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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pray for Israel, Iran and America

I'm sharing this email so that you will join me in praying for these nations in such a time as this. Darien

SPECIAL NOTE: My (Gary) wife, Carol, prepares a prayer alert about once a month. This month, she concentrated on Israel and issues in the Middle East. For those looking for ways to pray, I hope you find some encouragement from Carol's message. Please feel free to share her thoughts with your friends and fellow worshippers. -- Gary Bauer



Pray For Israel

The Israeli election is now history and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a surprisingly strong victory. Seventy-two percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Despite the efforts of the Obama Administration in both word and deed, Netanyahu now holds a stronger governing hand than before the election.

President Obama cannot be pleased with the outcome since it is clear how much he personally dislikes Netanyahu. Since the election, reports have surfaced that the administration may punish Israel and its democratically elected government by failing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Israeli people in various international organizations, chief among them the United Nations. This is truly shocking and an example of the president's petulant behavior.

Over the next few days the Iranian nuclear talks will end with the framework for a deal either in place or not. Note: This deal requires us to take the word of the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism.

In the coming weeks, Congress will decide on its role in this fluid situation. Both the Senate and the House will have a role to play. The Senate will consider legislation allowing Congress to weigh in on the specific terms of any deal.

Will the Senate exercise its constitutional responsibility as outlined for it by our founders? Or will the Senate allow itself to be bullied into submission by a president, a trained constitutional lawyer no less, whose desire to burnish his personal legacy seems to trump even his responsibilities as commander-in-chief?

Last week over 360 members of the House, Republicans and Democrats in a veto proof show of solidarity, sent a letter to the president stating that Congress, not the president's negotiating team, will decide whether economic sanctions on Iran are relaxed. Will the House move beyond the text of a letter to actual legislation?

A crossroads lies ahead for the Congress. Will the House and Senate abdicate their responsibility to the American people? Or will they act like a co-equal branch of government as enshrined in the Constitution? The days ahead are fraught with thorny issues for those elected to serve in public life.


Please pray for your members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Ask God to open their eyes to the enormity of the decisions that lie ahead. The votes cast over the coming weeks will not only impact these critical nuclear talks with Iran but will define the role and power of the Congress in its relation to the executive branch of government for years to come.

Pray that they will seek a time of solitude and prayer away from day to day partisan sniping as they seek the Lord's guidance in implementing the oath of office each has been administered. Ask God to impress upon them the long-term consequences of their votes.

Finally, pray that each man and woman serving in Congress would make an individual decision based on facts, historical perspective and the impact of their actions on the children and grandchildren who will inherit a country defined by their choices. Pray that our elected legislators would take a very public stand with Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East. 

Tap Into The Fountain

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”


Jesus is having a most unlikely conversation with a woman at Jacob's well in Samaria. In the verse Jesus refers to "living water" that is the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus is talking to her about a thirst that goes way beyond the physical. Just like we can get parched by working outside in the dry heat for a long time, we can get parched in our spirit when we do the work of God apart from his Spirit. And it's so easy to do. 

But Jesus indicates that it doesn't have to be this way!

Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

This is unbelievable if you think about it. An inner source of refreshment to our spirit? For free?! Without limit! Yes, and more. 

Even though we can become spiritually weary when we serve the Lord--we don't have to! Remember, it's in this same episode where the disciples try to get Jesus to eat lunch after a long morning trek. He tells them when they get back with lunch he's already eaten and that his food was serving the Lord at that well. 

This is amazing. We can serve the Lord and not tire spiritually. Now, we still have limits physically and emotionally. These are real limitations. But a dry spirit--that never has to happen. 

Ever felt dry spiritually? You feel thin, empty and weak. You eat a good dinner. You slept well that night. But when you go to teach the word or speak into someone's life, it just doesn't flow. You're dry--empty. The fountain is clogged. 

So what do we do with this? What is the Lord telling us? Unclog the fountain!

