Sin Is Hard

To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:  But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;  But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:  For there is no respect of persons with God.   Romans 2:7-11

I lead a rather sheltered life, cloistered among church friends and family; so one of the reasons I like being a landlord is I meet people who are very different from me, and live a life that is guided by values and ideas very foreign to me.  I have just spent a month working on a property that required hundreds of grueling hours fixing holes in the walls, repairing broken doors and cabinets, and cleaning filth I will spare you from describing—and this after a miserable and very costly eviction.  My children sometimes ask me how I deal with being robbed and wronged by the occasional person who takes advantage of me.  It is because, though it appears I am the one taking the hit for their reckless lifestyle, the fact remains that the way of the transgressor is hard.

Paul describes a simple way of life in Romans 2—patient continuance in well-doing.  It seems too simple.  Surely God requires more than to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly; yet for those who get up every morning with a heart turned towards serving the One who loves them, there is glory, and honor and peace.  I love to think about the fact that as a child of God, He would honor me.  Honor is an incredible blessing that changes all of life.  To be honored is to be accepted completely as His beloved.  I hear God singing over me, (Zephaniah 3:17) delighting in me (Psalm 149:4), ordering my steps (Psalm 37:23), and withholding NO good thing from my life (Psalm 84:11).  My life is far from spectacular or unusual; I guess I would describe it as…well…patient continuance in well-doing.  I want to please my Father.  And I am lavished with supernatural glory and honor and peace just as Paul declared it would be.

These contentious people I would be tempted to punch in the nose should the opportunity arise (I’m safe—in twelve years of landlording the opportunity has never come) are living a very hard life, primarily because they live under the awful indignation of Almighty God.  Tribulation and anguish stir in their souls in the night.  I shudder for their pitiful condition as they run headlong into eternal destruction, both in this life, and in the life to come.  Sometimes Christians mistakenly believe that everyone lives pretty much the same life here with the same opportunities and the same trials, and the reward follows death.  If you live in the world with people who do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, you would know that is not true.  The evil heart of man will make him a slave to God, or he will be a slave to sin.  Living under the shadow of God’s indignation for the suffering he inflicts on others, for the covetousness, selfishness, lying, and impenetrable pride, he pays a monstrous price every day.  His world is dark, restless, and sometimes hopeless.  He runs harder, but lacks direction, and finds himself unfulfilled and injured by the very things he thought would bring pleasure.  He is blind to the truth, and there is no remedy for his pathetic state.  God gently calls to him with a sunrise.  Though he deserves that punch in the nose, God responds to him with gentleness, longsuffering, and the riches of His goodness (Romans 2:4).  If only he could know the joy of forgiveness.  It makes me want to shout, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile! (Psalm 32)  Hey, that’s me!  I’m the blessed one!

Today, I am praying for wisdom, to make wiser choices for tenants in a business that has blessed my family, and belongs completely to God.  I am thankful that God has ordered my steps.  I am distracted by writing, so I will refocus.  I hear my Beloved, and my deepest delight is to answer His call.

 

 

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Timothy’s Prayer for Kings

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.  I Timothy 2:1-3

Today, I will pray as You have exhorted us to pray in I Timothy.  You resist the proud, but give grace to the humble.  Help me to pray for my nation with a humble spirit.  Lord, I know that you ordained civil government to restrain evil and for the good of Your people.  Though our president and many members of Congress and the courts are enemies of Christ, and have brought economic persecution upon some, I pray for their good, which will come through knowledge and understanding of truth and peace.  I pray for their welfare, for their families, and for their prosperity.  As you promised the captives of Babylon, “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof ye shall have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).

Forgive me for my lack of prayer for our magistrates, simply because I vehemently disagree with them.  I pray for Mayor Fisher today, and for the peace of Louisville.  I pray that you would prosper him, and bless him.  Give him direction and favor to lead our city to protect and provide for its citizens.  I give You thanks for a city in which I can conduct business and care for my family, and for those who care for Louisville and make it possible for me to lead a quiet and peaceful life.

