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!
Tue Jan 26 07:10:15 2016
At the highest levels of government, actions and decisions are constantly evaluated for what consequences will be produced. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, making decisions regarding military actions, or using language that could be misconstrued could lead to problems. There is a great understanding of the need to monitor what is going on so that actions and reactions are appropriate. They try to answer the question, "Where is this going to lead us?"
We need to ask that question at many times in our lives. Not asking this question can cause us to fail to avoid situations that can have negative consequences or fail to make prudent decisions about life events.
Many of the prophets asked their listeners to ask this question. Jeremiah said to his contemporaries, "'So I will go to the leaders and speak to them; surely they know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God.' But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds." Jeremiah told the people to watch their ways and to make good decisions. They knew God's requirements, but they didn't live accordingly. They didn't ask, "Where is this going to lead us?" This cost them, as a "distant nation" was brought against them.
Don't make the mistake the Jews did when they ignored Jeremiah's words. Make sure to consider where your choices are going to take you. You know God's requirements - live by them!
Mon Jan 25 07:10:15 2016
One of the things we learn in life, or should learn in life, is how to handle disappointment. Lindsey Jacobellis can certainly tell you about disappointment. Lindsey was one of the top women's snowboarders in the world. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, she was 50 yards ahead of her nearest competitor in the race for the gold medal in a snowboard event. On the last jump, she attempted a maneuver common in snowboarding but crashed, losing out on any hope of a medal.
Then, history repeated itself as Lindsey went off the course in a later snowcross event and was disqualified. In the interview after the race she said, "'I feel OK, though,' Jacobellis said. 'Sometimes you can’t control the things you want to.'” This is a true statement, and something important for us to remember as we face life's disappointments. If you say you haven't faced a time of disappointment, well, just hang around for a little while. It will happen.
What should you do when disappointment comes? First, acknowledge what happened and why it happened. If it was something you couldn't control, make a bit mental note. Don't push it away. Secondly, take a step back and get your breath. You don't want to make a major decision when you are wrestling with a disappointment. Thirdly, consult and talk with close friends and family about what happened. Finally, not chronologically but as the most important step in dealing with disappointment, allow God's grace to bring peace to your heart. God does care for us, and he is there for us when we struggle with any issue. This certainly includes disappointments.
Isaiah 49:23 tells us, "Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." We will face disappointments in life. God will help us when we are struggling with disappointment. We can rest assured we will never be disappointed with God.
Sun Jan 24 07:10:15 2016
Usually what are you thinking when the benediction is being given at a worship service? Are you focused on what is being said and the significance of what is taking place, or are you thinking about how hungry you are? Are you thinking about your actions once you leave the time of worship or are you wishing that the person giving the benediction would hurry so you could get to your golf game?
Benedictions are interesting and important. Sometimes we look forward to the benediction because it marks the end of our time in church and now we can get on to something else we deem more interesting and important. The benediction is more than just a prayer to end worship, it is a time of reflection on what we have just experienced. The benediction should be a final challenge to us to take what we have just absorbed and use it to better serve our Lord as we depart to our lives outside the time we have spent in worship. The benediction should be looked on as not a pronouncement of completion of a task but a call to begin a task. Too often we don't think of the benediction as anything more than just a time to get by quickly so we can get on with our lives. It should be a time to start thinking of what we are going to do, what we are going to do differently, and how we are going to live.
There are many benedictions in the scripture and it is interesting to study them to see what they teach and discover their purpose. One of the most extensive in found in Hebrews 13:20-21, "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
This benediction reflects a desire for God to work in us, and a desire to be used by God. When the benediction comes in the service today, do more thinking than you usually do. Well, do different thinking than you usually do. Use it as a time to ask yourself, "What now?" Make it be a time to tell God, "Use me!"
