Here at the FBC our desire is to delight God by developing a church full of people whose integrity is beyond question, whose faith is beyond reason, and whose compassion is beyond compare. So come on in, look around, and explore the world of Newton FBC. We sincerely hope you enjoy your visit!
Mon Nov 30 08:18:05 2015
Well, how was your Thanksgiving? Before you answer that, you may want to take a moment and think about it. If you have some negative comments about the food, the weather, the time spent preparing the meal, or whatever, you may need to take some time for some introspection. You may want to think about the reason for the day and the importance of giving thanks.
When we have negative feelings about a day that is intended to celebrate the giving of thanks, we have lost the spirit of the celebration. Remember the origins of the day - a long-ago commemoration of a small group of people who were expressing thanks that they were still alive. They had witnessed the demise of half of their original number since their arrival in this new land. Were it not for the help of some Native Americans who saw their plight, all of them could be dead. We need to capture that spirit as we spend time celebrating during the holiday season in which we are now in. And even though Thanksgiving is past, we need to continue to reflect the spirit of gratitude in our lives. Doing so will counteract out tendency to be negative and will help lessen the blows that life can sometime deliver.
Dr. Billy Graham once said, "Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned by the Bible. The Bible says, 'For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.' (Romans 1:21) Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness." So, how was your Thanksgiving?
Sun Nov 29 07:21:07 2015
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is the time in our calendar when we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Christ. It is unclear when Advent was first developed, but it has been a part of church traditions for centuries. Of course, the biblical basis for the celebration centers on the many scriptures that foretell the coming of the Messiah. For believers, the Advent season is not only a time when we look back on what has taken place, but we look forward to the return of Christ we know will someday happen.
As we think about Advent, my mind is drawn to the appearance of Gabriel to Mary to tell her she was to be the mother of the Messiah. When she heard this news, she said, "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38) Later, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John, we read her song about her experience. During this song, which we call the "Magnificat," She rejoiced about the coming of the Savior; she reflected on many of the great deeds of God, and then she returned to her home to anticipate the birth.
We can do the same this Christmas season. We should rejoice in the goodness of God. We should reflect on God's great deeds done on our behalf. We need to return to our place of service if we have strayed. As we celebrate today, look forward to what God has in store for us. Even as Christ came the first time, he will come again. This is a good reason to celebrate.
Sat Nov 28 07:36:58 2015
"No man can study the movement of modern civilization from an impartial standpoint and not realize that Christianity, and the spread of Christianity, are the basis of hope of modern civilization in the growth of popular self government. The spirit of Christianity is pure democracy. It is equality of man before God - the equality of man before the law, which is the most God-like manifestation that man has been able to make."
Some might say that it would take a big man to make such a claim as this. In actuality, a big man did make this claim. His name was William Howard Taft. He was our 27th president and he also weighed over 300 pounds. This made him the largest person to ever serve as president of the United States. In addition, he was the only president to serve as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Taft's statement above is so true. "Christianity, and the spread of Christianity" certainly are the basis of hope for modern civilization. When we forget Christ and that Christ is God's provision for the redemption of man, we toss hope out the window. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
I hope you know Him, and if you don't, I hope you realize the importance of earnestly seeking God. To go without his provision for you is to live without hope. It really doesn't take a "big man" to admit this, and to give him your life. Taft realized this, I hope you will as well.
Fri Nov 27 07:52:23 2015
I am not a true businessman, but I have had enough experience with finance to understand the concept of the bottom line. Whether it is my personal finances, finances at the church, or any of the boards and committees I have sat on over the years, the bottom line is what is important. The bottom line is what tells you if you have any money to spend or whether you have been spending more money than you have. That is usually pretty important information to have. This is one reason businesses have invented today - "Black Friday." They do this to improve their profits and therefore improve their bottom line. If you are venturing out today - be careful! It's a jungle out there!
The concept of the bottom line is used in other aspects of our experience. We use this phrase when we are referring to the most important point of an activity or of a pursuit or some other experience. A teacher may tell a class that the bottom line of an experiment is to isolate some particular compound. A coach may tell a team that the bottom line is that we need to win the next game or we won't reach our goal.
There is a bottom line for followers of Christ as well. God wants us to follow him. Above all else, we are to listen to his voice and allow our steps to follow the path he has laid out for us. He told the people of Israel through Samuel, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (I Samuel 15:22) This is indeed the bottom line.
Thu Nov 26 08:05:34 2015
On September 16,1620, 102 people on a ship called the Mayflower departed the land that was their home to proceed westward to a land that was unknown to any of them and would become their new home. A sister ship, the Speedwell, encountered problems not long after the departure and had to return. The journey of 2,750 miles would take 66 days and be fraught with many problems. However, they were determined to reach this new land where they hoped they would be able to continue their lives free from the persecution they had experienced in their homeland because of their faith.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for them? Actually, you probably can't. I know I certainly have no concept of what they must have been feeling, what thoughts they must have had, and the concerns that were theirs as they embarked on an unknown vessel across an unknown ocean to an unknown land. Courage was certainly not in short supply. Faith was not in short supply. Determination was not in short supply. It is a gross understatement to say they were a group of people who were not afraid to take risks.
Having the willingness to take risks and to step out courageously to do something new and different is a good thing. We need a sense of the pioneer at times to bring about change and to reach out boldly to see good things happen. Paul is a biblical example of a person with the spirit of a pioneer - willing to step out, to take risks, and to go where others feared to venture. What fueled his spirit? He gives us a clue in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death."
The desire to know more about Christ and to do more for Christ often requires a little bit of the pioneer spirit. Use the example of Paul and of the Pilgrims as role models for developing a desire to reach out in new ways for new results. Happy Thanksgiving!
Wed Nov 25 11:07:58 2015
I have always found it so interesting to see whom Jesus used as role models. He used a "sinful woman" to demonstrate how we should love (Luke 7:47). When he wanted to show what faith should look like, he said about the faith of a pagan soldier, a centurion, "Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." (Matthew 8:10) I would imagine this rattled a few cages. Children were used as examples of trust (Luke 7:47). So, whom did he use when he wanted to demonstrate true generosity? A destitute woman, of course!
Mark 12:41-44 gives us the story, "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.'"
Here Christ tells us what true sacrifice and true generosity is. True sacrifice is when you give to the point where you are dependent upon God for other necessities in your life. Not many of us have been to that point. Sheridan Voysey wrote "True sacrifice leaves us vulnerable, with our arms outstretched to God." This is the spirit in which we should give.
Tue Nov 24 07:10:15 201
A poor European family had saved for years for tickets to America. The father brought bread and cheese for them to eat on the passage. After some time, his young son said, "Father, I cannot eat just bread and cheese any longer!" His father gave him some money for some ice cream. After awhile, the son returned. "Did you enjoy your ice cream?" his father asked. "Yes," said the boy, "and also the steak, potatoes, and vegetables." "How did you afford all that?" asked the dad. "We get food with the price of the ticket," said the son.
I have heard a number of variations of this story, but all with the same point. As Christians, we often fail to take advantage of the provisions we have at our disposal. Paul encourages his readers: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." (Colossians 2:6-10)
Don't overlook what Christ has for you in your Christian walk! Call upon him and depend upon him as you develop in your faith and strengthen your resolve. You have the ticket, bought for you by your Savior, and you don't have to live on just bread and cheese!
Mon Nov 23 07:10:15 201
Hudson Taylor, the pioneer missionary to China, scrawled this note as he neared the end of his life: "I am so weak that I cannot work; I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God's arms like a child, and trust." When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, we need to remember that childlike faith is what we need. As a child, I don't remember worrying about too many things, except for maybe the amount of chocolate milk that was in the frig. I trusted that my folks would take care of me. Actually, I really don't remember having a conscious thought about trusting my folks, I just did. That is the essence of childlike faith, which is what we should have.
Christ said, "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 18:2-4)
We need to learn to trust. Actually, we know how to trust, we just need to get back to that level of trust we had as kids when it comes to our relationship with Christ. Faith like a child is what we need to have. It takes the worries away!
Sun Nov 22 06:58:19 2015
Many of us have used the phrase "acid test" in our conversation. We know that an "acid test" is any kind of test that produces undeniable results. It may be some sort of activity or exercise to demonstrate the truthfulness of something that has been said, or something to demonstrate true identity. The idea originates from a practice used during the gold rush days of the 19th century. Needing a way to distinguish genuine gold from other metals, nitric acid was poured on the substance in question. Gold withstood the dissolving properties of the acid, and thus passed the "acid test."
Many times God allows an "acid test" to be applied to our faith in order to prove it to be genuine. Why? Well, Peter has something to say about this. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (I Peter 1:3-7)
The acid test is applied to dissolve what is false and leave the truth. The test is like a refiner's fire that dissolves the impurities and leaves what is best. We often struggle with this, but he need to understand God does know what he is doing, and only does it for our good. Remember God works as a divine Refiner, not an arsonist, when he applies the purifying flames to our life. Trust him, and you will indeed benefit from the "acid test."
Sat Nov 21 10:29:28 2015
Mart De Haan writes about the closing of a zoo in Milan, Illinois. After being open for more than 60 years and attracting millions of visitors, the zoo was shut down amidst the cries of animal rights activists that protested the "inhumane" treatment of the animals in the zoo. After the zoo closed, a rather sad thing happened. Homeless people moved in and began sleeping in the cages that once held animals. This continued until authorities prevented the people from sleeping there anymore.
A further irony to this scenario is that the zoo was located only a few blocks from the fashion district of Milan. Just about 400 yards from the zoo where homeless people gathered, there were shops that attracted people from all over the world who came to buy the expensive clothes, jewelry, and accessories.
People sleeping like animals is truly a sad thing, but who was farther from the image of God - the homeless who slept at the zoo or the rich who frequented the shops located just a short distance away? We can be so prideful, even to the point of being judgmental of others. We need to be careful of this and display the image of God as we work with others.
Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." In Daniel 4, you can read how God dealt with one person's pride. Nebuchadnezzar was forced to live like an animal because of his pride before God. God told him to stop sinning and show mercy towards the poor (4:27).
Don't make God take such drastic measures in your life to deal with your pride. Show that you are one of God's creatures as you minister to others who have been created in the image of God regardless of their physical condition.
Fri Nov 20 08:11:39 2015
I am always amazed at the sovereignty of God, especially when it comes to seeing how he works to bring the Gospel to those who have not heard. A marvelous illustration of this is the story of how the Gospel came to the Hawaiian Islands. When Queen Ku'ahumana died in 1832, her last words were, "I am going where the mansions are ready." What led to this assurance?
Henry Opukaha'ai was raised by an uncle after being orphaned as a child. He was to become a pagan priest. However, as he grew older, he became disenchanted with the pagan rituals and chants and left for New England with a friend, Thomas Hopu. There, they were befriended by some students at Yale. They became believers, and trained in theology and biblical languages. Hopu returned to Hawaii in 1820 with HIram Bingham. They began teaching Christianity, set up a church, established a school, and translated the New Testament into Hopu's native tongue. The queen and many others embraced Christianity. Just before her death, Hopu presented her a copy of the recently finished New Testament.
God is indeed in control, and will make sure people hear about his Son. However, we should never forget that he has chosen to use us to convey his message. It was a stirring in Henry Opukaha'ai that led him to make his journey to Connecticut along with his friend, Thomas Hopu.
What stirring do you sense in your soul? What is it that you feel God is moving you to do? Luke 2:25-28 gives us a story of one who was "moved by the Spirit," responded, and experienced a great blessing because of his obedience: "Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God." Don't ignore the moving of the Spirit of God - he has work for you to do, and he has blessings for you to receive!
Thu Nov 19 08:13:41 2015
I really can't believe that it was that long ago! I was reading an article the other day on Evel Knieval's attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon in Idaho on a specially designed rocket-powered motorcycle called the "Skycycle X-1". The date for this attempt was September 9, 1974, 41 years ago. I just did not remember that it was that long ago. What I did remember was that he didn't make it. The motorcycle started falling short of the other side of the canyon, and Knievel parachuted to safety. It didn't matter how far he flew on his motorcycle, he didn't reach the other side.
If you are trying to reach God by any other means than through faith in his Son, you need to remember that you will fall short. No matter how hard you try, you will not make it. The Bible says that "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) You cannot get rid of the sin on your own. No one is able to bridge the gap between God and themselves on their own merits or by their own efforts. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, "For by grace you are saved through faith, this is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Only the work of Christ can help you span the gulf between God and you.
We who have received this gift need to remember that we did not attain our salvation on our own. Sometimes we get into a bad habit of living like we did. This doesn't make any sense. We just can't make it on our own. Thank God today for making away to "jump the canyon." If you haven't made this jump yet - take care of that right now.
Wed Nov 18 07:33:46 2015
A year ago today I brought my wife home from the hospital after open-heart surgery where five areas in her heart had to be bypassed. This was a very tense time for us, and I thank God for his protection during that experience. The situation was an emergency - she had a heart attack with no early-warning signs. As I look at her today, I am amazed at how good well she looks, and how well she is feeling. If you did not know what took place a year ago, you would not realize the ordeal she went through. However, she does have a perpetual reminder of that event - the scars.
Scars are interesting things. They are tangible reminders of a past event. They could be reminders of a negative event - an accident, a confrontation, an attack, a surgery that was not too pleasant, or some other circumstance one would prefer to leave behind. Scars can also be reminders of positive events. We can be reminded of events that could have been bad but turned out good. This latter description could perhaps apply to a very special circumstance involving scars that has great significance for us.
Christ's post-resurrection body still held the scars from what had been done to him leading to death - the crucifixion. Thomas declared, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." (John 20:25) Could that be possible? Wouldn't those wounds be non-existent once Christ's body was transformed? Well - the answer to that question came soon after Thomas' declaration. Just a week later, when the apostles were together in the same room where Christ had first appeared to them, he came again. To Thomas he said, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." (John 20:27)
I am not going to go too far with this, and engaging in discussion about the current status of Christ's wounds is beyond what we can accomplish in this column. However, his wounds were indeed evident after his resurrection. His scars were there - and they proclaimed eloquently what Christ had accomplished on our behalf. Yes, scars can tell a story. None have ever told a story more wonderful than those found on the person of our marvelous Savior.
Tue Nov 17 08:12:31 2015
There are many examples in nature of things that are beautiful, but can actually be deadly. A puffer fish looks so cute, especially when "inflated", but is the second-most venomous animal on earth. A tiny dart frog looks like it wouldn't harm anything, but the poison on its skin is deadly. Early Native Americans used the poison on their darts to create more effective weapons. Belladonna and Rhododendron are attractive plants, but can be lethal if ingested. Belladonna is particularly devious in that it produces lovely berries that really look good enough to eat.
These deceptive things in our natural world serve as a reminder of something, or rather someone, else that mimics the pattern of having an attractive appearance but is actually quite deadly. Christ commented on the character of Satan when he called him the "Father of lies." (John 8:44) Paul wrote this about Satan, "And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (II Corinthians 11:14)
The statement of Paul about Satan is found in a larger warning about those who proclaim false messages. There are those who proclaim attractive messages but what they are saying is not truly rooted in the reality of scripture. We need to be aware of this and be discerning when it comes to folks who are making claims supposedly based in scripture but are not true.
I John 4:1 offers this advice, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world." This was good advice for John's readers, and still applies today as we still have those who use the scripture for their own means. Remember, even that which is beautiful can be deadly!
Mon Nov 16 08:57:47 2015
I know your have heard the saying "birds of a feather flock together." That is true on so many levels, and is a statement that can be made about us humans. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. It is a trait that is within us and is a natural tendency. However, if this tendency causes us to act in unkind, unloving ways towards others, then we are wrong. Prejudice towards others for any reason simply goes against the grain of the Christian message.
James tells us we should not discriminate against the poor. We read in James 2:1-4: "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"
It is wrong to discriminate against someone else for any reason - wealth, creed, race, age or national origin. Christ came into the world to bring hope to all people. We are to love our neighbor regardless who our neighbor might be. If we don't get this message out of our celebration of Christ's coming, then we have really missed the boat.
Sun Nov 15 07:02:49 2015
Did you every play "Follow the Leader" when you were a kid? What would the world look like if everyone followed your example? What if they used your tone of voice and the words you use? What if their responses echoed your responses? What if they acted in the way that you do? What if they adopted your values and attitudes? Would they look more like Jesus? Would they exhibit the same compassion, care, and willingness to forgive? Would they work through problems and deal with others with patience and a desire to understand?
If we honestly ask these questions, we will want to make some changes. In John 13:15, we find these words of Christ to his disciples, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." So, are we doing for others what Christ has done for us? How well are we following his example? What would the world look like if everyone followed your example? Ask this question often and at various times. You may not like the answer in some circumstances, but the reason for the asking is that you might make an honest evaluation leading to meaningful changes. Live so that others can follow your lead!
Sat Nov 14 07:32:21 2015
As you leave the Indianapolis Airport, there is a final exit that is marked "Return to Terminal." This is one final chance to return to go back to another area, such as the parking garage, or perhaps go and retrieve something you forgot, or do something you need to do before you go on your way. Many airports are designed in this way. It is almost as if you are being told, "you have once last opportunity to do what needs to be done."
God gives us such an opportunity as well. He is patient with us and wants to give us every chance possible to do what needs to be done in order that we might have a relationship with him. The possibility of taking the "Return to Terminal" exit is always there as long as we are living. He wants us to receive his Son, and he gives us plenty of time to make that choice.
Peter writes about the patience of God in II Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Peter wrote this in response to those who were critical of the teaching about God's return and were saying, "Well, where is he?" He has not set the final days in motion yet because he wants to keep that "Return to Terminal" option available as long as possible. Don't push his patience - make sure you accept the free gift that he has for you. He is "not wanting (you) to perish!" Follow him today!
Fri Nov 13 07:54:39 2015
On my return home from taking our evangelist to the airport last night, I stopped to get some coffee. As I was leaving, a young man said to me, "Excuse me, are you from around here and could you help me with some directions?" He told me what he needed, and I actually was able to help him. Even though I was quite a distance from home, I was familiar enough with where he wanted to be that i was able to tell him the correct route.
This happens to us occasionally, doesn't it? Even though we aren't near our home, we are able to help with directions because we know the routes. Some years ago I was filling up our car at a gas station in northern Ohio, and a fellow drove up and asked, "Do you know how to get to Cedar Point from here?" Since I did indeed know how to get to Cedar Point from there, my response was "Yes, I do."
When we encounter situations such as these, we may or may not be able to help. Usually whether we are able to help or not is in these instances is not a crucial event. However, for those of us who are believers, there are some directions we should be able to give at any time to anyone wherever we are, and it is quite critical that we know the right response. We should be able to point others to the correct path that leads to Heaven. Now, we have never been there, but that is not an excuse for not knowing how to show others the way to arrive safely in Heaven.
Thomas was concerned about knowing the way and that is why he said to Christ, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (John 14:5) Jesus had said, "You know the way to the place where I am going." (John 14:4) Christ's reply to the question of Thomas was, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." (John 14:6) Those who follow Christ certainly should be able to point others to Christ as the way to Heaven. It doesn't matter where you are, or what you are doing, the most important thing you should be able to do is tell others the way to the most important destination for anyone - Heaven. Be sure you know how to give others the right directions!
Thu Nov 12 08:30:37 2015
There is a picture circulating on the internet of a big Western Diamondback Rattlesnake that was allegedly killed by a fellow in Arkansas. In one picture, he is holding the snake with a stick with the snake folded over at the middle. Doubled over, the snake appears to be over 8 feet in length. Then there is another picture where he is holding the snake straight with his hand around the snake's "neck". This makes the snake appear to be about 6 feet in length. The article pointed out that there appears to be a little photo shopping going on in the first picture.
With our modern technology, we are able to alter the appearance of anything and anyone. So, what is real? Sometimes we try to "Photoshop" our lives as well. We try to hide things and alter our appearance to make ourselves appear differently than we actually are. That make work for people, but we need to remember that will never work with God. We cannot hide our true self, our true intentions, or our true feelings from God at any time. I am amazed how quickly we seem to forget this and how much folks just don't seem to acknowledge this.
God told Samuel when he sent Samuel on the quest to find the new king of Israel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7) So, exactly how big is that rattlesnake? Do not forget that you cannot fool God.
Wed Nov 11 07:55:02 2015
Today is Veteran's Day. The observation started with the presidential proclamation of Woodrow Wilson in 1919 as a day to observe the signing of the armistice to end the hostilities of World War I, or the Great War as it was then known. Observances are usually scheduled on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, as this was the date and time of the signing of the documents in 1918. Following World War II, the commemoration was expanded to include veterans of World War II, and it was renamed Veteran's Day in 1954. By then, there were even more veterans as the Korean War had recently concluded.
A rather sobering thought is to realize there are now no living veterans from World War I. The last surviving World War I veteran, Florence Green from Great Britain, died in February of 2012. The last surviving veteran from the United States, Frank Buckles, died a year earlier in February of 2011. As we observe this day, we need to be grateful for all who have served. Obviously, a special tribute needs to be paid to those who gave their lives in the service of our country.
World War I was supposed to be a war to end all wars but it wasn't. That will happen at some point in the future when Christ puts down the final rebellion of Satan after the 1,000 years of rule by Christ on the earth, during which time Satan will be locked away.
We read of this in Revelation 20:7-9, "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth--Gog and Magog--and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them." This will be the final conflict that will truly end all wars. We look forward to that time. We need to remember the Veteran whose sacrifice makes possible this final victory - our Savior. As we acknowledge veterans today, take some time to acknowledge the Veteran.
Tue Nov 10 07:50:03 2015
Avi Ruderman was dying of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He desperately needed a bone marrow transplant, but he was a rare type and there were very few matches in the entire world. Avi lives in Israel. Half a world away, in Philadelphia, Molly Allanoff, a medical student, decided to donate bone marrow in honor of her father whose life had been prolonged through another's donation. To make a long story short, she was of the same rare type as Avi and through the bone marrow transplant registry, he ended up with her cells. As a result, Avi is still living, and even recently was able to meet the young lady whose donation saved his life.
Most of us would not bat an eye if we found out that we could make a donation of this type to save someone else's life. Many of us have registered as organ donors so that, in the eventuality of our death, others may benefit from our donation. This is a noble effort and many millions of lives have been saved through this.
Those of us who are followers of Christ need to be willing to make a donation of another sort - we need to give our message to others so that others may live. To save a life is a wonderful thing, but to save a soul is infinitely greater. We should never lose sight of the fact that we are eternal beings and there is more to this life than the here and now. Doing what we can to preserve life here and now is significant, but how much greater is doing what we can to help someone preserve their eternal life?
We often say there are fates worse than death, referring to physical death. Spiritual death is the worst fate of all because it is not death as we think of death. It is eternal separation from the Father. This is so preventable. We need to spread the message that through Christ one need not fear dying spiritually. Paul said, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." (I Corinthians 9:22) We should have the same desire to give in order to save all we can.
Mon Nov 9 08:57:01 2015
Yesterday I got a little surprise when I walked out my front door to go to church. Ice! There was ice on our windshields! That meant starting the vehicles so they could warm up and melt the ice. As a result, I was delayed a little bit. If I had thought ahead and checked the temperatures, I would have suspected the ice and would have been better prepared. I just did not give it a thought. I should have anticipated the possibility, given the time of year that it is.
My experience was not a big issue in this situation, but there are other times in life when expecting the unexpected can be of great help. Life has a way of taking funny turns and twists. Keeping this in mind can be beneficial. We are often surprised by circumstances and taken aback by incidents that crop up unexpectedly, but having an awareness of the unexpected can assist us in gaining a foothold in the wake of surprises. A sudden death, an unforeseen financial setback, an unexpected illness are all scenarios that can sweep into our lives and bring drastic change. I realize there is no way we can be totally prepared for everything that may come our way, and I certainly am not advocating a "Sword of Damocles" mentality, but acknowledging the reality of sudden life-altering events can put us on the road to recovery a little faster.
When I think of people who experienced a sudden, life-changing event, I cannot help but think of Job. He gave us an example to follow in developing a strategy to cope with change. He declared, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth." (Job 19:25) Expecting the unexpected and a constant reliance upon the provision of God will help us face ice on the windshield events. We know they will happen, look to God when they do.
Mon Nov 9 08:02:17 2015
Yesterday I go a little surprise when I walked out my front door to go to church. Ice! There was ice on our windshields! So, that meant starting the vehicles so they could warm up and melt the ice. As a result, I was delayed a little bit. If I had thought ahead a little bit and checked the temperatures, I would have suspected that and been better prepared, I just did not give it a thought. I should have anticipated the possibility, given the time of year that it is.
This was not a big issue in this situation, but there are other times in life when expecting the unexpected can be of great help. Life has a way of taking funny turns and twists. Keeping this in mind can be beneficial. We are often surprised by circumstances and taken aback by incidents that crop up unexpectedly, but having and awareness of this possibility can assist us in gaining a foothold in the wake of surprises. A sudden death, an unforeseen financial setback, an unexpected illness are all scenarios that can sweep into our lives and bring drastic change. I realize there is no way we can totally prepared for everything that may come our way, and I certainly am not advocating a "Sword of Damocles" mentality, but acknowledging the reality of sudden life-altering events can put us on the road to recovery a little faster.
When I think of people who experienced a sudden, life-changing event, I cannot help but think of Job. He gave us an example to follow of developing a strategy to cope with change. He declared, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth." (Job 19:25) Expecting the unexpected and a constant reliance upon the provision of God will help us face ice on the windshield events. We know they will happen, look to God when they do.
Sun Nov 8 08:03:31 2015
My wife and I got our outside Christmas lights put up yesterday. I know it is a little early, but we like to put them up when it is still a little warmer so we won't freeze while we are trying to wrap our bushes with strands of white, red, or green luminaries. We don't turn the lights on yet - it isn't time for that - but when the right time comes, we are ready.
I got thinking about preparing the lights as I was working today. I thought about how God made plans ahead of time to send the Light to the world. According to the scripture, these plans were made long ago. Christ's appearance in the world was not a last minute strategy made in the wake of man's fall. The plans for man' redemption were made long before man's snafu. Ephesian 1:3-4 reveals to us God's foresight and planning, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."
We made some plans and some preparation ahead of time with our decorations, but the lights won't come on until it is the right time. God did just that as well. Plans and preparation were made ahead of time, but the Light didn't come until just the right time. Romans 5:6 says, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." God's plans will always be accomplished at just the right time.
Sat Nov 7 07:29:17 2015
Are you aware that there will be two resurrections? Well, there are a number of aspects to the resurrection, but the resurrection involves both the raising of the righteous who have died in the Lord, and the revival of all creation that now groans because of the effects of the fall.
You see, not only are believers yearning for the time when they will be brought back from the dead and made new, ALL of creation yearns for that time. Romans 8:19 - 21 tells us, "For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God." Isaiah 65:17-18 promises, "See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create."
As we wait for this time, the resurrection, we need to allow this hope and this certainty affect how we live now. We need to live as resurrected people and project that hope and reality though what we do and how we live. We have been made alive, so let's project that life here and now. It is not too early to start enjoying our resurrection - do this for God's glory and to bring others hope!
Fri Nov 6 08:20:56 2015
On April 21, 1986, there was a two-hour long live television show entitled "The Mystery of Al Capone's Vault." Many of you may remember this. It was hosted by none other than Geraldo Rivera, an investigative journalist who was known for adding some dramatic flair to his reporting. I don't remember all the details but somehow he had come across a vault that was known to be in the possession of Al Capone at one time. He thought it would be good TV to have a special show on the opening of the vault and the revelation of its contents. I have no idea how he did this, but something that would take all of a couple of minutes was stretched into a two-hour broadcast.
I remember watching bits and pieces and, of course, the dramatic moment when the door was finally opened to reveal nothing! Well, a little trash, but other than that, nothing. Rivera handled this moment with his usual dramatic flair, but was quoted later as saying "Seems like we struck out."
Unfortunately, there are millions and millions of people on the verge of saying just that. They are living their lives on the hope of something there for them, yet they ignore the greatest offering of hope and abundance - the gift of eternal life through Christ. I hope you are not one of these folks - thinking you are filling up your life with meaningful treasures when all the while you are accumulating nothing. When the door to your life is opened, that will be exactly what is inside unless you make a decision now to put Christ in your life.
Satan longs for you to keep your "vault" empty and makes all sorts of promises about treasures and goodies, but following this line of thinking will lead you to the same conclusion that Geraldo faced the moment he finally swung open the door that was supposed to lead to something really significant. Christ said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-20) "Seems like we struck out" - don't make that your epitaph. Fill your life with the hope of Christ.
Thu Nov 5 08:13:15 2015
Do you know Morgan Smith Goodwin? She is the perky redhead who is the actress in the Wendy's commercials. I remember one of the first commercials she made - I don't know why I remember it. She was conversing with a couple of friends at a garage sale. One of the fellows sat down in a recliner with a Wendy's burger. "Wendy" said to him, "Living large my friend."
I don't know if I would call eating a single with cheese while sitting in a used recliner living large, but it made for an interesting commercial. What is living large? Well, one usually thinks of living large as living a luxurious lifestyle filled with all the goodies one can think of. That is one way to "live large." Except it really won't get you anywhere meaningful.
As followers of Christ, we need to have a clear definition of what "living large" really is. Forgive me for being a bit trite, but let me quote you a familiar statement that I have heard ever since I was a small boy - "Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." We are to live large in another way. II Corinthians 6:11 says, "O you Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged."
We need to live large when it comes to living for others. As followers of Christ, our hearts should be inclined towards others and our desire to help and encourage others should be large. If you really want to live large, live for others.
Wed Nov 4 07:51:49 2015
Does it bother you when you discover folks have not listened to you? I have this experience at times as I have had more than one encounter with an individual who has said to me, "I didn't know that" in response to an inquiry related to something I had announced to the church.
The fact that folks don't listen to me is mildly annoying, and can cause some minor problems. However, if this happens when God is talking, there is a real problem. I have some important things to say at times, but God always says important things. Anything that comes from God is something that needs to be heard and heeded.
John writes about the significance of hearing, "Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." (John 8:47) That pretty much gives us a clear picture of the significance of hearing. When we fail to hear what God says, it is an indicator of a spiritual need - we need to examine our relationship with God. Hearing and doing are what demonstrates genuine belief. Matthew 7:24-29 is a story of the importance of hearing. This familiar tale about a wise man and a foolish man building a house is a statement on the need for good hearing. Do not drive God crazy - make sure you hear what he says and do what you hear.
Tue Nov 3 07:54:23 2015
This past weekend we were with our family in Ohio. My wife went shopping with our oldest daughter and our two and one-half year old granddaughter. She bought a book about the Nativity for our granddaughter. What was neat about this book is that it is interactive (in a rudimentary way). As you read the story of the birth of Jesus, you place pop-up figures in front of a fold-out stable. When we tried to put the little lamb with some of the other animals, our granddaughter protested. She said, "No, put it here!" and then she proceeded to place it right beside the manger with the baby Jesus. "How fitting" I thought, and then I wondered if I have a budding theologian on my hands. And anytime we read the story afterwards, she always wanted the lamb to be right beside the baby Jesus. If we tried to move it, she would put it right back beside Jesus. It was almost as if she was saying, "The lamb needs to be beside The Lamb!"
John said about Christ, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) Jesus is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. This is the center of our celebration that we observe each year. Even my little granddaughter displayed some understanding about that. We need to understand this and accept the message. And when we accept the message, we need to spread the message - "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Yep, putting the lamb beside the Lamb was the right thing to do.
Mon Nov 2 07:06:18 2014
One of the important aspects about developing good relationships is learning about other's idiosyncrasies and differences and working to accept the differences. We need to learn the beauty of not wanting to control how things get done. This is really important in marriage, in any relationship. Sometimes we have a tendency to try to do things for others, to "correct" other's attempts, or to exact our methods and tendencies upon others.
We are all alike in many ways, but we are also different in many ways. We may go about performing the same task by following a different path. We need to learn to not impose our will and our way on others in a non-constructive manner. Remember that others do tasks in different ways. Remember that others have different likes and different preferences. Remember that others have different outlooks and expectations. Taking into consideration these differences is vitally important in developing good relationships.
God is the one who had created and sustains our diversity. Romans 12:6 tells us, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." Remember this as you work to foster your relationships.
Sun Nov 1 08:10:39 2015
The Journal of Mundane Behavior is a scholarly sociology journal devoted to everyday behavior and experiences. The goal of the journal is to focus on the tasks that take up about 60% of our lives: driving to work, taking out the trash, washing dishes, cleaning the house, and so many other activities that we wouldn't mark down as highlights of our daily experiences. However, these are important activities. If they don't get done, we would notice. This is the focus of the journal, and should be a focus in our lives. We often get so caught up in wanting excitement or entertainment we pay little attention to the activities that make up most of our lives. We need to pay attention to these activities.
Paul writes "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." (Colossians 3:23) Look at all of you activities as important and significant. David McCasland cites Oswald Chambers, "when there is no vision, no uplift, but just the common round, the trivial task. The thing that tells in the long run for God and for men is the steady persevering work in the unseen, and the only way to keep the life uncrushed is to live looking to God" Paying attention to matters that seem to not all that important helps us to create the kind of character that is pleasing to God and promotes peace in our lives. No matter how mundane it might seem, do what needs to be done with all your might.
