugene perked up, for this happened to be his favorite subject. “I found them on the beach hidden beneath a rock  the very first day I flew from the nest. Aren’t they beautiful? I love them ever so much. I polished them and worked on them until they fit my legs perfectly.”

“Aren’t they a bit heavy.”

“Oh, a little I suppose. But they don’t bother me a bit.”

“Back to this flying business, Eugene. You say you want to do it more than anything. Have you spoken to the Eagle King about it?”

“I have. I speak to him every day. I love him, you know. I do everything he has commanded us to do.”

“Has he said anything to you about your chains?”

“Well, yes. He suggested (well perhaps it was a bit stronger),  I take them off.” 

The Wise Eagle looked pointedly at Eugene’s glittery legs.

“I know he said that, but I don’t think he really means I have to - you know - actually get rid of them. After all, they are very dear to me. He understands. I told him I would do anything else he asked- but he hasn’t answered me.” 

The Wise Eagle shook his head. “I think, my friend, flying must not really be that important to you. I am sorry for you.”

He spread his beautiful wings and effortlessly lifted off into the sky. As Eugene watched him go he felt a weight settle on his heart.  

In the days that followed he couldn’t sleep, and nothing tasted very good. Even more disturbing, he could find no joy in anything. Even his precious chains seemed to have lost their luster.

After tossing and turning through another sleepless night, Eugene stepped out of his little house on the beach and stood looking across the vast ocean. As he watched, the sun began to peek over the horizon tinting the clouds with a rosy hue. Something in Eugene’s heart shifted. He bent down and loosened the chains from his legs. 

At first nothing changed. He walked slowly toward the water’s edge and sensed a lifting of the heaviness in his heart. Gingerly he stretched out his mighty wings and fluttered them against the wind.  

As the sun rose over the sea, Eugene felt his body lift and then he soared into the heavens. 

Our good, good Father, as Pastor Todd said, loves helping you do the things you cannot do without Him. There will be times when, in the process, He calls us to do more than pray; to go deeper with Him; to be so desperate for Him and for breakthrough we are willing to give up something vital to us; to fast. His ways are far above our ways. We cannot understand every mystery, but we can know He will keep His word. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Conditions For Answered Prayer



 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
John 15:7

A little “parable” based on Pastor Doug’s sermon:

Imagine with me a kingdom ruled by a wise and loving king - a king whose compassionate heart longed to have meaningful relationships with his people. His wealth made it possible for him to not only meet their needs but to fulfill the deepest desires of their hearts. All they had to do was ask. 

Of course certain reasonable conditions, recorded in the king’s book, had to be met before anyone could expect him to grant their requests. Even then, the king reserved the right to decide the way in which he would answer. His deepest desire was to do what was best in every situation. 

One condition was foundational to all the rest - an intimate, growing relationship between the king and each petitioner. To facilitate that the king made himself available to speak with them whenever they wished, and each one had a copy of the book of wisdom he had written for them.

There was a young man who had worked in the king’s garden from the time he was a little boy. They knew each other well. One day, the young man asked the king if he might help him to get a better job. He explained that he would be getting married soon and needed to earn more money. The king happily agreed. Within a short time, the young man was promoted to the position of chief gardener. He thanked the king profusely and promised to keep in close touch with him. 

Months passed. The new responsibilities kept the young man very busy, and he found it difficult to carve out time to visit the king. The longer he put it off, the more difficult it became. Before he knew it, years had gone by without his having spent any time at all with the king. 

The king missed him and occasionally tried to make contact with his young friend. The silence made his heart ache with longing. 

There came a time when the young man found himself in need of financial help. He and his wife had several children by now and the youngest was often very sick. Bills for the doctor and necessary medicines mounted up, and he could see no way out. 

At his wife’s urging he decided to go to the king for help. After making himself presentable he walked to the king’s home. Slowly he made his way into the vast castle hall - his footsteps echoing off the great walls. A guard approached him and gruffly demanded to know what he wanted. 

He explained that he and the king were friends, and he had urgent business to discuss with him. The guard instructed him to wait and walked through the massive doors into the king’s chambers.

The waiting was excruciating for the man. Over and over he reproached himself for having neglected the one who had shown him such love. It seemed hours had passed before he heard the creaking of the doors and saw the guard approaching. 

“I’m sorry,” he said. “The king does not wish to hear you.” 

Broken-hearted, the man turned to leave. The guard gently tapped him on the shoulder. “There is a way back, you know.” With downcast eyes the man nodded.

“It will be up to you,” said the guard. “The king has not changed. His love remains.”