Lord, I confess to you that my prayers for America’s government have often been “praying amiss, that I might consume it upon my own lusts” (James 4:3).  I understand, God, that my prayers for government have often been motivated by my personal gain, and this is not acceptable to you.  I have prayed for Christian preference, and honor and power to be given to those who honor and prefer You.  You have allowed those to rise to positions of authority in government for both the good and the judgment of Your people.  We receive Your discipline, and Your exhortation; may the hearts of our leaders, and those soon to be elected, be bent toward Your perfect will for our nation.  I ask that Christians be able to lead a quiet and peaceful life, not grasping for recognition as the “ones who are right,” or the “ones who are truly good.”  There are none righteous in your sight.  I pray only that Your glory and Your great compassion and goodness, upon the just and upon the unjust, be manifestly visible in this election.

Let me fulfill my duty of godliness, in giving my devotion wholly to You; and my duty of honesty, in conducting my business for the good of all men.  I desire only to do what is good and acceptable in Your sight.

I repent for my lack of prayer for our nation.  I see the difficulties and snares that fame and power have brought to those who would seek our highest office in America, and I mourn for those who have been publicly humiliated for their failures.  May they know the compassion of a forgiving God today.  May we never revel in the downfall of one for whom You died.  Help us to keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking guile (Psalm 34) as we approach the very sober and holy day of November 8th.  And I ask that You, my Lord, in Your great mercy, would give us leaders who fear God, not that we might receive exclusive honor and favor, but that You, God would be known for Your greatness in all the earth.

 

 

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A Corporate Prayer for America

Lord, in this season of difficulty and danger, we submit ourselves to you in humiliation, fasting and prayer for our nation.  We acknowledge that the prosperity of our nation is the result of men and women two centuries ago, who willingly submitted their lives to almighty God as a matter of duty in their integrity, their marriages, their businesses, and their investments in America.  Lord, we acknowledge that your judgments against the prevalent iniquity in America are just, and You are calling us to repentance and reformation.  Our personal lives are compromised by selfishness and pride, by gluttony and ungodly entertainment.  Our marriages are broken and no longer reflect Christ and His church in honor and love.  We have allowed our children to be falsely educated in a godless system, and have not protected the unborn.  We have enslaved the poor with broken systems of aid rather than creating opportunity for significance and creative work.  We have shifted our economics from production to debt in defiance of your commands to owe no man, and have become slaves as you warned us:  the borrower is servant to the lender.  We have failed to take our rightful place in elected offices even as advisers at the city gates, and tenders of your vineyard in the world You love.

For these failures of duty we ask for forgiveness and mercy.  We repent and turn from our neglect and rebellion, and if you will lead us once again, we shall reign upon the earth as you have promised.  We worship you as the one who has prevailed, and stand in the gap as your heirs of the kingdom.  May your will be done once again in this One Nation Under God.

I pray specifically for our broken institutions—our homes that they might be pure and undefiled, our businesses  that they would prosper and demonstrate your demands for integrity; our schools, that our children would learn to fear God, to love his precepts, and to understand His ways; our system of food and health, that we might care for our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit and esteem the words of Your mouth more than our necessary food; our legal system, that justice and truth would reign in Congress, in the supreme Court, in our federal and state court systems, in our family courts, with our state governors and assemblies, and with city governments.  Lord call Your people to restore the integrity lost in our legal system.

We pray for President Obama, for Governor Bevin, for our Kentucky legislature, and for the town councils and school boards of Jefferson County.  I pray for prisoners to be reached with the gospel, and for the foster care children, the homeless and handicapped to be cared for and restored through us Your people.   I pray that Louisville would never be divided East and West, black and white, Christian and Muslim, rich and poor, young and old, capable and used.  May the people of New Life Church be clay in your hands to remold our city into a social order that honors our God with justice and mercy.

Thank you God that you are shaking the things that are made, that those eternal things which cannot be shaken may remain in our lives, and in our hearts.  And as President John Adams prayed, that the principles of integrity and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every citizen; and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion, may once again be speedily extended from America to all the nations of the earth.