Sat Oct 31 08:10:39 2015
There is a good deal of debate within the church as to whether we should observe Halloween or not. Should we allow our kids to trick or treat? What about costumes? Is it wrong to hold parties to celebrate? These and other issues are debated. I have written before that I believe that Halloween is a holiday that Christians can take over if they wish. Talk about treats, not tricks. Wear appropriate costumes. Celebrate life through times of enjoyment, not focus on the grisly or macabre. We can use this time as a real means to witness. We can also remind ourselves and others that there is an adversary to avoid through following our gracious Father.
Something else we need to observe is that this is the anniversary of a courageous act of a brave man. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his list of 95 theses on the door of the cathedral at Wittenberg, Germany. He did so in protest to the excesses that he saw in the church and the need to change. The sale of indulgences, the call for pilgrimages, and other "holy acts" were what were being held up as necessary for one to obtain heaven. Luther protested these acts and called for reform. This, of course, led to a break in the church.
Luther was convinced of the power of God's grace and the only requirement for salvation was through faith. He appealed to Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." His stand promoted a controversy, and one that is certainly more substantial than the controversy over Halloween. Of course, for people of faith, there should be no controversy. We are saved through the grace of God. This is something we should truly celebrate.
Fri Oct 30 08:23:14 2015
Whenever you add new software, whether you are downloading or installing through the use of an external source, there is an advisement regarding minimum system requirements. This advice is given so that you can make sure you have what is necessary to run the software properly. If your device does not meet the requirements, you are going to have issues.
God has requirements for us who wish to be his followers. I am not referring to salvation; this is a free gift that is ours through faith in his Son. However, in order to please him there are requirements that we need to meet. We find these requirements in Deuteronomy 10:12-13. There we read, "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?"
This is a great outline of what God expects from us, or what we might say are the minimum requirements for us. We are to fear him, which is to understand who is who in our relationship with him. We are to walk in obedience to him. We should love him. We are to serve him with everything we have. Finally, we should observe the commands and decrees that he has given us.
God told his people that they should do these things "for (our) own good." When we apply the minimum requirements, we please him and we benefit ourselves. Doing so keeps us from having issues!
Thu Oct 29 07:44:15 2015
Jealousy can be an ugly thing. Two shopkeepers were engaged in a bitter rivalry. They were constantly trying to one-up each other and to steal each other's customers. Seeing a new customer walk into the business across the street made each of the owners seethe with envy. One night, an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers and said, "I will grant you any wish you desire, but whatever I give to you, your rival will receive twice as much." The man thought for a moment and said, "Strike me blind in one eye."
Can you imagine anyone being that jealous? We may not go to such extremes in our envy, but we often are led to wrong behavior because we are jealous of someone else. Jealousy in the church is not a good thing, and can lead to division.
The church at Corinth was having a problem with jealousy. In I Corinthians 3:4-4, we find Paul's address to the problem, "You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere human beings?"
We need to be content with what we have, and not be so concerned with others' possessions or status. Looking at the position of others with an inordinate wish to have what they have is not a good thing. Rid yourself of jealousy of others, and be grateful for who you are and what God has given you.
Wed Oct 28 07:38:48 2015
Bread is not a necessary item in cultures with abundant food choices. In the past, it was once a prominent item in the diets of most folks in the world. In some places, it still is more prevalent. However, in the states we don't view bread as an integral part of diet, especially if we are one of those folks who need to count carbs for their health. I enjoy bread, but for years I have avoided eating bread in abundance. On the other hand, my wife would eat bread and nothing else. Well, that was the case until she found out that she is a diabetic and therefore needs to monitor her bread intake carefully.
Just after Christ fed the 5,000, some asked him for a sign along the lines of manna from heaven (John 6). Isn't that ironic? Of course, in Jesus' day, bread was part of everyone's diet. It was essential. Christ used the request for a sign as a springboard into the teaching that he was the bread of life sent down from heaven. He said, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35) Even as bread was necessary for physical life, Jesus told them he was necessary for spiritual life.
This is the same today. We may not need bread in our physical diets, but we certainly need Jesus, the Bread of Life. Avoiding bread is not a great problem to us as there are other options. However, there is no alternative to Jesus. He alone is the Bread that supplies what we need to live forever. You can't live without Him!
Tue Oct 27 07:39:25 2015
According to the Mayo Clinic, a good rule of thumb when washing your hands (please pardon the pun) is to wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. I understand that is legal now since a judge declared the "Happy Birthday" song public domain. That is, of course, another story altogether. Back to hand washing. In order to make sure your hands are clean and as free from bad microbes as possible, wash them to "Happy Birthday." And then later on, wash them again because they are dirty once more. That is the reality of life. Hands that are washed will need to be washed again.
In the Old Testament, sacrifices had to be made over and over because of sin. That is why we need Christ so desperately. Hebrews 10:4 tells us, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." Christ died once for all so that sins can be forgiven for good. Verse 10 tells us, "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
Through Christ, we are made clean forever, and we don't even have to sing Happy Birthday.
Mon Oct 26 08:18:03 2015
The African impala is a deer-like animal that has the ability to "leap tall buildings in a single bound." Actually, the impala is able to leap a barrier almost 10 feet tall, and is able to leap a distance of 30 feet. Yet, zoos are able to contain these creatures with fences that are a little over a yard high. How? These fences are taller than the impala, and that means he cannot see where he is jumping. The impala will not jump where it can't see where his feet will land. On the one hand, you certainly can't blame the impala. However, when the impala has that ability, you would think it would take a chance every now and then.
We can be compared to the impala. We have the ability to attempt great things for God, but often don't because we cannot see where we will land. Now, there is a lot to be said about prudence. Yet, we are people of faith and there are times when we need to step out on faith. There are times when we need to act like Abraham. God may not be calling us to leave our home so that we can become the first person of a great nation, but there are other boundaries that need to be leaped that are within the realm of possibility. Is God calling you to a new ministry? Is he calling you to consider taking a new position in your church? Is he calling you to make a special gift?
Abraham "when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8) There are times when we need to move out, even when we don't know exactly where we are going. Following God in faith is part of our life, and sometimes a leap of faith, when we can't see where we are going to land, is the right path. As William Carey said, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God."
Sun Oct 25 07:29:11 2015
I remember reading an article one time that talked about the nature of Singapore - a small, densely populated island, just north of the equator at the southernmost tip of continental Asia. It is so densely populated that the article cited a letter written by a man to his fiancee: "Space is limited. Therefore . . . you must always have that sense of space around you. You should always step aside to ensure you are not blocking anyone. The key is to be considerate."
Having consideration for others is always a good thing. We should have consideration for others in general, and this is certainly a good thing with it comes to our life in the church. As followers of Christ, we should always have thoughts for others. How can we be of help to someone else? Is there someone who is struggling? What can I do to be of service to someone else?
Thom Rainer writes in his excellent book "Autopsy of a Deceased Church" that one of the characteristics of a declining church is a failure to eliminate "me first" thinking. When we think that the church is about us and our preferences, we are heading in the wrong direction. He writes, "When a church moves from (the focus from others to themselves), it is headed for decline then death. . .A church cannot survive long-term where members are focused on their own preferences."
Christ told us the kind of thinking we should have when he said that the second greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) Paul told Timothy to "Remind the people. . .to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone." (Titus 3:1-2) Remember, "The key is to be considerate."
Sat Oct 24 08:50:49 2015
The leaves are just about at their peak this autumn. If you want to enjoy them, you need to spend some time looking now, because the colorful foliage is here FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY. That is the nature of the marvelous show that appears temporarily this time of year. To enjoy, you need to take it all in now.
This is the nature of all of life - we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have now because the opportunities pass us by quickly. This is the nature of all activities, and especially is true with regard to opportunities to obey God's promptings. From time to time we find ourselves in a position to share God's blessings with others or provide a kindness to a person in need or help a brother or sister who is struggling.
We need to do our best to take advantage of these special opportunities to be God's representative on earth. There are times when the urgent tasks before us need to be postponed so that we can seize the opportunity to minister. We need to follow the advice of Paul who wrote, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." (Ephesians 5:15-16) Be wise and make the most of the opportunity that is presented for a limited time only.
Fri Oct 23 07:37:19 2015
It seems like a lifetime ago that I finished my doctorate. While I was working on the degree, I often wondered if I would ever get through and if the task would ever end. It seemed like I would be doing all that work for the rest of my life. However, as I look back on that experience, it was just a brief period and I am amazed at how quickly it went by. I have my doctorate, and will have it for the rest of my life.
Sometimes experiences in life require temporary intense effort, often even struggles, for a short period of time. At the time we are in the experience, we may feel as if it will never end. But it does, and we have the accomplishment to show for our struggle.
Peter writes about these experiences. He wrote, "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (I Peter 1:6-7)
These temporary, intense struggles are meant to bring about a great glory in us so that we can bring glory to God. This is exchanging tough times for good results. We might call this the "school of hard knocks" in keeping with the educational theme that was introduced earlier. We may not have chosen these events, but they are there, and they bring about "praise, glory, and honor" that, in a very real sense, will last for an eternity. This is an example of a short-term investment bringing long-term benefits. Paul wrote, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (I Corinthiians 4:17-18)
Thu Oct 22 07:21:33 2015
Sometime back our dryer quit working. I knew what was wrong - it wouldn't heat and it wouldn't come one when you set the timer. I did not know what to do to fix it. So, I had to call an expert and let him take care of it. Our van is in the shop right now because I noticed some fluid on the driveway where we park the van. I knew that was wrong, but I did not know what to do to make it right, so I took the van to an expert, our mechanic. Sometimes I know I have something wrong with me physically, a pain or some other malady. I know what is wrong, but I don't know how to make it right. Know what I do? Yep - go to my doctor who is an expert at this. At times my computer does wacky things. I know what is wrong and sometimes I know how to make it right. Often I don't but I know someone who is an expert (as a matter of fact, the person who takes care of this website is the expert to whom I would take my computer). I can tell him what is wrong, and since he knows a lot more about computers than I do, he knows how to make it right.
There are many situations where we find this scenario - we know what is wrong, but we don't know how to make it right. This is often the case in our relationships and our personal lives. We know what is wrong, but we don't have a clue how to make it right. So, we would do well to go to someone who can.
We find this situation in our spiritual lives. We know what is wrong, but how can I make it right? Do the same thing as in all the other circumstances described above - go to the Expert. God is the one who can help us with our most pressing problem - our struggle with sin. He is the one who knows how to make things right, and he is the only one who has the ability to make things right. Psalm 46:1 tells us, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." When we know what is wrong, but not how to make it right, go to the Expert!
Wed Oct 21 07:30:16 2015
My little granddaughter got a new backpack this past August. She is two years old and she uses her backpack to take things to daycare at their church. It was a fun thing for her because she was preparing for "school" like the big girls do. Of course, she doesn't carry much in her backpack and that is as it should be. No child should be allowed to carry a dangerously heavy load in their backpacks, although many do. Reports of back pain and spine problems in kids continue to grow as backpacks seem to get heavier. This is not as it should be.
When we try to carry heavy burdens in our lives we run the risk of injuring ourselves. This is not as it should be. When we face heavy loads of concern and worry that bring us down, we need to learn how to turn these things over to the Lord.
Peter wanted his readers to see that trying to bear our burdens on our own is a form of pride and needs to be resolved. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (I Peter 5:6-7) God wants our concerns to be placed on him. Carrying overweight backpacks can produce real problems; carrying heavy burdens can produce real problems as well. Let God help you with that heavy load!
Tue Oct 20 08:09:24 2015
Ron Fourchier is a Dutch virologist who developed a strain of H5N1, or the virus that causes bird flu, that was much more virulent than the original. The original was bad enough, so why develop something worse? Well, the Dutch government thought the same thing and prevented him from releasing his findings to "Science" magazine for publication. Why release a formula that could be used to develop a weapon of mass destruction? His claim was that he was trying to show how viruses mutate naturally; however, in the process he developed something that could wipe out a lot of people in a limited amount of time.
Sometimes too much knowledge is not a good thing. That was what got us in the mess we are in in the first place. Prompted by Satan, Adam and Eve went after more knowledge. The result of this is not good. We need to avoid things that can cause us difficulty if we know about them. We need to pursue good thoughts and manifest good intentions. We cannot avoid all knowledge of evil but we can avoid knowledge of all evil. Watch what you pursue with your thoughts.
Paul wrote, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8) Think on the good and beauty found in God's creation and avoid that which is bad.
Mon Oct 19 07:55:47 2015
David had a problem. For years, Saul pursued him and wanted to kill him. Twice David had the opportunity to end the conflict by taking Saul's life, but he wouldn't do this. He knew he needed to rely on God and his wisdom. At the confrontation just after David spared Saul's life for the second time, David said, "The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea--as one hunts a partridge in the mountains." (I Samuel 26:20)
How did David cope with this prolonged struggle? By continuing to rely on God's presence and his love. He knew there was no other recourse but to continue to place himself in God's hands and trust his promises. He brought his problems to the Lord and registered his complaint with him. He asked, "How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" (Psalm 13:1) However, he proclaimed his faith in God's plan and proclaimed his understanding that God knows best. "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good to me." (Psalm 13:5-6)
Facing protracted difficulties is not easy. When we do, we need to bring our complaints to God and give them to him. God interacts with his children and will help bring us to a place where we come back to certainties: He loves us in spite of what we experience. God will not leave us alone and will help see us though the conflict. David had a problem and sometimes so do we, but there is not problem we have to face alone.
Sun Oct 18 07:01:20 2015
I have always found the story of Eric Liddell very compelling. His story was made famous by the 1981 film "Chariots of Fire." Born of Scottish parents who were missionaries in China, he spent his formative years in Scotland at a boarding school. There he became involved in athletics including rugby, cricket, and, of course, track. He made the 1924 Olympic team for Great Britain. His specialty was the 100 meter sprint. However, the trials for this event were going to be held on Sunday and he balked at participating as this compromised his spiritual beliefs concerning activities on the Lord's Day. A compromise was reached that allowed him to participate in the 400 meter run. He won the gold medal in this event.
Have you ever been in a position where your principles were threatened? What did you do? Living in a world that is anti-Christian, we are often faced with less than desirable choices regarding our beliefs. Taking a stand is difficult, but is what we need to do as we project our witness for Christ.
Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were in a position where their spiritual beliefs were threatened. Having been taken to Babylon, the weight of the Babylonian government was brought against them on a number of occasions, calling them to pursue activities that were not in line with their worship of God. They were presented with food that was not allowed (chapter 1), they were called upon to bow before an image of gold (chapter 3), and Daniel faced a den of lions because he refused to pray to Darius (chapter 6). In each of these situations, they did not compromise their stand for God. As was Eric Liddell, they found themselves in difficult positions, but their desire to please God was greater than their desire to go along with the demands of men. As a result, they experienced the blessing of God.
Daniel 1:8 gives us a picture of their resolve, "Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." At times, you may find yourself in a similar experience. May God grant you the strength to stand for him so your life may bring him glory.
Sat Oct 17 09:24:31 2015
Our local high school football team is doing really well this year. So far, they are undefeated. This is something that makes the community proud. Something more important about which we are proud is the character the athletes display. More important than winning is displaying good character qualities.
I once read about a high school team where the coach had positive character traits put on the back of the players' jerseys instead of their names. Qualities such as integrity, honor, truth were emblazoned for all to see. The coach reminded the players before each game that they were to display these principles not only during the game, but at all times.
As followers of Christ, there are character qualities that we need to display. II Peter 1:5-8 gives us a list of character traits we should consider, "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We should develop these qualities in increasing measure and display them in our lives. Doing so brings honor to God and helps us to maintain a positive witness to others.
Fri Oct 16 07:52:39 2015
I have had a number of people in my life that I would consider a mentor, but as far as ministry is concerned, one who takes a prominent place is Jennings Deeds. Forty-four years ago, I told my church I was called into the ministry. Jennings was the pastor of my church and had already spent a good bit of time with me through a number of projects. He had worked with me to help me to obtain the God and Country Award in Boy Scouts. Jennings took risks with me, including getting me into the pulpit soon after my ministry announcement (like one week). He helped me in many areas and gave me opportunities to either sink or swim when it came to the development of my gifts.
I always hope Jennings knew how much he was appreciated - I took the time to thank him on a number of occasions - but I hope he truly understood how much I felt indebted to him for his time and patience with me. Jennings went to be with the Lord many years ago. The last time I was with him was in a hospital room with him in a coma. As I stood by his bed, I was glad that I had taken the time to tell him how much he meant to me and how grateful I was for his involvement in my life.
Do you have folks in your life who have served as mentors to you in some regard? Do you have folks who have taken risks to allow you to develop your ministry skills and help you grow spiritually? Family members, pastors, teachers, youth leaders, and friends are all examples of folks who perhaps have helped shape your life in Christ. Make sure you take the time to thank them and let them know how you feel about what they have done for you. We need to express to our people what Paul did to the Philippians, "I thank my God every time I remember you." (Philippians 1:3) Don't hesitate to express your thanks.
Thu Oct 15 07:51:21 2015
There was a time when I didn't see the point of texting. I thought, "If you want to communicate with someone, why not just call them and talk with them?" Then, I began to text some. Soon I began to text more, and I found many helpful aspects to texting. You can send messages that can be seen more than just once because they are there "in print." This is helpful if you are sending something such as directions. You can send pictures. You can make sure the message is sent to a single individual. You can send messages at a time when other forms of communication might be disruptive. I have found there are a number of helpful features in texting.
As I reflect on texting, it reminds me of how significant it is that God has "texted" us. Through his text, we are reminded of his power that is at our disposal. We are reminded over and over about his power and provision as we are able to read his text over and over. As we read his instruction again and again, we can see how his power can direct our lives. We are reminded of his presence. We have something we can hold in our hands and see with our eyes that is a description of his desire and design for us and is representative of his person. Though his text we are reminded of his promise. There it is - right before our eyes - something we can revisit whenever we want.
Since God has written to us, we can proclaim, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies." (Psalm 119:97-98) Yes, indeed, there are advantages to texting!
Wed Oct 14 08:11:23 2015
We tend to allow the bad to overshadow the good when we look at others' lives. This is true even when they are 95% good and only 5 % bad. Now, of course, there are times when the bad is simply so bad it can't be ignored; however, usually our tendency is to focus on the bad and allow it to block out the good.
Consider a referee or an umpire that makes one bad call over the course of a game when multiple calls were made correctly. The focus is on the bad call. Of course, a referee's calls don't have much effect on our lives, but this is a tendency that really can create problems when it comes to lives of people who matter to us. When it relates to folks with whom we work, go to church, and certainly our family, we need to focus on the good. Unless the wrong is so egregious it cannot be ignored, avoid allowing the foibles of others to take center stage.
This can have another consequence as well. When we focus on the faults of others, we often say, "Well, what I did is not nearly as bad as what they did." We use this reasoning to justify our bad behavior. Paul told the believers at Philippi to focus on the good things they saw in his life and in the lives of others who had been there when the church was started. He wrote, "Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." (Philippians 3:17)
If we focus on what others are doing wrong, then we miss what we are doing wrong. If we focus on what others are doing wrong, then we become judgmental and negative. If sin is there, then it needs to be addressed. But when the problems are simple mistakes that are of little consequence, don't dwell on them. Look for the good.
Wed Oct 14 08:03:22 2015
We tend to allow the bad to overshadow the good when we look at others' lives. This is true even when they are 95% good and only 5 % bad. Now, of course, there are times when the bad is simply so bad it can't be ignored; however, usually our tendency is to focus on the bad and allow it to block out the good. Consider a referee or an umpire that makes one bad call over the course of a game when multiple calls were made correctly. The focus is on the bad call. This is a tendency that really has no effect on our lives, but we need to avoid this practice when it comes to others' lives.
When it relates to folks with whom we work with, go to church with, and certainly our family, we need to focus on the good. Unless the wrong is so egregious it cannot be ignored, avoid allowing the foibles of others to take center stage. This can have another consequence as well. When we focus on the faults of others, we often say, "Well, what I did is not nearly as bad as what they did." We use this reasoning to justify our bad behavior. Paul told the believers at Philippi to focus on the good things they saw in his life and in the lives of others who had been there when the church was started. He wrote, "Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." (Philippians 3:17)
If we focus on what others are doing wrong, then we miss what we are doing wrong. If we focus on what others are doing wrong, then we become judgmental and negative. If sin is there, then it needs to be addressed. But when the problems are simple mistakes that are of little consequence, don't dwell on them. Look for the good.
Tue Oct 13 08:08:17 2015
Operation Smile is one of the many mission organizations that fund surgeries for children born with cleft palates. This condition makes it difficult for the little one to eat, and obviously affects speech development. It is common in the U.S., but in Third World countries is especially prevalent because of insufficient care during prenatal development. A marvelous smile is important for more reasons than aesthetics. So, this program helps families in developing countries solve one of the problems they face when a child is born with this condition. Having a good smile is a marvelous thing.
Do you have a good smile? Smiling is something we need to practice on a regular basis. There are so many benefits from smiling. Smiling is contagious. When one smiles, others tend to smile along with them. Smiling lowers stress and anxiety. Smiling releases endorphins that promote a sense of well-being and contentment. Smiling strengthens your immune system. There are many other benefits of smiling, not the least of which is that you simply look better when you smile. We do experience circumstances that make it difficult to smile, but working on our mood and our inner self through a variety of means including focusing on the development of a smile can help us face those problems in realistic, positive ways.
Proverbs 15:13 & 30 tells us, "A glad heart makes a happy face. . .A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health." Even though he was speaking sarcastically, Job knew the benefits of smiling when he said, "I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile." (Job 9:27) Do what you can to turn that frown upside down and smile! As the song says, "When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you!"
Mon Oct 12 07:10:15 201
As you well know, today is Columbus Day, well at least the day we have set aside to observe Columbus Day. In recent years, Columbus has become somewhat of a polarizing personality. Many hail him as a great adventurer who opened up routes to the New World from Europe, even one known for his devout faith. Others look at him as a heartless conqueror who abused the natives he took captive. Some have even used the term genocide with regard to his activities. Which one was he? We are a little far removed to be able to reach a definitive solution.
As I think of the "double minded-ness" that is created when considering the legacy of Columbus, it reminds me that we are called upon to not be double-minded in our lives. James warns against this. He wrote, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8) We need to make sure we are not trying to straddle the fence when it comes to our commitment to our Father.
We may waver in our opinion of historical characters such as Columbus, but we cannot waver in our mindset with regard to the Savior. We are either a follower or we are not. There is no middle ground. As Elijah said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." (I Kings 18:21) You know the right path - make sure you follow it!
Sun Oct 11 07:10:15 201
I always feel a bit of sadness whenever I come across a church that has been closed. Now, I realize this is inevitable and that there are a variety of causes behind closings - population shifts, move to another location, internal problems, or a merger with another congregation. I know the closure is not always an indication of a deficiency or a failure, and not always a negative. I realize that the building is not the church. The people make the church, and when I see an old church my thoughts turn to all the people that used that building as a place of worship for so many years. I think of the joy the building experienced during times of revival, baptisms, and other worship celebrations. I think of the sorrow felt there during funerals and other times of sadness.
Then, I am reminded that the church will triumph. This is the promise we read in the New Testament. Jesus said, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18) Bill Gaither, reflecting on this promise, wrote the following song lyrics:It's built on the rock, it's got a firm foundation,
It's been through the flood, it's been through the fire,
But one of these days this church is gonna move up higher,
It's the church triumphant oh Lord,
And it's built by the hand of the Lord.
The existence of empty buildings is not an indication of the doom of the church. The church will prevail because of the existence of Christ. Built by the hand of the Lord, nothing will stop the Church.
Sat Oct 10 07:10:15 201
Sometimes being smart can actually get in the way of seeing important things. Folks outsmart themselves by having views of things based on their intellect rather than accepting them for what they are. One of the greatest intellects of the 20th century was Albert Einstein. However, in spite of his great intellect, he failed to accept the most important reality that exists. A letter written by Einstein that brought three million dollars at a recent auction reflects his views about God and faith and demonstrates his skepticism. Einstein wrote, ""For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions . . .(God is) nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."
Paul writes that being "earthly wise" can be a stumbling block to accepting the truth: "Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become 'fools' so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness'." (I Corinthians 3:18-19)
Einstein would have benefitted from not being so smart in some areas. Having someone paying three million dollars for one of your letters means little if you do not have the intelligence to accept the priceless gift offered by God.
Fri Oct 9 07:17:41 2015
We often watch shows where folks take houses that are in poor condition, renovate them, and either sell them, known as "flipping," or perhaps they are working for families that are looking for a new place to live and want to go with a "fixer-upper." Drama is produced on these shows as inevitably the renovation costs a good deal more than what was anticipated. Nonetheless, when the job is finished the houses look absolutely marvelous and are usually sold for top dollar, or presented to the owners who are flabbergasted by the transformation.
God is able to do this for an individual. He is able to take a life that is broken down and wrecked and do an incredible job of renovation. God can do great things with a "fixer-upper." As Bill Gaither wrote, "Something beautiful, something good. All my confusion, he understood. All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful of my life."
II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!" When God does flips, he never flops!
Thu Oct 8 08:10:27 2015
A song that was popular in the early 70's was "Don't Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corporation. This song featured a very catchy pre-disco dance beat and lyrics that sort of stuck with you because of their being based on the well-known saying "don't rock the boat." Usually when one uses this epithet it means to not do something that is going to cause anger, or change something, or perhaps try to make someone see a different point of view. In most cases, "don't rock the boat" is good advice. However, there are situations where the boat needs to be rocked.
When it comes to our proclamation of the message of Christ, we should not worry about "rocking the boat." I am not advocating abrasive methods of communication when it comes to presenting our belief, but I am saying that we should not be quiet because of the fear of challenging someone. The message of Christ will be met with resistance. This has always been the case. According to church tradition, all but one of the apostles met with a violent end. Most of us will not be faced with such opposition, but we can expect a reaction if we make our faith known. Christ said to expect this.
In Matthew 5:11-12, we read Christ's words, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." We shouldn't go looking for trouble, but we need to understand that trouble may come if we are faithfully proclaiming the message of Christ. This is one circumstance in which we need to "rock the boat."
Wed Oct 7 08:01:58 2015
There is a video on YouTube that if you have not seen, you are in the minority. It has received more than 47 million views. The scene is a bustling mall food court at Christmas time. Suddenly the background music changes to an organ playing the "Hallelujah Chorus." Then, one young lady stands and begins to sing. She is joined by another, then two more, and soon many others join in singing. A local opera company had "planted" many of their singers for this event, but as the song progresses, they are joined by almost the entire crowd singing this great anthem together. You really need to watch this to appreciate it. At the end, almost everyone in the food court is involved, and a great chorus of applause breaks out at the conclusion. What an interesting and special event to have break into an otherwise routine day!
This reminds me of what God does at times in our lives. He breaks in to bring his glory into what we might consider ordinary events. This is what we need to be doing in our world - bringing the glory of God into our normal, ordinary circumstances to reflect his person to others. We need to bring a portrayal of Christlikeness into all situations in our lives. This shows our appreciation to God for this wonderful love and it shows to others the marvel of being a follower of Christ.
Psalm 96:3 tells us that we are to "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." Don't just wait for "special" times to do this - do this in every ordinary event in your lives so that others may see him!
Tue Oct 6 08:11:15 2015
Every now and then I will hear a contractor on an HGTV show say upon the completion of a job, "That will last for an eternity." Often this statement is made when the TV contractor is repairing damage brought on by earlier construction that was inferior and "not up to code." I get a kick out of the attitude of the TV folks, "Hey, we do it right!" which is as it should be. And I also smile at the statement "last for an eternity."
Do they realize how long that is? More than likely we won't be able to prove or disprove their statement, as the construction certainly should last beyond our lifetime. However, if you think about it, we could prove or disprove the statement because, unlike the construction, we will indeed last for an eternity. This is a hard concept to conceptualize, but it does not matter if we can conceptualize it or not; we will indeed last for eternity. We are eternal beings, and the crucial part of this concept is to realize that we have the ability now to choose where we will be for an eternity. David was being more than poetic when he wrote, "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6) He was being a realist - he knew that is what he would be able to do because of the gracious provision of God.
Keith Green wrote, "Nothing lasts forever, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus." Nothing will last forever except us. And David expressed the hope that he would enjoy the construction of God's house throughout all eternity. Christ promised in John 14 a dwelling for us that will last forever. Paul said that when this earthly tent fails "we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." (II Corinthians 5:1) Now this is construction that truly is eternal and the only assurance you have of being able to enjoy this construction is through faith in the Savior. I hope you are prepared to enjoy some construction "that will last for an eternity."
Mon Oct 5 08:10:35 2015
Francis Chan once wrote, "Our greatest fear in life should not be of failure but at succeeding in life at things that don't really matter." We place emphasis on many things that are ultimately inconsequential. One of our greatest emphases in prayer should be to ask for a discerning heart so that we may know what is truly important and be able to let go of things that do not really matter. We so often get this turned around.
Jesus met several people like that when he was on earth, and he told a story about Once he encountered a man who asked him to solve a dispute between his brother and him over an inheritance. Christ said, "'Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?' Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'" (Luke 12:14-15) Christ then told the story of the man who built more barns to contain all that he had to the detriment of tending his own soul. He concluded this story by saying, "This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21) We are often guilty of doing just this and in so doing we are succeeding in life at things that don't really matter.
Success in life does not depend on what we own, our accomplishments, or our status. We achieve true success when we live to please God. Make sure you are correctly defining success.
Sun Oct 4 07:26:30 2015
The following is from an article on the internet I read the other day, "Not long ago, two newlyweds kissed their honeymoon good-bye. They also purposely did not plan a wedding reception to celebrate their union. Instead, they used the money they would have spent on themselves to selflessly help people in each of the 50 states in the US. In Arkansas, they gave gifts to sick children. In Utah, they aided victims of domestic abuse. In New Jersey, they donated clothing to a homeless shelter--and so on."
Most of us would not consider being this selfless. Most of us struggle with what we should be giving to God, let alone do without something ourselves in order to have more to give to him or to help others. Usually what we give is what we have that is left over and what we can do without that will not hinder our lifestyle if we give it away. We really need to do some re-thinking is this area and determine how we can become more sacrificial givers. Selflessness involves giving up some our creature comforts so that we can make better the lives of others. This can be applied through directly, or through our giving to our church.
We need to develop a greater understanding of the concept of giving and how it relates to our fellowship with God and our lives in terms of the lives of others. God warned the Jews about the offerings they were bringing to him, "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house." (Malachi 3:8-10) Develop at attitude of selflessness when it comes to your giving to God and your help of others. This more accurately reflects the character of God we should try to exhibit.
Sat Oct 3 09:13:19 2015
I find it amazing that the most essential being in the universe is One who we try to leave out of most areas of our lives. Discussions about faith and about the existence of God are forbidden topics in most constructs that affect our daily lives. God is not allowed in our schools, God is not allowed in our political conversations, God is not allowed on our campuses, God is not allowed in our businesses or places of work. "We can't talk about God because it causes too many problems" is what one person said to me years ago at a place where I was working.
The funny part is that if we allowed God to be more a part of these facets, and if we were to follow him in the way we should, most problems experienced in these areas would be eliminated. Of course, that is not too happen as the world has a bent against God that will continue until the time he steps into our world again and sets things straight. And do not make the mistake of thinking that this is not going to happen. It most certainly will. For those who chose to go against him, this will not be good. With apologies to Captain America, "All those who chose to oppose his will must yield."
Philippians 2:10-11 puts it this way, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." I hope you do not leave the Lord out of your life now. If you do, he will leave you out of his life forever.
Fri Oct 2 07:43:37 2015
Populus tremuloides is the most widely distributed tree in North America. You can find this tree from Canada to central Mexico. Commonly known as the Quaking Aspen, this tree is defined by the characteristic "quaking" of the leaves. The leaves of the tree are disturbed by even the slightest of breezes so that even when other trees give no indication of wind, the aspen will look to be bothered as indicated by the fluttering leaves.
There are other "quaking aspens" that are widely distributed. These are the folks that are bothered by the slightest of disturbances. Theirs is a life of turbulence because even the most inconsequential concerns create a great response. Where others are able to go with the flow and adapt to changing circumstances, "quaking aspens" find it hard to cope.
Are you in this boat? Do you feel like your life is full of turbulence while those around you appear to be grounded and secure? The scriptures remind us that genuine steadying calm can be found in the presence of God. When we focus on his resources, we can experience peace because of the confidence he gives us.
Paul wrote, "Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all." (II Thessalonians 3:16) This is what the Lord will do for those who trust in him. The promise to those who follow God is this, "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever." (Psalm 125:1) Even though we may feel like the Quaking Aspen, we are as solid as Mount Zion if we fix our eyes on our immoveable God.