“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
I John 5: 14,15

This precious promise supposes we will ask according to God’s will. We can only know that when we walk closely with Him - listening to Him, spending time in His word, getting to know His wonderful heart. 




Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The God of All Comfort

I've been writing weekly devotionals for our church website and thought I would share them here as well.



When we think of comfort we usually associate it with helping someone in their time of trial or grief by offering hope and consolation.  Dave Roever, someone certainly well acquainted with suffering and sorrow, suggested another way in which we can comfort others. We can encourage them to get back in the battle. 

We may think this a difficult thing to offer in the way of comfort. Likely our first instinct is to sympathize and soothe, and both of those things are good. However, our comfort must not stop there. Perhaps we can find a good example in scripture of the way we should comfort. 

Who better to model comfort than the Lord Himself? In I Kings 18 and 19 we find the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Simply put - Elijah had just come from a mighty victory over the 450 false prophets. God had worked through him in a mighty, miraculous way. He should have been celebrating. Instead we find him running for his life from the wicked Queen Jezebel. 

As happens to so many of us, Elijah went from the mountain top headlong into the valley. Discouraged and feeling abandoned he begged God to take his life. Then he lay down under a broom tree and slept. 

With tender compassion, God sent an angel to minister to Elijah.  He gave him bread and water - the kind of comfort Elijah needed in that moment. 

A few verses later we find Elijah talking things over with the Lord. He stood before God on the mountain as a mighty wind that tore the rocks lose buffeted him; then an earthquake shook the ground and after that a fire. But God was not in any of those things. Instead Elijah heard the sound of a gentle whisper and knew it was the Lord.

The Lord listened to Elijah as he poured out his complaints. He had remained faithful to the Lord when all of Israel had abandoned Him. He alone was left and now they were trying to kill him. 

The Lord responded not with commiserating words but by giving Elijah his marching orders. He sent him back to continue the work He had called him to do. Among those things, he was to anoint Elisha who would eventually replace him as Israel’s prophet. Before he left, the Lord reminded Elijah that there were 7000 others in Israel who had never bowed to Baal. He was not alone after all. 

The God of all comfort was with Him - as He is with us, through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” II Corinthians 1: 3-5 

We comfort with compassion and love. We also comfort with encouragement to continue in the battle - for we know the victory is already ours.

Picture: Lisa Chontos Seguin

Thursday, August 8, 2019

A Legacy Redeemed


When asked in a poll , “If you could live your life over, what would you do differently,” the number one answer was:
I would have done more things that would live on after my death. 
Rather than great wealth, or power or renown, there is a deep desire to leave something of lasting value to the generations that will follow us. For the Christian, a legacy of faith is the greatest gift we can bequeath to our loved ones. 
Supposing, however, we haven’t always lived a life of faith? Are there things in our past that disqualify us from leaving a legacy of eternal value? Let’s take a look at a story from the Old Testament and see what the Bible has to say.
The Children of Israel have wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Moses has died and Joshua has taken his place. The time has come for the Israelites to step into the Promised Land – the land the Lord has prepared for them. 
Before crossing over the Jordan river, Joshua sends two men ahead to spy out the land. Entering the city of Jericho, they “came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab and lodged there.” (Joshua 2:1)
The story is a familiar one. Rahab has heard about the great God of Israel, (“For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath,” Joshua 2:11) and has the faith to believe He can save her and her family. She hides the spies from the king of Jericho, helping them to safety – and in return they agree to spare her and all her family from the coming destruction of the city. 
Miracles abound in this story, but the one thing that stands out as we consider the way the mistakes and failures of our past  may impact our legacy is the fact that a harlot played a key part in God’s plan. Rahab had not lived a perfect or even a good life up until this point, but she put her faith in the God she had heard so much about and saved not only herself but her entire family. She brought them with her to the Promised Land and laid the foundation for a legacy of faith. 
This isn’t the last place in scripture we see Rahab.  In the book of Matthew we find her name listed in the genealogy of Jesus. “And to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab…”. 
In Hebrews 11 -the chapter known as the Hall of Faith – we find listed among such great heroes of the faith as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob , Joseph, and Moses this woman whose life once seemed so tarnished. 
“By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”
What a truly amazing legacy this faith-filled woman left for not just her family but for all of us. 
We can be encouraged, when we look at the life of Rahab, in knowing that the sins of our past will never disqualify us from living a life that will bless those who come behind us. When we turn to God and repent of our sins, His gift to us is forgiveness and a new beginning.  From that moment on we begin to build a legacy of priceless value for those we love. 
 “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.” III John 1:4