Sat Jan 23 07:10:15 2016
When we address the evils of society, it is often easy to fall into a pattern of negativity. As we address the ills of society, it is easy to fall into a pattern of condemnation without really offering any positive steps of how to correct the ills. Sometimes the perception of Christians is that we are always negative and fighting against something. Obviously, we don't condone sinfulness and evil, but what about loving our enemies? What about doing good for those who persecute us? (Matthew 5:44-45) What about feeding the hungry? What about clothing the naked? (Matthew 25:34-36)
Followers of Christ do not condone sin, but we should be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. We need to channel the love of Christ. We need to be instruments of God's grace. We need to demonstrate compassion not condemnation. Don't leave the impression that we look down upon those who "don't come up to our standards." I have always found it interesting that Christ's condemnation was usually aimed at religious leaders, not unbelievers. Christ came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He did that through reaching out to those in sin. He didn't just sit back and talk about how awful they were. He was even condemned for associating with the sinful. "When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners'?'" (Matthew 9:11)
I think Christ invited this criticism. It meant that people were paying attention to what he was doing. He was willing to be with them because of their sin. We need to reach folks with this message.
Fri Jan 22 08:35:57 2016
We often say that in the sight of God, sin is sin. There is no one sin worse than another according to God's perspective. However, just for the sake of argument, what do you consider the greatest sin? Homicide? Genocide? Well, what about deicide, the murder of God? That is what took place when God's Son was executed hundreds of years ago.
Who is to blame for this unspeakable crime? Was it the religious leaders who captured him and condemned him in a false, illegal trial? Was it the mob who called for his death? Was it the spineless Roman leader who turned him over to the Romans because of the cries of the mob? Was it the Roman soldiers who carried out the orders of execution? One of Rembrandt's paintings is a depiction of the crucifixion scene with an angry mob surrounding the dying form of the crucified Christ. In the mob there is a faceless person hidden at the edge of the scene. The shadowy figure is Rembrandt himself. The famed artist had a realistic grasp on the identity of the person responsible for the murder of Jesus.
You are the one responsible for the murder of God. That sounds rather ominous, doesn't it? Yet, the irony of this is you have the opportunity for a new life because of the death of Christ. Your sin and mine are what is responsible for Christ's execution. But without his death, we could never have the hope of escaping our own death.
We recently celebrated Christ's birth, and we are preparing to celebrate his death and resurrection. Don't forget who is responsible for his death, and give thanks to Christ for his willingness to submit to this plan. Without his submission there would be no celebration.
Thu Jan 21 08:51:56 2016
Yesterday I spent some time transferring some files to a new laptop I had purchased. I came across some pictures of my granddaughter when she was just days old. As many of you know, we are expecting another grandchild soon - this time a grandson.
I began to do some thinking about these little lives. If they live as long as many folks I know, they will live into the 22nd century. What will they experience in their lives? What sort of impact will they make on others? What sort of society will they experience? They have the potential to make good decisions that will result in positive results in their world. They have the potential to make bad decisions that will bring negative consequences. Now is the time they need to be shown the importance of making good decisions. Well, the grandson will be there in a few months. Nonetheless, my kids don't want to wait to start showing their children how they should live.
The Bible has a good deal to say to parents about the training of children. Jesus spoke of the place children should have in our lives - they need to be informed about how to live godly lives, not ignored (Mark 10:13 - 16). Deuteronomy 6:6 - 7 says, "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children." Do you have children or grandchildren? Are you in a position to show children how they should live? Remember the importance of "train(ing) up a child in the way he should go." (Proverbs 22:6)
We should love them unconditionally, instruct them carefully, and discipline them wisely. We can never spend enough time with our children. The future will be shaped by them. What are we doing to help shape the future?
Wed Jan 20 10:12:43 2016
An illusion is a distorted perception of reality. In many scenarios, illusion is harmless. Magicians depend upon illusion for their routines to be entertaining. Sometimes, however, illusion can have more harmful effects. A mirage in a desert that makes one think he is heading towards water could be fatal. At night, lights and weather can create illusions that can have devastating results for drivers.
We can be trapped by an illusion in our spiritual lives as well. Sometimes there are things that do not appear harmful but are. For some reason, there are times that we do not see things as God sees them. Either we don't want to see the truth, or we have been duped by our enemy, Satan. We need to be aware of this, take steps to prevent it from happening, and do what we need to do to preserve reality.