Thu Oct 1 08:01:58 2015
Last night proved to be a slightly embarrassing event for me. I make tea and lemonade each Wednesday for our fellowship dinners at church. Folks started arriving and being served and were sitting down to eat. Soon, one said, "Steve, this unsweetened tea is sweetened, and the sweetened tea is REALLY sweet." I thought, "That can't be - I made this tea as I always do." I tried the tea, and it was sweetened. How in the world did this happen? Many suggested, "Well, you just got the containers mixed up." I knew I hadn't done that as I "check twice and pour once," but what else could it be? It still did not explain how all the tea was sweetened.
The dinner continued and we warned folks about the mix up. I was ready to chalk up the event as another incident brought on by my increasing forgetfulness, then someone checked the tea bags. "Hey, did you know these tea bags are pre-sweetened?" No, I certainly didn't, or I would not have used them for the unsweetened tea. This little revelation certainly solved the mystery and helped me to feel a bit better about my forgetfulness; however, it did not absolve the fact that I hadn't checked the label on the new tea bags before I used them.
Checking labels is a good thing. Because of our health issues, my wife and I have gotten better about this, except for this tea incident. This is also a good thing to remember when it comes to other things we are putting on our inside. What are we reading? What are we viewing? To what do we listen? How is our conversation? What kind of stories are we sharing? Are we talking in a way that we shouldn't - listening and sharing some things we might call "off-color." Do we like to listen to and share those things that amount to nothing more than gossip?
Proverbs 23:7 tells us, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. 'Eat and drink!' he says to you'" What are we putting on our inside? I know you have heard the old saying, "It's what's on the inside that counts." This is true - and we need to be careful about what we are putting in our inside.
Wed Sep 30 07:01:48 2015
One of my favorite hymns is "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." The hymn was written by Thomas Chisholm and William Runyan in 1923. The first verse and chorus follow: "Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided-Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!"
Do you know where the scripture is found that was the inspiration for this hymn? That would be Lamentations 3:22-23, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." In the midst of a book that addresses the great unfaithfulness of the people and the resultant judgment, Jeremiah declares the faithfulness of the Lord. The general tone of Lamentations gives Jeremiah the nickname, "The Weeping Prophet" because of the tears shed for the condition of Judah and God's impending actions towards his wayward children. In the midst of this, Jeremiah reflects on the faithfulness of God. He makes this comment to contrast God's character with the character of the people, but he also makes this comment as a means of encouragement in the wake of discipline. God would indeed judge, but the people could know that God's judgment would be fair and restorative, not destructive. Yes, they would suffer great loss because of their sin. Sin always brings that consequence, but they could rely upon God's person and know he would bring them back.
In the times of our darkest despair, we can always rely upon the light of God's presence. He is always there in those times bringing about his will whether the circumstances are punitive or whether they are formative. Whatever you may be facing, concentrate on what God will do and know that he will intervene because "great is (His) faithfulness."
Tue Sep 29 07:40:15 2015
Are you in love with God, or just the things God provides? Most of us, if we were asked, would respond that we are in love with God. I think it would do us well to closely examine our hearts and make sure we are in truth loving God and not just going along for the ride and what we can obtain. He has promised blessings to those who follow him and most of us desire those blessings. It isn't wrong to want to be blessed by God, but we should not want those above God himself. We should want God simply because we want God.
Don't have the same problem as the rich young ruler who, when faced with the prospective of not having "stuff" decided it wasn't worth it to follow God. "Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Matthew 11:21-22) Examine yourself and ask the hard questions.
God does want good things for us, but that should not be what we want from God. Don't be a "gold digger of the divine." Follow God just because, not because of what you might get.
Mon Sep 28 07:41:37 2015
One of the things I have done at this time of year for just about as long as I remember is check the college football rankings when they came out on Sunday. I used to have to wait until Monday and check them in newspapers; now I can check them on the internet. There are a number of polls now, but the two with the most history are the AP poll that started in 1934 and is based on the votes of sportswriters and the Coaches poll based on the votes of 62 Division 1 coaches since the 1950-51 season. The polls are subjective, of course, and are based on the performance of the teams. The subjectivity means these two polls rarely match totally.
Aren't you glad that our standing with God is not determined by some poll that is based on a subjective measure of your performance? Our relationship is based on God's loving provision of a Savior for us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Our relationship is based on our decision to accept this provision. Opinions are not considered, and God does not rate our performance to see where we rank on his scale.
Poll ratings are good to determine the position of a college football team, but have nothing to do with our position with the Lord. Christ told Nicodemus the criterion that determines our relationship with God, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." (John 3:3) Polls do not determine this. You determine this through your faith in Christ.
Sun Sep 27 07:27:09 2015
Recently a 26-year-old Chicago waitress received a rather generous tip. She had struck up a conversation with a visiting businessman. She told him she was single mother of two young children and had recently moved to Chicago in hope of better opportunities. At the end of the meal, he waived a stack of credit cards at her and told her to "pick a card." When she did, he told her to write herself a tip for $11,000 on his $60 bill. The patron was a CEO of a company on the east coast and was known for his philanthropic efforts.
Being generous is a good thing. You may not be in a position of being quite as generous as this executive, but if God has blessed you, why not pass along your blessings by expressing generosity when you see a need? We should be generous in our giving to God. Paul commended the Corinthians for their generosity, "you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so." (II Corinthians 8:10) They had given to the Jerusalem church that was experiencing severe financial struggles.
We are to give with gladness in our hearts. Paul tells us that "God loves a cheerful giver." (II Corinthians 9:7) When you see a need, do what you can to meet the need. As God has given you the ability, share with others and give to God as you should.
Sat Sep 26 09:34:35 2015
In a book about business strategies, the author makes this statement, "Solving tough organizational problems may require counter-intuitive strategies." Well, yeah, that sounds just like what we need. Except, uh, what in the world is "counter-intuitive?" The word refers to things which go against the usual thinking, ideas which may even defy common sense. This is sometimes what is required. This even has a spiritual application. Paul states this fact in I Corinthians 1:18 - 25, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'. . .God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. . .we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength."
The Gospel does not make sense to a lot of people. It defies logic and goes against "conventional wisdom." But, as seen above, we even have examples from the business world where this is often necessary. It certainly was when it came to offering a solution to man's sin. This required a "counter-intuitive strategy." We need to be thankful we have a God who knows that logic needed to be defied. This led to the strategy of the cross, which leads to our deliverance, if we accept God's thinking. I think that would be a very wise thing to do.
Fri Sep 25 07:55:52 2015
Harry Truman famously had a plaque on his desk that read "The buck stops here." Truman was one who did not deflect blame and he was not afraid to take responsibility for his actions. Human tendency is that, when challenged, we try to deflect blame for actions that lead to less than desirable circumstances. This can be traced all the way back to Adam who told God, "The woman you put here with me-she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." (Genesis 3:12)
When we are at fault for adverse situations, we need to own up to our mistakes and not try to place blame where blame shouldn't be placed. Gideon could have responded differently to the people of Ephraim when they complained about not being called to join in the battle against the Midianites (read Judges 7 and 8). Gideon didn't call them to fight because God had told him he had enough men for the battle. God has broad shoulders and could indeed have taken care of the criticism of Ephraim if Gideon had deflected the criticism to God. Instead, Gideon deflected the criticism through tactfully praising the people of Ephraim for their victory over some of the Midianite leaders after the initial conquest. The result is found in Judges 8:3, "At this, their resentment against him subsided." Gideon wasn't willing to throw God under the bus. Gideon's response even when he was not at fault gives us an example to follow when we are the ones at fault.
Don't try to pass on the responsibility for bad decisions - answer truthfully and tactfully and be willing to face the challenge. Pride is usually the biggest reason why we try to absolve ourselves. Show the Christ-like quality of humility and respond in truth.
Thu Sep 24 07:34:32 2015
Reading the book of Judges is like reading a "Who's Who of God's superheroes". There is Samson the strong man, Deborah the prophetess, and Gideon the amazing leader who took care of an entire army with 300 soldiers. Then, you meet Othniel. Not many details are given about Othniel's exploits. The story is told in just a few verses in Judges 3, "The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died."
One commentator wrote about Othniel, "There is nothing but the bare essentials in his account. Hardly anything about Othniel. What you do have is what the Lord has done and what the Lord is doing. The Othniel account helps us to see what is most important--the activity of God. Interesting folk can sometimes obscure that. We end up concentrating on these fascinating characters and we fail to see what the Lord is doing." It is more important for people to see what God is doing through us than for them to see us. As John the Baptist said, "I must decrease to that he may increase." Let folks see God in you rather than just seeing you.
Wed Sep 23 07:46:56 2015
Today is the first day of autumn. This is the autumnal equinox, when the length of the day and the length of the night are relatively equal. Some changes begin to occur - days are shorter than nights, temperatures start to become cooler, and, of course, the leaves are changing. Have you ever wondered why this happens? Well, to make a long story short and to simplify the process, the leaves don't actually "change" color; they more or less lose color. The leaves are green because of the presence of chlorophyll. A number of factors that occur in the fall cause the chlorophyll to go away, exposing the pigments that are already there (yellow, red, and brown or a mixture thereof). So, the leaf's "true colors" shine through, and that is not bad in the case of leaves. The result is the cacophony of colors we get to see and enjoy in the autumn.
What are your true colors like? If your outer layer were stripped away, what would be revealed under the surface? Hopefully, what would be revealed is an inner person that is true to God, reflecting his character and ideals. What should be revealed is a brilliant display of color that mirrors God's design and desire for your life.
We should not be afraid to reveal our true colors, and if we are, that means some changes need to take place. We should be able to offer a display of colors that reflect God's creative wisdom as brilliantly as the leaves do in their autumn glory. As Cyndi Lauper sang three decades ago, "So don't be afraid to let them show; Your true colors; True colors are beautiful; Like a rainbow."
II Peter 1:5 - 7 tells us what should be seen in our lives, "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love." These true colors are really worth displaying.
Tue Sep 22 08:01:31 2015
"Congratulations! You've won a million dollars!" Have you ever received an email, or a letter, or a phone call giving you this information, or some similar news about some sort of prize? There are genuine organizations that do give out prizes of this nature, but the majority of these notifications are not as they appear. Some have strings attached that need to be investigated, but are actually genuine. Others may actually be fraudulent efforts intending to obtain information that would allow them to steal funds from respondents. Obviously, the smart thing to do is verify the offer or the notice to determine authenticity.
We need to have the same attitude about Biblical truth. There are a lot of funny ideas floating around out there, a lot of "special offers," and a lot of misguided individuals who mislead others through their mistaken interpretations. Followers of Christ need to be knowledgeable and discerning. We need to be like the Bereans about whom Luke wrote, "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11)
We need to receive the message of God eagerly, but we need to look at the Scripture to make sure what we are hearing, reading, or downloading is the right stuff. We need to verify information that comes our way. Remember - knowing what is true is the first step in knowing what is false.
Mon Sep 21 08:36:44 2015
Why is it that we just can't seem to resist the lure of the message when it pops up on our phone? When we hear the phone ring, we feel as if we have to answer it. When our text signal goes off, we need to read to find out who is trying contact us. This lure causes some problems. We need to ignore the lure when we are driving, but often don't, and this can lead to bad consequences. Theaters, churches, and other venues have messages asking folks to turn their cell phones off. We are so anxious to get those messages that are most often pretty inconsequential.
So why is it that we are not as anxious to get God's messages? God has information for us that is vital and yet we are casual with retrieving his messages. We are all too willing to "put him on mute" or even turn him off altogether when we feel his message may be interfering with things we want to do or places we want to go. Or maybe his message may be asking us to go somewhere we don't want to go or do something we don't want to do. "Sorry, God, my cell was turned off, so I didn't get that." Don't do this. Those cell messages you are so anxious to retrieve are the ones that can wait. Your connectedness can come down a notch and you won't suffer for it. However, if you are not taking care of your connectedness with God, that can be a problem.
We need the attitude of Samuel when it comes to the messages from God, "Speak, Lord, for you servant is listening" (I Samuel 3:9) Make sure you are keeping the lines open.
Sun Sep 20 07:15:50 2015
Campaigning for the 2016 presidential election is in full swing. Another debate was held recently and the polls that followed revealed the opinions of people regarding the candidates. Opinion polls are interesting and telling. Of course, the candidates are concerned about the polls that reflect the opinion of the public regarding their position.
Opinions of others about us are something with which we should be somewhat concerned. We don't want to do things or live in such a way as to invite negative opinions of us. But the opinions of others should not be our primary concern. As followers of Christ, we should be more concerned with the opinion of God about our lives.
Paul wrote, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." (I Corinthians 4:2-4) The judgment of God on his life meant more to him than the judgment of others. Paul wanted to please God. He did not want to intentionally offend others, or put them off, but he was more concerned with how God viewed his performance than he was the thoughts of others.
We need to live to please God. We should live to score high in God's opinion poll rather than being driven by the tide of public opinion. God is the one we need to please.
Sat Sep 19 08:39:26 2015
I recently read an article written by a person who was planning a walking trip of the Highlands in Scotland. Oh, that would be a marvelous experience. When we were in Scotland visiting our daughter, we took off on our own rather than taking a planned tour and found the adventure exhilarating. We were able to stop when we wanted and visit some places we would not have seen otherwise. And besides, I got to drive on the wrong side of the road in a car that had the steering wheel on the wrong side as well! I know I terrified the rest of my family, but what a journey! Taking the "paths less traveled," we created many beautiful memories.
When God led the Israelites out of Israel he did not lead them along the most direct path they could have gone. Exodus 13:18 tells us, "God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle." Why did he lead them around the Red Sea rather than on a more direct route? The answer to this is found in earlier verses. If they had gone the most direct route, they would have encountered the Philistines. Not good. The Philistines would not have let them traverse their land peacefully. In addition, they may have missed the experience at the Red Sea of watching God part the waters. Who would want to miss that? So, God led them away from potential conflict and towards the path of great deliverance.
When we follow God, we often find ourselves going along a path that is one we may not have chosen on our own. God leads us along pathways that are of the greatest benefit to us. At times the path may prove more challenging, but at times the path is the least problematic, even though it is not the most direct. All in all, we should remember that there is always a good reason why God leads us in the way that he does. Choosing not to follow his path can lead us into dire straits, and could cause us to miss great experiences. God's path is always one of great purpose.
Fri Sep 18 08:11:04 2015
I have always been a big fan of astronomy; but I have not spent enough time practicing astronomy to learn all the constellations and where they are. I did take a college course in astronomy, but even after that, I didn't keep up well with what I learned.. I can find the North Star, the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Orion, but I certainly don't brag about my efforts. I find it fascinating that some of the constellations are mentioned in the scripture, "He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south." (Job 9:9)
Gazing at the night sky is an awe-inspiring thing to do. All those points of light are far-away stars that are actually huge, even though they appear small. Yet even as small as they appear, they are brilliant against the inky blackness of the night sky. These night stars serve to illuminate, to inform, and to inspire. They provide illumination in the darkness of the night. They inform as travelers have used them for centuries as guides. They inspire as looking at them brings about a sense of wonder and awe.
These characteristics should also be found in the life of the follower of Christ. We are to be like stars. Paul writes, "Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life." (Philippians 2:15) We are to illuminate by providing light to a darkened world as we reflect the glory of Christ. We are to inform as we serve as guides to those who are lost. We are to inspire as we serve Christ.
Our lives should be examples of how one should live to please the Lord. How bright is your star shining? Do your best to make sure your light is robust and strong.
Thu Sep 17 08:14:25 2015
Corrie ten Boom lost a great deal. She lost her family, her possessions, and many years of her life to people who were motivated by hatred. When the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, she and her family were taken captive as they had been helping Jews escape the terror being spread by Hitler's followers. She was eventually placed in a concentration camp and subjected to inhumane treatment. Her sister, Betsie, and her father died during the detention. Although she lost what many would consider all she had, she later wrote, "I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I placed in God's hands, that, I still possess."
We need to pray for the same attitude towards that which we have and realize we should put all we have in God's hands. We may suffer loss of a number of things during our lives, but God knows what we really need and will not let these essentials escape our possession. Christ had an encounter with a person who had a problem with entrusting what he had to God. Christ told him, "'One thing you lack, Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Mark 10:21-22)
Don't confuse what you have with what your really need. Entrust what you have to God and allow him to do with what you have that which needs to be done. He will ensure you get to keep that which is truly valuable.
Wed Sep 16 08:12:05 2015
The question is not why we should obey God, but why should we disobey? If we really believe that God is who he says he is, then what would be the point of disobedience? True belief makes it illogical to disobey.
People such as Noah and Abraham recognized this, and trusted God even in the face of incredible odds and seemingly unbelievable circumstances. Noah began to build a large boat - a boat so big that it would not fit in any nearby body of water. Why should he build it? Abraham was called to leave his home and go where? What in the world was so good about the land to the west? What was wrong with where I am living? And what is this about my wife having a child as old as she is? These seemed to be illogical circumstances, but for both Noah and Abraham, following God was the only path that made sense to them.
The only logical course of action was to obey God completely even if obeying him looked as if an illogical course of action was being pursued. This is why we read about these men, "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith." (Hebrews 11:7-8) Both of these fellows may have had their "hiccups," but they never stopped trusting God. At times following God looks as if you are defying logic, but in reality the only logical path to follow is God's.
Tue Sep 15 08:14:13 2015
You perhaps have heard the statement, "Don't force it, just use a bigger hammer." No irony in that statement, is there? When you have a job to do, using the right tool is helpful. You don't need a screwdriver to loosen a nut. Using a hammer to drive a screw is usually not the best course of action. Sometimes using the wrong tool can prove a little dangerous. I found that out when I was using a sharp knife to try to separate frozen meat patties. Running the knife through my hand showed me that I was using the wrong tool.
God uses the "right tools" to accomplish his purposes. Consider the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. He becomes the prominent evangelist in the early church because God used him and his abilities. God said, "This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel." (Acts 9:15) Paul was a Jew and trained as a "Pharisee of the Pharisees", but was also very well acquainted with Gentile customs and philosophies. He was fluent in a number of languages. He was both a Jew and a Roman citizen. He was indeed the right person for the ministry.
God has called you for ministry if you are one of his people. Too many times we question our role because we sell short our abilities and our position. Remember that God is the one who has put you where you are. He is the master craftsman who never uses the wrong tool. Don't hinder his effort by making excuses. Paul tells us, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) God always uses the right tool - make sure you are willing to be used.
Mon Sep 14 08:11:52 2015
I remember reading an article about a group of believers in Sri Lanka. The article stated, "For several years, believers from five villages would hop from house to house for Sunday worship. Without a church building of their own, they were forced to meet in different homes to praise Jesus and study the Word. But it all came to an abrupt halt in June." The article went on to say that the halt came to the "home churches" because the people were able to build a church because of donations sent to them by folks from other parts of the world.
We enjoy hearing about the progress of believers in this regard, yet we shouldn't overlook some of the positive aspects of "home churches." This was the nature of the church during the time after Pentecost. Acts 5:42 says, "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah."
As we worship in our churches today, we shouldn't lose the spirit and the dynamic that comes from worship in intimate surroundings and the closeness that is fostered through small groups. This is one reason why we have small groups at our church. The early church worshiped in homes because they had little opportunity to do otherwise, as did the Sri Lankan believers. We return to this dynamic by choice, not of necessity, but realizing the importance of worship and the importance of developing close relationships with those with whom we worship.
I hope you took advantage of our small groups last night. And if you are part of another fellowship, I hope that your church has small groups in place. I know if you do you will find a marvelous experience of worship that will help you bring glory to God, and bring strength to your soul.
Sun Sep 13 07:24:22 2015
Yesterday I wrote about things in your life that are hindering your focus on Christ. This is not a new problem. To show this, I invite you to ready Haggai 1:1 - 10. Please take the time to read this before you continue with this devotional. Do you get the picture? This event took place somewhere around 520 B.C. We know that because Haggai gives us the date "in the second year of King Darius." We are even given the day and the month. The point of Haggai's message was that the people had started a work for God, then laid it aside, and had not resumed the work because they let other things get in the way. This is why God said, "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" Twenty-five hundred years ago people were struggling with their priorities.
When I was in my teens, this passage really bothered me. My folks had built a new house, and all the walls, except for the living room and the dining room, were paneled. Did this mean we were in trouble? Not as long as we were not letting that new house, or anything else in our lives, come before our allegiance to God.
Examine your lives - what work are you leaving unfinished for God because you have taken your efforts elsewhere? If you read the passage, you know this has consequences. This has consequences not only for us, but for our church as how we live affects others. Don't live in paneled houses while God's work goes unfinished. This sort of disrespect will lead to dire consequences.
Sat Sep 12 08:36:50 2015
A picture found in the most recent article of "Sports Illustrated" is of the Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, winning the 100 meter dash at the recent world championships in Beijing. There are four other runners in the photo, all from the United States. The caption under the photo read, "This picture is stunning not only because it showed Bolt's amazing feat but also because it captured the mistake made in the final moments by the four Team USA athletes surrounding him. Each seems to be glancing over at Bolt instead of keeping his sight straight ahead to the finish." This little distraction is what kept them from being victorious, especially Justin Gatlin who lost by .001 second.
Distractions in our lives can have adverse consequences. Consider cell phone usage while driving - we know the danger in that, don't we? Things in our lives that distract us from focusing on our worship and service of God will cause problems. What is in your life that is distracting you from your service to God? Are you willing to give it up? It may not be a sinful activity, it may be something that is totally harmless from this perspective, but if it is keeping us from devoting our lives completely to God, it can be harmful.
Jesus said, "In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." That is a strong statement. Whatever is keeping us from total devotion to our Father needs to go, even if it is something we enjoy. Can you name what distracts you from God? Identify it, and ask God for his help in changing the desires of your heart so that your full focus is on Him.
Fri Sep 11 07:50:07 2015
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt declared, that December 7, 1941 was a "date that will live in infamy." I have often wondered what he would have said about September 11, 2001. On September 13, 2001, President George Bush said, "In the face of all this evil, we remain strong and united, 'One Nation Under God.'" Those of us who were alive on that date will remember for the rest of their lives what took place that day.
I will never forget watching the smoke billowing from the North Tower of the World Trade Center on the grainy picture of a small black and white TV when another jet plunged into the South Tower. We will never forget that day. We hoped that an act like this would never be repeated, but since that time, many other acts of terrorism, perhaps not as large in scale but nonetheless diabolical and violent with the claiming of many lives. ISIS continues to take lives and wreak havoc in the Middle East.
In the midst of such turmoil and evil, we are reminded that God is still in control and will someday bring justice to our world. Abraham declared, "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25) Indeed he will. Remember the importance of maintaining faith in God through the "dates that will live in infamy" we experience.
Thu Sep 10 08:24:50 2015
Recently I read about a hiker who got in trouble with park rangers for a celebration that took place on Mount Katahdin in Maine after he had completed the Appalachian Trail. He had just set the speed record for the trek. Most of you perhaps are familiar with the Appalachian Trail. The trail winds through 14 states from Georgia to Maine and is 2,189 miles. This particular hiker had completed the journey in 46 days. The rangers didn't take too kindly to the celebration, although admitting it was a subdued event. It is just that any sort of activity of this nature is pretty much forbidden along the trail. The hiker was fined a small amount and no criminal record would be recorded.
I wonder if angels in heaven would warrant a fine when they celebrate after the conversion of a soul? Jesus tells us, "I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10) He made this statement just after his story about a lady who had found a lost coin and just before the story about the prodigal son. These stories were told as a response to the criticism that Christ was welcoming sinners and spending too much time with them. These folks totally missed the point of Christ's ministry - this is exactly what he came to do. He came to provide a way for sinners to come to the Father. Later he said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)
When one whom Christ is seeking receives the gift Christ provides, this brings about a celebration over the person who repents and is now given a place in heaven. And, of course, this celebration is free from harassment. Have you caused angels to celebrate? If not, why not give them cause for a celebration right now.
Wed Sep 9 07:40:06 2015
Have you ever felt alone? Have you ever been in a situation where you were truly alone? In the movie "Gravity" Dr. Ryan Stone finds herself alone in space after the shuttle on which she is traveling is destroyed. Her partner on the mission, Matt Kowalski, is plummeted into space when the ship breaks up. Because of the effects and cinematography of the film, you are made to feel the "aloneness" of Dr. Stone - the inky blackness, the silence, the absence of oxygen, the sense of hopelessness. Since she is the only person left in the film after the loss of her partner, you pretty much know she is going to survive somehow, or there wouldn't be a movie. Still, the film succeeds at making you feel her fear and her isolation.
David was a person who experienced isolation. He spent nights alone with his father's sheep as he was growing up. He felt the loneliness of remote caves during the time when he was fleeing Saul. He experienced abandonment by colleagues, yet he knew he was never truly alone. He wrote, "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139:7-10)
David knew he was never truly alone. Neither are you. No matter how lonely it may seem, or how abandoned you feel, God will never desert you. He will always be there and promises, "never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) When you understand and accept God's promise, the darkness of loneliness can be replaced by the light of God's presence.
Tue Sep 8 07:53:38 2015
Many years ago some of my family were visiting us. One evening, a number of the folks gathered around the TV to watch "Gone with the Wind." I was not one of them as I am a not a big fan. I found out that my brothers aren't either as they were sitting in another room reading. I asked one of them, "Aren't you going to watch 'Gone with the Wind?'" "Steve," he replied, "Does anything good happen in that movie?" Enough said.
Although my brothers and I aren't big fans, many folks are. The book has sold more than 30 million copies. And who knows how much money the movie has made. I read recently that Margaret Mitchell was turned down 38 times before she found a publisher for her book. I would imagine there are 38 publishing houses singing the blues because of their decision. Mitchell did not let rejection stop her from pursuing her goal, and she experienced the rewards for her diligence.
This brings to mind a character in the Bible who showed similar determination. I want to include the entire story: "And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' And Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.' And they called the blind man, saying to him, 'Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.' And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And the blind man said to him, 'Rabbi, let me recover my sight.' And Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your faith has made you well.' And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way." (Mark 10:46-52)
We often experience words of rebuke in our lives. Sometimes the rebuke is needed because there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Sometimes the rebuke is unwarranted and comes from a mean spirit. We need to pray for discernment and when the words are unnecessary, continue to pursue the path we are on with a determination to pursue God's desire. Don't let unwarranted criticism and rejection get you down - persevere in the acceptance of Christ.
Sun Sep 6 07:13:50 2015
Do you believe that God is all-knowing? "Well, of course I do!", you might reply. If this is the case, then why don't you do what he asks you to do? If you believe he knows everything, why do you not answer his call to work for him? Why do you do things you shouldn't do right in front of his face? When we do this, it shows that we really don't think God is all-knowing, that he really can't see what we are doing. When we don't answer his call to do something he wants us to do, it reflects a lack of trust in him. Our disobedience says, "I really don't think you can take care of me and I don't think you will help me do what you have asked me to do." Is this really what we want to say to God?
Our disobedience, whether it is doing something we shouldn't do or not doing something we should do, reveals a lack of trust and a lack of belief that God is who he is and will do what he says. Paul proclaims, "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." Show that you believe in the faithfulness of God. Show that you believe that he is indeed all-knowing. Answer his call and be obedient. Live before him a life that shows you trust his care.
Sat Sep 5 08:56:44 2015
How do you live when you think no one is looking? What do you do when you think that no one is going to see you? If this is the case, why not do as you please? Who will know if you don't report that extra income you received? Who is going to see you visit that website you shouldn't be on? Who is going to see you going into that place where you shouldn't be?
I could go on and on with hypothetical scenarios, but all of us have times when we need to choose to do right or wrong. We may be in a position where choosing to do wrong seems more palatable because no one will know. If you find yourself in such a position, think Daniel.
Daniel and his three young friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, had been taken captive and transported hundreds of miles from their home country. There, in the courts of the Babylonian leader Nebuchadnezzar, they were given sumptuous food to eat and wonderful beverages to drink. The problem was the food given to them was not kosher. So, what to do? Who would know if they ate the food? They were far away from family, friends, and religious leaders. Besides, they didn't ask to be in this position. They didn't want to leave their families and be uprooted to another culture. Why not enjoy the amenities and provisions of their new home?
Well, they didn't want to. They had a higher allegiance - an allegiance to God and his teachings. So, when offered things that were not allowable for them, they took this stand: "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." (Daniel 1:8) Goodness, what courage! May we have the same resolve when we are presented with royal food and wine that is not allowable for us. Daniel showed us how to live when we think no one is looking. May we do the same.
Fri Sep 4 07:44:53 2015
I have always enjoyed reading the book of Philippians. There are many reasons for this. One reason is the pleasant memories it brings to me of church camp when I was a teenager as we used this book for the basis of Bible quiz games one year. I enjoy it because of the description of Christ found in chapter two. I also enjoy the book because of the positive nature of the book and Paul's references to joy and rejoicing found throughout the book. Paul refers to rejoicing in every chapter, culminating with this statement in 4:1, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"
When you read Philippians, you get the picture that Paul must be on a beach somewhere, taking in the sun, and really loving life. When he wrote the book, he was indeed loving life, but certainly not on a beach. He was in jail. He was being kept in house confinement under guard. Even under these circumstances, he wrote about joy in the Lord and rejoicing. He encouraged his readers, "So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." Rejoice? While you are under arrest? Paul could do so because he had learned an important point in serving the Lord which he expresses in another place in Philippians, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (4:11)
Developing this attitude can help us to have an attitude of well-being, joy, and peace whatever we may encounter. This attitude is not developed overnight, but as we grow in the Lord and learn to experience more of his grace in our lives, we learn the joy of contentment whatever we face. Along with Paul, I say "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!"
Thu Sep 3 07:39:48 2015
Australian realtor Rick Trippe has an interesting hobby. He is an expert diver and enjoys exploring wrecks off the coast of his native country. During a recent exploration, he came upon a rather unusual conflict - a sea snake had latched onto a stonefish. Now, most people, expert divers included, would simply avoid this situation. One couldn't be blamed if you wouldn't want to intervene - the sea snake is the most venomous snake on the planet, and the stonefish is the most poisonous fish known to man. This didn't stop Trippe from stepping in and breaking up the fight between these two creatures. Trippe said, "Being an animal lover, I grabbed the snake just behind the head with serious precaution knowing that sea snakes are highly venomous, and untangled the stonefish, also poisonous, from its mouth and body," Yeesh.
Intervention in conflict is risky. There are times when it should not be attempted, however, there are times when stepping in can be of benefit. As with the above scenario involving Rick Trippe, this course of action comes with inherent dangers. But there are times when it is worth the risk.
Conflict situations arise in various areas, and the church is not immune from conflict. If a circumstance arises, and you feel you can be of help, you need to proceed with prayer and with care. First, assess the situation and determine if it is a situation where your help would be beneficial and get as much information as you can about the impasse. Secondly, communicate options to those who are involved. Try to help them see the consequences of the conflict if resolution is not reached. Thirdly, explore options with the parties to seek compromise. Finally, determine the best course of action.
All of this can only be accomplished if there is willingness on both sides to work through issues. And, as was mentioned earlier, there are risks such as alienating one party, or both parties. There are times when taking the risk is worth the effort. The Bible says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9) Helping to keep peace in the family of God is an important task at times. There are risks, but the benefit can outweigh the bad. Just make sure to proceed with prayer.
Wed Sep 2 07:36:48 2015
Who do you want to please? As children, we usually want to please our parents, later our teachers, coaches, and others who work with us. As adults, we usually want to please our spouses, our bosses, perhaps co-workers. Sometimes this can be a problem when we go overboard and become people pleasers. It is good to be concerned about the well-being of others and want to help - but going overboard can be self-destructive. There needs to be balance.
For followers of Christ, there is another aspect of the idea of people pleasing that can be a problem. When we become infatuated with the idea of wanting to please other people more that we want to please God, we are living incorrectly. We want to do good for our employers and be of help to others, but when these become our primary desire over against our desire to please God, our focus is off. Paul writes, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)
Our goal should be to live in such a way to make sure our Father is pleased with our lives. If we find ourselves more concerned about the opinions of people rather than God's idea about us, we are walking the wrong road. Just as we can't serve money and God (Luke 16:13), neither can we strive to please people more than God. Live to please God!
Tue Sep 1 07:44:45 2015
Thirty-two years ago I finished seminary and was looking for a church. I sent my resume to a number of churches, and one contacted me that really seemed to be a good fit. I was excited as this church, in my initial assessment, appeared to be the one that had the greatest potential for a successful ministry. I had an interview and came away feeling that we would be getting a call from the church. Well, we did, but it wasn't the call I was expecting. "We are sorry to inform you, but we feel another candidate was the one that would best fit in our church." I was greatly disappointed, but knew I had to trust God's wisdom.
A couple of weeks later, I got a call from a church that I didn't even remember sending a resume. Well, thirty-two years later we are still at that church, and I thank God daily for the turn of events that led us here, rather than to the church I felt was "perfect." My disappointment led to a joy that I have celebrated for thirty-two years.