Repent. If you've been serving more out of your own strength than in relying on his, confess it! Repent and turn back to him. He's waiting! 

Then ask him to fill you up to overflowing with his unlimited living water--his Holy Spirit. It would be his pleasure.

Life--abundant and eternal--is in us if we are in Christ Jesus. His Spirit abides in us and to the extent that we believe and rest in this truth is the extent to which we tap into that everlasting fountain. 

So tap in today and enjoy the unlimited refreshment of living water. To God be the glory!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What's the Kingdom like?


“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 NIV


This is a summary of what the Kingdom of God is like. It is what the citizens of this kingdom can expect (now and/or in the future) and look forward to once it's fully here.

But Jesus said that his kingdom is near to us now. So near that we are to, "Repent and believe the good news (that the kingdom is near)." (Mark 1:15)

So how does this passage--where Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61:1-2--summarize the kingdom of God?

First, it's near but not here.

But, it is here, nearby just as Jesus, the king of that kingdom is near. But it's not fully here yet. Because that won't happen until he returns to judge all people and usher it in.

This trip from heaven is to invite people from outside the kingdom into the kingdom. This trip is to make a way for that to happen for those who trust the words and ways of the king. This trip is for the king to die for his future citizens' sins.

It's a kingdom that is good news for those poor and needy in every category. Both now, in part; and in the future, in full. And we're all needy whether we realize it or not. (physically and spiritually)

The needy receive freedom. Freedom from need, poverty and humiliation. Freedom from the injustices of their culture and society. Freedom from disease, illness and evil. Freedom from oppression by their captives. Freedom from persecution for being God's people. And, freedom from sin, death, shame and guilt. True freedom.

They receive a new set of eyes too. Not only can they see with physical eyes but they can see the Lord and all that he has for them in a kingdom untainted by sin. Yes, this is the future, but it's also for now (to a lesser degree). Nevertheless, we should expect to see with eyes of faith what is really going on around us. We see a world that is unseen to physical eyes.

They receive their land back--or new land for those who've never had it. This is literal now for some--in the future for others. No one is without a home and a place to live. A place to rest and be at peace. A place and people to belong to.

No more debts, enslavement, illness or homelessness. Freedom!

This a quick summary of the kingdom of God. This is what Jesus was preaching as good news. This WAS good news to those around him. Those suffering from incurable diseases and illnesses, demon possession, enslavement and homelessness. They were suffering from a lack of good food and clean water. Many lacked the ability to work and earn a living. They often didn't have a family that could care for them when they wanted to--but couldn't--work. They were truly in poverty and need. Most Americans just can't relate.

So when Jesus said, "Repent and believe the good news," it was something many wanted to believe. They saw it as good news. And many did believe.

Oh that we would see our poverty. Some of us just can't see our spiritual bankruptcy. Or we think we have all that we need so we don't really need God.

Even when we do see our need, we don't really believe the good news that the kingdom of God is near. We don't really believe that God would provide all that we need. We don't really believe that he loves his kingdom children that much.

So, like many in Jesus' day, we continue to lack because we do not believe. We continue in spiritual and physical poverty trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We're not trusting and following the only one who can pull us out of the hole we're in and keep us out of that hole once we're out. We just don't take God at his word and trust him. Oh God, change us!

Prayer

Lord, help us move from unbelief to belief in every area of life. Help us see the kingdom of God and the goodness of her king. Help us so trust and follow the king that we'd strongly desire to lead others to do the same. Give us a passion for your kingdom that moves people to will and act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you as their king. Equip us and then send us to make disciples of this kingdom who make disciples who make disciples. In the name of King Jesus we pray, amen.

What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Living in the Shadow (Psalm 91)

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Psalm 91:1


God, burn this beautiful treasure into my heart and mind. Help me believe it so fully that I live without fear of anything but you. In Jesus' name I pray...


Observations

"Whoever" indicates, well, whoever. Anyone. Anyone, that is, that trusts the Lord enough to rest underneath his shelter. Drawing close to him.