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Realize how we can be deceived. Remember we are prone to self-deception, and work to avoid the illusions that cause us to stray from following the path God wants us to follow. Leave illusion in the hands of magicians!
Tue Jan 19 08:59:43 2016
I have always been fascinated by the story of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. In 1803, they were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to find a route across the North American continent to the Pacific Ocean. I just cannot imagine the spirit and fortitude these men and those who were with them must have had. They had no idea where they were going, they weren't entirely sure what they would find when they got where they were going, and they really weren't quite sure what they would find along the way. Yet, they went. One encounter they had along the way proved to be rather helpful - they were joined by a French fur trader and his Native American wife, Sacajawea. If you know the story of Lewis and Clark, you know the incredible significance of this "chance" meeting. Sacajawea's help was invaluable - she was able to be a guide, a translator, a cook, and a tremendous ally. A further development was her finding her brother, who was now the chief of their tribe. It is really hard to speculate how much different this expedition would have been had Lewis and Clark not met these people who became trusted advisors on their two and a half year journey. The meeting was unexpected, yet was certainly welcome and invaluable.
You may feel like you are embarking on a journey into the "unknown." You may be facing a circumstance in your life where you really don't know much about what is going to happen. Maybe it is a new job, a new locale, new relationships. Maybe you are facing something that is going to be more challenging than these events - you have encountered a loss, you are facing an illness, or something has happened that is causing some other hardship. When these things happen, realize that God can and will provide help. Sometimes this help comes in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. God can provide help from unexpected sources. Continue to look to him and realize he is there. The way ahead may look mysterious, but not to God. He is there, he knows he way, and he will not leave you stranded.
Ancient pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem for feasts sang, "I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2)." They were looking for help because the road in front of them was filled with dangers. God was there to provide help for them, and he is here to provide help for us.
Mon Jan 18 09:13:38 2016
I am one of those people who hates red lights, construction delays, speed zone changes, and anything that causes me to slow down. Recently, I began to think about this. I know I dislike these things because they cause me to do something I don't want to do - slow down. I asked myself this question, "Why is it that you don't like to slow down?" That is a valid question for which I have no good answer. We talk about our fast-paced lives in negative terms, but why is it that we don't want to slow down? I thought about this in terms of the red lights and speed zones. Why are they there? They are there to make things safer, to preserve life and limb, to cause you to have more time to react and not harm yourself or others.
The more I thought about this, the more I got to thinking about slowing down in general. Even as slowing down because of red lights and speed zones is designed to enhance safety and prevent harm to life, maybe I should introduce some red lights and speed zones in my life in general for the same reason. In order to have a "triggering system" for this to take place, I have determined to try to look at red lights and speed zones differently. I am going to try to look at them positively. I am going to try to look at them as welcome intrusions into my hectic pace, forcing me to slow down in order to be safer and to enjoy the ride more. When I stop at a red light, I am going to say, "Thanks, God, for this red light. I know it is here for a reason. Help me to agree with this reason and to proceed at an orderly pace."
Most of us need to slow down. I encourage you to introduce habits into your life that will help you do just that. Our fast-paced life may get us where we want to be more quickly, but does the speed really enhance our experience? I have always enjoyed what God says in Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God." A literal translation of this is "stand still." That is exactly what we need to do in our lives at times. So, work to change your attitude about red lights. Use the literal ones you encounter as reminders that you need to slow down not only in your car, but in your life as well. When you encounter a figurative "red light," be greatful for the circumstance that made you stop and think about what you are doing and where you are going. Someone once said "you need to stop and smell the roses along the way." I don't know about smelling the roses, but I do know I need to slow down. What about you?
Sun Jan 17 07:34:48 2016
We find a really interesting account in Genesis 12, "Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, 'I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.'"
Why did Abram lie? Well, for one thing, he feared the Egyptians. But another thing his lie revealed was a lack of trust in God. Now, this is really fascinating, as we usually consider Abraham "the father of faith." This account shows that we all struggle at times with a lack of faith.