When you face what seems to be a setback that results in disappointment, remember to allow God to be involved and to consider the fact that he knows what he is doing. There are times when it is hard to see the good in a situation. We will face experiences where the answers will not come until later, maybe not until we get to heaven. Continue to exercise faith in God and trust him to bring joy to you in the midst of disappointment. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:4-5)
Mon Aug 31 08:16:41 2015
When I am working on my laptop and my battery is running low, I will get a message that reminds me that I need to plug into a power source. Every now and then for some inexplicable reason, when I plug the laptop in I will get a message something like this "Power source unrecognized. Check adaptor to make sure it is correct." What the computer seems to be telling me is a power source is detected, but it is not the right kind to use with my computer and the computer will not charge properly.
We often refer to plugging into a power source in our Christian lives. Is so doing, we need to make sure that we are plugged into the correct power source. Satan likes to play counterfeit, and if he can do anything to make us think we are doing the right thing when we aren't or not doing something when we should be taking action, he will. He will employ all means possible to make us think we are plugged into the correct power source when in actuality he is masquerading as God. It would be good if we would have some sort of message pop up at these times to warn us of his fakery.
The best prevention is to have a solid relationship with the Father and be able to recognize falsehood when it comes along. Knowing God's character and his heart keeps us from plugging into the wrong power source and thereby disabling our effectiveness as followers of Christ. We need to be able to recognize and distinguish God's power "so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power." (I Corinthians 2:15) Make sure the power source you are plugged into is correct!
Sun Aug 30 07:23:37 2015
When I am visiting my oldest daughter and her family, I love watching my little granddaughter perform tasks. I often wonder what is going on in her little head as she goes from place to place and does things - lining up her dolls on her sofa, arranging her pots and pans in her kitchen, stacking up her books on the bookshelf. She can be so busy and do so many things at once! And if you ask, "Can I help you?", the reply is usually, "No, I can do it by myself."
Wanting to do things on your own is not a real problem for children, but this trait sometimes follows us into adulthood. The "I can do it myself" mentality is commendable to a certain extent as it is good we are motivated and want to get things done, but we need discernment so we don't get ourselves in trouble. Whether you are a young mother with children, or an executive in an office, or a contractor on a project, or a board member in a church, there are times when the exercise of delegation is a good thing.
Moses learned this concept. We read in Exodus 18 that his father-in-law, Jethro, visited him and pointed out that he was trying to do too much on his own. He asked Moses, "What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?" (vs. 14) He suggested that Moses appoint others to handle some of the judging duties so that Moses was free to do other things and people would not have to wait so long for their disputes to be settled. Moses "listened to his father-in-law's advice and followed his suggestions" (vs. 18), and things began to run more smoothly.
We would do well to do the same. If you feel like your many tasks are pulling you in too many directions, consider how you could do some delegation. This will be better for everyone.
Sat Aug 29 09:25:25 2015
One phrase we often use when we want to emphasize that it is going to take a long time to get something done is "It will take an eternity to do that." If this is true in a given situation, then you can expect to be waiting for awhile.
How long is eternity? How can we actually wrap our heads around the concept of eternity? These are great questions, and one for which there are no good answers, given our finite existence and experience. In our lives now, we are bound by time, and the concept of an experience where time no longer has any bearing is really inconceivable.
I have used an illustration for years to try to bring the concept of eternity into the realm of the thinkable, but I freely admit it falls short. Suppose there is a bird standing on a beach on the east coast of the United States. He proceeds to pick up one grain of sand and fly to Europe where he deposits the grain. The bird then continues this endeavor until he has transferred the entire beach from one continent to the other. When he finishes, eternity has not even started.
We are eternal beings. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, "Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end." Eternity is something that we ponder and experience. We are eternal beings. God has created us to live eternally. Another reality is that God wants us to live with him throughout all eternity. Regardless of our inability to conceive of the scope of eternity, we need to prepare now for our eternal existence. We may not be able to answer the question, "What is eternity?", but we can answer the question, "Where will you spend eternity?" So, let me ask, where will you spend eternity?
Fri Aug 28 07:47:57 2015
Many years ago, telephone companies started burying phone lines. The advantages to this are that it removes clutter on overhead poles, reduces the number of lines we look at, and make the lines more accessible for repair. Some of the disadvantages are that the lines were a little problematic in the transmission, especially when there was heavy rain. This would cause distortion and prevent the use of the phones. The interference made commutation difficult and prevented messages from getting through.
We often have this problem in our communication with God. Interference creeps in from a variety of sources and prevents us from hearing what God has for us. We let circumstances and issues keep us from speaking to God in the way that we should. We let the interference of sin keep us from getting clear instruction from God. Sometimes it is even that we really don't want to hear what God wants to say to us.
Christ at times said, "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand." (Mark 4:9) We have ears, but we often let things keep us from hearing. Keep the lines free from disturbance. Listen to God and keep the lines of communication free from interference.
Thu Aug 27 08:19:20 2015
Refugee is a term that usually evokes images of people who have lost just about everything, going to areas far away from their homes, and living in less than desirable conditions. Scenes of destitution and hopelessness are usually what come to mind when you hear the word. The definition is "one who flees for refuge or safety."
The word refuge is actually a term of hope. Refuge refers to a place of protection and care. It speaks of a safe haven from negative circumstances. Those who have been battered by the storms and problems of life long for a place of refuge. They long for a place of safety from the ravages of life. A place of safety from the struggles of our existence may be found in the arms of God.
Christ proclaimed to the "refugees" of his day, "How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings." (Matthew 23:37) Christ offers refuge to those who are in need - which is all of us. We have been battered by the storms of sin and are without hope. We can find hope in the provision of Christ. He offers refuge to those who will come to him and give him their lives. Indeed, "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
Wed Aug 26 07:47:17 2015
As a young boy my mother's medicines of choice when I would scrape my knee or cut my finger were either mercurochrome or Merthiolate. These are no longer available in the United States because they both contain mercury. Back then I didn't so much think about the mercury content in the medicines as I did the pain they caused when they were applied to wounds. I didn't like the pain, but I knew the medicines could help me get better quicker. The medicine prevented infection and promoted healing.
We often face circumstances in our lives that bring pain. We don't enjoy those times and we would rather not have to face the pain. However, that which causes pain can be used by God to bring about healing and promote development of our character. The confidence we have as Christians is that God has good planned for us and has our best interests at heart. Suffering was not part of God's original plan but serves to remind us that we live in a broken world where God's order has been disobeyed. This should also remind us that our present experience is temporary. We need to spread the word that God has something better and that our present pain will be healed. Our pain reminds us that God is at work in us and that we need to trust him.
I didn't like the pain I felt because of the medicine, but I trusted my Mom. I knew she wouldn't do something to cause me more pain if it wasn't going to be alright. God will make everything alright. We should have the confidence expressed in the words of the song sung by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for the feasts, "The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night." (Psalm 121:5-6) We need to trust him.
Tue Aug 25 07:12:39 2015
Isn't it amazing how much we let money control our lives? Whether we have money, or don't have money, it seems to occupy a prominent place in our existence. With the state of the economy, money has certainly had a prevalent spot in media circles over the past couple of years. This has only served to enhance its position in our thinking. Money is necessary, but we really need to get a grip on it, rather than let it get a grip on us.
Paul wrote to Timothy about this. He said, "But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1Timothy 6:9-10 NLT)" He makes a point here about money mastery instead of being mastered by money.
Whether you have money or whether you don't, keep it in perspective. Don't allow it to be THE focal point of your life, or you will wake up one day wondering what has happened with your life and where it went. Take steps to be good stewards with what you have, learn to be content with what you have (or what you don't have), and you will find a much more joyful and peaceful existence. God wants your focus, so don't allow money, whether it is money woes or "Money! Whoa!", to block your view.
Mon Aug 24 07:54:21 2015
In their top 10 hit "A Promise Ain't Enough," Hall and Oates sing "Promises, promises, promises". Usually when you repeat this term in this way, sarcasm is involved. You do not really believe that the person making the promise is going to come through. We often allow this sarcasm to enter subtly our relationship with God. Sometimes circumstances take place that cause us to begin to doubt God's provision for our lives.
We normally consider Abraham a man of great faith, and he was, but there were times in his life when if was evident he was struggling with the promises God made to him. God promised Abraham, "I will make you a great nation." (Genesis 12:2) More than 25 years would lapse before a son was born (Genesis 20) In between there was some lapses of faith - lying to Pharaoh about Sarah (Genesis 12); lying to Abimilech about Sarah (Genesis 19); questioning God about his promise - "O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I donâ€™t even have a son?". (15:2); and even fathering a son through his handmaid (Genesis 16). All of these events showed a lack of faith in God's promise and all of these events brought trouble for Abraham. God continued to remind Abraham to remain faithful and trust him - "Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants." (Genesis 17:2)
As we look at God's promises for our lives, we need to continue to have faith that he will do as he says. We are tempted to go our own way and leave his promises in the wake of our unbelief; however, continued faith in him is always the best option. Don't go your own way - trust in the promises of God.
Sun Aug 23 07:19:45 2015
The opposite of hope is despair. Despair robs your vitality, your energy, and your realistic outlook of the future. Despair brings about fear and doubt, causes questions with no answers, and challenges our faith. Some of you might remember the silly ditty sung by some of the characters in the 70's show "Hee Haw" - "Doom, despair and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. Doom, despair, and agony on me." Grief, what an outlook on life! But, this can be the outlook of those operating in the realm of despair when they feel there is no hope.
Paul writes in II Corinthians 4:8-9, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." What helped Paul as he faced situations that brought despair? He focused on the power of the resurrection. In 4:14, Paul says, "Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself."
Doubt, fear, and despair are all around us. To rise above what brings us down, focus on the hope of the resurrection. Knowing what Christ did, is doing, and will do for us can bring us hope in even the darkest of times.
Sat Aug 22 10:08:03 2015
Fritz Kreisler was a world famous violinist whose life spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He made thousands of dollars from his concert appearances; however he gave most of his money away. So, after his discovery of an exquisite violin for sale during one of his trips, he was unable to purchase it. He began saving the necessary funds for the violin and when he had what was needed, he returned to the shop to make the purchase. Sadly, the violin had already been sold. He got the name and address of the buyer and traveled to talk to him about buying the violin. The man was a wealthy individual who did not play, but had already placed the violin in this collection and was unwilling to sell. Kreisler was broken-hearted and asked if he could just play the instrument one more time. After his performance, the owner was moved to say, "Mr. Kreisler, after hearing you play that instrument, I know I do not have the right to keep it. The violin is yours."
As Christians we have something to share that is far more valuable than a violin. We have the priceless message of the Gospel of Christ. We no more have any business keeping this news to ourselves than the wealthy collector had to keep the violin. We need to give it away to those who need to hear what Christ has for them. Don't "collect" the Gospel for yourself - give the message away that others may know the blessing of life in Christ!
Fri Aug 21 07:53:50 2015
Led Zeppelin recorded a song in 1971 that proved to be their biggest commercial success as a single - "Stairway to Heaven." The first lines are "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold and she's buying a stairway to heaven." Well, it doesn't actually work that way.
Christ corrected Led Zeppelin, and anyone else who may think otherwise, when he said, "I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth." (John 1:51) Jesus is the ONLY stairway, the only way that anyone has a hope of heaven. And I am glad Christ is the stairway because that means that even with my surgically repaired knees, I will not have any problems ascending the stairs. The reason I won't have any problem is because my entrance into heaven is not dependent upon my being able to walk in through my own power and, of course, they will not be surgically repaired anymore. They will be brand new.
Christ not only provides the way, but he provides the power for us to make the journey to heaven through his death, burial and resurrection. Only through faith in him can we have hope of eternal life. There is no "buying a stairway to heaven," the stairway is created through Christ's finished work. This is a good thing because we would never have enough gold to buy a stairway.
Thu Aug 20 08:10:45 2015
My little granddaughter loves to draw pictures. I have been the proud recipient of some of her artwork, and I treasure it. However, if one gets technical, most of her artwork doesn't actually accurately depict the object that she wants to represent. That is the way it is with "toddler art, " and that is just fine. I will enjoy these regardless.
As God's children, we often create toddler art when it comes to our portrayal of God. However, this can pose some problems. We often view God's discipline as vindictive acts aimed at us to rob us of joy and well-being. This is not an accurate picture of reality. When God disciplines his children, it is not for the purpose of creating problems for them or taking away their sense of contentment. His discipline is for the purpose of correcting problems and giving his children a more accurate sense of identity. We cannot know what a true follower should look like or how a true follower should behave if aberrant behavior is not corrected.
The nature and purpose of God's discipline is described in Hebrews 12:5 - 11: "And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, 'My son, do not make light of the LordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.' Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined--and everyone undergoes discipline--then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
View God's discipline in a correct way and you will benefit from it. Discipline is not divine revenge but loving correction to keep his children on the path of righteousness.
Wed Aug 19 08:02:21 2015
We are living in an age of choice. We have so many options for so many things - car styles, clothing styles, food choices. Do we want Mexican, Chinese, Italian, or Thai for dinner tonight? We can make our own playlists of music, choosing only the songs we like and loading them so that we have just the tunes we want to hear.
Choices are great and we are blessed to have them. The only problem with choices is when we let our riches of options affect our view of Scripture. We have the blessing of being able to be selective in many things, but we need to beware of being scripturally selective. We can't just pick and choose what parts of the Bible apply to us and what parts don't. Choosing music is one thing, following the Bible is another. All the scripture is for all of God's people. We may not like what the Scripture says in a particular place, but that does not give us the freedom to say, "That's not for me." It is intended for you, as God intends for his Word to be universally applied. Granted, there are interpretive decisions that need to be made, but we need to be careful about saying, "Well, that is for them, not for me."
Take time to develop an understanding of God's Word so you will apply it correctly. Thomas Jefferson didn't like the supernatural parts of the Bible so he wrote his own version leaving out anything miraculous. That can't be done. Psalm 119:160 tells us, "All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal." Don't apply iTunes mentality to Scriptural application. Being able to develop your own playlist is great, but don't try to develop your own Bible.
Tue Aug 18 08:03:52 2015
Some time ago (and when I finish this sentence, those reading this who are local will know it had to be some time ago) I was sitting in my front room looking out the window. Suddenly, the trees across the road began to convulse violently. What in the world could be causing that? Of course, it was the wind growing stronger in the wake of an approaching storm. You couldn't actually see the wind, but you sure could see the effects as you watched the trees. Afterwards there was evidence that something had passed through. There was paper all over the place, there were limbs down here and there, and other items that were turned over. The wind was never visible, but you certainly saw evidence of its presence.
The same can be said about the Holy Spirit. We have never actually seen the Holy Spirit, and I don't know that we actually ever will. However, you can sure see the results of his presence. He works within the believer to provide comfort when comfort is needed, strength when strength is needed, and insight when insight is needed. This is just as it is supposed to be, and just as Christ promised us just before he was crucified. Christ told his disciples on the night they celebrated the Passover just before his arrest, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. . the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." The "Counselor" is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is called the Counselor only here in all of the New Testament. The term means one who walks alongside someone else. That is exactly what the Holy Spirit does for Christ's followers - He walks along with them to "counsel" them. We may not see him, but he is there.
Paul talks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:26-27: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Isn't that marvelous? Once again, we do not see the Spirit doing this, but we can see the effects of his intercession on our behalf.
Be grateful for the presence of Holy Spirit in your life. Acknowledge his presence and be willing to cooperate with him as he walks alongside of you. In this way you will benefit from the effects of his ministry.
Mon Aug 17 08:00:33 2015
Dr. Paul E. McGhee wrote, "Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health." Laughter is one of the best ways to promote health and well-being. The effects of laughter are well-documented. Laughter helps lower stress levels and blood pressure as it relaxes the whole body for up to 45 minutes. When you laugh, endorphins are released that bring about a sense of well being and contentment. Laughter strengthens the immune system and also helps with strengthening the heart by improving blood flow.
God created us this way, so why don't we try to enjoy a good laugh more? Ecclesiastes 3:4 says that there is "a time to weep and a time to laugh." God does have a sense of humor - remember the story of Balaam talking to a donkey in Numbers 22? How about his sarcastic confrontation of Job in Job 38? How we function has been determined through the creative work of God, so the idea that laughter is good for us should not be too surprising.
Now, of course, there are times when laughter is inappropriate. We should not laugh at others' calamity or at others' expense. We also need to avoid the wrong kind of humor in invoking laughter. However, situations of joy and comedy of an appropriate nature need to be enjoyed. Time with friends that evokes laughter needs to take place on a regular basis. These times are enjoyed and the laughter is good for us.
Proverbs 15:13 says, "A happy heart makes the face cheerful," Go ahead - laugh out loud!
Sun Aug 16 07:53:38 2015
This is the time of year when there is a scene being repeated thousands of times all across the United States - parents giving their child one more hug before they drive off and leave them at college for the first time. Are you one of those parents? If you are, I can appreciate how you must be feeling. We went through this rite of passage with our two daughters. It is a time that is both exciting, yet a source of fear; happy, yet a cause of sadness; necessary, yet a breeding ground for uncertainty. Have I covered all the bases?
I would imagine Jochabed might have experienced many of these same ambivalent feelings as she placed her infant son in a pitch-lined basket and set him to float among the reeds that grew along the banks of the Nile River. Can you imagine the amount of faith it must have taken to follow this course of action? She knew she needed to have faith in God to protect her son. This faith continued to be evident when she took Moses to Pharaoh's daughter to join Pharaoh's household. "So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, 'I drew him out of the water.'" In order for Moses to become the person God wanted him to be, Jochabed had to place him in God's hands.
As parents, there comes a time when we do the same thing. We do all we can for our children, and one of the most important things we can do is place them in hands of God. One thing is for sure, we know he is capable of taking good care of them.
Sat Aug 15 07:24:24 2015
I have always loved the comic strip "Peanuts." Charles Schultz was a master of communicating marvelous truths through simple scenarios played out by a loveable band of young friends. Of course, I didn't understand or appreciate this when I read this strip as a young boy, but as I grew older I saw "Peanuts" in its true form. There was a particular strip where Charlie Brown made this revealing statement, "I've developed a new philosophy. . .I only dread one day at a time."
Worry - we all know we shouldn't, but most of us struggle with this. Much has been written about it, countless sermons have been preached on the topic, books have been written on how to deal with worry, and still we find ourselves involved in the struggle. Christ's most poetic statements were about how we should not worry. He tells us, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe youÃ¢â‚¬â€you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it." (Luke 12:22-29)
We need to consider these words carefully and see if they can help us develop a different philosophy than even the venerable Charlie Brown. Listen to the words of Christ!
Fri Aug 14 07:37:34 2015
The expansion project on the Panama Canal is nearing completion. The expansion began about five years ago in order to accommodate the larger ocean-going vessels that ply the seas in our time. The expansion of the canal was to improve what is generally considered to be the most daunting engineering feat in the history of humankind - the construction of the Panama Canal. The idea for a canal was first suggested hundreds of years before the work to build it was undertaken. It proved to be a tremendously daunting and extremely costly endeavor both in terms of money and lives lost. Essentially, it started because some saw a path where others saw a wall.
One of the things about following God is to realize that there are times we need to look for the path when there only seems to be a wall. God is great at creating a place where we can walk out of what seemed to be an impenetrable barrier.
The Scripture is full of stories about God doing this. One is found in Exodus 14, the crossing of the Red Sea. The Israelites were in a pickle - the Red Sea was before them, the army of Pharaoh behind them and closing in rapidly. There seemed to be no way out - no path of escape. Moses called out to the Lord on behalf of the people. God's reply is wonderful, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." (Exodus 14:13-14)
When you seem to have nothing but a wall in front of you and no way to go ahead, rely upon the vision of God to create a path where there was only a wall. God can do this and is good at doing this. For us, it is a matter of trusting and allowing him to create a path where we can only see a wall.
Thu Aug 13 08:09:16 2015
Regular dental check-ups should be part of our routines. Dental check-ups are important not just because of the need to maintain good dental hygiene, but because other problems not related to our teeth can be discovered through a dental check-up. What goes on in our mouth can reveal what is going on elsewhere in our body.
Christ said that what comes out of our mouths reveals our inner character. He told the Pharisees, "Listen and understand. What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them." (Matthew 15:10-11) What comes out of our mouths reveals our inner character and indicates our true nature. What comes out of your mouth? Is it wholesome speech, celebratory language, words of encouragement to others, words of blessing? Or are you prone to use offensive language, negative speech, gossip, and hurtful comments to others?
A dentist can see that there may be a problem elsewhere through examination of our mouth. Others can see what goes on inside of us by listening to what comes out of our mouths. How's your mouth?
Wed Aug 12 07:55:49 2015
I always maintain that I am not much of a beach person but whenever I travel to a beach I always have a good time. Of course, what makes it a good time is that I am with my family and any time spent with family is a good time. Anyway, I remember that on one trip to Myrtle Beach I decided to get on a float and relax. Relax I did, losing track of time and my position. When I decided I had better check my location, I saw that I had floated about half a mile down the beach. The float trip was great, but I had to hoof it back up the beach to our condo. If only there had been some way to anchor my raft in one spot - that would have been great.
I am glad that my spiritual hope is not at the whim of unpredictable waves and untrustworthy winds. My spiritual hope is anchored in the person of Jesus Christ who died for me and the promise of God. Whatever forces there are that may try to cause us to drift away from our home base are countered by the power and strength of our marvelous Savior. Our hope is in the Rock Christ Jesus who is steadfast and unmovable. His limitless love holds us safe and secure.
Hebrews 6:17-20 tells us, "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf." The anchor holds.
Tue Aug 11 07:16:40 2015
Peter's journey from fisherman to disciple is filled with fits and starts. His walk can be characterized by the saying, "Three steps forward, and two steps back." Of course, this describes most of our journeys along the pathway of faith. We make progress towards Christ-likeness through obedience, and then we mess up. The overriding factor in the case of Peter, that is, a factor that really couldn't be questioned at any time, even at the times of his failures, was his love for Christ. This may be the reason for Christ's questioning found in John 21 when he asks Peter three times, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" (vv. 15, 16 & 17) Some comment that Christ's questioning is a reminder of the three denials, as Christ asks the question about love three times. This may be true, but another consideration regarding the questioning relates to something within Peter that Christ wished to emphasize as a means of affirmation - Peter's love for him. Perhaps Christ was saying: "Peter, you indeed have goofed, but let me point out something about which there can be no doubt - your level of love for me."
Indeed, it is our love for Christ that should be strong and above question regardless of our shortcomings in other areas. We are prone to mistakes and unfaithfulness, but let us not be wishy washy when it comes to our love. Let our love for Christ be above question. It will be our love that will draw us to a place of obedience when we step outside the lines in our behavior. Love is the primary qualification for servant leaders. What are you doing to show your love for Christ?
Mon Aug 10 08:21:03 2015
Many years ago I attended a drag race featuring some Top Fuel dragsters. The fuel used in Top Fuel racing is 90% nitromethane and 10% methanol. Please don't try to use this fuel in your family car to improve horsepower. Your car wouldn't last very long with this in the tank. Engines in the dragsters are specially constructed to use this mix and, as you would expect, the car goes really fast. Another property about the fuel mix is when it burns, you can't see the flames. That can be dangerous. I remember watching a driver fly out of a car and start swatting himself all over. At first, it looked a little comical until you realized that he was on fire and could have been seriously hurt had the pit crew not reacted as quickly as they did and extinguished the invisible blaze.
Someone mistakenly said once, "What you can't see can't hurt you." Whoever said this ignored a great deal of harmful things that cannot be seen. Bacteria and viruses are not detectable with the naked eye, yet can cause a great deal of harm. In the spiritual realm, we know that our adversary is invisible and can cause us great harm if we are not vigilant. Satan and his allies cannot be seen, yet we know they are there and are bent on our destruction. Ephesians 6:12 informs us: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
So how can you keep from being harmed by an unseen foe? Being aware that he is there is one help. Trusting in our powerful, yet invisible, Father is another. Paul proclaims trust in the invisible God in I Timothy 1:17, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." We depend upon our invisible God to help us against our invisible foe. Constantly lean upon him and declare your confidence in God's hand of protection. He will keep you from being harmed by Satan's "invisible flames."
Sun Aug 9 07:06:36 2015
The events recorded in Nehemiah 8 have always fascinated me. I encourage you to read this passage before you go any further in today's devotional. Here is a small excerpt, "So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law . . .Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up." (8:1-3, 5)
I don't know if you kept track as you read, but let me point out some interesting observations. First, as the Torah was read in the presence of the people, all the people stood. Secondly, they stood for about five hours as the Torah was read ("from daybreak till noon"). Finally, "all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law." Wow. A scripture reading that went on for more than five hours with everyone standing and LISTENING. I would imagine there are a number of activities to which we would be willing to devote five hours of our time, but would Bible reading be one of them? My, there are so many things I could say about this. However, I want to simply make one application. From this time on, the people of Israel were known as the "People of the Book." Could this description fit us?
Wouldn't that be a wonderful testimonial to be known as the "People of the Book?" Of course, this presupposes that we actually are people of the Book. This decryption would indicate that we are indeed people who love God's Word and wish to know and follow it attentively. I hope this passage could describe us. I don't know how far I could get with a five hour Bible reading outside with everyone standing, but our devotion to His Word should be as great. The question is: How great is our devotion to God's Word? Think carefully before you give an answer.
Sat Aug 8 07:58:49 2015
John Ortberg writes, "Imagine picking your car up from the shop after a routine tune-up and the technician says, 'This car is in great shape. Clearly you have an automotive genius to take great care of your car.' Later that day, your brakes don't work. You find out you were out of brake fluid. You could have died. You go back to the shop, and you say, 'Why didn't you tell me?' The technician replies, 'Well, I didn't want you to feel bad. Plus, to be honest, I was afraid you might get upset with me. I want this to be a safe place where you feel loved and accepted.' You'd be furious! You'd say, 'I didn't come here for a little fantasy-based ego boost! When it comes to my car, I want the truth.'"
There are times we need to be truthful for the benefit of others, even if the truth is hard. There are times when being a good friend means confronting another because something needs to be addressed and a change needs to be made. This, of course, is not the easiest thing to do, but is necessary for the spiritual, emotional, and spiritual well-being of someone we love. Paul says in Ephesians 4:15, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." There are times when we need to "speak the truth in love."
Speaking the truth in love first requires a situation where it is very obvious that an intervention is necessary. Is there really a problem that needs to be addressed? Speaking to others about their behavior or some other issue also requires self-examination. We need to look at our motives to make certain we are doing this as a genuine effort to help someone and because of our love for someone, not to put them down or to make ourselves look better. We don't go around looking for "problems" where we might "help." We are speaking of circumstances where the need to reach out to someone else almost grabs you by the neck and says "Do something." We also should seek spiritual discernment through prayer regarding what needs to be said and how we need to speak. Make sure you let the Holy Spirit be your guide when you seek to help.
An intervention of this type is a difficult thing. However, when you face a circumstance where the consequence described by Ortberg is a reality, truth is what is needed. When this is the case, speak the truth in love.
Fri Aug 7 08:08:01 2015
On August 7, 1801, 25,000 came to a meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, to hear Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian ministers preach. According to American Minute, the largest town in the entire state of Kentucky at that time had a population of only 2,000. What was going on? This was part of what became known at the Second Great Awakening. This great revival started in the frontier of the fledgling United States and served to strengthen the spirits of those who were working to build a new country. Fresh from the conflict that led to American independence and on the verge of a yet unknown new conflict, this movement of the Spirit of God encouraged the citizens of this new country and bolstered their spirits. This movement fostered a tremendous growth of denominations, enhanced women's rights, and paved the way for the abolitionist movement. Reports from this meeting at Cane Ridge include the following, "The power of God seemed to shake the whole assembly...the cries of the distressed arose...No person seemed to wish to go home." No one wanted to go home? Oh, my, that would be different!
How did the Awakening start? Was it out of some great convocation of churches or the result of some evangelism committee? It began on the Kentucky frontier when James McGready and his small congregation agreed to "bind ourselves to observe the third Saturday of each month for one year as a day of fasting and prayer for the conversion of sinners in Logan County and throughout the world." The revival spread from there as this little church also agreed to "spend one half hour every Saturday evening, beginning at the setting of the sun, and one half hour every Sabbath morning at the rising of the sun in pleading with God to revive His work." (American Minute)
Have you ever thought what might happen in our time should some small group or church start praying? What about if it were our church? Most great revivals - the Great Awakening of the 18th century, the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century, the Laymen's Prayer Revival of the mid-19th century, had small beginnings. They were not engineered from some mass movement or plan. They started because a group of people obeyed the leadership of the Holy Spirit. We are in a time when a revival would be a marvelous event. Let's obey the Spirit and see what happens. Let's agree with the psalmist who wrote, "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation." (Psalm 85:6-7)
Thu Aug 6 08:07:44 2015
There is a commercial on television advertising Bridgestone tires where a driver approaching a bridge swerves to miss a beaver that is dragging a tree limb across the road. The beaver waves appreciatively as the driver continues across the bridge. In the next scene, the driver is approaching the same bridge some time later, only this time he is doing so in a tremendous storm. Just before he gets to the bridge, a tree falls across the road. This is a good thing, as the bridge has been washed away by a flash flood. But why did the tree fall at just the right time? Well, the beaver had cut the tree down to protect his benefactor.
Now, I know this is sort of a nutty presentation, but I think it is a great illustration of the timeless concept presented by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) This has come to be known as "The Golden Rule," and as with so many other important truths, our familiarity with this teaching often diminishes the significance for us.
We need to make sure this does not happen. We need to treat others well - with kindness, care, and love. We should do good things for others. Now, we shouldn't do good things with the expectation of being "repaid," we simply need to do good things for others and treat others well. The funny thing about that quirky commercial is the story is presented in such a way as to make you realize the driver really didn't expect anything back from the kindness he demonstrated when he swerved. Well, actually, the point was to show the superiority of the kind of tires the driver had. However, he is truly surprised when he sees what, or rather who, saved his life. We need to be givers, not expecting anything back. We need to be kind, even when we are not treated kindly in return (another principle Christ teaches elsewhere in the Sermon).
So, whether you swerve to save the life of a hapless creature, or decide to help someone with a task they can't accomplish on their own, do so gladly and freely, with no expectations of a return. Just don't be too surprised if you do find a tree in your path sometime.
Wed Aug 5 08:24:57 2015
I remember reading a story about a person who was attending a conference at a "mega-church" - a church so large that you had to park and then ride a shuttle to the church itself. To help folks remember where their cars were parked, the church had painted words on the lampposts rather than numbers. They used biblical terms such as "love," "faithfulness," "kindness," and "patience." The writer of the story said these terms proved to be helpful in more than one way - they reminded the attendees what sort of characteristics they should display as they struggled with the crowd exiting the parking lot to prevent tempers from flaring, angry words being spoken, and impatience demonstrated.
It is amazing how quickly one can lose the love for their fellow believer in a crowded parking lot. There are many circumstances that may cause us to lose our love for others, display impatience, and act less than kind. We need to be on guard for this, and go against the grain when we are tempted to put our anger on stage. We talk about loving each other, but how quickly that love can disappear when someone takes our seat or cuts us off or some other activity that raises our blood pressure.
As followers of Christ, we do need to exercise self-control in order to avoid offending someone else with our behavior when things get tense. We need to allow what we say to affect how we live at all times and especially at those moments in life when we find ourselves becoming angry. Proverbs 16:32 tells us, "Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city." Proverbs 25:28 continues, "Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control." Self-control is actually the last fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:23. Don't lose our love in a parking lot, or on a road, or in a check-out line, or wherever! Let love and patience reign in every circumstance in your life!
Tue Aug 4 07:41:47 2015
In his classic novel, "Moby Dick," Herman Melville chronicles the relentless pursuit of a great white whale by a maddened Captain Ahab. Ultimately, his quest led to his doom as the rope on the harpoon he throws at the whale entangles him and carries him to his death. His obsession with a fruitless quest led to his demise.
We must be careful with what we pursue. Going after the wrong things in life can lead to our entrapment and can cause our spiritual downfall. If we are pursuing earthly goals and quests seeking things that will not last, our search will ultimately become pointless and may bring harm.
Jesus gives an example of just such a person in Luke 12. The owner of the ground thought he had a good life because of his abundance, but none of the abundance he pursued was worth anything to him when his life came to and end (Luke 12:14-21). This is why he encourages us to pursue that which will make us rich spiritually. He tells us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21)."
Be careful what you pursue. Don't go after "white whales" that will only bring you harm. Pursue the things of God and you will find that which will last.
Mon Aug 3 07:09:09 2015
Today is a holiday. "Wait a minute," you say, "This isn't a holiday - and besides, there aren't any holidays in August." I beg to differ. Today is my birthday. So, for me, today is a holiday. Birthdays were a bigger deal for me when I was a kid, but I still enjoy the time. The only thing about having a birthday at this time of the year was I knew that when my birthday came around, it would not be much longer before school would start. That was not something I really looked forward to when I was a kid. It isn't that I didn't like school really, I just enjoyed the unstructured days of summer and being free to have days of just messing around.
Having a fun time during the summer, celebrating my birthday, and having holidays are fun, and actually necessary, but there does come a point when some learning needs to take place. School needs to happen so I could learn what I needed to learn to do what I needed to do for myself and for others.