In the power and the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen

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Joining the Church in Fasting

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. Ezra 8:21

Ezra is leading the people who have spent their lives in captivity in Babylon, greatly influenced by the culture around them. Their children were born there, and had no first hand memory of worshipping the One True God. Ezra stopped to humble himself and to seek God. They needed Him, and more than that, they needed to know their need of Him, and the right way He had planned for each generation. Even after a generation of captivity in Babylon, Ezra declared God had a right way for them, and He would show them that way if they would pray and fast.

I believe the same is true for us, who are in very similar circumstances in our nation in crisis. And that is why I have decided to join Crestwood Baptist Church in their call to fast and pray for our nation on November 5-7. Frankly, I have seldom joined a church wide fast before. They are usually called for in January, and at a time when the sun is so scarce, I find myself much more susceptible to illness, and I struggle with depression and low energy. It is a difficult time to take care of my business, which involves work both outdoors and indoors, and there is added stress in just getting around in bad weather. Poor excuses? Maybe so. But there is more.

Now I understand why I and 85 percent of the population either never attempt, or fail at fasting. Eating three meals a day of concentrated sugar and processed foods overloads the pancreas, and sets the body in constant insulin load. A healthy body will burn the carbohydrates and sugars consumed, and easily switch over to fat burning for energy. Not so with a body that has been taxed for years with the Standard American Diet. Our sugar cravings become irresistible, and instead of fulfilling the purpose of fasting–to humble ourselves before God and concentrate on hearing from Him–we are consumed with hunger, fatigue, and a physiological need for processed sugar, which many studies show is more addicting than cocaine.

John Calvin said of fasting, “ for want of knowing its usefulness, we undervalue its necessity.” Yes, fasting is necessary.  Our nation is in crisis, and fasting is clearly a scriptural method for finding an answer. America used to be able to depend on its president to call for national prayer and fasting in a crisis! Now we must depend on Christians who love America and are willing to intercede.

If you are willing, but share in the struggle, I have a suggestion for myself and for you: the 18-hour fast. Choose a six hour window, where you will eat healthy one ingredient foods–lean meat, fruits and vegetables, and fats such avocados, butter, coconut oil or olive oil. Eliminate all sugar and grains (breads, potatoes, corn, rice), to minimize your body’s demands for sugars, and during your 18 hours of fasting, set aside an hour to seek the Lord and intercede for America. My six-hour window will be between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The rest of my day and night, I have committed to seeking God, confession, and intercession. I hope that most of the adults at Crestwood Baptist will join Pastor Donnie Patrick’s call to seek God for our nation, and I pray that the call will reach beyond one church to our city, our state, and our One Nation Under God. Will you join us?

You can visit our video invitation at https://www.facebook.com/crestwoodbaptistchurch/

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The Sun Is Rising

The Light of Sunrise

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  II Corinthians 4:6

For the past three weeks, I have watched the equatorial sun rise over Lake Victoria each morning in Uganda.  I love the sunrise.  I love morning.  I love light that is natural and life and health-giving.  And though I am grateful to be home, I missed the sunrise this morning, and the monkeys who follow shortly thereafter for a banana breakfast.  It’s no wonder that pagans worship the sun rather than the God who made it.  James, the Lord’s brother, calls God the “Father of lights,” and John simply says, “God is light.”

So I am captured this morning by the comparison in II Corinthians 4:6—God creating light on the very first day of creation, and the light that shines in our hearts to give us knowledge of God.   Paul demonstrates to the Corinthians and to us that God has this creative process that He has been using since the beginning of time.  It begins with complete darkness—no way to move around, no way to be safe, no way for life to exist.  Then God gives the command, and suddenly the world is full of light.  Wild banana trees grow along the red dirt roads.  Bright fuchsia flowers adorn the hillside drinking in God’s light.  A lizard darts across the balcony and jumps to the green fig leaves where he will wait for breakfast.  The shimmering water of Lake Victoria stretches to the horizon, and testifies that light is greater than mere human comprehension. Light has changed literally everything.