Abram got scared and decided to take matters into his own hands instead of letting God take care of him. We may not resort to lies, but can resort to other displays of weakness when we are faced with circumstances that cause us fear. We may resort to thinking or behavior that displays a lack of trust in God. What can we do? Acknowledge that this could happen to you, be aware of this tendency, and be determined to trust in God regardless of how scary the situation. Remember, God will not fail, nothing or no one is stronger than He.
Sat Jan 16 10:04:26 2016
Many years ago when my oldest daughter was a preschooler, I was in my office in a meeting with some folks in the church. Suddenly, the door burst open and my daughter appeared. "Daddy," she began, and then she went on to tell me the news that she felt needed to be told. Now, we raised our kids to respect others. And they certainly do. But one thing both my daughters knew was that Dad was available to them just about any time their little hearts desired. They had free access to where I was, because I loved them and always wanted them to know that I was there for them.
Even as my children had free access to me, we have free access to our heavenly Father. God tells his followers that his love for them is even greater than that of a mother for her children. Isaiah 49:15 says, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" Hebrews 4:16 tells us, "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." My kids always knew they could approach me with no fear. Now, they knew that sometimes they may not hear the answer they wanted, but they never worried about whether I may not listen to what they wanted to say. They never feared to "burst into my office" because they knew I would not reject their presence.
We have that same confidence with our heavenly Father. He listens to our heart and we never need fear rejection.
Fri Jan 15 07:38:44 2016
According to the American Psychological Association website, "Approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 18.1 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have an anxiety disorder." This makes anxiety the number one mental health issue in the United States, far outstripping depression. There are a number of causal factors for anxiety from worrying about a personal problem to developing anxiety because of the state of the current human condition.
Fears about life have been around since man fell in the garden. David's words found in Psalm 55:4-5 tell us, "My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me." He is concerned about enemies working against him, about the violence, anger, and abuse that are present in society. He speaks about betrayal by a friend. These are issues that cause him great distress. What is the answer to these dilemmas? "As for me," David declared, "I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice."
David knew that a close fellowship with God is an answer to the fear he experiences because of life's circumstances. Anxiety is a burden we are not called upon to bear. We need to "cast all your care upon him; for he cares for you." (I Peter 5:7) Put your burdens on the Lord - he is the one who can handle those heavy loads!
Thu Jan 14 08:08:51 2016
Many years ago, I was helping a couple in our church move to a new house. I was carrying a box but was unaware of the contents. I found out soon enough about what the box contained. As I was lifting the box into the truck, the bottom broke and a glass bowl fell out and shattered all over the road. My intentions were good, but the actions went awry. Often our good intentions can lead to undesirable results. We need to be careful that our well-intended actions don't cause damaging results.
Gideon is an example of this. After a successful time as a judge, the people actually wanted to make him king. He refused this offer, but asked that each of the warriors donate a golden earring from the plunder they obtained during their recent victory over the Midianites. From these, Gideon had an ephod made. "Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family." (Judges 8:27) Now, exactly what this was is unclear. Was it part of the priestly garments? Was it an image of some sort? This is not made known, but what is revealed is that Israel began to worship the ephod, leading them away from true worship of God.
Gideon's good intentions went the wrong way because it opened up a path away from God. We need to make sure that all of our efforts take us toward God. We need to avoid activities, no matter how well-intentioned, that might cause us to drift from our worship of God. Focus on Him!
Wed Jan 13 07:42:17 2016
I read an article the other day that spoke of a man named Douglas. It did not give his last name. Douglas had endured a number of tragedies in his life - the loss of his wife to cancer, a failed ministry, severe injuries to both his young daughter and himself in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver, and other struggles. When asked about keeping his faith in spite of such circumstances, he replied, "Don't confuse God with life."
Many believers think that following Christ and living obedient lives should shield them from the hazards of life. This is simply not the case. Obedient Christians will still have struggles. Living faithful lives is what we should do simply because it is what we should do, not because we want a shield against harmful events. Life happens and we need to trust God in spite of the negative circumstances we face. We need to look no further than the apostle Paul to see an example of a person who walked closely to God, yet did not consider this walk to be an avenue of entitlement to prevent hard times.
