Reflections by the Pond

#668: Thanks-Giving

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August 11, 2014

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Psalm 51:16-17

You see, it is a state of mind, really. It is a mystical, other-worldly, sometimes confusing, sometimes ecstatic, utterly liberating state of mind. More than a belief, more than just a philosophy, far more than just rules or an action, it is a way of life—a way of living.

Real, substantial, authentic thanks-giving is the product of a heart that has been broken; not broken in the soap opera, smarmy dime-romance sense—"Oh, my boyfriend's left me for another girl, sha-na-na."—but the reductive brokenness that results in a life renewed, a life rescued from the abyss. The first step upward toward God is trod upon the shattered remnants of the old self, a life broken, a heart contrite...

#667: a Heart for God

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August 4, 2014

But King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing."
1 Chronicles 21:24

Is what we give to the Lord off the top, or is it only from that which is left over? Is what we place in the offering plate a generous portion of the gross, or only a percentage of what is left after we've paid everyone else? Do we give our time and labor to the Lord even when it is inconvenient, or only when we have some spare time on our calendar?

Do we, like David, truly have a heart for God? Is He truly Lord of our life—or just an acquaintance we sing to on Sunday mornings?

#666: Stop!

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July 28, 2014

He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me.
Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land,
So as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity.
Psalms 101:7-8

We live in an homogenized society. Sharp distinctions are frowned upon; firm convictions are ridiculed. The very idea of standing strong against just about anything, saying "No!" with a firmly set jaw, is fast becoming archaic. But if we are unprepared to take this stand at the point where society ends and our family begins, then where else?

#665: On the Clouds

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July 21, 2014

"I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him."
Daniel 7:13

To see the world around us through eyes from above, to see the natural supernaturally, to see what others do not and cannot see—this is the blessing and burden of the child of God.

In everything around us we can find God; His fingerprints have been left on everything comprising this world—not just the natural world, but even those things "man-made."

And if it were possible to find something not made by Him, it would at least remind us of some truth about Him...

#664: Spirit and Truth

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July 14, 2014

...for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.
Philippians 3:3

The modern paradigm for worship can badly manhandle the Holy Spirit. It is presumptuous, even arrogant. It says, "We will be in the Spirit." It preempts supernatural prerogative: Rather than carefully preparing fertile soil from which He might reveal Himself by His timing and manner, worship leaders today often haul out the Spirit by the scruff of the neck. And if He chooses not to sanction the moment, they simply behave as if He actually has.

Instead of graciously inviting the Spirit in, then waiting expectantly to see what He will do, today's worship often erects a plastic stand-in for His presence, something safe, dependable, and utilitarian, but uninspired...

#663: Wonderment

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July 7, 2014

As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"
Mark 13:1

The very universe will be renewed; every star in the night sky will fall, time itself will be altered, the earth will be destroyed then remade, and a brand new Jerusalem will descend upon it from the sky. And other than the eternal souls of believers, the only thing that will be carried over from the old earth to the next is the word of God.

And that is something truly wonderful...

#662: Nothing But Faith

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June 30, 2014

Then his servants came near and spoke to [Naaman] and said, "My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?"
2 Kings 5:13

Here is the stumbling block for the unregenerate. The rules of this fallen world dictate that something must be paid for, either by sweat or by wallet, to be of any value. If salvation is to be of any worth, it must be earned. But this means that it would then be all about us:

Look what I did for my salvation! Aren't I something! And since I did so much more than you—since it cost me so much more than what you paid—then my salvation must be better than yours.

But God's salvation—His healing from sin—is free. It costs us nothing but faith.

Salvation is not about us. Salvation is all about God. He is the one doing everything; it is He doing all the giving...

#661: Living It

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June 23, 2014

On the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.
Ezra 7:9b-10

Believers do not grow in Christ-likeness by just believing that the Bible is truly God's word; they grow in Christ-likeness by studying the Bible, understanding what it says, immersing themselves in the truth of what God has written for them personally in its pages. The Christian's goal should be to please God, to glorify Him through personal obedience to Him. But how can we do that if we do not know what He says?

#660: Koinonia

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June 16, 2014

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 1 John 5:1

True Christian love for a brother or sister is the biblical concept of fellowship. The Greek word behind most occurrences of the word is koinonia—which means a partnership, a participation in another's life. Something far deeper and more profound than chatting over a potluck dinner, discussing the weather or last week's football scores, the concept of koinonia describes two or more people who have made an investment in each other's lives based on their mutual love for the Lord...

#659: Building on Our Own

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June 9, 2014

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."
Haggai 1:5-6 NIV

We too are a people consumed with self. It is in our DNA to look after ourselves, to enrich ourselves, to glorify ourselves before anyone else—much less a God we cannot see or touch.

But the lesson repeatedly emphasized in His written word is that when we try do it on our own, failure or an unforeseen consequence is inevitably the result. By contrast, when we seek God not after we have failed, but first; when we bow before His superior wisdom and will; when we acknowledge Him as Lord; seeking His good, His exaltation, His glory rather than our own—when we are safely in the will of our heavenly Father, then the Lord opens His generous, loving heart to meet our every need...