"Dwells" indicates that you don't just visit--you live there. And you never leave. You see this place as your place of respite and refreshment. You recharge and revive here. In the presence of the Almighty.

"Shelter" indicates protection...from the wind, the rain, the sun, from being seen by the enemy...from a place of vulnerability.

When I'm hiking or out in a field and want to sit down to rest, why do I always look for a tree to sit under? For shelter. For protection. Because I feel vulnerable sitting out in the open. I don't even think about it. I just do because it's a legitimate need. Shelter. God provides this in more than physical ways.

"The Most High" is a description of who God is. He's not just higher than anyone else. He's the highest. He's at not just another level than anyone else--he's higher than the theoretical and actual limits of our universe. Because he's the only one not limited by any bounds of physics or dimensions or the universe. He's infinite! And his height refers to his glorious attributes: holiness, truth, power, love and omniscience. He is truly, most high!

"Rest" is what we "get to do". Because our identity includes being a child of God, we get to live with him--and he with us. That means we have a place we can go to truly rest. In fact, it's more than a place--it's a mindset. An attitude. A posture.

Mike Breen says it this way: We don't rest from work. We work from a place of rest. (John 15:1-11)

Imagine living a life where you are always at rest in your soul. No matter how hard and long you work, you are at rest. That's where he says we can be when we live in God's shadow.


Application

Learn to intentionally live in God's shadow.


What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?


Lord, help us move from a place of frantic busyness to a place where we work out of a soul at rest in you. In Christ's fully sufficient name we pray, amen.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What I Get to Do


There is a pattern in Scripture that will serve us well. It's the pattern of answering these four questions of any passage of Scripture:

1. Who is God?
2. What has he done?
3. Who are we?
4. What do we get to do?

Let's apply it to this passage.

1. Who is God according to this passage?

God is our creator. (32)
God is LORD. (34-35)
The LORD is God of heaven and earth. (39)

2. What has he done?

There's a lot here on that.

He created all things and creatures.
He spoke to us revealing himself to us.
He delivered Israel from Egypt birthing them as a new nation.
He performed many miracles.
He taught Israel.
He loved Israel.
He blessed them too.
He gave Israel the promised land.

3. Who are we?

To clarify who "we" are, I am referring to God's people. By that I mean those who know, love and follow the LORD God. That is Christians, at least.

Based on this passage, we are...

God's creation. (all people are this)
Those who've "heard" from him. (whether through creation or Scripture)
People freed from slavery. (sin, death)
Servants of God. (God is our master, LORD)
People of God. (we owe him everything so we gladly become citizens of his kingdom)

4. What do I get to do?

Based on who I am in God, I get to:

Live as his created people.
Have a relationship with my Creator who revealed himself to me.
Be free from sin and death, shame and guilt.
Gladly serve the LORD.
Live and have a relationship with my rescuer.
Remember that he's the LORD God of heaven and earth.
Obey his good and wise commands.
Raise healthy, wise families under his rule leadership.
Enjoy long life.


What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Monday, March 02, 2015

Why Train Tracks?

Why the picture of railroad tracks for the blog? 
Good question, actually. 

Of all the pictures I could have selected, this one captures what I want to accomplish here.

When I see the railroad tracks, here's some of what I see.


I see direction. It is clear that these tracks lead somewhere. My life is heading somewhere. The question is am I going where I choose to go, where I'm being led, or randomly without really thinking about it?

I see purpose. Purposeful as seen in the tracks being laid out thoughtfully. They are straight indicating that this is an efficient and direct route. The exist not for themselves but for the train. The train gets all the glory. People love the train. Kids gawk at the giant engine. No one notices the tracks. Timber and steel repeated numbingly for miles and miles. Taken for granted, they provide the purposeful pathway for the train to run along. If they fail, the train does too. They are essential for the train to fulfill it's purpose.

