How Great Thou Art

Over the past ten years or so, I have come to really appreciate the unique work produced by a young artist named Andrew Clemens, who grew up in Iowa in the late 1800’s and produced some amazing things that have not been matched since.  He became deaf at age 13 and taught himself how to create works of art in glass bottles using tiny grains of sand, all put together upside down.  The originality, patience, and dedication it took to learn this and then to complete each piece is what impresses me the most.  Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy works by more traditional artists like Chagall, Vermeer, Russell, Rothko, Dingilian, etc, but really appreciate those who can create remarkable things from almost nothing.  What style of art catches your eye?

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.   Day after day they pour forth speech;  night after night they reveal knowledge.  Psalm 19:1-2

Maybe some types of fine art do not impress you as much as some people.  You may much more appreciate the design of a nicely built house, a vehicle, the layout of a garden, a well written book, or a catchy tune.  You might stand in awe when you look across the horizon just before sunrise and are amazed at the beauty in this world, or when you look up into the night sky you get a glimpse of the splendor and extent of creation.  There is design and beauty throughout this world that testifies to the creator when we stop to listen for a moment.  What most speaks to you? What do you hear?

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,  or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;  or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.   Which of all these does not know  that the hand of the Lord has done this?  Job 12:7-9

So, take a moment today, or any day to appreciate the beauty found throughout your world during the normal, daily routine.  Whether that is the engineering it took to put together the vehicle you are driving, the simple beauty found along the road, or the quality and effort some put into their work each day.  Give thanks to the God who gave each of us these abilities to use as we emulate what He has done in creating order out of chaos and beauty out of nothing.  Take a quick glimpse across the expanse of this earth and acknowledge Him in the wonders of creation, as well as the unique work he does in each of us!

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.   In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  John 1:3-4

Courage in Christ,
Clark

A Transformer

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Jesus loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to leave us there. He said it was for freedom He set us free, not to go back or stay stuck in the bondage of sin. Sometimes we find freedom in a moment and other times it is a process.  Both are powerful and apart of every believers life.  On day one, if God showed us what all He wanted to transform, we would get overwhelmed and most likely discouraged.  In His kindness, he leads us one step at a time.  Know following Jesus you will still sin.  But when we sin we have Jesus who goes to our defense, first to forgive us then to set us free from sin’s grip.

So how do we get transformed.  You might think it begins with trying really hard.  If we could try hard enough to change we wouldn’t need Jesus in our life.  Then there are times when we really want to change and we just feel stuck where we are.  So where do you begin if not trying harder.  It begins with our identity.  We are in a world that says your identity is based on how much money you have, what you drive, your marital status, and your past.  That is not where a believer finds identity.  I believer finds there identity in Jesus.  Because of Jesus we are fully forgiven, dressed in His goodness, and adopted sons and daughters of the living God.  I don’t know about you but that is way better than the world has to offer.  So what does Identity have to do with transformation?  EVERYTHING, Identity shapes behavior.  We act on what we believe ourselves to be.  If you identify with the overcoming, loving Jesus, then your will find yourself overcoming and loving like Jesus.  If we identify as a messed up worm, then we will act like a messed up worm.

So what about the places in your life that don’t look like Jesus.  Do we just trust that God forgives and keep living in our sin.  NO! Jesus paid way to high of price for us not to overcome!  You can overcome with His strength and grace.  God in His kindness will show you things in your life that need to be transformed.  When you know what needs to change confess it.  First to God and then to another believer.  When you bring sin into light by confessing it to someone who can encourage you to find freedom, there is something powerful that happens.  I know this feels really vulnerable. This is just the way Jesus designed it.  We all have a past, so don’t be concerned with whether your will be accepted by confessing your sin. 

So everyday as you worship, pray and read God’s word, let it change the way you see yourself.  As you look into the life of Jesus, how he talked, treated people, and the power he walked in ask God to change the way you see yourself.  When you do God will show you some things that do not look like Jesus.  It is easy to feel ashamed here.  Don’t!  Confess it to God and to another believer and pray God would forgive you and give you strength to live in His freedom.  Confession is a daily part of a healthy believer. 

Jesus I thank you that you love us just the way we are but love us too much to leave us that way.  I pray you would transform the way we see ourselves, that we would identify with Jesus even when we do not feel much like him.  I thank you that when we confess our sin to you, you forgive us and give us grace to overcome.  I pray strength over my friend that they would find New Life in you.  In Jesus Name. Amen

What to do When We’re Wronged

I came to the conclusion some time ago that I will almost certainly meet my demise running or biking. I can’t tell you the number of near catostrophic crashes I’ve experienced, ranging from chasing dogs, swerving cars, tree branches, mud, people making out in tunnels on the bike trail (twice!) and more. Recently, I was running across the street at a crosswalk when a car ran a red light and nearly hit me. Taking into consideration all of my past experiences, I responded by signaling that he was #1 and screaming some medical advice about visiting his optometrist (Note: for those not inclined to catch sarcasm, there was A LOT of it in that last sentence). I also took care to note his license plate number. 

As I continued my run I was fuming, as I thought about how horrible that driver was and how I was going to report him to the police. But, I soon started being disappointed in someone else: myself. I was very embarrassed and disappointed in how I had responded. Yes, that person was in the wrong, and yes, I could have been hurt, but none of that justified behaving like a jerk. I am very concerned that we live in a culture where it has become normal, and seemingly right, to respond maliciously if you feel wronged. Feel slighted in business? Write a horrible review on social media. Wronged in a relationship? Do something even worse to the person who wronged you. If someone hurts us then we are going to lash back twice as hard. But, that’s not at all Jesus’ view. Jesus tells us this: 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus’ response to the negative actions of others is to respond with love. Not only does he say let it go, but he says to turn towards them. Why on earth would Jesus tell us this? Because Jesus’ goal is to love and save EVERYONE, regardless of what they have done. Therefore, he tells us to not simply reject a sinner, but to love them so that they may come to Him. Now look, I’m not telling you to just let evil and lawlessness happen. There are certainly times to stand up for what is right. What I am encouraging today is that when you get angry at someone to put that anger aside and try to have an attitude of love and restoration as Jesus has for all of us. Let’s not always act out of our anger, but out of Jesus’ amazing love. 

Valor

Judges 6:12New International Version (NIV)

12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you,mighty warrior.”

The Angel of the Lord visited Gideon calling him a ‘Mighty Man of Valor’. On July 4, 1776, Fifty-Six Men of Valor signed our Declaration of Independence. We see no sign of an angel visiting these men, but we do see destiny placed on them for being willing to be used as godly men to raise a nation.

There are three distinct characteristics that raise Men of Valor like Gideon, the 56 signers of the beginning of our country, and us. It takes strength, courage, and passion.

Strength: It comes from the Greek word “Katei”. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord and his mighty power.” Paul says we can have the unlimited strength of Christ as the source of our strength for those who belong to him.

Courage: Courage is called “good cheer”. In Mark 6:50, when Jesus gave the command to the disciples who saw him walking on water at the Sea of Galilee as he came toward them. It literally means boldness and confidence. Courage is the opposite of fear. When God commands us to fear not, to be of good cheer, he is commanding against fear to be men of courage.

Passion: Passion is the greatest commandment God gives us. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is to love God with all our being. In order to have passion, you have to know God. Jesus continually invited his disciples to know him. When they learned to know him, they burned with passion to do his will.

Our world, our country, and our King Jesus needs men today who are called ‘Mighty Men of Valor’. Are you willing to take a living and active part?

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

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