Followers of Christ need to learn and we need to spend time in "school". School time is part of our experience our entire lives. There is never a time when we shouldn't be learning and spending time finding out more about God and what we can do to live more effectively for him. Psalm 119:33-35 tells us, "Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight." School is in - are you learning?
Sun Aug 2 07:42:48 2015
I am going to have the pleasure of conducting another baptismal service in our morning worship today. This is a significant time for the one being baptized, and also a significant time for the church. Part of what I say when I perform a baptism is "in obedience to His command and in following His example." In a succinct way, I am stating two compelling reasons for baptism. As I think about this, these are also two compelling answers to the question we sometimes ask, "Why pray?" We should pray because Christ tells us to pray (Matthew 6:5-7) and also gives us an example of prayer (Luke 11; John 17).
There are many other commands to pray found in the scripture. In I Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to "pray without ceasing." Romans 12:12 encourages us to continue steadfastly in prayer. According to Psalm 55:17 we are to pray morning, noon, and night. Luke 18:1 says, "Pray always and do not get discouraged."
In addition to these biblical injunctions about prayer, we have the examples of prayer warriors such as Daniel, who prayed despite great opposition (Daniel 6:10). Part of the narrative on which we focus as we celebrate the Birth of Christ includes the story of Anna, who prayed night and day (Luke 2:36-37). Paul encourages us to pray and writes often of his prayers for others (Romans 1:9). Cornelius was a God-fearing soldier who was also devoted to constant prayer (Acts 10:1-2).
"Why pray?" we sometimes ask. We pray because of the many commands to pray and the many examples of prayer we find in the scripture. Don't neglect prayer!
Sat Aug 1 08:45:16 2015
When I was a kid we used to make an annual sojourn to Somerset, Kentucky, the hometown of Mom's parents. Well, my grandpa was a "city kid," but my grandmother was raised in a rural area near Somerset. We usually stayed at a little motel named The Somerset Court. This motor inn was distinctive as it had been constructed in three phases. The original part of the motel was a brick structure, then later came a structure that was also brick, and a final phase was a Bedford stone building.
The quality of the rooms correlated to the age and, of course, prices increased based on the newness of the rooms. We usually didn't stay in the "plush" rooms. As a kid, I remember wishing that we could stay in the stone motel just once. Once we did, and I thought that was so cool. I thought we were really big shots. We had climbed the social ladder.
This little scenario reflects how life is on planet earth. There are many who live in huge mansions while some occupy tiny huts. There are many in our world that are even homeless. Life on earth indeed is a class system. Some folks barely get by, while others live in the lap of luxury.
Our heavenly home will be not be ordered in this way. There won't be levels of existence giving some occupants cause to look down at others with the "others" constantly wishing they could improve their status in life. Everyone in that eternal home are there because of one reason - they are recipients of the grace of God. I know there are rewards given based on how one has lived his life, but no one will feel as if they are a "second class citizen." We are all going to be in the stone section.
Exodus 15:17 tells us, "You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance, the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established." Our eternal dwelling with God will be a place where all will be on equal footing regardless of where they are planted on the mountain of inheritance.
Fri Jul 31 07:38:23 2015
I get a kick out of the sign that is on the back of dump trucks at road construction sites: "Don't follow into construction zone." The signs would seem to be a glaring example of stating the obvious - you shouldn't be in the construction area. Yet, the signs are necessary as a safety measure and to ensure that unobservant motorists don't get themselves in a real pickle. I believe these signs were made necessary because a vehicle followed a truck into a construction area and caused some issues. Doing so will certainly cause some issues for the car that shouldn't be in the construction site. There is potential for a variety of damage and even injury to the occupants of the vehicle.
You know, I think a great idea would be if Satan and his minions were required to wear "Don't follow" signs. This would make them more obvious by stating the obvious. It should be obvious that we shouldn't follow Satan, but unfortunately we often ignore the obvious and follow him anyway. This, of course, is just fine with him. If we follow him into areas where his influence can bring about injury and harm, he is a happy creature.
Don't make Satan happy! Observe the "Don't Follow" signs, even when they aren't obvious. Be aware of his presence and his tactics and take steps to avoid his influence in your life. Don't forget his practice of deception: "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (II Corinthians 11:14) Don't forget this, and make sure to heed the "Do Not Follow" sign!
Thu Jul 30 07:32:33 2015
What are you known for by those who are close to you? Is it your intelligence? Your passion for golf? Your love of music? Your love of your family? If someone interviewed the ten people closest to you and asked them, "What does he really like?" what would they say? I read about a man who seemed to be consumed with a desire to build up frequent flyer miles. He once bought $3000 of the same kind of pudding because there was a promotion offering frequent flyer miles for purchasing this brand of pudding. He received 1.2 million miles for this. It seemed he was consumed with the acquisition of frequent flyer miles, and he was known for his desire to build up the miles.
What about you? What are you known for? What do others see as being the most important thing in your life? There was no way to mistake the burning passion of the apostle Paul - he loved Christ and he wanted others to know Christ the way he did. Listen to what he says in Philippians 3:7-11, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
So, for what do you want to be known? Do you want to be known for your love of pudding, or your love of the Savior? Let others see your love of Christ in how you live for Christ.
Wed Jul 29 07:50:26 2015
For the most part, I am an "interstate" traveler. I usually prefer the shortest distance between two points, the fastest route, the most efficient path between the starting point and the desired location. However, there are times I take "the road less traveled" (with apologies to Robert Frost). This is a good thing to do. Going this route usually forces you to slow down, you have to pay more attention to the route, and you most likely will take in some pretty scenery you would have missed otherwise. p>
We need to do this on occasion. Doing this starts with a conscious decision to change our path. I enjoy taking the road less traveled. I rarely regret going the slower route as it brings me closer to experiences I wouldn't have enjoyed otherwise, such as the time I found an incredible ice cream shop when we took U.S. 40 from Indianapolis to Terre Haute rather than I-70.
This is a good idea for our spiritual lives as well. We need to take a slower route so that we can take more time to listen to Christ, to pay more attention to the things he has for us, and to take in what God has for us. It is so easy to fall into a self-absorbed pattern when we are flying through life and not giving the time we should to our life with Christ.
When Christ's disciples had gone through a rather intense time of ministry, he told them to "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while (Mark 6:31)." We can benefit from taking a slower route in order to take more in. We can benefit from taking a slower route, as it requires more attention to what we experience around us. Don't be afraid to take the road less traveled. There is a lot to see on that path!
Tue Jul 28 07:59:27 2015
Did you keep some sort of growth chart on your children as they were growing up? There was a dear lady in our church who did so even for her great-grandchildren. When I would visit with her, I could see the marks on a particular door facing that were records of the growth rate of the children. My folks kept records on me and my two brothers. We kept records on our two girls as they grew. We wanted to make sure they were growing correctly and maturing properly. I was very interested in my growth rate when I was young. I always wanted to be as tall as my uncle, my mother's brother, who was 6 feet 5 inches. I didn't get there.
We need to be captivated by another growth rate. We should be interested in how we are growing spiritually. We should be concerned with our progress and development. We need to make sure we are getting along at the correct rate. We need to come up with some sort of spiritual growth chart so ensure that all is going as it should be in our spiritual process of maturity.
Peter encourages us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (II Peter 3:18) We should be concerned about how "tall" we are getting. Where's your mark on the door facing?
Mon Jul 27 07:47:53 2015
Years ago I remember helping one of my daughters construct a model of the solar system for a project in her science class. The model was not all that elaborate, but it was good, and it was to scale with our solar system. The project took a little bit of time and care on our part to complete. We didn't just go out to the garage and whip it out in an hour or two. We worked on it over several days.
I didn't think too much about this until just recently as I was reading an article on the recent "fly by" of Pluto by New Horizons and the images being sent back to earth. The time we spent putting things together on just a model cannot be compared to the brief amount of time it took God to bring our solar system into existence and put it where it is in the universe. Another thing I thought about was, "Where is that model now?" I remember seeing part of it in the garage years ago, but now it has all disappeared. However, the creation of God continues, sustained by the presence of Christ.
Colossians 1:16 & 17 tells us, "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." The sustaining power of Christ holds our universe together and will continue to do so. All we can do is make flimsy imitations of our wonderful world and all that surrounds it. And remember, the one who sustains the universe is the one that sustains you. Isn't that something?
Sun Jul 26 08:21:14 2015
Recently I have seen a commercial on one of our local TV channels for a roofing business named "Honest Abe's Roofing." A Lincoln impersonator is seen in a variety of circumstances that all play off the well-known honesty of our 16th president. Two of my favorite involve stories about Lincoln's honesty that took place when he was a clerk in a store in New Salem, Illinois. One related how he walked to a customer's home after closing to return a few cents in change that he had held out inadvertently. Another involved Lincoln taking tea to another customer when he found he had weighed her request incorrectly.
Honesty is a character trait that should be desired and displaying, especially by those who call themselves followers of Christ. However, you can be honest and still not very nice. God wants us to be both.
In Exodus, the character traits of honesty and kindness are brought together as principles that should be practiced by the people of God. Exodus 23:3 says, "If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it." Straying animals are to be returned to rightful owners, even if the animal belongs to an enemy. In verse 4 we read, "If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it." Kindness is to be expressed to those in distress, even if we don't care for the person experiencing the problem.
Honesty and kindness are a good pair that should be on display in the lives of God's people. We can be honest but mean, and we can be kind but dishonest. Put them together and you get a formidable partnership.
Sat Jul 25 09:15:58 2015
"I'm too blessed to complain." Now, isn't that an intriguing perspective? I remember reading this unique statement somewhere, and it left an impression. We are usually so busy focusing on the rotten stuff that takes place in our lives that we forget to look at the things for which we should give thanks. We need to concentrate on developing an attitude of gratefulness (you probably thought I was going to say "attitude of gratitude there", didn't you?), but our tendency is to pile on with the negatives.
We should realize that for all the junk we face, there are many good experiences that need to be appreciated. Instead of lamenting what doesn't go our way, we need to focus on the gifts God has given to us. Psalm 107:8 tells us, "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind." We should focus on our gifts rather than our "lacks." Even when we experience the lows of life, we should focus on what we receive from on high. We are certainly "too blessed to complain."
Fri Jul 24 07:50:13 2015
Have you ever been in a position where you feel that you just can't do anything right? That is probably how the lady we read about in Matthew 26 felt as she faced criticism for anointing Jesus. "While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table." (Matthew 26:6-7) As a consequence of her actions, she was roundly criticized by the disciples who wondered why she didn't sell the expensive contents of the bottle and give the money to the poor.
The response of Christ is mildly surprising, as we know he indeed is a champion of the poor. Instead of joining in the criticism, he defends her actions and said, "When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." (vss. 12-13) Among other lessons he wanted to teach from the actions of the lady is the idea of taking advantage of the living while we still have them with us. The disciples needed to become aware of the fact that they were not always going to have Christ with them. Not long from that very moment, Christ would start the events that would lead to his departure. They needed to take advantage of his presence while he was still with them.
As we think about the application of this for us, we should not only be thinking of the great gift we have through the continued presence of the Spirit in our lives, but we need to take advantage of the people whom God has placed in our lives while we have the opportunity to do so. As we think about these people, a family member, a friend, a teacher, a co-worker, or perhaps a mentor, are there things we need to say to them? Are there expressions of appreciation we need to show them while we have the chance? Take advantage of their presence and make sure we learn what we can, say what we should, and demonstrate our care while we still have the time. Life is too short and too uncertain to live any other way.
Thu Jul 23 07:35:14 2015
In the vows that I use when I perform a wedding there is a time when I have the bride and the groom pledge their love to each other "in prosperity or in adversity." The pledge is to be true regardless of the circumstances. The idea is that in either extreme, their love and commitment will remain.
The extremes of either of these states can be dangerous. It can be just as harmful to experience an extreme in prosperity as it is to experience extreme adversity. This is true not just in the marriage relationship but in our lives in general. Having too little can be life-threatening, but having too much can be life-altering. A person who has too much can encounter as much difficulty as the person who does not have enough.
Agur writes in Proverbs 30:8-9, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." He asks to be kept from extremes, only wanting that which will be enough to sustain him. He is afraid that either extreme would interfere with his relationship with God.
We certainly want to be able to live in such a way that we do not have to worry how we are going to live another day, but we also should not covet more than we need. We should be satisfied with what we have and not constantly desire more, thinking that this will bring us happiness and security. The next time you find yourself coveting what you do not have, take a moment to consider the danger you may be placing yourself in with your lack of satisfaction. Craving what we cannot have can lead us into a life of discontent and bitterness. Gratefulness for what we have demonstrates our faith and leads to a life of peace.
Wed Jul 22 07:36:50 2015
Do you remember the show "The Weakest Link?" This show featured a number of folks who were presented with questions. Based on their responses, a "weakest link" was determined and was eliminated from the competition. One of the most entertaining features of the show was when a contestant was eliminated and the host of the show, Anne Robinson, would say, "You are the weakest link," with particular emphasis on "weakest link."
What is your "weakest link?" The "weakest link" in our lives that Satan likes to exploit is bringing doubts to our mind about God and about our relationship with God. Great people of faith such as Martin Luther, John Knox, and Increase Mather wrote of periods in their lives when they struggled with nagging questions and doubt. Luther wrote, "For more than a week Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy against God." This is what Satan likes to see: believers doubting God and struggling in their faith.
Jesus said about Satan, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) Satan wants to work against us, to expose our weakest link, in order to bring about doubts and fear in our minds. When this happens, we need to say to him the same thing that Christ did to Peter when he recognized Satan's invasion into their conversation, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." (Matthew 16:23) We also need to remember how Christ dealt with Satan when Satan tried to "get inside his head". Christ used scripture, and so should we (read Matthew 4:1-11). Of course, this means we need to immerse ourselves in scripture so that we know it and have this resource at our disposal to shore up our weak link.
Saturate your mind with God's word so your faith will be strengthened. Then you will be able to stand if doubts appear and strengthen your weakest link!
Tue Jul 21 07:44:25 2015
When I travel in the summer, I encounter the same thing that all travelers face - road construction. There are times when I am forced into a single lane of traffic on an interstate that I ask myself, "Didn't they have this section barreled off just last year?" The answer to this may be in the affirmative, or it may not be, but whether right or wrong, construction is something that is ongoing and necessary. Indeed, roads that have been repaired will indeed need to be repaired again at some point. Use of the roads takes its toll, and maintenance is required.
God is at work in us to do what is necessary to make us what he wants us to be. He will continue to work within us, shaping and re-shaping, producing his likeness in our lives. We need to cooperate in this process by obeying him, trusting him, and allowing him to perform his maintenance in our lives. Paul writes, "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:8)
God is building withiin you in a positive way. He will never do anything to bring you harm. He wants to shape you into a person that reflects his character for his glory. Let him continue the construction.
Mon Jul 20 07:58:58 2015
Today is the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The first time a person from earth set foot on a celestial body other than the earth took place on this day in 1969. As Michael Collins piloted the command module orbiting the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon in the Sea of Tranquility with Armstrong declaring, "That is one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." That was a special time in the history of man.
One of the men also thought it would be a good time to remember God. Buzz Aldrin, before the lunar module departed the surface of the moon, took the time to observe communion. He pre-arranged this with his pastor back on earth and had carefully packed the elements he would need for the observance. He called to Houston, "Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM Pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to invite each person listening, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way."
We need to spend time on a regular basis rehearsing God's grace and the good things he has done for us. Psalm 103:2 tells us to "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits." We should never forget what God has done for us. It should not take a momentous event such as a moon landing for us to spend time remembering God and all that he has done for us.
Sun Jul 19 08:07:19 2015
The weather this summer has made it tough to enjoy many of the usual summer activities that take place, however, people have found ways to get out and do things in between the monsoons we have had. I've missed being able to get out and enjoy these activities as well, although the reason for me is a bit different than most as I continue to recuperate. This begs a question - should I actually miss these activities or are they simply frivolous endeavors that we really shouldn't pursue in the first place? What about recreational activities or things we do simply for pleasure? Should these actually be part of our lives?
The desire for pleasure is not a bad thing. I cannot help but think that Paul must have been a fan of sporting activities as he used these for object lessons - read I Corinthians 9:24-27. He also writes about social events such as going out to dinner with other folks (read chapter 10). We are built to enjoy these things, and Paul also comments that God, "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (I Timothy 6:17) We should enjoy activities simply for the sake of pleasure, but as with many things, we need to take care that our pleasurable pursuits do not become our primary pursuits.
King Solomon made this mistake and wrote, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 2:10) Solomon stated that he put everything, even his work, ahead living to please God. Eventually he learned the emptiness of living this way and the folly of putting his own desires ahead of God's desire for him. He wrote, "He who loves pleasure will become a poor man." (Proverbs 21:17) Being involved in fun activities and pursuits that bring pleasure is not a problem unless we put them in the place of our pursuit of God. Solomon came to this conclusion: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind." (Ecclesiastes 12:13) This should be our conclusion as well.
Sat Jul 18 09:22:09 2015
Over the years, I have been blessed to visit some of the beautiful places that God has created on planet Earth. There are many I would still like to see, but I am grateful for some of the sights I have witnessed - rainforests in Costa Rica, sand dunes in Peru, mountains in the U.S., and other marvelous scenes.
Have you ever wondered what God looks at when he observes his creation? Have you ever wondered what he thinks about when he looks at what he has set in motion on Earth? What is it that draws his attention? The writer of Psalm 33 gives us an idea, "From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth--he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine." (vss. 13-15; 18-19)
God doesn't look so much on the wonders of nature as he does people - us. What does he see? What kind of view greets him? As he looks at his children, does what he see please him or does he wince at the sight of what is before his eyes? He looks at us with a heart of love and longs for us to trust him. He wants to help those whose hope is in him. He wants to deliver us and provide for us. Let's show him we appreciate what he does for us by giving him something really special to view!
Fri Jul 17 08:38:50 2015
There is a scene in the movie "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" where Captain Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe, tells his crew, "Although we are on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is England." Dennis Fisher commented, "Captain Aubrey's view of citizenship is based on loyalty, not location."
As followers of Christ, this needs to be our attitude about our current place of existence and where our citizenship actually lies. The writer of Hebrews talks about the attitude of people of faith, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16)
We need to remember that though we are living on earth, our home lies elsewhere. Regardless of where we are spatially, as followers of Christ, home is somewhere else spiritually. Let's live as citizens of the land where we will be, not the land where we are.
Thu Jul 16 08:05:02 2015
Do you remember the t-shirts (and other objects as well) that read, "Virginia is for lovers?" Of course, you could substitute the name of any state. I just remember seeing these first in Virginia. That is putting a positive spin on the emotion of love. However, I read the other day a t-shirt that said, "Love is for losers." Quite a difference between the attitudes towards love expressed in these two sentiments. I think I prefer the former over the latter, and I hope you do as well.
Someone who would wear a t-shirt emblazoned with "Love is for losers" no doubt is someone who has been negatively affected by a relationship where love was expressed. Expressing love is not without its risks. People we love can hurt us, disappoint us, even leave us. You can experience loss from love. But that doesn't mean we should not love.
Paul is very explicit in how love should be expressed. He speaks of love that is expressed selflessly - not looking for anything in return, and has the best interests of those who are loved in mind. Scripture speaks better for itself here - listen to what it says about love, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (vss. 4 - 7)
We know this is the kind of love we are loved with by God. This is the kind of love we as believers should show towards others. This is the kind of love we should demonstrate in our relationships. Expressing and receiving this love would eliminate the "Love is for losers" mindset. According to Paul, this is love that "never fails." (vs. 8)
Wed Jul 15 08:03:13 2015
The recent Home Run Derby contest prior to the Major League All-Star Game was another tale of a local boy who does good. The All-Star game is being held in Cincinnati, Ohio, this year at Great American Ballpark. So, who ends up winning the home run contest? None other than Todd Frazier, the third baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, and the only member of the Reds who was voted to play in the game. What a great story, don't you think? The Cincinnati fans let folks know throughout the contest just who they were rooting for, and when Frazier hit the home run that won the contest, the ballpark went wild. Of course, this is as it should be.
Thinking of this brings to mind an incident where things weren't as they should be. Jesus had just finished being tested in the wilderness of Judea. He returned to his native Galilee, to his hometown of Nazareth. Luke 3:16 tells us, " He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read." He read from Isaiah and then told them that what they heard had been fulfilled that day. After some positive response, the interaction began to get testy when they started hearing some things from Jesus they didn't like. Tensions escalated, culminating with this scene, "All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way." (vss. 28-30)
Is that any way to treat a hometown boy who has done nothing but good? Not hardly - Christ certainly didn't get the "Todd Frazier" treatment that day. Of course, he rarely did. He endured a great deal of abuse and concluded with the cross. All of this for you and for me. Don't ever forget what Christ endured on your behalf - mistreatment beyond belief - even from folks in his home town.
Tue Jul 14 08:43:48 2015
Well, now, as opposed to global warming, a recent study released early this summer states that we are headed for a mini-ice age sometime between 2030 and 2040. According to an article in the Huffington Post yesterday, "Might want to start stockpiling those down jackets: The sun could nod off by 2030, triggering what scientists are describing as a 'mini ice age.' Professor Vlentina Zharkova of Northumbria University presented the frigid findings at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales. Modern technology has made us able to predict solar cycles with much greater accuracy, and Zharkova's model predicts that solar activity will drop by more than half between 2030 and 2040."
So, which is it - are we going to get blistered by the sun because of the decline in the protective ozone, or are we going to freeze to death because the sun is going into a down time? Who do we trust?
I would imagine you know the answer to this question, and if you are having trouble coming up with a response, read Psalm 146:3-5, "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God." When it comes to God's word against man's word, I know which one I will listen to every time.
Mon Jul 13 09:11:14 2015
Which is worse - telling someone you will do something and then not doing it or telling someone you will not do something and then doing it? Christ told a parable about this that gives us the answer.
In Matthew 21:28-32 we read, "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted? 'The first,' they answered." Christ went on to say that tax collectors and prostitutes were entering into the kingdom ahead of those to whom he was speaking, the Pharisees, because they were acting and not relying on words.
Words can be powerful, but only when they are backed up with action. It is so easy to say we are going to help someone, but the proof of our intent is when we actually go help them load up their truck, or whatever. The same is especially true in our relationship with God. We can tell God how much we love him and how much we want to serve him, but we need to remember that the person who truly does his will is the one who actually does his will, even if he at first says he won't.
Which gets to you the most - people who tell you things but never back up what they say with actions, or people who help you, even if they at first said they couldn't? Remember your response the next time you make God a promise.
Sun Jul 12 12:13:29 2015
One of the many tasks I am unable to perform just now because of my recent surgery is taking out the trash. I am always happy to do this little chore as I want to eliminate the unwanted, unneeded, and undesirable as quickly as possible. This morning I watched as the trash truck came by, picked up our dumpster with the mechanical arm, and hauled away the refuse we did not want. It is always a nice feeling to see that stuff leave. Unfortunately, this is not a "one and done" instance. By next week, we will have the container filled again and have it out to be picked up and eliminated.
This needs to take place in our spiritual lives as well. We accumulate the unwanted, the unneeded, and the undesirable in our inner selves much in the way we produce these in our physical lives. We need to do regular "trash patrol" in our inner selves as well. There are impure thoughts that need to be disposed of, inappropriate fantasies that are dumpster worthy, and out-of-line feelings of anger or other emotions that should just be dealt with and put away.
These sins are that for which Christ died. When we turn these over to the Savior, we experience a feeling of satisfaction as we know we have done the right thing and have done what should be in order for us to continue to experience the fellowship with our Savior as we should. I John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Make sure you take out the trash on a regular basis.
Sat Jul 11 07:10:15 201
Have you ever bought a "refurbished" product? This is an item that for some reason has been sent back to the manufacturer. The product is repaired and then resold as refurbished. This can be a good deal, but of course, the item is not new. To make the item new, you would have to start from scratch.
This is what Christ does with us when we accept his gift. He does so much more than just simply "refurbish" us. Paul says he makes us new. II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" According to Paul, a new creation has come, the old has been completely removed. Isn't that marvelous? We are made new in Christ! No "refurbishing" here; nothing but new!
Fri Jul 10 09:42:03 2015
As most of you know, at this time I am recuperating from my most recent surgery - a total replacement of my left knee. I have a colleague of mine, Dan Smith, who is recuperating in a hospital in another city from a much more serious surgery to treat cancer. I can tell you of countless other friends being treated for various health conditions.
Some folks maintain that followers of Christ should not use medical treatments. According to their way of thought, using medical means indicates a lack of faith. Obviously, I disagree with their reasoning. Medicine is something given to us by God to be used as a means of improving our quality of life. We should be thankful to God for medical developments that help us to live more effectively and give us greater opportunity to glorify God through our lives.
Medicine is not a new thing, although there have been many developments over the centuries. The use of medicine is a practice found in the scripture, albeit not too abundantly. Hyssop was used a purifier (Numbers 19:18; Psalm 51:7). The Israelites were instructed to use quarantine, sanitary procedures, and other practices related to the containment of organisms that caused infection and illness. Paul encouraged Timothy to "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." In addition to his encouragement of the use of wine medicinally, earlier he wrote, "For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer." (I Timothy 4:23-24)
As we use medicine, we need to remember to use it correctly and appropriately. We need not to misuse our knowledge and our compounds. And we should take the advice of Paul and receive these things "with thanksgiving." Give thanks to God, and live as healthy as you can!
Thu Jul 9 08:31:35 2015
A lot of chatter is being made about the relationship of Russell Wilson, NFL quarterback, and the well-known recording artist, Ciara. What has really increased the chatter is the revelation they are not having sex. In a recent LA Times article found on the internet, the following was reported:, "The Seattle Seahawks quarterback got all goofy about his lady in a sit-down with Pastor Miles McPherson at the Rock Church in San Diego on Sunday night, and in not so many words let it be known that he and Ciara had chosen to play it chaste. Despite the fact that he considers her the most beautiful, most kind, most engaging person in the world." Their decision to be chaste is being viewed as abnormal, which is not surprising.
Sex is an area we just don't get right. We really haven't since the beginning. God's intent is explicitly laid out for us in Genesis 2:24, "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." Sex was given to humankind by God for the purpose of procreation and enjoyment. This was to be enjoyed within the commitment of a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. Of course, this is not the view of our society and because of pressure, we now have such actions as the recent Supreme Court decision re-defining legal marriage.
Alteration of mores and Supreme Court decisions do not nullify God's design nor his intent. I fear for a society that views the position of Wilson and Ciara as an aberration rather than norm. Of course, this debate will continue. Followers of God need to let God speak.
Wed Jul 8 09:43:49 2015
I have always enjoyed reunions, especially family reunions, whether of the "formal" or "informal" variety. Having moved from my home area along with my wife 37 years ago, these times of getting together with family and friends have proved precious over the years. These experiences allowed us to catch up with our family and friends, or simply to just spend time with family and friends, and enjoy each other's presence. The biggest down side to these events is that they didn't last. There was always a time when goodbye had to be said, and we would return home.
One of the great things about our experience in heaven is that when the gathering has been joined, it will not ever be dismissed. That will be one of the truly marvelous things about heaven. I cannot help but think that our time in heaven will be spent with loved ones and people with whom we will share stories and share our lives.
John writes, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7) This verse describes what takes place in this life, and is something that will continue to take place in our lives in heaven because of what Christ has done for us. I know I will enjoy that reunion.
Tue Jul 7 09:51:57 2015
Pastor and author Eugene Peterson called the process of following Christ "a long obedience in the same direction." Every resolution to begin to obey must be followed by many decisions to continue.
We are constantly faced with issues calling for a decision to be obedient to Christ or to follow our own way and disobey. At times, weariness may set in because of constant confrontation calling for us to make decisions about our stand for Christ. We may wish this not to be the case and we may wish confrontations would just go away, but they won't. We live in a fallen world and our faith will constantly be tested.
Paul encourages us, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9) Sometimes our constant battle against the influences that seek to pull us away from an obedient life can become very testing, even overwhelming. At those times, pray for the power of the Spirit to help you, continue to walk the right direction, persevere in obedience even though disobedience may be easier, and look ahead to the results that occur when you are obedient. Look forward to the harvest that obedience brings.
Mon Jul 6 08:49:53 2015
This is the first article I have actually written since my surgery last Tuesday. Well, I wrote all the others, but I wrote them before I went for surgery. I am creeping back into activities, and this is the essentially the first "ministry related" activity as it requires only the use of computer in my lap driven by the brain that I hope still exists in my head working through the fingers I have on my hands.
My experience thus far has been similar in most respects to my previous surgeries, but has also been a bit different in that I have found myself being surprisingly impatient. I don't know how to answer that, as you would think I would be familiar to the routine especially since this surgery was so close to my previous knee replacement. I have had surgeries this close together before - my back surgery in October of 2010 followed by my hip surgery of January 2011, but I don't recall the "antsyness" becoming so profound so quickly with those surgeries. I probably am just getting tired of surgery. Well, that may be so, but that doesn't have much bearing on reality, and I accept that. I needed the surgery, knowing it would mean I would have to start over again with my therapy.
This may be one issue - I had really just gotten to a place where my therapy was not so arduous and now, of course, it is. Regardless of the arduous nature of the therapy, and the fact I am "starting over," I will do the therapy, I know that the consequence to not doing the therapy is not good. And to know what is good to do but not do it is really dumb.
James writes about something similar to this in two locations in his epistle. First, In James 1:22 - 25 we read, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it--not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it--they will be blessed in what they do." We also find this blunt statement in James 4:17, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it, it is sin for them."
Despite my feelings of "restlessness" or whatever, it I do not do what I know I should, I will pay for it. So it is in our spiritual lives - we need to do what we know we should.
Sun Jul 5 07:10:15 201
When I was in college a professor made a mistake posting the final grade I received in his class. I went to speak with him about the mistake, and was assured that all would be taken of. However, when I checked after a period of time, the grade had not been changed. I went to speak to the professor and was assured all would be well. To make a long story short, it took a couple of more trips to the professor and a trip to the dean of the college before action was taken to alleviate the situation. I remember the dean's comments, "Well, don't be too hard on the professor. He is a good teacher, but he sometimes isn't all that dependable." Ouch. And I found out later that the dean was a good friend of the professor. He was also honest.
Do people say that about you? One of the most important characteristics we should manifest as believers is faithfulness. People need to know they can depend on us. We should be faithful in our lives before others and before God. We should show our heavenly Father that we are someone on whom he can depend.
Paul lists faithfulness as one of the fruits of the spirit that needs to be cultivated (Galatians 5:22). He also writes in I Corinthians 4:2, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." Christ spoke of the need for faithfulness on many occasions, one being his parable of the faithful servants in Luke 12:35 - 46.
Be faithful! Show that you are a person upon whom others depend! I have not forgotten that professor. Can you guess why? Is this how you would like to be remembered?
Sat Jul 4 07:10:15 201
Today we celebrate liberty. We use this date as the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence that stated we no longer wanted to be ruled by England. England didn't like this, and the skirmish that had already started escalated into all-out war. The Colonists prevailed and became the United States of America. It is good we have this holiday, and I hope we use it as a time of reflection and celebration of an absolutely incredible event. That colonial uprising led to the establishment of a country that would eventually become the most powerful political force on the planet. Of course, with this position comes great responsibility. That is the way it is with liberty - we must realize liberty comes at a price and to truly enjoy liberty we must understand the responsibility that comes with that liberty.
Patrick Henry understood the significance of liberty when he said, "Give me liberty, or give me death." He knew liberty came at a price, and came with responsibility. As citizens of the United States, let us never forget this, and let us never forget this as citizens of the Kingdom of God. John 8:32 says, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Be glad for the liberty you have in Christ. Remember your freedom came with a price, and remember your responsibility in light of God's provision.
Fri Jul 3 07:10:15 201
The headlines read, "Errant Golf Shot Saves Man's Life." How could taking a golf ball off the side of your head save your life? Well, when Chris Logan went to the hospital to get checked out after being hit in the head by an errant shot from the driver of PGA tour professional Sean O'Hair, doctors found more than what they expected. Actually, Logan was not seriously injured by the golf ball that hit him in the right temple, but he could be killed by what was found lurking in his neck - a malignant thyroid tumor. The tumor was removed within weeks after being discovered and, one year later, Logan is doing well. The only problem now for Logan is taking a ribbing from fellow caddies who kid him about being struck down by what he had spent countless hours trying to avoid.
Being hit in the head by a golf ball is not good, but having one's life saved as a result of that "accident" is really good. I know some of you reading this could add your story about how an accident or a bad event led to a beneficial discovery. I know personally at least three individuals with stories similar to Logan's. We need to try to keep these incidents in mind when we experience bad situations. I realize not every bad experience may have this type of "silver lining," but many do. Sometimes the positive that can come out of a negative occurrence might not be so obvious. In addition, what we can learn or how we can benefit from a bad circumstance may not be evident right away. We need to keep this in mind when we are going through a difficult time. Try to hold on the perspective that what we are experiencing is going to lead to a positive outcome.