Paul says that same Light has quite another function.  Though one cannot imagine greater magnificence than the light that shines into the world’s darkness, my wonder increases when that light that bursts all walls of blackness shines into my heart.  That light opened my eyes to see the love of God, the protection of the Father, the provision of a Husband, the longsuffering and forgiveness of a Savior.  It was all in the face of Jesus Christ.  That light revealed to me that death is merely a pause in the path to eternal life.  That light provided a way of significance where God instructs me daily to walk.

And just as the light in Uganda changed the entire world from black nothingness to incomprehensible life, so the light of the knowledge of the glory of God has shined into my heart to change who I am and where I am going.  It is the same light, shining into the world, and simultaneously shining into me.  Every day, the sunrise is a call to open your eyes to the glory of God.  But if you really want that knowledge, it cannot be found by experiencing a captivating sunrise at the equator, as magnificent as that is.  The fullness of light is experienced best when my heart is open to the Inner Voice of revelation—the love of God that is beyond knowledge.  I want to walk in the fullness of God today—the sunrise not so captivating; but the light that shines in my heart is bigger, and louder, and more comforting than it has ever been.

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Needs of the Orphanage

We had a busy day yesterday meeting with the water engineers who will be collecting rain water, and connecting the bore hole well to the kitchen building where the water purifier will be located.  Then we met with the artisans who will be building the tables and benches for the cafeteria area for the children.  We were able to place an order for ten tables and 20 benches, and we are so grateful the Lord let us to this place.  There are huge variations in quality in both wood and workmanship, and we met the Orphanage director, David Matovu to join in all these details!  We also settled on the stoves and kitchen supplies.

We went to dinner with David and his wife, and dreamed together about what God is doing at Life Mercy Orphanage.  The traffic was horrendous coming home, and we got in a tight spot in a red mud cow path.  Sometimes you can avoid the traffic jams, and sometimes, I just need to be patient and content to sit and wait!  We had to back down the hill, and didn’t gain much time, but got home about 8:00 and were thankful for a very productive day.

We are meeting Grivas at noon today, and hope to gather the Antioch pastors together for one last blessing tonight before leaving tomorrow!  I look back overthe last three weeks, and it seems like a blur, so many times of blessing, God’s close presence in every circumstance.  I know God better and I love Him more for these days in Uganda.  Please pray that customs will let us through, and the flights are on time.  The travel and connections can be unbelievable chaos.  I am ready to hug my children and grandchildren!

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Worship with the Antioch churches

Antioch Church at Kwerere Uganda

Antioch Church at Kwerere Uganda

Yesterday was long and glory filled, as we spent it in Kwerere at Gideon’s church.  It is an interesting building of mud and tin, and we are so proud of the people, some of the poorest in Uganda, who have worked and sacrificed to buy the land.  They have expanded the side walls a few feet, and the house was full yesterday with pastors from the surrounding area as well as the people from the five churches in the Antioch alliance.  Pastor Gordon was there from Jinja, and I was so grateful, because he is the best translator!  He is full of energy, and has a great anointing on his praying and preaching, though he doesn’t have a church.  He runs programs for teen mothers, the elderly, and home health projects, etc.  He has a tremendous presence in the north of Uganda, and is so inspiring to me.  His english is the best too–we often don’t realize what is missed when we talk to people, so I was so glad to see him there to translate for us.  I spoke in the morning on prayer, and in the afternoon on leadership.  Art spoke about being doers, and how God is calling us to action.  After the afternoon session, we prayed for the sick, for the group of pastors, and for a group of high school students who were there in uniform.  The sickness there is much more serious than at the organized clinics we held.  Our great God is able!  It was a wonderful session of prayer and healing.  Art organized distribution of eye glasses, and there were many smiles as people were able to read again.  We distributed 2,000 pairs of readers in all!  What an amazing gift we were able to give.  Breakfast is ready, and I have spent too much time with the monkeys this morning to tell you more.  I will have to buy more bananas, as I didn’t reserve any for people food.

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