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P1030892

I Skyped this morning with a Chinese believer whom we helped disciple when we lived in China. She was a dear sister to us. She translated for us. She was much loved, much trusted. Then, unexpectedly, because of a man from the United States, she left our little group and became an adherent of a legalistic offshoot of Christianity. The legalism to which she now attached herself broke apart the small group of believers there.

She told me this morning that, a few years ago, she left this erroneous offshoot.

Brought to tears, I asked her why.

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p1030631

For some time now, I’ve been trying to establish the practice of making the Lord my first thought of the morning, as I am waking up. For a while, this was simply saying, “Good morning, Lord.” Somewhere down the road in this endeavor, I decided to address each person of the Godhead. Then I added, when I was speaking to the Father and to Jesus, that I wanted to know them and that I wanted to love them and serve them as I should.

I like this. It is joyful. It is just…right.

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bank-1

I’m taking another break from the series, The God Who Is Low and Humble in Heart, to look at this article from the Motley Fool. The text is included below, and here is the link: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/29/50-reasons-were-living-through-the-greatest-period.aspx

Before the article, however, a hopefully brief introduction.

Except for my time abroad as a missionary, I have lived most of my life in the United States. I grew up here. I went to school and worked here. I consider myself a patriot, one who loves the freedoms that we enjoy and the benefits of living in this nation. However, I have grave concerns about the degradation of our culture.

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I’d like to take a brief break from the series, The God Who Is Low and Humble in Heart, and investigate a passage of Scripture that caught my attention the other day.

“On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, ‘Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:6–8).

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Leadership has been the most taught and discussed topic in the American church in my lifetime. When I did a search recently on Amazon, there were 15,758 hits on the topic of Christian leadership. It makes sense. It doesn’t take much reading in Scripture to find leadership being manifested in one form or another by notable individuals in the Bible. Yet if we do a word search through the Scripture, we find a paucity of references under that word. Why is that? I think the reason we find so little use of the word “leader” in Scripture is because that aspect, that virtue, is secondary in God’s view. Perhaps not even secondary. Therefore, it’s troubling when we have made it our number one emphasis for so many years. If we read about God’s leaders in Scripture, we’ll find, overwhelmingly, an emphasis on only two traits: godliness and obedient, active faith in the power and ability of God.

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OrionSpringDickinson1024

I like watching television shows about the universe. I appreciate the efforts of scientists to help us understand how big the earth, sun and the planets are in relation to other objects in the universe, as well as how immense the distances are.

But I gotta admit, in spite of all their best efforts, I just can’t really comprehend it. I mean, I understand the videos and model mock-ups, but…it’s just too much for my little brain to handle. They say there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe, and each galaxy has hundreds of billions of stars. To me, a thousand of something is a lot. I wasn’t personally familiar with over a hundred thousand dollars until we bought our third house. A million? A billion? I don’t have a million or a billion of anything. I’ve never even counted to a million and don’t intend to. So, when they start throwing around numbers like hundreds of billions, my mind goes blank.

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p1030528

I don’t usually mourn the deaths of popular culture stars. I just simply have no connection with them. However, Whitney Houston’s death was different. I’m certain it’s because she was a Christian. One of my all-time favorite Christian songs is her rendition of “I Love the Lord.” She had a spectacular, beautiful voice. That voice was a gift from God. And it’s that topic—giftedness—that I would like to address. There are natural gifts, and there are spiritual gifts. This brief article will deal only with natural gifts.

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open-bible

Another challenging truth that the Lord seems to be causing us to consider is suffering. It seems like the Lord wants us to include suffering as part of what He has determined for us?  Cheery topic for Sunday morning, huh?  Aren’t you glad you came?  Let’s start in Romans 8.

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba!  Father!’  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him”  (Romans 8:12-17).

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open-bible

I’m challenged by the truth I see in Scripture about the dwelling place of God, the temple of God, since now in this new covenant, we are the temple of God. Solomon built a magnificent temple, and so did Herod, but the blueprint that the Lord gave Moses was a…tent. As far as I know, there wasn’t any other blueprint. In spite of what Solomon did, this was God’s preferred plan. Moveable. No physical foundation. I’m just amazed that the God who created the universe, created all that we see and the unbelievable cellular and subatomic things we don’t see, who upholds it all by the word of His power, chose a tent made a skins for His very humble dwelling place.

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2009-02-20_1651_1_ChurchPlaque

What are the three things that I would like you to remember most of all:

The first one is a simple one: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Make Him the ultimate focus of your life. As you know, this is the first and most important commandment, and the commandment from which all others flow, including loving others.

These two commandments are simple, but they’re not easy.

But there is another biblical truth that we include as we try to keep the commandment to love God: We are unable to do that, in and of ourselves.

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