Despite all the advice otherwise, Job held on to this belief through his ordeal. He continued to exercise faith in God and kept in mind that the outcome of his trial was in God's hands. He said, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job19:25-27)
When faced with a difficult trial, continue to trust God for the outcome and realize what you are experiencing can lead to a greater good, even if that greater good is not readily apparent. A golf ball to the head was not a good thing, but Chris Logan certainly was glad he was "beaned."
Thu Jul 2 07:10:15 201
When you look through a window, what do you see? Do you see just the wood, metal and glass of the window, or do you look through the window to see what lies beyond? Most likely, you are looking beyond the window to see what lies beyond. That is the purpose of the window - to allow you to see what lies outside or inside the window, to let light in, and to enhance the appearance and function of the structure where the window is found. A window is there not to call attention to itself but to enhance the experience of those who encounter the window. Now, folks do like to have attractive windows, and that is all well and good. But is a window doesn't do what a window is supposed to do (see above description), then the window isn't effective as a window.|
As followers of Christ, we need to put ourselves in the place of a window. We must remember that we exist not to call attention to ourselves, but to enhance others' view of what lies beyond - our marvelous Savior and how a relationship with him should appear. We should point others to him and allow others to see him. If a window obstructs one's view of the marvelous vistas that lie outside, the window is not designed properly.
When we obstruct others' view of the Savior, we are not performing according to our design. Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Since this is true, let's make sure we are a good window that allows others to see Christ, not us.
Wed Jul 1 07:10:15 201
Making his way to his bedroom, the little boy walked by his mother with a rather unusual bump under his clothing. Mom asked, "Billy, what do you have under your shirt?" "Nothing, Mom," was the reply. Well, upon further inspection, Mom found a pair of scissors that had been banned because of an earlier act of "redecorating." Mom had to stifle her laughter, but she also needed to exercise some appropriate discipline.
Why do we learn the art of deception at such a young age? Unfortunately, this is part of who we are because of our sin. We do things that are wrong, and then we attempt to cover them up as an act of self-preservation or simply because we don't want to look bad in the eyes of others. We do our best to conceal our faults and our sin, and we may be successful with some folks. However, we cannot fool everyone all of the time, and we certainly never fool God. God always sees the lumps.
This was a characteristic that Abraham, the "Father of Faith," carried with him when he left Ur of the Chaldees to follow God's plan for him to resettle in a land of promise. Along the way, faithful Abraham showed his dark side when he told Pharaoh that his wife Sarai was actually his sister because he feared Pharaoh's actions against him. Abraham's deception was discovered, and he was expelled from Egypt. What is ironic is that he repeated this deception with Abimelech, King of Gerar. We read in Genesis 20:1-2, "Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, 'She is my sister.' Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her." Once again, the deception was discovered and Abraham had to go before the Lord and repent to avert the consequences that God had prepared to bring upon Abimelech. After the repentance and after the deception was cleared away, a positive relationship developed between Abraham and Abimelech. Later, God blessed Abraham and Sarah by allowing Sarah to conceive (21:1).
Beware of our tendency to sin and cover up, and realize the consequences you face when you practice deception. God has so many good things for us and will bless us abundantly when we deal with him in truth. Deception will only lead to dire results.
Tue Jun 30 07:10:15 2015
Heroes are people who respond to a period of great duress in a strong and aggressive way to prevent a wrong from taking place or to do what is right. Hebrews 11 records the names of several people we might consider heroes because of the way they responded to negative circumstances and made a real difference. A common element these people shared was their faith. This is mentioned several times throughout the chapter. By faith these people made a difference in their lives and in the lives of those around them. They had a profound relationship with God that drove them to act in a way they knew was in line with who they were as a child of God in spite of whatever else they experienced or encountered .
What is really compelling about this chapter is that as we look at those who are mentioned, we know what is written about them includes their failures as well as their successes. We see the bad and the good in their character and their actions. This is encouraging because we see that heroes are normal people that neither live trouble-free lives nor are perfect in any way.
So, in other words, you can be a hero. Now, you really should not seek to be a hero, but you should realize that you should seek to live faithfully. As you do, you will find yourselves at times called upon to respond in an unusual way in a difficult situation. God calls us to live by faith and realize that at times our faith will be tested. Our focus should be upon our life before God and following him, knowing that he will not be all that far ahead and is committed to leading you in the right path. Hebrews 11:1-2 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." Follow the path of a hero; follow the path of faith.
Mon Jun 29 08:24:36 2015
Most of us look for short cuts. When we hear we can get some place more quickly by following a short cut, we use it. When we are doing some work and figure out how to do the job faster, we employ our short cut. Short cuts are used to access computer programs more expediently. We enjoy using short cuts. However, a short cut may not always be the best way.
I remember reading about a couple who decided to take a short cut and not take apart a large desk they wanted to move before attempting to move it down a narrow hallway to another room. They ended up having to replace a wall and repairing the desk because of damage caused in the attempt to employ a short cut. I recall taking a short cut on my way back from a hospital visit in a neighboring town and turning a 45 minute trip into an hour and half excursion. Indeed, a short cut may not always be the best way.
Short cuts in life are not always the best way. Many times there are lessons to be learned from the journey. We need to allow the process to continue to completion in order to glean what we need to know from the experience. In I Samuel 15, we read about Saul trying to take a short cut in his response to God's command. Samuel confronted him and said, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (15:22) As appealing as they may appear, beware of taking short cuts. Often, they are not the best way.
Sun Jun 28 07:01:34 2015
I just finished spending a few days with both of my daughters and their families. Since we don't live near each other, times like this are very special. We made plans to meet at a campground in Indiana and spend days boating, swimming, maybe doing some fishing and sight-seeing. We knew we couldn't fit all of these activities in the short time we had together, but we had reasonable expectations that we would be able to do some of them. Ah, but then came the rain. A lot of rain had already fallen before we arrived, and when got there, it just continued to rain. The beach at the lake was closed - literally. The beach area was completely under water, the road to the boat rentals was under water. We had to alter our cooking plans because of the rain. We had a miserable time, didn't we? WRONG!
We had a blast! So what if planned activities were changed? We were together and we always have a great time when we are together. That was the crucial part. What we did together was in second place to actually being together.
What can help us to get over many of life's disappointments is to focus on what is truly important. We often are disappointed when plans get changed and things don't work out quite the way we hoped. This can happen at various levels. What is helpful to us is to realize plans get changed, things take place we did not expect, or are paths are altered. At these times, we need to focus on what is important. We need to decide what it is that really matters. This leads to greater contentment and greater joy since we don't spend "down time" bemoaning what didn't happen.
Paul gave us a clue as to the effectiveness of this outlook when he wrote, "for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (Philippians 4:11) Focus on what is important and don't let the unimportant ruin your outlook.
Sat Jun 27 07:10:15 2014
I first heard the phrase, "I don't get mad, I just get even" when I was a freshman in high school. The reason I remember the timing so well is that I heard if from a camp counselor at the church camp I was attending after my freshman year of high school. We called him "Admiral Al" because he was a retired naval officer. Now, we respected him a great deal, but we did like to pull practical jokes on him. His response to our efforts was the aforementioned phrase, and we came to know him as a man of his word.
Many may think this about God when they read of his judgments in the scripture. To some it may seem that his judgments are a time when he will "get even" to those who have sinned and have not sought his repentance. However, God's judgments are not capricious and they are not in place simply because he wants to get revenge on those who have spurned him. Certainly his judgments are real, but they flow out of his character and his perfect nature.
God is a just God and cannot let sin go unpunished. He would have to deny his holy character in order to refrain from judging sin. How do we view this trait of God? The response of the saints found in Revelation 15 gives us some insight as to how to respond. In the midst of God's judgments we find these words of praise from those who were God's: Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. (3 -4) His justice elicits praise from his followers.
We need to remember that God is a merciful God and is actually holding back his judgments so that others may come to him (II Peter 3:9). As we contemplate God's judgment, view it as a reflection of his character, and know that God is not looking to "get even."
Fri Jun 26 07:10:15 2014
A young mother was watching her 3-year-old toddler play with his toys. The little boy stopped playing for a bit, looked at his mother and said, "I love you, Mom." "Why do you love me?" asked Mom. Her little son replied, "Because you play cars with me." That sounds like a reasonable answer to me, and certainly an honest one.
This may be a good reason for a toddler to love his mother, but when it comes to our love for God, there needs to be a different motivation. We shouldn't love God because of what he does for us. We need to love him because he is our Father. Do we trust and love him when we see life taking difficult turns? Job wrestled with this. His wife asked, "Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9)
Job's reply revealed his character and the motivation for his relationship with God, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (vs. 10) He did struggle with what was taking place in his life and he voiced his frustration. He had to listen to the interesting advice of his friends and worked to find his footing, but he proclaimed his certainty in God's presence and provision. He declared, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;" (13:15) He knew his life was in God's hands, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God." (19:25-26)
Make sure your love for God is grounded on the right foundation. Don't love him just because he plays cars with you!
Thu Jun 25 07:59:13 2015
Today we are half-way between our Christmas celebration of last year and our Christmas celebration of this year. This would be a good time to sing some Christmas carols, don't you think? I have always wondered why we reserve these really neat songs just for Christmas. I suppose we do it to make the celebration more special, but they would be great to sing at any time because of their message and the music.
Carols contain great theology - think "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" - "Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a Virgin's womb, Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel." They are great songs of praise - "Joy to the world, the Lord is come." They are songs that reflect God's character - such as when he chose the shepherds to be the first recipients of the news that Jesus was born ("The first noel, the angel did say, was to certain poor shepherds"). So, why do we put them off until Christmas? I think that is a great question, but I would imagine I will not see any earth-shattering response to this suggestion.
What I do hope to see is that we praise the Lord at all times, not just at Christmas. What I do hope to see is that we pledge to serve him at all times, not just at Christmas. What I do hope to see is that we promise to proclaim his message at all times, not just at Christmas. The message that begins, "Now it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. . .(Luke 2:1)" should be proclaimed at all times.
We are half-way to another Christmas celebration, just don't live like you are only a half-Christian until we get there.
Wed Jun 24 07:58:10 2015
In a recent interview with Anderson Cooper, Stephen Hawking warned of the potential dangers in developing artificial intelligence and "smart machines." He said, "The development of full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race." Now, I am all for doing things that protect our survival, and I respect Dr. Hawking's intellect, but this is giving humankind way too much credit. Most "doomsday scenarios" that have humans being responsible for the destruction of ourselves give us too much credit.
Read carefully here, I do not advocate that we throw caution to the wind when it comes to our lives and how we live them, or the development of technology, or the stewardship of the environment, but I see that our future lies not within our own hands but in the hands of God. God has declared some pretty specific things about our future. There is the prediction of judgment and consequences for not following him are spelled out clearly in the Word he has given us. We do need to prepare for the future and we do need to make wise decisions, but we need to realize that preparation for the future involving only the survival of the human race falls far short of the future for which we need to prepare.
If we fail to make the decision to place our faith in the Son of God, our Savior, then our future is bleak. This is where Hawking's warnings fall short. He only warns about the destruction of humankind and the downfall of civilization. For those who fail to follow God, there is a much greater consequence. And you do not need "artificial intelligence" to figure this out - you only need to read God's Word. The Bible says, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31), but we do not need to fear God's judgment or our future if we place our faith in the One who holds our fate and is in control of our future. Trust Christ today and secure your future with Him.
Tue Jun 23 07:54:16 2015
I have always found it difficult to describe my emotions as I visit holocaust museums. They were particularly strong when I visited Yad V'shem in Jerusalem. As you are walking towards the entrance of the museum, you pass through the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles. This is a tree-lined walkway with each tree representing a Gentile who provided help for the Jews during the Nazi persecution in World War 2. Names such as Oscar Schindler and Corrie ten Boom are to be found, along with many other lesser-known, but no less significant, people.
As we survey our lives, we can perhaps think of people who are important to us because of their contributions to us. Such people probably include parents and grandparents along with others who were particularly helpful and provided guidance for us. We should thank God for them
We should also thank God for so many others who have made sacrifices for friends, family members, or even complete strangers. Some have risked their lives, or even lost their lives, in their efforts to help other Christians. Paul speaks of two who fit this description, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them." (Romans 16:3-4)
We may not be in a place of risking our lives today, but let's do what we can to help struggling believers. Let's make sure we continue to reflect the same spirit of selflessness as did those who gave much to render aid.
Mon Jun 22 07:38:44 2015
I appreciate using the English language correctly. Now, I am not above using slang at times, and I will throw in the occasional "ain't" just for the fun of it, but I watch my grammar. And when I hear folks say "We was going to do something" or "It was me", I cringe a bit. We need to speak correctly and appreciate the beauty of fitly spoken words.
Speaking correctly is one thing we should be considerate of, but more importantly we should be careful how we walk. God asks of us to walk correctly and carefully. The language we speak with our lives is more critical than the language with speak with our mouths. Our actions should be correct, and give evidence of our desire to preserve God's design.
Paul wrote, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1) We should be concerned about our speech, both with the structure of our speech and the content. We should be more concerned with our walk both how we walk and where we walk.
Sun Jun 21 06:22:10 2015
When the Lord gave instructions on how to pray, he also gave some insights into the character of God. And when he addressed God as his Father, he gave some insight into characteristics of a father that we earthly fathers would do well to exhibit. Certainly we cannot be the kind of Father that God is in that he is perfect, but we see elements of fatherhood that we should try to model as earthly fathers.
We find this prayer in Matthew 6:9 -13, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
First we see that a father is there for us. Jesus said "Our Father in heaven." He knew where he was. Fathers need to be present with their children. The statement regarding God's will speaks to me of strength. Fathers should provide strength and direction for their families. Fathers need to provide, as God does, "Give us today our daily bread," Fathers need to be forgiving. Fathers should not do things to lead their children down the wrong path - "lead us not into temptation." Fathers need to provide protection, as God does.
Earthly fathers cannot be the Father, but that is not the intent. However, we find many elements of fatherhood presented in Christ's prayer that we earthly fathers can exhibit in our lives. Happy Father's Day!
Sat Jun 20 09:06:33 2015
The story of Arthur Stace is captivating. He was born in poverty in New South Wales in 1885. His parents were alcoholics, and he became an alcoholic by the time he was in his teens. He became homeless and was put in jail at the age of 15. He later served in World War I and led a more productive life after his discharge from service, although still struggling.
In 1930, he converted to Christianity and became fascinated with the concept of eternity. This fascination led to a practice that became his enduring legacy. Beginning in 1932, Stace would walk the paths of various locations in Sydney and chalk the word "Eternity" in copperscipt on the sidewalks. He did this until his death in 1967. He was known as "Mr. Eternity." He became very well-known, and there are numerous stories of lives that were touched through this practice.
Eternity is a concept that we are at once enamored with and confused by. How can we conceive of eternity? Yet we know that we are eternal beings, and that we are now living in a temporal life that will determine our eternal destination. Christ said, "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3) I hope you know that you have eternal life. And those of us who do need to be involved in bring the news of eternity to others. We may not engage in the same practice as "Mr. Eternity," but we should be as diligent in bringing the news of Christ to others.
Fri Jun 19 08:04:54 2015
You may be familiar with the chorus, "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart." Do you have real joy in your life? Joy is something we should desire and pursue. Joy is the result of developing contentment with our relationship with our wonderful Savior. Some want happiness and pursue what they think will make them happy. However, I'm talking about something that goes deeper than just trying for happiness.
Joanie Yoder wrote, "According to Bible scholar Ian Barclay, 'Happiness is not a biblical word at all. It is derived from the root to happen. Clearly, what happens to us will affect our happiness.' Joy, on the other hand, is a fruit of God's Spirit and is not affected by good or bad happenings. Joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is dependent, as we ourselves need to be, on God Himself who dwells within us." We need to pursue joy in our lives without thinking about trying to do things, buy things, pursue things that will make us "happy." When we cultivate a relationship with our heavenly Father, we can truly have "joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart." Paul reminds us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is. . .joy." (Galatians 5:22) Fruit results from cultivation and growth - keep this in mind as you develop joy.
Thu Jun 18 07:54:50 2015
A man decided it was time to get in shape. So, he started working out. Day one went well with some weight-lifting and a mile run. On day two, he ran a mile and a half. Day three included more weight-lifting and a run of two miles. When he woke up on day four, he had a sore throat and a headache. His conclusion? Exercise had caused his affliction and wasn't good for him, so he stopped working out. Doesn't this sound a little goofy?
This isn't any goofier than what some believers think. They start reading the Bible and spending more time in prayer, then decide to stop because their lives don't improve. They still face struggles and rough patches. Why try to get closer to God if you still have troubles?
We don't draw closer to God just to make our lives better. We draw closer to God because that is what we should be doing in our lives. Drawing closer to God does not prevent rough times in our lives. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (II Timothy 3:12) We live for Christ for the purpose of living for Christ. "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 1o:22)
Live for Christ for the sake of living for Christ not for the sake of a worry-free life.
Tue Jun 16 07:44:59 2015
Does telling little white lies or half-truths bother you? We need to be careful about how we view this practice. Often we think that just bending the truth a bit, or not telling all we know is not a problem, but we need to be better than that. We usually resort to this practice because we don't want to look bad in someone else's eyes, but even little seemingly insignificant lies can lead to significant consequences.
Let's say your manager asks you to pick up some supplies. He asks you to pick up the cheapest paper. When you go, you are in a hurry, and you pick up the first paper you see. The paper is a name brand and obviously not the cheapest. When he asks you "Was this the cheapest?" you reply, "Yep." Sometime down the road, you are up for a promotion but it is between you and another person with similar credentials and track record. When the manager is mulling over the decision, he remembers the paper incident. Need I say more?
Scripture has many examples of where half-truths brought significant consequences. Eve responded to Satan's taunts by adding to what God had said, "and you must not touch it, or you will die." (Genesis 3:3) Oh, did that give Satan an opening. Paul confronted the Judaizers because they were saying salvation was dependent not only on faith but following the law (Galatians 1:6). That created confusion and had great consequences. When Ananias and Sapphira sold some land, then only brought part of the price to the apostles. That would not have been a problem, but they told the apostles that there offering represented the entire amount they received from the sale (Acts 5:1-11)
This misrepresentation cost them their lives. Don't fall into the habit of misrepresenting the truth, no matter how inconsequential it may seem. There are always consequences and they will not be pleasant.
Mon Jun 15 07:37:11 2015
Many years ago I drove by a grain elevator with a friend who was visiting from another country. There had been an abundant harvest that year, and the elevator was having to pile up the excess grain on the ground and cover it as best they could with large tarps. My friend asked me what was going on, and when I told him, he said, "Oh, I wish I could have that in my country."
We do live in a country of abundance and often what we simply view as normal with regard to what we have and what we possess would be thought of as great wealth in other areas of the world. We who have been entrusted with so much, even though we may not consider it a great abundance, should be willing to share what we have with those who don't have.
Paul told Timothy what he should tell the people at Ephesus, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." (I Timothy 6:17-18)
We need to be willing to share. Those who have an abundance have been given a great responsibility. Handling riches requires great wisdom. Share what you have with those who don't have.
Sun Jun 14 07:15:31 2015
Some of you have perhaps been in a leadership position and have felt resistance to your ideas and your direction. At those times, we need to make sure our motives and thoughts are in the right place. We should speak the truth in love, but we need to make sure we are doing so from a position of grounded thinking that is not rooted in our own ego. This may seem to you advice that I need to take to heart, and it is. However, pastors are not the only ones in positions of leadership within the church.
When you are in a position of leadership, you need to lead by example, and follow the example you have before you. When we are in a position of leadership in the church, we need to always follow the example and teaching of Christ. We are imperfect people, but God can still use us and wants to use us but we need to be committed to his principles. We must never forget our accountability before God and we work with and as we lead others.
Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48) This has application to leadership roles. Lead the way Christ intends for you to lead.
Sat Jun 13 07:32:26 2015
My oldest daughter and her family are currently at the beach. She has been sending us pictures and videos of their activities, especially of our granddaughter. Some of these visual images have featured my daughter running down that little two-year-old who constantly wants to go off on her own and do things. Today, she sent me an email telling me that her daughter had asked her not to accompany her to the ocean because she wanted to go by herself. Isn't that great?
My little granddaughter was just doing what little ones do - try to go out on their own, not knowing that they have no idea what they are doing, and not fully appreciating the presence of a parent who is there to keep them in a position where they are getting the most out of their experience. A parent also wants to keep them from getting in over their head. Of course, this literally is the case for my daughter and granddaughter.
We often fail to appreciate God's leadership and guidance in our lives because we have not yet reached the stage where we understand what he does for us. We also fail to realize that what he is doing is for our best interest. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." God is there to direct us, protect us, and help us grow. Don't work against him!
Fri Jun 12 07:54:05 2015
I have always found it hard not to stop for folks I see stranded on the road, so I do if it is safe to do so. I have been stranded myself on a couple of occasions, and I know it is great when others stop to help as they can. I also know what it is to be stranded and have no one stop.
Years ago I stopped for an accident on a country road in Ohio. There were three people in the car - two were outside the car with some minor injuries. The car had slid over a bank and was basically lying on its side, and one person was still in the car. He was unconscious, and we couldn't tell how badly he was hurt. Cell phones were only in works of science fiction at that time, so I drove to the nearest house to call for help. Soon, an ambulance was there along with law enforcement personnel. The young man who had been knocked out regained consciousness and would be o.k. - he did spend a couple of days in the hospital. They were appreciative that I stopped, and thankful they were not injured seriously. One said, "I don't know what we would have done if you hadn't stopped."
I know in our world, you need to be cautious doing things like this, but there are other ways where we can be helpful to those who are in need that do not involve stopping along a highway. What about a neighbor who is hurting because they just lost a loved one? What about a friend who just lost a job? How about someone at church who needs help with their kids because they need to take care of some things? And what about someone you know who needs to hear the Gospel?
There are a lot of ways to be a "Good Samaritan". I have always loved that story. Even as a kid I could never understand the actions of the priest and the Levite. I love the words of Christ at the conclusion, "'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:36-37) Let's go and do likewise.
Thu Jun 11 07:52:10 2015
When I was young we used to visit relatives in Kentucky who had peacocks. Those birds were really something, and something we didn't see all the time. A male peacock is really resplendent when he throws up his tail feathers and reveals his other "eyes." They were quite impressive - except they had ugly feet.
All of us have some sort of physical limitation. Paul speaks of some sort of limitation he dealt with, and he also gave us some insight as to his attitude towards his "thorn." He wrote, "I was given a thorn in my flesh . . .Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (II Corinthians 12:7-9)
Why was this present, and how did Paul view his limitation? He prefaced the above with this, "in order to keep me from becoming conceited". Paul knew that what some might view as a hardship was in his life to help him grow. We often view our limitations as hardships, but these things can help us grow if we develop the right attitude.
One of the great things about faith is God uses us in spite of our imperfections, and actually uses our imperfections to help us better serve him. When we find our strength in God, we are something to behold, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the Savior.
Wed Jun 10 08:17:22 2015
Oh, I just love these articles: "How did life on Earth begin? It's been one of modern biology's greatest mysteries: How did the chemical soup that existed on the early Earth lead to the complex molecules needed to create living, breathing organisms? Now, researchers say they've found the missing link."
Humans have tried to find an explanation for the origin of the universe and life on earth almost since the beginning. Rejecting the biblical account of God who demonstrates his creativity and love through the creation process, "evidence" of the origin of life has been collected, analyzed, and theories postulated. This effort stepped up a bit after Darwin's publications in the mid-19th century. Well, we can look all we want, but when we finally discover the truth, God will be there. Our search for the "truth" is an indicator of our character. We are fallen, sinful humanity and this is reflected in the never-ending quest for a storyline that doesn't include God.
The article I read continued: "Most scientists think the 'last universal common ancestor'-- the creature from which everything on the planet descends-- appeared about 3.6 billion years ago. But exactly how that creature arose has long puzzled scientists. For instance, how did the chemistry of simple carbon-based molecules lead to the information storage of ribonucleic acid, or RNA?" And they think the biblical account of creation is hard to accept? Well, I have an answer for their question as to how the chemistry of simple carbon-based molecules led to the information storage of RNA - God made it that way.
The title of this article was "The Origin-of-life Story May Have Found Its Missing Link". I know the answer to that - God is the "missing link," and I pray they come to that realization before it is too late. They need to read and accept Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind."
Tue Jun 9 08:05:39 2015
There are many major sporting events in our world today - it is amazing how much that sports have become so much of our culture. The economic impact is really incalculable. You could debate the pros and cons of this from now on, but it is certainly reality. We just saw American Pharoah win the Triple Crown for the first time in 37 years, the NBA championship is currently being played, the NHL is going to get a new champion in a few day, the French Open tennis championship just concluded, MLB is going strong, and in gold the U.S. Open is just a couple of weeks away.
I had a professor who said, "A football game is 22 people who desperately need rest being watched by 50,000 people who desperately need exercise." Sometimes this is the definition of a church - a few people desperately busy with many people desperately unbusy. This is not the way it should be. In order for a church to grow as it should and to function as it should, folks need to work together. We all have jobs to do. As Paul wrote, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." (I Corinthians 3:6) As we do what we should, God will increase our efforts. Don't just be a spectator, participate!
Mon Jun 8 07:48:17 2015
In some areas, the title that accompanies your name is a really big deal. Some cultures value titles more than others. We don't pay attention to them in the United States the way others do, but still one's title can be significant at times. This is especially true in our government when the title "Secretary of State" or "Speaker of the House" and certainly "President" not only describes an office but identifies a person.
Paul was not into titles that much, but he did use the term "apostle" frequently in his writings. This demonstrated why he had the right to send the letters he wrote. For example we read in II Corinthians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia." There were also other terms he used about himself. These were of a different nature. Paul had formerly been a "blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man" He said that he considered himself to be the "chief" of sinners. But because of God's mercy, he was now an apostle, one to whom "the King eternal" had committed the glorious gospel and whom He had sent out to share that gospel. (I Timothy 1:13, 15, 17)
There are terms that can be used to about us that are not so much titles as they are descriptions of character. "Liar," "sneak," or "two-faced" are titles we certainly don't want. Rather, we would hope that terms like "honest," "dependable," or "kind" could be used. These titles may not be "official", but they certainly are significant. These titles are up to us - we gain them through our lifestyle. So, what is your title?
Sun Jun 7 07:25:30 2015
I don't know what it is with us when it comes to transforming items that are supposed to be just a convenience in our lives into items that more or less command our lives. We seem to be good at this. Take telephones for instance. Just a few short years ago, if someone tried to call you on a phone, you only knew about the call if you were physically present to answer it. Then came answering machines, followed by caller ID, and now, of course, cell phone usage is almost ubiquitous..
Cell phones were at one time an item of convenience, but now they rule our lives. No matter where we are or what we are doing, if that phone rings, we need to answer it. I saw an illustration of this just yesterday in the parking lot of a food store. A man exited the store with a number of bags in both hands. As he got to his car, his cell phone rang. I heard him say something that I would not repeat orally or in print, drop all of his bags, pull out his phone and answer the call angrily. I thought to myself, "Why did he have to answer the call?"
Indeed we have turned an item of convenience into something that dominates us. Why? Because we are good at doing this. We are good at taking that which should be a convenience or that which should be something that should be a relaxing pastime or simply a diversion, something that should not be a priority, and making it the boss of us. What is bad is that we do this with just about anything except what, or rather who, should be the boss of us - God. And what have we done with God? We have turned him into a matter of convenience. We attend church, if it is convenient. We give, if it is convenient. We help serve in the church, if it is convenient.
The Pharisees did this. This may be an over-simplification, but essentially they had turned that which was non-essential into essentials and ignored what was truly essential when it came to the worship of God. In the midst of the indictment of Christ against the Pharisees found in Matthew 23, we find this statement that pretty well sums up the problem, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." (vss. 23-24)
We need to beware of transforming an item of convenience into an item of command. Buck the trend - it's more than a matter of convenience.
Sat Jun 6 08:56:32 2015
Have you ever sprained you ankle? Sprains can be quite painful, although we sometimes don't take them seriously enough. We need to treat sprains with RICE - rest, ice, compression and elevation. Not treating them correctly can lead to further problems, even down the road a little bit, as not allowing the ankle to heal properly can make it more susceptible to future problems.
We experience spiritual hurts as well - injuries brought on by our failure to oversee our spiritual lives, a wrongdoing that doesn't appear to be all that grievous, or a lack of care of our character. These seemingly minor things can become big problems if not allowed to heal properly through the proper administration of care, or RICE - repentance, invocation of God's help, care for our growth, and eliminating wrong behavior. Sometimes we face discouragement because of hurts we have received because of the error of others. We need healing from these wounds as well that involves allowing our Father to elevate us above our experience and cure the wound.
Jeremiah wrote, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?" (8:22) Yes, there is balm in Gilead, if we allow God to bring healing to us. If we allow him to accomplish in our lives the work he needs to do, he will bring healing. A song inspired by Jeremiah 8:22 goes, "There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. Some times I feel discouraged, and think my workÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again." Take the time to allow your wounds to heal. You will be stronger than before if you do, and be more effective in your ministry in Christ.
Fri Jun 5 07:32:19 2015
There was a recent article making its way around the internet about a supposed sighting of a three-foot-long shark in the Tennessee River in Alabama. While the veracity of this particular incident is in doubt, it is possible for a shark to be found in freshwater. Bull sharks have the ability to live in both freshwater and saltwater, and one was indeed found in Lake Michigan several years ago. Still, these incidents are few and far between.
Don't you wish crisis events were few and far between? It seems hardships and difficult experiences are abundant in our lives. We wish there were as rare as freshwater shark sightings, or maybe didn't even occur at all, but they do. This is why Peter wrote, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (I Peter 4:12-13) Peter writes that we should not be surprised at hardships, that they are not strange events, and that we should rejoice as we participate in the hardships. All of these concepts are somewhat difficult to understand, but they are what should take place as we are confronted with circumstances that bring difficulty into our lives.
A bull shark in the Tennessee River may be a rare occurrence, but it is not an impossible occurrence. Difficulties in our lives are neither rare nor impossible, so they should not be surprising. They are part of our experience. Learn to trust God through these times and don't deny their reality.
Thu Jun 4 08:00:41 2015
"Go ahead - just try it just this once. That couldn't be that bad, that couldn't be a real problem." This is a voice within us we hear at times. We are tempted to do something "just this once." Sometimes it may not be a bad thing - like taking a thrill ride, or going bungee jumping. But often that voice within is us calling on us to do something "just this once" that is bad. We are confronted with opportunities to do something we know we shouldn't but it looks so tempting. Visiting that internet porn sight "just this once" wouldn't be that bad, would it? Slipping a few dollars from the office discretionary fund "just this once" isn't really a terrible thing, is it? Telling this little white lie "just this once" is not going to be a big thing, is it?
All of these situations are examples of those "one time" incidents that we may not think are harmful, but could actually lead to life-long consequences. David's sin with Bathsheba led to issues the rest of his life.
The writer of Psalm 19 13 said, "Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression." The writer knew that "little sins" can lead to greater problems. They can take control of our lives. Don't let that take place - avoid those "just this once" situations.
Wed Jun 3 07:49:53 2015
I remember reading a story one time about a boy and his step-father who were having a little bit of trouble communicating with one another. Such is often the case in circumstances like this. The man decided to take his step-son on a fishing trip. The boy had never been fishing, and his step-dad thought it would be a good way for them to get to know each other better.
After one day, the boy hated it. He didn't want to tell his step-dad he was not enjoying the experience, so he wrote him a note and gave it to him. The man looked at the note, folded it up, and put it in his pocket. They stayed for four more days and continued to fish.
Upon returning home, the boy's mother asked him about the trip. The boy told the mom he didn't like fishing and had written his step-dad a note to tell him so and that he wanted to go home. His mom said, "Son, your step-dad can't read."
There are many barriers to communication and one is when we don't take the time to find out a little about the people with whom we need to communicate. Now, there are situations where this is not a real possibility, but in most cases there are opportunities to learn about those with whom we need to speak. Of course, this is supremely the case in our family relationships. This is the case with those with whom we work. It is also the case with our fellow worshippers.
As we take time to get to know others, our communication becomes more effective. Then we can more effectively "speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." (Ephesians 4:25) Work to improve communication by taking the time to get to know others.
Tue Jun 2 07:50:53 2015
We never seem to get caught up, do we? As Lewis Carroll wrote in "Alice in Wonderland,", "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." This does nothing but increase our level of frustration. And it seems that technological advances are not doing much to alleviate our frustration level - actually, the more we advance, it seems the more frustrated we become (see the Carroll quote above).
There is a great solution to this - make sure our focus is on God, not the world. We need to live life through the wisdom of God, not the expectations of humankind. This was what Solomon was telling us in Ecclesiastes. He tells us, "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person's envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (4:4) Trying to outdo others is part of our problem.
Another problem is sitting around doing nothing (4:5). A final problem is our lack of satisfaction with what we have, "Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind." (4:6)
Much of our frustration is created by ourselves when we pursue things we think we want and don't stop to think about what we have. We need to put God's perspective into our lives, and let his thoughts determine what is important. Put God at the center of your life and be thankful for what he has given you. What he has for you is all you really need.