Paul wrote about what he had to endure in II Corinthians 4:7 - 9, "But 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." He writes more about his hardships in II Corinthians 6 and II Corinthians 11. You cannot read these passages and not be moved to tears to think of what he endured. Yet, Paul never complained or cried out, "God, I am following you, why is this happening?" He did not consider his position with God to be a place that prevented him from problems. Rather, he wrote that we should remember God's provision through those storms. Romans 8:38 - 39 tells us, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Don't confuse God with life but continue to steadfastly trust God in spite of what happens in life.
Tue Jan 12 08:09:19 2016
Last night Alabama won the College Football National Championship. Many of you were watching. For some, it was not the right scenario. Before the season started, the Ohio State University Buckeyes were selected unanimously as favorites to win the title. They had won last year, and many players were back this year from that championship team. However, along the way, they lost a game and did not win their conference. So, they were unable to enter the playoffs for the National Championship. They won their bowl game, and finished 13 - 1, but for many this was a disappointment as they were unable to compete for the national title.
Now, this is somewhat sad but in the grand scheme of things there is a greater issue. Many are in danger of missing out on something far more important than a national championship in football. There are millions facing the prospect of missing out on eternal life. The reason for this is sin. Notice I used the singular here. It is sin, not sins, that keep folks from eternal life. Because of a singular act, all people face the prospect of missing out on living with God for all eternity.
God demands perfection. "Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48). The Bible tells us that no one is perfect because of one sin. "Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12) We are condemned by the single act of a single person. But we would fare no better because one sin is all it takes to disqualify us from being in God's presence. This is quite a dilemma, but one that is solved through God's plan. The Bible tells us, "But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!" (Romans 5:15)
A great difference between the Ohio State Football team and us is that we still have an opportunity to gain the prize of eternal life in spite of the blemish of sin. And I believe eternal life is a bit more important than a national championship whether it is in football or anything else. Your blemish can be taken care of through the provision of Christ. The only thing you have to do to accept this provision is to trust Christ alone for your eternal life. Despite your loss, you can gain victory. Claim it today.
Mon Jan 11 08:07:38 2016
Do you have a problem admitting you are wrong? Many of us have this tendency. Sometimes we think we are right when we are wrong as wrong can be. Of course, what is really kind of cool is being on the other end of the spectrum - thinking we are wrong but actually being right..
Christ talks about this in Luke 18: "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Here we have a story of a man who thought he was right but actually was wrong, and a man who thought he was wrong but actually was right.
Many are in the boat thinking they are right when they are actually wrong. If you are thinking there is another way to please God with your life other than through Christ, well, you are in the category of the first fellow. You may think you are right, but you are as wrong as you can be. The second man, thinking he was wrong when he was actually right is in a much better position. We do not have to think we are wrong to be in the right, but we need to be trusting in what is right. What is right is placing our trust in Christ. If we follow what we know to be true, we cannot be in the wrong. Following Christ means we will be in the right place at the right time. The beats being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Follow Christ - be right!
Sun Jan 10 08:32:38 2016
There are times when important people need to go unnoticed. For example, those working behind the scenes on TV broadcasts, or even at live concerts, need to go unnoticed because if their presence is visible, it would distract from the performance or the production. Yet, they are vital to the presentation. If they weren't there, the show would not go on. Technicians, "roadies", and even directors stay behind the scenes but their contributions are necessary.
Jesus said this is the way it should be when we come to the Father in prayer. He told his disciples that when they gave, prayed, or fasted, they shouldn't do it to draw attention to themselves or to please others. They need to do these things to please one person - God. Christ said, "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1)
We don't go about our spiritual disciplines as if they are performances to please or entertain others. We do these things to bring glory to God and to please him. Something within us makes us want to be recognized for our good deeds. There is no wrong in encouraging others and recognizing others, but we should not do things for the recognition. A desire for praise detracts from the spirit of service. We should do things for the Lord.
