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There are many who try to make a name for themselves. Some focus on money and a good retirement package. Some seek gain from sports or try to live vicariously through their children. Some try new relationships. Success in material things is short-lived at best. Lasting wealth isn’t counted in dollars and cents but in a life of integrity. You can disagree with ones beliefs, but you can’t argue their integrity. Money handed down to your children brings temporary joy but a good name lasts forever.

ezekielHow strong and courageous will you be in my day of reckoning? I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said. Ezekiel 22:14

As a parent I’m even more impressed with my parents than I was growing up. Okay, I wasn’t that impressed with my parents growing up. They were strict, conservative and did mean and evil things like make us go to church (Dad was a pastor), taught us to be respectful, encouraged us to do well at school, and sacrificed financially to help each of us through school.

Looking back though, I’m tremendously thankful for all my parents taught us boys.  I can’t imagine the stress us five boys gave to them as we were growing up. I know now that both parents worked outside the home, and my father was a pastor, just in order to put food on our table and give us the best lives they possibly could.

One night, dad was at a counseling meeting and mom was at work. We had a babysitter who really had no control over us (to our shame, not hers). We boys were having a blast just being boys until the phone rang. My oldest brother was called to the phone. His face grew white. He softly said, ‘Yes dad.’ And hung up. The rest of the evening was incredibly quiet and we were five the best behaved boys you could hope for.

The reason for our abrupt behavior shift? A neighbor had observed one of us crawling out the bathroom window just in front of a bucket full of water (we were having a ‘small’ water fight much to the frustration of a young woman who had lost all control). The neighbor called my dad’s office and told him what was going on. Dad interrupted his session to give my brother a call. I never learned what he said to my brother that day, but my brother suddenly became a saint and purveyor of mature leadership in bringing us younger ones under the control and direction of our relieved babysitter. In a sense, my dad told us in no uncertain terms that we would be dealt with according to our works when we got home. It was time to clean up our act!

The Prophet Ezekiel writes to an out of control, rebellious Jerusalem. His words, from a 21st century perspective were something like this. “You think you’re so smart? Do you think you are above the law I set before you? You know you know better. Let’s see how brave and strong you are when I come home!”

These words from the prophet challenge me in two ways.

First of all, as I look at the smugness and open rebellion of people in our society, I am angered but also humbled by the arrogance mankind has in trying to legislate morality according to our own deceitful human hearts. We are a people who act as my brothers and I, as ones who have nothing to worry about because since we can’t see God, we assume he can’t see us, or doesn’t exist. Woe on us when his judgment comes.

The second challenge is personal. Are my daily actions and thoughts in tune with what God wants from me? Do I live daily with a full realization that God is looking upon me and scrutinizing my thoughts, words and deeds? Am I living with power and grace in leading others to Christ in the same way Jesus did, through merciful acceptance without compromising his position as Messiah?

May each of us be overwhelmed by the power and holiness of God. May we live in the grace and mercy of his love while at the same time working towards being a sanctified people, a holy people in his sight.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that I often act in ways that would imply you aren’t watching. I measure my holiness according to those around me rather than to your plumb line of holiness. Forgive me for my arrogance. Help me to reach out to those who need to know you. In Jesus name, Amen.

You claim to be rich and successful and to have everything you need. But you don’t know how bad off you are. You are pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Revelation 3:17 (CEV)

One day Jesus told a story of a man named Lazarus. We know little about him except that he spent his life as a beggar earnestly hoping for a chance at the table scraps from a certain rich man’s table. What isn’t important in the story is how Lazarus became a beggar. We only know that he was apparently in some situation that made him completely dependent on other people for his existence.

Another thing we know about Lazarus is that even though his time on earth was destitute, he was apparently a man of faith. We know this because after Lazarus died he went to heaven. Ironically, it appears in Luke 16 that the rich man died around the same time. His earthly reward was great, but his eternal reward was painful to say the least.

One day the rich man looks across a great chasm and sees Lazarus sitting comfortably in the presence of God. While the rich man languished in pain and agony, Lazarus enjoyed something he’s never had in real life – comfort and fulfillment.

Jesus often told parables to those following him. These fictional stories taught great spiritual truths that required people to think about what he was really trying to teach them about life on earth and life in eternity. In this parable we are shown that physical wealth and comfort on earth don’t measure up to the comfort we will get when we get to heaven. Jesus says, store up your treasures in heaven. Don’t waste time on acquiring wealth on earth. It won’t last.

The Apostle John had a similar message in his letter to the church in Laodicea. This church was well known for their staunch religiosity. This group of believers could be described in one word: content. They minded their own business; didn’t make waves in society; lived their lives safely. Jesus refers to their complacency as so repulsive that they would be vomited out of his mouth.