Mon Jun 1 06:46:59 2015
Do you remember show and tell when you were a kid? You would bring an item to the classroom and then tell about it. Sometimes a classmate would forget their items. I have seen teachers make the person go ahead and describe the item even though they didn't have the item to show to the class. At times, this didn't go all that well as the student would struggle to try to describe the object. Having it in front of them to show would have been superior.
We need to do this with our relationship with Christ. We shouldn't just try to tell others about the importance of walking with the Lord, we should show them in how we walk. I have often quoted my mother, "Your actions speak so loud I can hardly hear what you are saying." We can be more effective speaking about life with Christ when we have a true life with Christ on display.
Christ did this for us. He not only spoke of love, but he demonstrated what love is by giving his life for us. On the night before he died, he said to his disciples, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) He told about love, and then he showed love by allowing himself to be crucified.
How are we doing at show and tell? Do we have an effective object to go along with our lesson? If we don't, then we just are not doing show and tell right.
Sun May 31 07:08:29 2015
Most of us do not like to be offensive to others. We prefer to please others, and have others like us. We like to do our best Sally Field imitation and say, "You like me! You really like me!" Within reason, this is not a bad desire. However, as followers of Christ, we need to accept the reality that there are those who are offended at our claims.
Actually, they are not our claims, but they are the assertions of Christ that we espouse. When we make the claim that we have the only way to have a relationship with God, we are going to alienate some people. We should not be surprised by that, and we should not try to look for ways of compromise.
On the night that he was betrayed, Christ told his disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) Earlier in his ministry, Christ demonstrated that not all would follow him and his message. After hearing his teaching, many who were once followers chose to depart: "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?' Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, 'Does this offend you?' He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.' From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." (John 6:60-61 & 65-66)
We are not looking to be intentionally offensive through being argumentative or hard to get along with. It is that the nature of the message of Christ is such that many will not be willing to accept. When we struggle with this, keep the experience of Christ found in John 6 in mind, and think of his statement in John 14:6. We are not being intolerant, we are being obedient.
Sat May 30 09:32:17 2015
Professional sports contracts are interesting. I read about athletes holding out and refusing to play to force their team to restructure their contract in order for them to make more money. Often one team has to pay the salary of a player who is actually playing for another team because of trades. Coaches often have interesting situations as well. Let's say a coach is hired for three years at $2 million per year. But the coach does poorly and is fired after a year. The team still has to pay him what is left on his contract. So, he gets paid $2 million a year for doing nothing.
Some Christians seem to think they are in this position. "Hey, I am saved and I am on my way to heaven, so I don't need to do anything to help God out." Wrong attitude. Yes, we are saved by grace, and it is free on our part because we can't do anything to merit eternal life. But having the attitude that we need not do anything is incorrect, maybe even dangerous. One who has been changed by the Spirit realizes his salvation is something he cannot earn, but it came at a great cost, and was certainly not free. Christ paid for our salvation with his life. To have the cavalier attitude that, "I'm on my way to heaven, so I don't need to do anything" is foreign to true Christianity.
God has plans for us to work, not to earn his salvation but to honor his Son. If you don't see things this way, you need to check out your spiritual foundation. We need to live for him, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) Live for God, not for yourself.
Fri May 29 08:00:10 2015
The NBA Finals are set. It will be the Golden State Warriors facing off against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The best-of-seven series begins June 4. The Warriors are led by the 3-point shooting prowess of Stephen Curry while the Cavaliers are led by all-world Lebron James.
A commercial advertising the NBA Finals featured a close-up of one of the player's sneakers. On the side of the sneaker was written, "I can do all things." At first glance, this may seem a bit arrogant, but I assume the player was applying the phrase using the inspiration of Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things though Christ who gives me strength."
I am not going to debate the merits or the correctness of using this phrase in this context, but I do know that Christ does supply what we need in our lives to serve him. That could even extend to being a good witness for him on the basketball court. Paul wrote the verse in the context of being content in Christ regardless of what he may have to face for the sake of Christ. Take the time to read the entire fourth chapter of Philippians. You get a picture of a person who is supremely satisfied in Christ not because he is getting everything he wants in life and is not facing any rough spots. He is satisfied in Christ because he knows Christ is all he needs.
Whatever you face, Christ is there to provide the strength to face the challenge. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
Thu May 28 07:28:05 2015
Most folks are really concerned with cleanliness which, in most cases can be stated as a normal desire. There is no problem with this. However, some folks get a bit carried away with the desire for clean, almost to the point of obsession. This can be a problem if this desire more or less takes over your life. Still, cleanliness is an important matter - according to someone, "cleanliness is next to godliness." The thing about cleanliness is that if you really want it, you will be constantly working to maintain the desired state. That which is clean usually won't remain that way and effort needs to be spent to restore the clean.
There is one area where all the effort in the world cannot restore cleanliness. You can't get your life as clean as it needs to be in order to have a relationship with God. That is a big problem - but one that God takes care of through the provision of his Son. David asked God to "Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. . .Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51:2 & 7) Only God can get you as clean as you need to be. Don't obsess over this, just seek God's forgiveness and trust in His Son. When you do this, you will be "whiter than snow."
Wed May 27 08:00:20 2015
Calamities take place and cause us to ask questions. A number of things have happened recently that have captured our focus. The earthquakes in Nepal, the tornadoes in the Midwest and southern United States, the flooding in the western United States, and other events give us pause and cause us to try to gain perspective. Many see these things as indicators of God's judgment, but is that really the case?
Even Christ warned against being too presumptuous about seeing Gods judgment where it is not. We hear his words in Luke 13:1-5, "Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on-do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'"
There are usually a complex array of factors behind calamities, and Christ tells us that we should use these times as times of personal reflection, not try to determine the presence of God's judgment. For the unbeliever, there needs to be a decision made that reflects repentance and a commitment based on faith in Christ. For a believer, these events should bring about self-evaluation and consideration of one's progress in spiritual development. Calamities in and of themselves are not good, but can bring about good when people come to faith in Christ, and faith in Christ is strengthened in those who know him.
Tue May 26 07:46:36 2015
The apostle Paul spoke many times of the wonders of heaven. He knew he had work to do here on earth, but he longed for his heavenly home. It is no wonder that he longed for heaven in the way he did as he was privileged to be given a glimpse of heaven's wonders. We read Paul's description of his experience in II Corinthians 12:2-6, "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say." Paul was keenly aware that the only reason he had this experience, and the only reason he had the hope he would be going there to stay at some future time was the amazing grace of God. "For by grace we are saved. . ." he writes in Ephesians 2:8.
Another individual who had this same awareness was John Newton. Newton wrote that among the surprises that await us in heaven will be three astonishing ones. The converted slave-dealer, who wrote the universally loved hymn "Amazing Grace," perceptively foresaw what every sinner will feel who has been redeemed by Christ's atoning sacrifice. He wrote, "If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there: First, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had thought to meet there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there!" Isn't that so true? Paul and Newton both understood the only reason for their presence in heaven was the Amazing Grace of God!
Don't ever lose sight of this truth. We need to be grateful for God's grace, and the hope we have because of God's grace. Paul gave us a glimpse of heaven; Newton gave us a perspective about heaven; God gives us his grace as a means of entering heaven. Give thanks to God!
Mon May 25 08:07:57 2015
Today is Memorial Day. As you are reading this, my wife and I are preparing to return to our home in Illinois after visiting our oldest daughter and her family in Ohio. I wish we could stay a bit longer - I would like to attend the parade that is held in downtown Ironton, Ohio, not far from where my daughter lives. I grew up outside of Ironton and attended this parade every year. Ironton has had a Memorial Day parade every year since the first Memorial Day was declared in 1868. As a matter of fact, Ironton has the longest continuously-running Memorial Day Parade in the nation. Now that is something to boast about!
One usually needs to be careful about boasting. Boasting can get us in trouble at times, or at least put us in a negative light. I find it hard to be around someone who likes to boast about themselves.
There is someone about whom we would do well to boast. Paul told his readers, "God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. 'Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'" (I Corinthians 1:28 & 31)
Folks in Ironton do have a reason to boast when it comes to their parade. Followers of Christ have an even better reason to boast when it comes to the Savior.
Sun May 24 07:50:41 2015
Bill Gates has given over $28 billion dollars to various charities. When you read that, you can't help but say "wow!" Not to detract from Gates generosity and the magnitude of such giving, but we need to put things in perspective. Yes, he has given away over $28 billion, and plans on giving away a great deal more, but his net worth still exceeds $56 billion.
When you see large gifts such as these, there does need to be some perspective. As I said, I do not want to detract from the wonder of the gift, or the generosity of the giver, but how much sacrifice is actually involved in giving situations such as these?
Christ pointed out true sacrifice when he called attention to the widow who contributed "only" two small copper coins to the temple treasury. He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on." (Mark 12:43-44) The amount of the gift is not nearly as significant as the sacrifice behind the gift. Consider your own giving - which example does it follow?
Sat May 23 06:34:45 2015
So, what are the two most wonderful words in the English language? Have you ever thought about that? Has anyone even ever asked you that? Well, you have been asked, so what do you think? Let me give you one suggestion as an answer to the question, "What are the most wonderful words in the English language?" I submit that the two most wonderful words are "But God" regardless of what language you use. Whether you say "pero Dios" or "mais Dieu" or "Aber Gott" or even "Kai Theos", these are the most wonderful words.
Perhaps you ask, "How are these the most wonderful words?" Let me submit a few reasons: "Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him" (Acts 7:9); "But God has helped me to this very day" (Acts 26:22); "But God had mercy on him" (Philippians 2:27). And how about, "But God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions." Wow - isn't that wonderful? This is possible because "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." (Acts 2:24)
We were headed down a path towards destruction, but God intervened. Now, where death ruled, we can celebrate life. There was no hope for us, but God gave us eternal hope. I don't know about you, but I think they are wonderful.
Fri May 22 08:29:09 2015
Last July, a 20-year-old mother exited a subway stop in Columbus Circle in New York pushing her 7-month-old child in a red and white stroller. Then, she left the stroller on the platform, re-entered the train through the still opened doors, and left. I don't know the complete ending to the story, but I do know the baby was rescued. The mother was spotted 12 hours later getting a latte at a Starbucks and was detained by authorities.
Stories like this just bring chills to me. How could you abandon your child? I cannot imagine what it would be like to be abandoned. I don't know how this child will react when she grows up and learns she was left behind by her mother. It would be a frightful feeling to not feel wanted and being left somewhere.
God promises us that he will never abandon us. Deuteronomy 31:8 gives this promise, "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." What a statement of affirmation and assurance! Christ told his followers just before he returned to the Father, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) Others may abandon you, leave you stranded, but that will never happen with God. He will never abandon you.
Thu May 21 07:58:07 2015
Have you ever used WD-40? This is almost a rhetorical question, as WD-40 is one of those products that almost everyone uses. Along with many other applications, I have used WD-40 to help loosen rusted bolts and to help install lateral files. This latter story would take too long to explain - just know WD-40 has an incredible variety of uses.
Do you know how it got its name? The developers were looking for a product that could be used in the aerospace industry. They found what they were looking for on their 40th attempt, and the product was great at Water Displacement. Get it? Had the group of engineers not displayed persistence in their efforts, we may not have this wonderful product today.
Persistence is such an important quality. Christ honored this characteristic by responding to persistent followers, and by speaking directly about how persistence should be desired and displayed. Christ commended a Canaanite woman for her persistence in seeking Christ's help for her demon-possessed daughter, "Then Jesus said to her, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.'" (Matthew 15:28)
He spoke about the persistence of another woman who sought justice and used the story as an example of how we should be persistent in our pursuit of issues with the Lord. "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:7-8)
Will he indeed find such faith in us? Our persistence in our pursuit of matters before the Lord reveals our faith and leads us to find grace and mercy in our time of need.
Wed May 20 07:37:20 2015
Bridges are an important part of our road infrastructure. When a bridge is out, it can be really problematic. A few years ago, a bridge on I-64 that connected Louisville, Kentucky, and New Harmony, Indiana had to be closed when some structural problems were discovered. This made for a long commute for local residents and a confusing detour for infrequent travelers. I traversed that road on my travels to Ohio to visit my family. The detour added a good bit of time to our trip. After the reopening of the bridge, I have never again taken it for granted.
We need bridge builders in the church. We need people who can help connect disparate circumstances and, at times, disparate people. Barnabas was just such a bridge builder. When Paul experienced difficulty being accepted by the folks at Jerusalem, Barnabas stepped in. You really can't fault the folks at Jerusalem, given Paul's background, but he had experienced the grace of God. Barnabas intervened on his behalf by building a bridge between Paul and the Jerusalem church. Luke writes: "When (Paul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles." (Acts 9:26-27)
Are you aware of a situation where a bridge is needed? Perhaps you can be that bridge and keep folks from taking unnecessary detours and going in wrong directions. I have always maintained that the church would benefit from more folks like Barnabas. Be a Barnabas and build some bridges.
Tue May 19 07:54:38 2015
Bill Engvall has made quite a living from a comedy routine that features "Here's your sign" jokes. We often ask for signs to help us make decisions and point us in the right direction in life. A good number of folks ask for a sign from God to prove he is real. They have a "to do" list for God they maintain that will theoretically prove his identity.
This is not a new thing. There were a large group of people seeking a sign from Jesus when he was on the earth. "What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" (John 6:30-31) This was an ironic request on many levels. They asked for a sign, and he had just fed them along with thousands of others from a little boy's lunch. They used the example of their ancestors being miraculously fed in the wilderness as a sign they would accept. They had just been miraculously fed along the shore of Galilee. Christ could not have done more even if he had said to them, "Here's your sign."
God has given us the sign we need, and if we miss it, that's our problem, not his. Instead of waiting in doubt and disappointment for God to do the one thing we are demanding of him, open your eyes and see what he has already done and what he is doing even now as we are blindly asking "Where's the sign?"
Mon May 18 07:38:15 2015
A newspaper ad for a new model of Jaguar stated, "Once again envy will be standard equipment." It may not be wrong to own a Jaguar, but if my neighbor has one and I am overly envious of him, this is a problem. According to the apostle Paul, envy is a problem that ranks right up there with sexual immorality and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21) Envy motivated Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery (Acts 7); Envy fueled the fires of those who wanted to destroy Christ (Mark 15); Envy led Paul's opponents in Thessalonica to incite a riot (Acts 17).
Envy left unchecked can lead to actions that are negative in intent and destructive in nature. We need to recognize envy in our lives and remove it from our hearts. Ecclesiastes 4:4 tells us, "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person's envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
Don't let envy be standard equipment in your life. Control this attitude that can lead to awful consequences.
Sun May 17 07:19:13 2015
It is graduation time here in our community. We have students moving up to another level of their educational pursuits as they move into the high school training ground. There are students leaving high school to pursue educational and vocational goals. College graduates have come to the goal they have been pursuing for most of their lives. All along the way, there were teachers, counselors, administrators, and support staff who worked together to build into the lives of these young people so they might develop personally and prepare to contribute to the lives of others. Each of these mentors occupied a certain segment of the process - they took over from others who had been invested in the lives of the students earlier and then prepared them for what was ahead. In the majority of cases, folks involved in this process will never actually witness the "finished product," but are still committed to do what needs to be done to train young lives for the future.
Those involved in the process are like the craft people who create fine musical instruments. Luis Antonio Rojas, who played double bass for the Mexico City Philharmonic, describes the process of creating a worthy instrument: "You must age the wood for 80 years, then play the instrument for 80 years before it reaches its best sound. A craftsman must use wood cut and aged by someone else, and he will never see any instrument reach its peak during his own lifetime." Isn't this an apt description of the educational process?
This process not only takes place in our schools and society, but takes place in our churches. We need to be committed to this educational model knowing that we may never see the "end product" but realizing how important it is to be committed to this process. We need to train others to carry on what has been done before and needs to be continued. This is why God said, "Now this is the commandment--the statutes and the ordinances--that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long." When it comes to training others, we must be committed to the process in spite of the fact that we may never see the finished product.
Sat May 16 08:46:38 2015
"How Counterfeit Items Are Putting United States Families at Risk" proclaimed the headline. The news video went on to elaborate on the problem of counterfeit articles being sold to the public. Beyond the financial damage being done to the manufacturers and sellers of genuine articles, many items purchased that are not the real thing are dangerous. Electronic items that do not conform to safety standards or fittings and valves that control the flow of volatile gases and liquids that are unsafe are just two examples of products being sold that look like the real thing but aren't. They pose fire hazards and other dangers and put people's safety, maybe even their lives, in harm's way. What to do? Use only trusted products from reputable sources.
The same is true with regard to our spiritual lives. There are many counterfeit world views and teachings that need to be avoided. The Bible has many passages warning against false teaching: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;" (II Timothy 4:3-4); " Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (I John 4:1); "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." (Jude 1:4); "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." (II Peter 2:1)
Be aware of the counterfeiters! How do you spot them? Look to see what they say about Jesus. If they do not accept the biblical view of Christ, they are counterfeit. If they deny his deity, his virgin birth, his humanity, his resurrection, or that he is the only way of eternal life, then they are counterfeit. And counterfeit teaching puts more than one's life at risk.
Fri May 15 08:09:17 2015
When I was young, I loved to explore things - old houses, caves, the woods surrounding our home or my grandparent's home, or any other interesting areas. Something you encounter when you enter an area where no one else has been for awhile, or maybe have never been, are cobwebs. Whoever is leading the way in these exploratory adventures gets to encounter them and has to deal with them. Don't you just love those cobwebs and the mess they make? I just love how they feel as I try to extricate myself from the gooey mess.
This is why we need to let God be our leader as we go on our spiritual adventures. As we walk through the old houses and caves and woods of life, we will encounter cobwebs. However, if we let God take the lead, he will deal with the cobwebs. Now, this is not the only reason why we should follow God. We should not follow him for the sole purpose of letting him deal with all the "sticky situations" we may encounter. But we need to remember that if we don't let him lead, we will deal with struggles and issues that may not have been a problem had we not tried to take the lead.
Paul tells us we should follow Christ - "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (I Corinthians 11:1) This is very good advice, and not only because he will take care of the cobwebs.
Thu May 14 08:12:43 2015
There is an object lesson I have used with children from time to time that involves a tube of toothpaste. I ask for a couple of volunteers to help me with the story. When I select the volunteers, I produce a tube of toothpaste and immediately start squeezing out the contents. When I have removed a significant amount, I tell my eager volunteers that what I want them to do is put the toothpaste back in the tube. Obviously, I get a great variety of responses. I even had one poor little girl start to do what I had asked (I didn't allow her to proceed too far - need to keep the parents happy!).
The point of my lesson is how we need to be careful with what we do and say as our actions and our words sometimes have consequences that are undesirable. When we "let the toothpaste out of the tube," it can't be returned. James tells us in James 3:5-6, "Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."
Our words and actions towards others do have consequences. We need to be careful with what we do and say. Obviously, we do want to bring about consequences with actions and words, but we want to bring about desirable, not undesirable, results. When we do things or say things out of anger or spite to bring about harm, we can't take these results back. They won't go "back in the tube." So, remember this the next time you are tempted to do or say something that is going to have an ill effect on someone else. Proverbs 25:11 tells us, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Go for gold and silver, not toothpaste!
Wed May 13 08:05:05 2015
In the movie "Karate Kid", there is an implied analogy when Mr. Miyagi is seen tending to his bonsai tree as he is conversing with his protege, Danny Larusso. What is taking place with the tree is that which is going to take place with Danny - shaping and molding his character and his skill.
Bonsai is the ancient Japanese art of "tree sculpting." This dates back over 1,000 years. A small tree, usually an evergreen, is placed in a pot and then shaped and molded over time through careful pruning and other manipulations. This can extend over several years. Care is taken with the plant as too much force can break the tree and therefore ruin the effort. Too little involvement and neglect can return the plant to the wild. Training takes time, patience, and focused effort.
The same can be said about children. Discipline and care over time is what is important in raising children to be what they can be. Discipline needs to be firm and consistent, but there is harm if the discipline is too harsh, and there is harm if there is no discipline utilized. Adverse behavior and character concerns can be controlled through the correct application of care, love, discipline, and involvement over time.
The scripture reminds us, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it," (Proverbs 22:6) Those of you who are involved in this process should consider this wisdom. Those of you not in a position of raising children now should pray for those who are and be a support to the families around you. Our children are worth every bit of time we invest in their lives.
Tue May 12 08:01:33 2015
I just saw an ad for a new golf ball. The golf ball is supposedly "self-correcting". The design of the golf ball reduces hooks (the ball going to the left for a right-handed golfer) and slices (ball going to the right). The claim is that the ball will reduce these inerrant shots by up to 75% and allow for straighter drives. This is a great thing for the normal golfer. I don't know if I will ever be able to try this golf ball out, but perhaps someday.
Don't you wish life would be self-correcting? That is, when we start to go off to the right or go off to the left, we are designed to get back on the right track automatically? I really have my doubts about the "self-correcting" golf ball, but I do know for certain that some effort is required to keep us going correctly. There are forces within us - our struggle with our own sin nature - and there are forces outside of us in the form of Satan and his minions who constantly try to throw us off track.
We need to walk in constant dependence upon the Holy Spirit to help us with our inner struggles and with outer temptations. Galatians 5:16 tells us to "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." This is what we need to do. There is no automatic self-correction. We should constantly monitor our path.
Mon May 11 07:53:47 2015
My mother always told me "you get what you pay for." Mom always knew you should go for quality when you make purchases, although she never paid full price for anything. She didn't go for cheaper, bargain products. She just waited on sales to buy what she knew to be quality products at a reduced price.
I failed to heed this advice on a number of occasions, but one particular incident that comes to mind involved grass seed. I needed some grass seed so I bought some. I got some generic, cheaper seed. Grass seed is grass seed, right? Well, I "paid" for my mistake. The seed didn't germinate, even though conditions were great. So, I went back and got the good stuff. My lawn still might not be the envy of the neighborhood, but I have grass where I once had bare spots!
Sometimes we are like this when it comes to our Christian life. We like to search for "bargains;" we cut corners; we don't spend the time we should doing what we know is important to help us grow in the faith. Certainly, our salvation is free, having been paid for by our Savior, Christ. However, when it comes to growing in Christ, it requires some expenditures on our behalf. Time, effort, discipline, and more are helpful when it comes to our growth in Christ. We need quality "seed," not some bargain basement product. We need to give our best effort when it comes to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Colossians 3:23 tells us, "What ever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. . ." Go for the best!
Sun May 10 05:57:01 2015
One of the more fascinating stories in Scripture is the account of the mother of the sons of Zebedee asking Jesus that her sons may sit on his right and his left in the Kingdom. (Matthew 20:20-28) At face value, this looks like a rather selfish and arrogant request. If she had heard Christ's parable that is found in the earlier part of Matthew 20, her proposition may have been based on her fear that her sons would not have a position of status in the kingdom. I do find it interesting that Jesus never actually rebuked her request, he simply pointed out the difficulty that would accompany such a position.
Her motivation may have not been completely clear, but it was tied into her desire for her sons to have the best experience. Moms, for the most part, tend to have feelings this way. They want the best for their children. Unfortunately, there are examples of incidents where this desire led a mom to a questionable line of action. The point is, Moms do want good things for their kids. This desire is a reflection of what God wants for us - "How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11) The desire of a parent to see their child receive good things is seen in our Heavenly Parent. Mom - when you demonstrate this desire for your kids, you are reflecting the heart of God! Thank you - and have a Happy Mother's Day!
Sat May 9 08:47:16 2015
Lemon cake with raspberries - doesn't that sound delicious? Some of you may be saying, "Well, I don't know about that. How can lemon and raspberries taste good together?" To those who may be skeptical about this delectable dessert, I would say, "Don't knock it until you try it." Even though there is a great difference in the tastes of lemons and raspberries on their own, when you put them together in the right amounts and add other key ingredients, they make for pleasure for the taste buds.
I cannot help but think of the church when I think of this. The church is made of different people from different backgrounds. When you put those people together with the proper ingredients that God supplies of love, compassion, and forgiveness, there can be some wonderful results. God is what makes the church work through the power of redemption and the cohesive ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Christ prayed for this unity before he left the world, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." (John 17:20-21) God is good at combining what doesn't seem to really go together. Let's cooperate with him in the effort.
Fri May 8 07:56:22 2015
When I was in school, there was still a pretty strict dress code. I know there are still guidelines for dress at schools, but not quite like they once were. Girls had to wear dresses, and the dresses had to conform to certain standards. Boys could not wear jeans and had to keep their hair cut a certain length. Even the seminary I attended had dress codes - we were required to wear jackets and ties and the ladies had to wear dresses. One can debate the effectiveness and necessity of such codes but usually the issue is a moot point today.
Looking at scripture, we see there is still a dress code for followers of Christ. Colossians 3:12 - 14 tells us how to dress: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love should be in the wardrobe of every believer.
I chafed a bit at the dress codes as a student, but I should gladly desire to dress in the manner prescribed by God. This wardrobe helps me please God and be beneficial to others.
Thu May 7 07:53:10 2015
Unless you live in a vacuum, you have heard of the horrific earthquake that hit Nepal April 25. The latest reports say that almost 8,000 people have been killed. This included local people and many there who were on Mt. Everest. People from all over the world have died. Among the many stories of death and destruction, there are many incidents that defy description, such as the survival of a baby trapped beneath rubble for days. Financial aid and manpower have been sent from all over the world to assist in the recovery process.
The tremendous efforts being made to save people's lives is as it should be. Yet, it makes the following all the more ironic. In 2006, a climber on Mt. Everest became disoriented and collapsed near the summit on his descent because he ran out of oxygen. As he lay dying, it is reported that at least 40 climbers passed him by. According to some, any attempt at saving the stricken climber would have been too risky.
The contrast between these two scenarios demonstrates an attitude that sometimes is prevalent in our thinking. At times we struggle with the worth of an individual over against a number of people needing aid. Let me be clear - what is taking place in Nepal even as I am writing this article needs to be happening. Every effort should be made to secure the safety of as many as possible, but the life of the man who ran out of oxygen trying to make his way down was valuable as well.
We need to remember this when it comes to our outreach for people. Rallies and revivals where we see many come to faith are marvelous; but we should never forget the importance of reaching out to one.
Christ didn't. He went out of his way and broke social customs of the day to reach a woman who was in need. Reading John 4:4 & 7 gives us the gist of the encounter that led to her salvation, "Now he had to go through Samaria. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?'" Christ had preached to thousands, but he demonstrated the significance of the one. He went out of his way to bring good news to a lady with a sullied reputation and an interesting past. Don't overlook the importance of one.
Wed May 6 08:05:41 2015
As many of you know, I had surgery recently to replace a knee joint. If all goes well, I will have surgery in June to take care of the other knee. When they took the dressing off, I noticed I didn't have any sutures or staples in my incision. My wound was closed with "Super Glue." I think this is an interesting application for this substance.
Have you ever had super glue or oil-based paint on your fingers? Hard to get this stuff off, isn't it? As a matter of fact, these substances will stick and stick without the right agent to remove them. When the correct solvent is applied, the glue or the paint that seemed impossible to remove comes off easily.
We often face circumstances in life that seem to want to stick and appear to be impossible to remove. We sometimes face burdens and struggles that just don't look like they are going to go away anytime soon. Just remember that what seems impossible to remove will indeed come off if we do what we know we should - turn those sticky messes over to God. Our burdens and struggles, even those brought about by our sin, can be removed if we place our struggles in the hands of God. The Bible says, "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you." (Psalm 55:22)
We face a lot of junk in our lives. Turn this junk over to our loving Lord and watch how he puts things in order. God knows how to take a mess and make a masterpiece.
Tue May 5 07:53:26 2015
On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright changed the world. This was the date of their first motorized flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Six years later in 1909, Wilbur flew a motorized vehicle above New York Harbor to the sounds of people cheering and boats sounding their steam whistles. What a momentous achievement!
War broke out in Europe in August of 1914, a conflict that would become World War I. This was just 11 years after the first flight, and a scant 5 years after Wilbur's New York Harbor flight. Yet, aeronautics had advanced to the stage that World War I became the first war where airplanes were used as weapons.
I have always been amazed at how quickly flight machines were adapted for warfare after their invention. Yet, I should not be too surprised. Man's desire to utilize technological advancements as a means of inflicting damage on others has been around since the fall. Although a significant achievement that cannot be overestimated in its value to humankind, I think the invention of the airplane and its rapid development into weaponry reveals something else that cannot be overestimated - the depravity of man.
Because of the fall, we are all born in sin. The Bible tells us that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) I find it ironic that one of man's greatest achievements demonstrating his creativity and inventive prowess also reveals his base nature. And as inventive and creative as man might be, there is nothing he can do to eliminate sin. That took someone else of much greater character and ability - our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever you might consider to be man's greatest achievement, remember that we are helpless to do anything about our greatest problem. Only our great Savior can do anything about that.
Mon May 4 07:56:17 2015
This past weekend I attended the college graduation of a cousin in Ohio. I had been to the school before, and was familiar with the area, so I knew the route I needed to take to get to where we needed to be. Towards the end of the route, I knew we had to depart from the interstate we would be on and take some other roads. To be safe, I decided to use my GPS.
As we approached our destination, I began to question the GPS. As I said, I had been there before and was familiar with the route, or at least I thought I was. In my thinking, I was convinced that our destination was north of I-70, the interstate we were on. However, the GPS showed it to be south. I was skeptical of the accuracy of the GPS (they have been known to be wrong). So I pulled over and decided to check the directions on my phone. I used the phone's GPS. Guess what? It agreed with the GPS in the car. I looked up the destination on the phone and checked a map. You know what I found? The location was south of I-70. I called a number I had and asked about the location. The young lady was not certain at first whether she was north or south, but upon further questioning, she assured me she was located south of Columbus. So that meant they had to be south of I-70. I followed the directions I originally received and made it to where I needed to be with no problem. Had I gone on my knowledge, I would probably still be wondering around northern Ohio somewhere. My "little knowledge" proved to be a big detriment.
This can be a problem with our relationship with God. We sometimes let our "little knowledge" get in the way of God's knowledge to our detriment. We may think we know things, but we need to rely upon God for ultimate understanding, especially in matters where we don't have complete comprehension. We need to ask for help and rely on God. Often we question God because we think we know better, or we want to follow our own way rather than God's path. This is a big mistake.
We need to remember the wise words of Proverbs 30:3, "I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One." We need to acknowledge this and let God's wisdom guide us. This will keep us from going north when we should be heading south. Actually, let me rephrase that - it would sound better - following God will keep us from going south when we should be headed north.
Sun May 3 07:32:17 2015
I remember reading a story about an incident that took place during the Korean War. While engaged in an offensive, Baker Company was separated from the rest of their unit. For many long hours, headquarters waited anxiously for some communication from them. Finally, a faint radio message was heard. Headquarters responded, "Baker Company, what is your situation?" The reply from Baker Company was, "The enemy is to the east of us. The enemy is to the west of us. The enemy is to the north of us. The enemy is to the south of us. The enemy is not going to get away from us now!"
Although in a precarious circumstance, Baker Company was thinking about victory, not defeat. This is how we can look at tough times in our lives. Whether we are engaged in a time of difficult spiritual warfare, or we are struggling with a set of circumstances that seem to have us surrounded, we can focus on victory, not defeat. Paul speaks about having an attitude of victory when things look bleak, "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (II Corinthians 4:7-9)
When we are surrounded by the enemy, remember the strength you can have through God's provision. Think, "The enemy is not going to get away from me now!"
Sat May 2 07:10:15 2014
Dr. M. R. DeHaan writes about Phillips Brooks: "Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), the great preacher, asked the operator of a local livery stable for the best horse he had. Brooks explained, 'I am taking a good friend for a ride and I want the very best for the occasion.' As the livery man hitched up a horse to a buggy, he said, 'This animal is about as perfect as a horse could be. It is kind, gentle, intelligent, well-trained, obedient, willing, responds instantly to your every command, never kicks, balks, or bites, and lives only to please its driver.' Brooks then quietly said to the owner, 'Do you suppose you could get that horse to join my church?'"
This is an interesting observation. If we would strive to develop these qualities, then we would be able to make quite an impact for God with our lives. We should be as gentle and intelligent as we can be. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to "Be completely humble and gentle." We need to be willing, obedient and responsive to God's call. Isaiah 1:19 tells us "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land." We need to "live only to please our driver." Our desire should be that of the Psalmist who wrote, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14)." We need to be willing to serve Christ and to serve others. If the church is full of people with this attitude, you will see the results in the effectiveness of the church's ministry!
Fri May 1 07:43:26 2015
Today is May Day. That is about an obvious a statement as I will ever make, isn't it? In ancient Celtic cultures, this was a spring holiday. It is still observed in a historical way in British culture yet today. The newness of life and a return to more enjoyable conditions was what was celebrated in ancient festivals.