Sat Jan 9 17:50:35 2016
Walls are usually built to divide, to protect, and to keep out what is not wanted. I remember traveling in Peru and seeing walls that had been built with an additional feature - broken glass was encased in concrete to make the walls even more impregnable for intruders. The Great Wall of China, once spanning a length of 4000 miles, was built to keep out the marauding invaders, such as the Huns. The Berlin Wall was built to separate people who were under differing governments. These are examples of why walls are usually built.
We read in scripture about a wall that was built to provide protection, but had the greater purpose of unifying a population and cause people to work together. This wall is described in Nehemiah. The building of this wall was necessary because the wall around Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians. Nehemiah was saddened to hear the wall had not been restored even though many people had returned to the land. He led the people to build the wall - and the work unified the people. People were called upon to restore portions of the wall (read Nehemiah 3); many restored the portion of the wall that was located just outside their home. The result was the wall was built, in spite of significant opposition. Nehemiah 7:1 tells us, "After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were appointed." And they celebrated.
The wall stood as a testimony to what can be done when people work together. It was a positive thing. It stands as a testament to us of what can be done when we work together. Efforts are multiplied, results are greater. Do you have a wall than needs to be built? Work together and see the results!
Fri Jan 8 07:49:33 2016
On November 19, 1863, a group of dignitaries gathered in a field near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. President Abraham Lincoln was among those who gathered to dedicate that field as a cemetery for the bodies of all those who were slain in the recently completed Battle of Gettysburg. The noted orator, Edward Everett, delivered an address that lasted for almost two hours. President Lincoln's remarks took a little more than two minutes. However, it is Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" that has endured and is still well-known today, almost 153 years after first being spoken. Why is this the case?
Lincoln's speech included words that brought comfort, encouragement, and closure. His words brought healing to a nation fractured by the effects of war that was raging between people who had been part of one country just two years before the ceremony. It was not the quantity of the words, but the character of the words that brought these effects.
That is the way with words. Most often is not the number of words spoken that is important, but the nature of the words that are used. Consider the Lord's prayer - although brief it conveys much about the Lord's power, his provision, and his promises to us.
As we minister to others, remember that verbosity is not necessary. A few words that meet the need can be helpful and welcome. Proverbs 16:24 tell us, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." Use words wisely!
Thu Jan 7 10:01:20 2016
Bison are made in such a way that it hard for them to look up. A giraffe is made in such a way that looking down is not all that easy. Bison graze on grass while giraffes munch on the leaves on trees. You won't see too many bison eating tree leaves and you usually won't see a giraffe grazing in a pasture. They each have their own special features and abilities. All throughout God's creation, we see "specialization." We see unique abilities and habits of the various creatures that populate our planet.
We also see this principle among people. God has created us with unique abilities and gifts. Even as there is no creature that "does it all," neither is there a person that has all abilities. There are people who are good at managing and there are people who are at creating. There are some folks who see the big picture while others are more detail-oriented. God has given various abilities and gifts for positive reason. He has created diversity to bring about unity. We need to work to enhance this feature of God's creation.
Remember the words of Paul, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:3-6) Let those who look up enhance those who look down and those who look down enhance those who look up!
Wed Jan 6 08:51:27 2016
Today (January 6) marks the end of the "Twelve Days of Christmas." And you probably thought that was just a song we sing to celebrate. Actually, the "Twelve Days of Christmas" arose by a decree from the Council of Tours in 567 A.D. This decree was issued to settle a dispute. The Western Church celebrated Christmas on December 25. The Eastern Church celebrated Christmas on January 6. So, the council declared that there would be 12 "holy days" to celebrate Christmas. This is where we get our word "holidays."
This dispute perhaps means little to us today, but as I think of the idea of "holy days," I think it would be good for us to consider each day we live as holy. Today is a day that we have, and it is set apart for our use. How will we spend today? What will we do with the 86,400 seconds that we have been given?
David wrote, "This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) Since God made this day, I think it would do us well to consider it holy and consider how we will live during this day. And we don't even need to have a church council settle the dispute as to what we should do!