I see mission. I see a rail for leading myself well as I follow Christ my LORD. I see another rail as leading others to do the same. That's my life mission. Follow Christ and lead others to do the same.

I see movement. There is a time to be still. Trains sit in the station as they refuel, pick up passengers and prepare to move again. But, the train isn't doing what it's designed to do until it is moving. At the end of the day, my life needs to be moving forward. Moving in step with God.

I see tension. Tension between the two rails. Like two sides of the same coin. Justice and mercy. Grace and truth. Covenant and kingdom. God's work and my work. Tension is good. Manage the tension.

I see a journey. We are all traveling somewhere. We are the sum of our decisions and actions. Contrary to what the good conductor on the Polar Express says, it DOES matter where the train is going. Just having the faith to get on the train is not enough. You need to get on the right train. The one headed where you want to go.

Where are you headed right now? Are you even thinking about it? Is it where you want to end up? Do you even know where you want to end up? If so, are the tracks you're on taking you there? If not, what are you going to do about it?

My hope is that the thoughts I share as a result of my daily journey through God's word will encourage, comfort and strengthen you in your life journey. If can help beyond that, just message me.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Picture of Following God


"Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. " Numbers 9:22 NLT


This is such a simple and beautiful picture of what it means to follow the LORD.

As soon as the Tabernacle was completed for the first time, the LORD showed up as a pillar of cloud by day. At night, he showed up as a pillar of fire. He hovered over the Tabernacle reminding Israel of his constant presence in their lives. Personal. Available. Protecting and providing. The faithful LORD of all!

When he was ready to move on, he'd rise and start moving. Israel would pack up their tents and the Tabernacle and march on following his cloud. As this verse indicates, sometimes they'd setup camp for a night. Sometimes for a few days, a month. Sometimes, as long as a year.

But the point is this simple but profound truth: God's people move when he says move and stay when he says stay. We live and serve at the pleasure of our King.

Moses sums this up in the next verse when he writes, "So they camped or traveled at the LORD'S command, and they did whatever the LORD told them through Moses."

That's what it means to trust and follow the LORD. And that's what he calls each and everyone of us. Those who don't trust and follow him show that they aren't really his people.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

END IT : Shine a Light on Slavery




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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Made Perfect--Becoming Holy


"For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:8 NLT


This is a promise. Circle this promise in your Bible. Then pray it regularly. God doesn't break his promises.

What's this promise, you ask? Through that one holy offering (Jesus on the cross), God forever made perfect (complete, pure, righteous) those who are being made holy (his children/disciples/followers). Made perfect. Being made holy.

That's those who are in Christ. That's an amazing promise. 

If this promise is true, it means I can't earn any more of God's favor. I have it already.

If this promise is true, it means I can't lose his favor. Because he's made me perfect (in and through Christ) I will continue to grow in holiness (sanctification). 

If this promise is true, it means I don't have to perform my way into God's favor. In fact, I can't. He doesn't look at my behavior but Christ's behavior imputed on me...His taking my place on the cross...His bearing my sin and becoming sin on my behalf for me.

If this promise is true, it means I don't have to fear death because he is with me and I will never die. (sure, this temporary body of mine will die, but not me)

One final thought. This promise is for those "who are being made holy." How can we be "being made holy" if we're already perfect? Aren't we holy if we're perfect.

Yes and no. 

Yes, we are seen in God's eyes as perfect and holy in position. This is our legal standing in God's holy court. He looks at us and sees Christ's righteousness imputed on us. Therefore, legally, we are redeemed and justified (declared right with God our judge and creator). 

No, because in practice (how we actually live) we're far from holy and perfect. We are in the process of becoming like Jesus. We're in the process of moving towards our holy position by learning to live in holy practice. That's what sanctification is. That's what being a disciple is all about. Learning to follow Christ and becoming more and more like him.

You are made perfect. You are being made holy. Wow!

So circle this promise. Pray it and praise God for it. Pray it for your kids and your friends and your neighbors. Go grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. He has done this great thing for you and me!


What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?