I am sure that you are also familiar with the term "mayday" which sounds like May Day but has an altogether different meaning. This latter term is a universal distress signal that was developed well over a century ago by sea travelers. The origin of this expression may (no pun intended) have its roots in the French word "m'aider" which means "help me." The pronunciation of "m'aider" is similar to "mayday".
Throughout the Psalms, we find several "maydays". Several times the writers of the Psalms, including David, spoke of incidents where God had intervened and offered prayers calling out for help in a present circumstance. David wrote a psalm for the dedication of the then-future temple that included this statement, "Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me." (Psalm 30:2) Other statements of God's help can be found in Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in the time of trouble", and Psalm 121:1, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?"
God is indeed a source of help for us. However, it seems we abuse his help in a couple of ways. We either ignore his help when it is offered for some unknown reason, or we simply view God as "genie in a bottle" and only call on him when we need help. Either abuse is reflective of a dysfunctional relationship with God. We do indeed covet his help, but we should look to experience his help because we are walking consistently with him, not just following him in fits and starts. Don't use God as simply a person to be there only in times of trouble. God is more than just a cosmic mayday responder.
Thu Apr 30 07:50:58 2015
A little boy was wondering why he had to be thankful for things he didn't like. "Why do I have to thank God for asparagus? I don't like asparagus." If it was a hamburger or spaghetti, that would be fine, but why asparagus?
We often face the same dilemma in our adult lives. There are many things we experience for which we find it hard to give thanks. Yet Paul writes, "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (I Thessalonians 5:18) Greg Simas writes, "Giving thanks in all circumstances is the most reliable indication of my spiritual health." God gives nothing but give good gifts. Sometimes we may be confused by what we receive through our experiences, but we need to trust God.
There are reasons why we face struggles and why we face pain - they are not mistakes, and they are not meant to tear down but to build up. As we trust in God, this will become apparent. The best way we can show that our trust in God is to follow the admonition of Paul and give thanks - even for asparagus.
Wed Apr 29 07:41:26 2015
It is so easy to be pessimistic in today's world. Even as I am writing this, another U.S. city is struggling to restore order after rioting and looting. There are so many folks out of work and I just read that gas prices are going to start going up. You do not have to look long to find bad news on TV, in newspapers, or on the internet. We hear about accidents, struggles among countries, struggles in our government, wars. What are we supposed to do?
David offers a solution in Psalm 4. He says, "Many, Lord, are asking, 'Who will bring us prosperity?' Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy." David knew that the only source of true joy and true prosperity is the Lord. He chooses to focus on what God will bring about rather than pursue some temporal fix for the problems of man. He encourages the worshippers to "Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord."
Only in the Lord will true peace and hope be found. There are no others who can provide answers. The pessimism of our world can turn to a positive outlook through the power of God. When we do this, we can have the same sense of well-being as did David: "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord,make me dwell in safety."
Tue Apr 28 08:03:13 2015
Do you try to take advantage of God? Sounds like a crazy idea, but for some reason some folks try it. They try to take advantage of God in light of his grace. Some mistakenly think, "We have been forgiven through God's grace and therefore, we can live how we please since we will be forgiven." Jude 4 describes folks who "are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord."
Don't think you can do this and get by with it. God knows how you are living, and he knows if you are trying to take advantage of his grace. Paul writes, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" (I Corinthians 6:1-2) Don't fool yourself into thinking you can live how you want. If you think this way, that is exactly what you are doing - fooling yourself. And you will be the only person you will fool. You certainly will not fool God.
Mon Apr 27 07:55:57 2015
100 years ago at this time, one of the most horrific atrocities in the history of humans was taking place. Over a period that started in 1915 and continued through the end of World War I in 1918, 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman government. The reasons for this were several, but essentially it was a response of the declining Ottoman Empire to their waning influence. Their rage was vented against the Christian population of Armenia and other areas that were freeing themselves from Ottoman rule.
Christians have suffered since the beginning of the Church in the first century. From a human standpoint, there are no good reasons for this. However, we know that Satan is bent on doing all he can to destroy the people of God, and has the power to influence those in authority to carry out his evil plans. Over the years, this has led to many horrific circumstances, including that one that began 100 years ago this month. We do know that this does not escape the eye of the all-seeing God.
Scenarios like this continue to take place, and will take place until the end. We read in Revelation that war against Christians will continue until the time of Christ's return. Revelation 7:13-14 describes the martyrs who will lose their lives during Satanic oppression in the Great Tribulation, "Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in white robe--who are they, and where did they come from?' I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'" Times of great atrocity towards Christians do not escape God's. And we know from words of Abraham, "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25) God will make all things right. Let's continue to pray for our oppressed brothers and sisters.
Sun Apr 26 07:14:41 2015
Sometimes trying to explain to someone else what you mean is frustrating. There are times when communication just seems to break down and we experience difficulty in describing to someone else what we are thinking or how to do something or how to find something.
Christ was having that experience with a group of people who really didn't like what they were hearing. They did not understand at all what he was saying. Their reaction was hostile and revealed their underlying attitude towards him. He said to them, "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say." (John 8:43) In essence, they simply did not want to hear what he had to say. As believers, we can hear what Christ is saying to us. However, we need to be careful that we don't fall into the trap of not hearing simply because we don't like what we are hearing.
As we study God's Word, we often encounter principles and precepts that inform us of needed changes in our lives. Because we don't want to make those changes, we allow for a communication breakdown and ignore what we are hearing. I don't know how much this frustrates Christ, but I do know it isn't a good idea.
I have a two-year-old granddaughter that is pretty well along the normal path of communication development. Her speech is normal for her age, and so is her hearing. However, at times she has a "hearing issue." You can try to get her attention all you want, but she will just continue to do what she is doing as if she doesn't hear you at all. Usually, this is a humorous thing, but sometimes it isn't when some real issue is involved.
We can be like my granddaughter at times - but we shouldn't be. Work on your hearing when it comes to Christ's words. They are important and we really need to hear what he is saying!
Sat Apr 25 08:48:32 2015
I read an article recently that said, "With few exceptions, the major highways in Michigan follow ancient trails that were blazed by Native Americans hundreds of years ago." Imagine that - modern roads following the path that was determined so many years ago.
Successive generations will follow the paths that we are blazing now. What kind of routes are we choosing? Which way are we directing those who will follow our lead? We see this principle in the scripture. Proverbs 4:18 tells us, "The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day."
Are we making paths that are "like the morning sun" and will be easy to follow? Our children, both physical and spiritual, will be following the paths we create. We need to make sure that we are cutting a righteous, wise, and clear trail. We want to make the kind of trail that will someday turn into a highway. What kind of path are you cutting?
Fri Apr 24 08:12:39 2015
I have used the following story on a number of occasions. A young boy was trying to lift a large stone. He pushed, he pulled, he tugged, he huffed, he puffed, but try as he might, he could not move the stone. His father was nearby watching his efforts and asked, "Son, can't you move the stone?" "No," his son replied. The father continued, "Have you done everything you can to move the stone?" "Yes," said the boy. The dad said, "I don't think you have - you didn't ask me to help."
Who is helpful to you in the work that God has called you to do? Who walks alongside you so that together you can accomplish more than you could on your own? I think it really interesting that one of the first things Christ did as he began his earthly ministry was recruit some men to go with him on the journey. Now, I realize there were many reasons for this but I think it important to realize that even the Son of God did not want to walk alone when he was on the earth to accomplish his Father's plan. He had trusted companions that may have worked in fits and starts at times, but were there nonetheless to learn, to assist, to walk with the Savior so they could continue the work. Paul had companions on all of his journeys. He told Timothy to "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (II Timothy 4:11)
Ecclesiastes 4:8-10 tells us, "There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up."
Find friends who can help you walk and work the road of God's calling together. Family members and friends who are there for you and have you there for them to share burdens, share ministry, celebrate joys, and experience life are vital. Don't walk alone.
Thu Apr 23 10:09:19 2015
Filters are good things. Water filters make the water we drink safer. Oil filters keep the oil in an engine in better condition to do what oil should do. Gas filters take out things that would make an engine underperform. Sometimes we need filters on our mouths as well. Have you ever met someone who doesn't seem to have a filter? Of course, before we go looking at others in this regard, we might want to see if our filter is in good working order.
We need to watch what we say. We need to avoid inappropriate remarks, hurtful comments, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and saying more than should be said. Paul encourages us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) but we should do it correctly. Examine your heart and your motives before you apply this principle.
Job had some friends who lacked filters. They said more than they needed to say and most of what they said was poor advice. They started out pretty well by just sitting with Job in silence, but when they opened up they miss the mark in what is said. God rebukes them for what they say - "After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.'" (42:7)
Before you give advice, examine your motives and your heart and think about what you have to say. Before you make comments on others' actions or circumstances, use your brain. When I did my student teaching, my supervising instructor had a sign on the wall in front of the room that read "Be sure brain is engaged before mouth is set in motion." This is great advice. Make sure your filter is working properly!
Wed Apr 22 08:07:35 2015
Did you ever have a bird in your house? Now I don't mean a domestic bird like you would have in a cage, but a wild bird that got in the house inadvertently. I have a couple of experiences with this. Each time it happened, the poor bird was terrified and flied around wildly, banging into walls and windows. We opened all the doors and windows and tried to guide the bird to an escape route. The bird was in a odd place - a place it should not have been - and this led to confusion, fear, and other negative consequences.
When you read the story of Jonah in the Bible you read an account of a person who ended up in an odd place, a place he should not have been. Spending some time in the inside of a large sea creature was not what Jonah set out to do. But when he chose to disobey God and go a different direction, the result was finding himself in a strange place struggling with strange circumstances.
This is what can happen when we choose to go a different direction other than the path God has for us. When we walk in disobedience and fail to follow God, we can end up in a precarious predicament. Jonah eventually ended up in the right place when he called to God and confessed his sin. Job cried out, "In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry." (Job 1:2)
If you find yourself in a strange place because you have chosen to walk on your own rather than walk with the Lord, confess your sin and seek his help. If you are out of fellowship with the Lord, seek his forgiveness (I John 1:9) and get in a good place. Then you won't feel like you are banging your head against a wall, or maybe the inside of a fish.
Tue Apr 21 08:14:07 2015
"Steve, you really need to keep your eye as still as possible." When my ophthalmologist says that to me, I don't argue. I don't become defiant. I don't argue. I don't try to check out my messages on my cell phone. I don't try to be busy behind his back. Why? Because he is a reputable specialist and is trying to do what is needed to preserve my sight. I know he needs my cooperation, and I would be a little nuts to ignore his instructions. So why am I often not too cooperative in matters of spiritual stillness?
Why is it that so often when God wants me to be still so he can do an important work in my life, I want to do anything but stay put? Being active in spiritual things is good, but we must remember that there are times when the best thing we can do is be quiet before the Lord and meditate on his person and the Word he has provided. This allows God to work on us and help us to see areas of our lives that need to be developed or changed.
Elijah had been zealous for the Lord, and had even won a challenge against 1,000 of the representatives of Baal. As a result of this, Ahab wanted his life. Elijah fled to Horeb, and there told the Lord, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." (II Kings 19:10) God's response to Elijah was, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." (vs. 11) He wanted Elijah to just be still for a bit as he was about to teach him some things and if he wasn't still, he would miss them. God didn't appear in a wind, or an earthquake, or a fire (vss. 11-13), but in a gentle whisper (v. 12) Elijah needed to be still in order to perceive God's offerings.
When God tells us to be still, we need to listen. He has something very important on which we need to focus. Be still - God has work to do!
Mon Apr 20 07:59:21 2015
Worry is an interesting thing. It is something that most of us do at one time or another and there are those who tend to worry more than others. How many of the things that you worry about actually happen? How many things happen that you hadn't worried about? We often worry about things we think will be a reality, and then the reality is circumstances occur that were not even on our radar. Don Herold said, "If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd have fewer imaginary ones."
I read a story recently of a World War II paratrooper who had survived more than 50 missions only to break four ribs in a fall upon his return home after the war was over. He worried about his missions, but then something happened about which he had never even given a thought - he tripped on a rug! Worry cannot change circumstances which are happening, nor can it prevent circumstances from taking place. This is why Christ said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life (Matthew 6:25-27)?"
Christ wants to take care of our needs (read the rest of Matthew 6). Temper your worry with the reality that God is in control.
Sun Apr 19 07:21:45 2015
Many people mistakenly think that God must not be as involved in people's lives today as he once was because we don't see the miraculous events we read about in scripture occurring on a regular basis today. The operative word in my opening sentence is "mistakenly." Just because we don't see events happening that we might describe as "miraculous" does not mean that God is not working. Yes, we believe that the canon is closed - that there is no more direct revelation that has been given we would consider on the same level as scripture, but that does not mean that God is not as operative now as he was in the days when scripture was written.
There are some things to remember here. Remember that the scripture was written over a period of more than 1500 years, so it spans a great deal of history. Another thing to remember is the reason scripture was written - to give future generations a look at our Heavenly Father and his wonderful plan for us. At times this required miraculous involvement to bring about his purposes. And certainly we need to remember that the coming of God's Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, was the culmination of his redemptive plan that continues to work out in the lives of individuals since Christ's time here on earth. We read in Hebrews 1:1-2, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." Finally, we do see miraculous events happening. There are things that take place that cannot be explained other that the fact of God's involvement in a supernatural way. I remember well the Six Day War of 1967 when Israel defeated various more powerful forces bent on her destruction. Many consider this the work of the Hand of God. The thing is, we don't have the privilege of a scripture commentator telling us that "And God said. . ." in this instance. There are other events that fall into this category, most not on the same scale, many on a more personal level, events that defy description.
So to say that God is not as involved now as he was in "Bible times" is erroneous. He is involved. He is taking part in what happens. He is there. God in times past "spoke to our forefathers through the prophets" - sometimes in an audible voice, sometimes through a miraculous deed, sometimes by writing on tablets of stone. Now he speaks to us through His Son who is alive and resides within us. Listen - can't you hear him speaking?
Sat Apr 18 07:35:28 2015
When trees are damaged, they ooze sap to the affected area to form a barrier against invasive bacteria and insects that would use the injured area as an access for them. This, of course, would cause further damage. Often, the scarred-over areas form rather interesting patterns that are attractive and compelling. The marks are there, but the healing process has transformed them into a positive feature of the tree.
When God heals us, those scars of the past created by our miscreant ways and our sins can become marks of beauty. When we repent of our sins, seek forgiveness, and leave them in the hands of our loving Lord, he can take what is broken and turn it into something beautiful.
Bill Gaither wrote, "Something beautiful, something good, all my confusion, he understood. All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful of my life." This is exactly what God can do when we turn our lives into his hands. Isaiah wrote, "'Come now, let us settle the matter,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18) Let God transform those scars of sin into marks of beauty for his glory.
Fri Apr 17 08:12:36 2015
Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Rabbi Ben Eckstein of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews wrote the following:
Each year Jews around the world observe Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day - commemorating a horrific chapter not only in the history of the Jewish people, but also in the history of the world. Motivated by a fanatical hatred of Jews and a desire to rid society of "undesirable" elements, the Nazi regime that ruled Germany during the mid-20th century engaged in a systematic and brutal campaign to destroy the Jewish people. Harvesting the fruits of seeds sown through centuries of anti-Semitism, they nearly succeeded, murdering six million Jews, or about one third of the world's Jewish population at the time. The full name of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Hebrew is actually "Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah," meaning "Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day." This reminds us that even though many ignored evidence of Nazi crimes, there were those who went to great lengths to save Jews. Many of these heroes are remembered today as "righteous gentiles." In Holland, Corrie ten Boom sheltered those fleeing Nazi oppression. In France, Pastor Andre Trocme helped to make an entire town, Le Chambon, a safe haven for persecuted Jews. Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish Christian, rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazi death machine. And there were, of course, many more who are less well-known, but no less deserving of our gratitude. Some say the Holocaust is too terrible to remember. But there is a reason why the Jewish people have vowed to "never forget." They remember so that they may prevent such horrible events from ever occurring again.
We know from Revelation that God has a plan for the Jewish nation. When Jesus returns to earth, he will return to Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:4-5 tells us, "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him." In that day, all that has happened will be set right. Let us look forward to that time and know the future is in God's secure hands.
Thu Apr 16 08:03:28 2015
We use a lot of olive oil in our home as we use it almost exclusively in our cooking. We enjoy the taste, and it is supposed to be better for you. Olive oil is still an important commodity in our world today, but in ancient times it was really important. Someone once wrote that the Roman empire ran on olive oil - cooking, heat, light, medicine and many other uses. The oil came from southern Spain in clay pots. Once the oil was consumed, the pots were discarded.
On the bank of the Tiber River in Rome there is a "mountain" called Monte Testaccio that is made from the fragments of millions of discarded pots. The Romans used what was valuable and discarded the pots that were of little value.
Paul wrote about this reality in the Christian life: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (II Corinthians 4:7) Paul was reminded his readers that what is important about our lives is not the temporal, fading, frail external body, but the internal being. Our greatest treasure is the inner working of Christ within us.
There is such a premium placed on our bodies in our society today. And I am not saying we should neglect the care of the body, or view the body as bad while the good part of us is inside. What I am saying is that we should focus on developing the inner being and our bond with Christ. We need to live so that others can see the glory of Christ in us. We should reveal our inner treasure by radiating the love of Christ.
Wed Apr 15 07:53:47 2015
"Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good," someone once said. Well, April 15 is a good example of this. Today is TAX DAY - now how can that be good? Just hold on to that thought for a minute.
On this day in history, some pretty significant good things took place. In 1923, insulin was introduced. In 1945, British troops liberated the Nazi concentration camp Bergin-Belsin. McDonalds got its start on this day in 1955 when Ray Kroc opened his first franchised restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois. Some might say this was not such a good thing.
There are some things that took place on this date that are unquestionably negative. Abraham Lincoln died on this date in 1865. The Titanic sank on this date in 1912. Libyan ruler Mohammar Gaddafi launched the Green Revolution in 1970. So, good things and bad took place on the same day.
We struggle with the bad we experience in life, but we know that the bad we experience can bring about good. Earlier I referred to the "badness" of this day because of taxes, but those bad taxes are used for good things - schools, roads, programs to help folks, and other items.
We see biblical examples of how God can use a bad experience to bring about good. Joseph declared this to his brothers in reference to the bad he experienced because of their actions, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:19-20) We struggle to see the good in bad things, but take the time in the midst of your struggles to seek God's face and his guidance to provide perspective on your experience.
Remember the statement of Paul found in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Let God help you see the good in the bad that takes place. This is not so much taking the bad with the good as it is acknowledging that good can come from bad.
Tue Apr 14 07:56:53 2015
With the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, 1957, humankind entered into a new era. We also created a new place to trash - outer space. There are over 100 million objects 1 micron or larger currently orbiting the earth that are there due to the destruction of satellites, the deposit of debris from space missions, and collisions between orbiting bodies. Space agencies have to constantly monitor this debris to allow for course corrections by the orbiting international space station and other carriers such as space shuttles in order to avoid collisions. Still, some collisions do occur. This is a dangerous consideration as a small fleck of paint no larger than the size of a watch battery is traveling so fast that it hits with the force of a 5.5 lb. hammer. Efforts to clean up this mess are still being sought, but no effective solution has ever been reached.
The effects of sin in our lives can be devastating as well. Achan lost his life because he chose to disobey and keep some of the plunder from Ai. Joshua 22:20 tells the consequences, "When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin." The scripture tells us that we affect our lives and the lives of others when we sin. David and his family experienced consequences from his affair with Bathsheba. We see God's grace operative in both of these incidents, nonetheless there was fallout from what had taken place.
We need to make course corrections in order to avoid "sin debris." Make wise choices to eliminate the creation of sin debris. We have a tendency to create trash - let's do what we can to reverse this trend in our spiritual lives.
Mon Apr 13 07:51:03 2015
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743. His presidency was eventful, to say the least. He oversaw the Louisiana Purchase and commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the new lands acquired in this purchase. He was a scientist, a poet, and a great statesman. And, lest you think that our struggles against Muslim terrorists are a recent development, Jefferson sent Marines to Tripoli ("to the shores of Tripoli" goes the Marines' theme song) to do battle with Muslim Barbary Coast pirates that had been raiding ships in the Mediterranean.
Our new nation had started paying ransom to a confederation of North African countries in 1785 for protection against the pirates. Jefferson disliked this practice and discontinued it in 1801 after becoming president. Tripoli declared war on the United States and for four years the conflict raged, ending with a victory for the United States in 1805. I think it is rather ironic that one of our most recent conflicts is with an Islamic North African state and, of course, we continue to fight in Afghanistan to root out Islamic terrorists. The threat of ISIS is real and there are other cells of Islamic terrorists.
Inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial are these words of Jefferson, "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?" We should never take for granted the liberty we enjoy as citizens of this country. In addition, we should never take for granted our relationship with our Father, and the liberty we have in Christ. Romans 8:2 reminds us, "through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." We have been liberated from sin and the sentence of death. We have been set free to enjoy life and eternal life.
We should be grateful for the freedom we enjoy as citizens of the United States. As Thomas Jefferson stated, these liberties are the gift of God. Enjoy your liberty, don't take it for granted, and give thanks to God for what we have. Continue to pray for those who are fighting that they would be safe, and that they would be successful in their endeavors.
Sun Apr 12 07:06:38 2015
It has been a week since the resurrection and what a week it has been! We know that sometime during the evening a week ago Christ appeared to his disciples in the room where they were staying (hiding?) They were overjoyed by his appearance. Perhaps there were other times during the week when they had encounters with him. Well, all of them except one.
John gives us the best outline of the week - "Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.' A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" (John 20:24-29)
Thomas was absent of the first Sunday, and when he heard about the appearance of Christ, he was a little incredulous in his response. I don't know what all Christ did the next week, but obviously he was never where Thomas was, until the next Sunday. Then comes one of the most fascinating meetings recorded in the Gospels. When Thomas sees Christ, his recognition is immediate. Christ really did not chide him for his "unbelief," but it was almost as if he said, "You need to believe whether you see me or not."
Many often remark, "Oh, if only I could actually see Christ!" To those who say this, Christ's response is like that to Thomas - believe me whether you see me or not! Christ is alive - don't use not seeing him as an excuse for not believing. It won't work.
Sat Apr 11 08:16:29 2015
Samuel DiPiazza wrote a book about building integrity, trust, and believability in relationships in the business world. He wrote, "either you have it or you don't." He promotes a culture of transparency and accountability. A good question is: Can you acquire integrity if you are a person who has demonstrated that you are less than believable at times? Certainly you can by demonstrating character and trustworthiness. DiPiazza contends that you cannot acquire this characteristic if you aren't a person with inherent integrity. I disagree.
With the work of the Holy Spirit within you, a fundamental change in character is indeed possible. David asked God "teach me your statutes." (Psalm 119:124) Proverbs 11:3 says, "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them." Such integrity is something that comes from within, but is a trait that can be acquired and developed. Through turning our lives into the hands of the Lord and trusting the work of the Spirit, we can see our character transformed and our hearts made right. Develop integrity through trust in God's hand in your life. He will guide your ways.
Fri Apr 10 07:42:51 2015
What do you want to do for the Lord today? Many of you may be saying, "Well, I really haven't given that much thought." Therein lays the problem. We spend way too much time on trivial pursuits and not enough time on really important considerations.
In an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond," Debra confronts Raymond about his lack of desire to do something worthwhile. One of her statements is, "You said the church carnival really wasn't your thing because you didn't think the Lord wanted you to try to fleece other people for money." Her complaint is that he really didn't want to do anything.
We are often like that in our service for God. We have a number of excuses and reasons why we aren't doing anything. We want to do what we want to do and are not concerned about what God wants us to do. We have "Raymond excuses" and I really don't think God wants to hear them. This is just wrong, and it is an attitude that needs to be eliminated.
Moses tried this - he had "Raymond" excuses when it came to doing what God wanted him to do. We read in Exodus 3:13-14, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has sent me to you.'" God eventually said to Moses, in effect, "Quit making excuses and do what you know you should!" He says that to us as well. We need to quit making excuses and do what we know we should.
Thu Apr 9 08:25:13 2015
Have you ever misplaced something? If that is not a rhetorical question, I don't know what would be a rhetorical question. At times we all have had the fun experience of trying to locate something that we have put somewhere but cannot remember where that somewhere is. We are preparing for a baptism this Sunday at church and just yesterday I had to ask for the spelling of the names of those who are to be baptized because I had misplaced the note where I had written the names.
This got me to thinking. We often allude to our name being in the Book of Life when we have a relationship with Christ. The idea of our names being in a book is spoken of in many places in Scripture. Psalm 69:28 tells us, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous." Christ refers to this when he says, "Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:20) Paul speaks of the book, "together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:3) Perhaps the best-known, and certainly the most ominous, is found in Revelation 20:15, "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Especially after reading this last reference, I am glad that God has written my name in His book and, unlike me, will NOT misplace the book.
Is your name in the Book of Life? You can know that it is through making a decision to trust Christ as your Savior. If you have, you can be assured that God knows your name, he knows it is written down, and he will not misplace where it is written.
Wed Apr 8 07:50:54 2015
To whom do you attribute your successes and accomplishments? In today's climate of rationalism and humanism, you would be hard pressed to find a researcher or inventor that would allow for God's hand in their accomplishments. Such has not always been the case.
Samuel F. B. Morse graduated from Yale in 1810. He founded the National Academy of Design and served as president for twenty years. He, of course, invented the telegraph, along with Morse code, but struggled to find financial backing for this invention. He wrote his wife, "The only gleam of hope, and I can not underrate it, is from confidence in God. When I look upward it calms my apprehensions for the future, and I seem to hear a voice saying: 'If I clothe the lilies of the field, shall I not also clothe you?' Here is my strong confidence, and I will wait patiently for the direction of Providence.'" Sounds like he was aware of the source of this powerful knowledge!
Eventually, Congress began to realize the power of Morse's invention, and provided backing for the installation of telegraph lines. In 1844, Morse allowed the young daughter of a colleague to choose the first message to be transmitted over the newly-erected system. She chose Numbers 23:23, "What hath God wrought?" This was an appropriate statement about the technology being revealed, and one with which Morse wholeheartedly agreed. He attributed his success to God, and was not ashamed to proclaim this message.
Can you imagine this attitude in our secular society today? We are in a climate where attributing to God one's accomplishments is met with disdain and scoffing. Actually, the idea of the existence of God is met with great skepticism. My response to this? God knows who is in charge - I pity the folks and pray for the folks and proclaim truth to the folks who do not see this as the reality of his being. Folks will either acknowledge God in this life, or will acknowledge him later. "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11) The only problem is if they wait until then, it will be too late to provide any benefit for them.
Follow the lead of Morse! He made such an incredible contribution to the world - but he did not forget to acknowledge the source of that contribution!
Mon Apr 6 08:54:37 2015
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if you watched any of the specials that were on because of the Easter season, but I always find it interesting to see how Christ is depicted. We really donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any idea what he actually looked like, but artists throughout the centuries have provided us with their thoughts.
The most popular image of Christ ever produced is Warner Sallman's "Head of Christ," which he painted in 1941. This image has been reproduced over 500 million times. Mr. Sallman had been working against a deadline to produce an image of Christ. He struggled with the image, how should Christ be depicted? He awoke in the middle of the night, just hours before the image was due, and penciled the rough image that would become "Head of Christ."
It is no wonder that Sallman struggled with what to paint. The New Testament does not contain any description of Christ at all. . Was he tall or short? Was his hair curly or straight? Was he homely or handsome? We really don't know. Our desire to know what he looked like is so strong that we sometimes accept images such as Sallman's as reality. This, or course, is a mistake. It really is good we don't know what Christ looked like. This makes us concentrate on what we do know something about - his ministry and his character.
The New Testament says quite a bit about both of these. And since it does, these are the aspects of Christ on which we should focus. I'm glad we have no actual physical description of Christ. If we did, we would want to emphasize this in our study of Christ. We would want to imitate his physical appearance. In our appearance-crazy age, I would imagine we would do all kinds of things to "look like Jesus." I am sure that even plastic surgery would be in the mix.
What is important is that you be like Christ and act like Christ, not look like Christ. Paul talks about emulating the attitude of Christ in Philippians 2:5, "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus. . ." Colossians 2:6-7 says to us: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." We don't know how he looked, but we do know how he lived, so we should want to live like Christ, not look like Christ.
Sun Apr 5 06:08:07 2015
Today is "The Day" in the calendar of the Christian Church. This is Resurrection Sunday - a day of celebration of the great Gift of God. Today is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and his departure from the tomb in which his body had laid since Friday. As we have pointed out on a number of occasions, this year Sunday is the very day that Christ came forth from the realm of the dead. We know this because this year the celebration of Passover, which gives us our timing of the events we observe, coincides with our celebration of Easter.
"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." (Matthew 28:1-6)
What a Day! Be thankful for this day - a Day that provides hope for us that we may have many days to live and to express our praise to our Risen Lord!
Sat Apr 4 09:07:54 2015
During the week of the crucifixion, today is a day of mixed emotions and reactions. There must have been a widespread amazement to the events of the day before - the darkness, the rending of the veil between the Holy Place and the Holiest of Holies, and the resurrection of many dead people. The followers of Christ are confused, devastated, and afraid. The apostles have found a retreat in a room somewhere in Jerusalem. Most of the soldiers involved probably went about their lives - they had done this before, although Matthew 27 tells us that some of them were deeply moved by the events.
I don't know what was going through the minds of Pilate and Herod - neither were strangers to crucifixions - but this one was different. Pilate had to think about the events of Friday as the religious leaders wouldn't let him alone even though he had done there bidding. They were worried. The scripture tells us they were worried that Christ's followers would come and try to take the body. So, "The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 'Sir,' they said, 'we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.' 'Take a guard,' Pilate answered. 'Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard." (Matthew 27:62-66)
What about Christ? That is a good question. Many teach that he "descended into hell" to release captive saints that were waiting his deliverance. This is based on Ephesians 4:8 and I Peter 3:18-20. I take these verses to refer to his descent to the earth and his ministry there, not a descent into hell. We do know that he went to paradise - remember his promise to the dying thief? (Luke 23:43) As to what else he did during this time - well, we don't know everything about him, do we? Oh, but we know what he will do tomorrow! My, what tomorrow will bring!
Fri Apr 3 08:19:50 2015
What happened on this day, Friday, during the "last" week of Christ's life should go without saying. However, we need to say it; we need to rehearse the details to remind us of the incredible path that God chose that would lead to redemption for those who choose to follow. After the arrest in Gethsemane, there was a night of interrogation and abuse through the trials of the Sanhedrin.
As dawn broke, Jesus was taken to Roman courts before Pontius Pilate, then Herod, then back to Pilate. Pilate gave the people a choice - Jesus or Barabbas. We know whom they chose. Events raced forward like a flood - the scourging, the crucifixion, the darkness, the earthquake, the veil of the temple torn in two, the graves of dead saints opened, the seven statements from the cross, the spear, Christ's death, and, of course, the burial. All in one day - a day we call Good Friday.
Christ was born at night and it became day; he was crucified during the day and it became as dark as night. A divine exchange took place - he bore our sins upon him so that we may have freedom from sin. "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned-Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (I Corinthians 5:12; 18-19) This is why we call today Good Friday.
Thu Apr 2 08:08:48 2015
Today is Thursday, Maundy Thursday, as we sometimes call it. The term "maundy" comes from the Latin word "mandatum" which means "command." This is a day when we reflect on Christ's final commands. Christ gave his disciples some pretty definitive instructions on Thursday before his crucifixion. Matthew 26 tells us how he told the disciples where to go and what to say in finding a location for them to celebrate Passover. Verse 18 says, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'"
Before celebrating the Passover, he washes their feet and later tells them, "A new command I give you: Love one another." (John 13:34) During the Passover observance, he gives them bread and tells them "Take and eat; this is my body." (Matthew 26; 26) After the supper he gave them the cup and said, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (26:27-28) He tells them to "do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) Later, they would leave the room where they shared this last Passover and go to Gethsemane. There he would talk with His Father, chide his disciples for falling asleep, come face to face with his betrayer, be arrested, and taken before the Sanhedrin.
We need to remember his final commands as they tell us how we should relate to ourselves, our fellow believers, and our marvelous Savior. Made every day a "maundy" day by choosing to live by the commands of Christ.
Wed Apr 1 08:27:53 2015
Wednesday of the week of Christ's crucifixion was a very significant day. Of course, all of these days are significant. Wednesday is significant as it is a day of planning and plotting. According to John 12:47-50, "Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. 'What are we accomplishing?' they asked. 'Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.' Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, 'You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.'"
There it is - minds are made up, a decision is made, now the only thing left to do is to determine how to implement the decision. And as this is being debated, in walks a man with just the ticket to put the scheme in motion. Judas "went to the chief priests and asked, 'What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?' So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over." (Matthew 26:14-16)
All is coming together for the religious leaders. What they do not realize is that they are setting in motion a plan that had been put together long before their present meeting. What happened on "Spy Wednesday", as some call this day, is not going to be a surprise to Christ. Still, when you think about it, all the diabolical plotting gets to you, doesn't it? How could they be so blind? A good question, but their actions will have consequences they would never expect.