Tue Jan 5 08:52:45 2016
Do you often think about some theological questions? I read once about a 5-year-old who asked her father, "Daddy, do angels sleep?" After a little bit of thought, the father replied, "Well, honey, I think they do." The girl said, "Then how do they get their pajamas over their wings?"
We need to be inquisitive and ask questions about things that are theological in nature. Now, we don't need to go overboard and obsess on items that are of little consequence, but we should be curious about circumstances of a spiritual nature. God wants us to know about his presence in our lives and his ministry in our lives. We should have a natural curiosity about his dealings with us. Just don't get sidetracked by pursuits that lead us away from really understanding him. Paul wrote to Timothy, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." (II Timothy 2:23) Avoid those things that are pointless and only lead to controversy. Focus on the important issues and truly coming to know Christ.
Many years ago, there was a group of "scholars" who debated really important issues such as "How many angels can dance on the head of a needle?" If you read this question and say, "I don't get the point of this," then you get the point (pardon the pun). Pursuits such as this are a waste of time. Focus on issues that are beneficial to our spirituality. Don't try to find a needle in a haystack!
Mon Jan 4 14:58:19 2016
During our recent celebration of Christ's Birth, I was given the following poem by Walter Marcelli, a man who attends our church. It is an original composition:
From strolling the star filled heavens,
To walking in sandaled feet with his disciples,
Oh what a wonderful Savior have we.
From commanding angels to healing lepers,
This too is our Savior.
From the right hand of God, to the center cross on Calvary,
Body torn and hands pierced, this is the gift of the Savior.
This is the time to remember why Jesus came.
And this is the time to take to heart who Jesus loves.
I hope we don't forget we shouldn't quit celebrating Christ just because the Christmas season is over. He gave us a reason to celebrate, no matter what time of year it is.
Mon Jan 4 14:57:22 2016
During our recent celebration of Christ's Birth, I was given the following poem by Walter Marcelli, a man who attends our church. It is an original composition:
From strolling the star filled heavens,
To walking in sandaled feet with his disciples,
Oh what a wonderful Savior have we.
From commanding angels to healing lepers,
This too is our Savior.
From the right hand of God, to the center cross on Calvary,
Body torn and hands pierced, this is the gift of the Savior.
This is the time to remember why Jesus came.
And this is the time to take to heart who Jesus loves.
I hope we don't forget we shouldn't quit celebrating Christ just because the Christmas season is over. He gave us a reason to celebrate, no matter what time of year it is.
Mon Jan 4 13:06:15 2016
During our recent celebration of Christ's Birth, I was given the following poem by Walter Marcelli, a man who attends our church. It is an original composition:
From strolling the star filled heavens,
To walking in sandaled feet with his disciples,
Oh what a wonderful Savior have we.
From commanding angels to healing lepers,
This too is our Savior.
From the right hand of God, to the center cross on Calvary,
Body torn and hands pierced, this is the gift of the Savior.
This is the time to remember why Jesus came.
And this is the time to take to heart who Jesus loves
I hope we don't forget we shouldn't quit celebrating Christ just because the Christmas season is over. He gave us a reason to celebrate, no matter what time of year it is.
Sun Jan 3 09:18:32 2016
John Mellencamp once wrote in a song, "Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone." This seems to be an apt description for many people today. If you have a chance to visit an amusement park, you will see this illustrated. At the park, you will find scores of kids running around having a blast while many of the adults look as if they are at the worst place on earth. What is the situation? The kids are there to have a good time; the adults are simply there, they have the wrong focus.
We often struggle in life because we are looking at the wrong perspective of why we are here. We are here to enjoy Christ and develop a deep relationship with him. Through this are true joy and the abundant life that Christ said he came to bring to those who follow him. When we take our eyes off of this and focus on health issues, money issues, relationship issues, and so many other things, we are missing the point of life. Our life is not summed up by our experiences, our life is summed up by our experience in Christ. This is why Paul said his chief focus was Christ. We find his manifesto 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." Having this focus helps to put life in proper perspective and allows us to enjoy the abundance of life spoken of by Christ in John 10.