The church in Laodicea suffered from the same disease that Lazarus had – self reliance. They may have started out believing in God and doing all the right things, but soon they were far more content to worship God’s blessings that to worship God; too content in their comfort to seek holiness.

When Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the poor in Spirit’, he’s really calling each of us to come to a place of spiritual bankruptcy in which we are so helpless we rely completely on him as our only hope and comfort.

Don’t allow the cares of this world to keep you from enjoying the peace only God can give. Don’t allow the comforts and blessings of this world keep you from realizing your only real hope is to rely on God for everything. Self-sufficiency is the enemy of total allegiance to Christ.

PRAYER: Father God. It is so easy to get trapped into thinking I can make it in life alone. You’ve blessed me beyond measure with gifts, talents and abilities. Protect me from relying on these more than you. Empower me to be completely dependent on you. In Jesus name, amen.

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 16:25 NLT

I was talking with an old farmer one day. He was telling me about some of the issues his son was having with his dairy herd. Being a real green hand on the farming issued, I asked him what were more difficult to raise? Sheep or Cows?

He shook his head and looked at his feet. “Sheep, he said, definitely sheep.”

“Why is that?”

He looked up at me like I’d said something really stupid, then replied, “Well, sheep are just so stupid!”

He was right, of course. Sheep are known to follow one another into dangerous or even fatal situations. When you are a sheep, strength in numbers and peer pressure aren’t nessecarily good things.

It’s interesting that Jesus likens us to sheep in the Bible. Does he refer to us as sheep because he thinks we are ‘just plain stupid’, like my farmer friend said? Was he trying to send us the message that we are really worthless creatures?

Most likely not, for whenever Jesus references us as sheep he speaks of our value; the speaks of the shepherds love for and concern for his sheep. Jesus speaks of himself as the good shepherd. A good shepherd gives his life for his sheep, he knows them by name, he rescues them when they get lost.

The evil shepherd, on the other hand, has no concern for his sheep. When sheep (people) follow the evil shepherd they are doomed. If they have no shepherd at all, they will follow a path that seems right to them: a path that leads to destruction.

Proverbs also reminds us of the futility of following our own instincts. Those who follow the path that seems best to them, follow a path that inevitably leads to destruction. There is no guide to show us the way through the wilderness. We are on our own.

As Christians our path through life should be determined by the words of Christ, not government policy, church edicts or popular opinion. “Fairness” is not a gaurentee. Cultures change and evolve, but the principles in God’s word remain unchanged throughout time.

Jesus tells us that the broad road, the easy way, the way of popular opinion is the path that leads to destruction. The hard road, the narrow path that few others will travel, is the path of righteousness and holiness.

The closer we walk with Jesus and according to Godly principles, the more we will understand the difference between right and wrong. The deeper our relationship with Christ, the more we risk standing against the popular notions of our day.

Refuse to live the life of a sheep. Grow closer in your walk with Christ and prepare of battle. Better to live in disharmony with the worlds standards than to live in separation from God.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. I’m buffeted on every side by this wind of philosophy and that call for social justice. In the midst of the battle help me walk the narrow path of your love and grace. Amen.


Some thoughts for worship:

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! Psalm 32:11

As the eastern sky begins to glow with the dawn of a new day, I rejoice in you my Lord. The tasks before me today are great. I’m sure there are surprises of varying degrees that await me. But my rejoicing isn’t based on the activities, events or people who cross my paths.

My rejoicing comes from you.

People change. Activities can sap our strength or go wrong. Even when they go well, they end and in their ending leave a void. People, even those closest to me can’t fulfill every corner of my soul. Sometimes, people fail me.

Not only do I rejoice in you, I’m glad because in your eyes I’m righteous. Thank you Lord that righteousness isn’t based on my ability to meet the expectations of you or others. You aren’t surprised by my weakness; others will never be satisfied with who I am. My righteousness is based on Jesus’ blood and forgiveness. Holiness, oh God, isn’t perfection, but knowing how to handle sin when it attacks me.

I sing! I sing to you my Father with words that I often can’t express in notes and words. My song comes from my heart! We fight over what songs should be sung, what instruments should be played and how ‘worship’ should be accomplished.

The best worship, O Lord is the worship of my heart. In the midst of my doubts; in the midst of my fears; when I feel overwhelmed by the tasks before me, my heart sings for I know that you will see me through if I rely on you for my strength.

Today, I rejoice in you. Not because of what lay ahead of me, but because I know you will go with me. My heart sings for I know my allegiance to you will empower me for the day ahead. Amen.

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