We can enjoy life and should enjoy life. However, this comes about when we our focus is correct. Develop a desire to know Christ!
Sat Jan 2 08:06:59 2016
When I was a boy, the superintendent of the local office of the Ohio Department of Transportation lived next door to us. My folks were good friends with him and his wife. However, I remember a time when my Mom got a little irritated with him Some folks down the road from us had put in a request to have a large tile placed in the ditch than ran in front of their house so they could build up their yard. Our neighbor rejected the request. My folks could not figure out why he did this. There were others who were a bit put out with him because of his decision. Because of the public outcry, the superintendent changed his decision but said, "Folks, you'll be sorry." Sure enough, after the tile was installed and the yard built up, it caused water to drain onto the rode. During the winter, the snow thawing would send water into the road that would freeze when the temperature dropped. Even now, the road in front of that house can be a hazard at certain times of the year.
There are many times when we have to made decisions or take a stand on an issue that proves to be unpopular, but we know it is the right thing to do because of knowledge we have. Taking a stand is often difficult, but when we know we are right, that is what we need to do. This is true for many circumstances. There are times we need to confront others because of bad decisions or bad behavior. This is not easy, but it is better in the long run. You really can't fault the superintendent for changing his mind because of the weight of public opinion, but had he not done so, a problem would have been avoided.
There are just times when tough decisions need to be made. James tells us that there are times when we know what we should do but don't do the right thing is actually a sin. (James 4:17) Proverbs 1:29-31 reminds us of the consequences of making unwise decisions: "Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes." Don't be afraid to make a good choice, even when it proves to be unpopular!
Fri Jan 1 09:56:35 2016
This is the time for New Year's resolutions. The change in the number of the year brings about a desire to change something in our lives, hence we have resolutions. I don't know how you feel about resolutions, and this is not an article defending them nor decrying their ineffectiveness. I am simply acknowledging the practice of making resolutions. Making resolutions is based on an important reality - there are times we all need to make changes in our lives. Those changes vary in significance, but change is necessary. Not change for change sake, but in all of our lives, there are times when we need to make a change, with the operative word here being "need."
What changes do you need to make? Do you need to make lifestyle changes to improve your health? Do you need to make diet changes because of things going on inside of you? Do you need to make changes in how you treat others? What changes do you need to make to improve your walk with the Lord? Do you need to spend more time with the Scripture? Do you need to be more active in your church? Do you need to give more?
No doubt, most of us do need to make some change in some area. Frankly, there are very few people alive who can honestly say they don't need to make a change somewhere. The only person who does not need to change is God. I Samuel 15:29 says, "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind." However, we are not God, and we do need to make changes. Happy New Year!
Thu Dec 31 08:18:19 2015
I remember reading an article one time by David Branon where he wrote that what we do with the old year is more important than what we plan for the New Year. We should make the end of this year be a time of self-evaluation to see what we might have lingering in our lives that needs to be dealt with. I Corinthians 11 points out the importance of self examination.
Paul writes in I Corinthians 11:28: "Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup." His advice of looking at one's self before taking communion is advice that is applicable to any time of our lives. An honest look at one's heart is helpful to correct any issues that we may be harboring.
The problem of unconfessed sin should not be ignored. Moses knew the danger of allowing sin to reside in his life. He knew that "secret sins" could cause real problems and should be confesses. Psalm 90:8 tells us: "You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence." Don't let this happen! Practice self-evaluation at all times, and use this time of year to do some serious soul searching.
Wed Dec 30 09:45:20 2015
Can you believe we are coming to the end of another year? "Time flies when you are having fun" we often say. I don't know the origin of this cliche, but I do know it resonates practically. When we are involved in a pleasant, enjoyable experience, time just seems to have a way of shooting right by. On the other hand, when you are going through unpleasant circumstances, time sometimes almost seems to stand still. At times redundant activities seem to make time slow down. So, what about the four living creatures that surround the throne of God? Talking about redundancy! We first read about them in Isaiah 6, then we get a more detailed description of their appearance and their function in Revelation 4:8, "Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.'" Doesn't that sound a little boring?
Apparently, they don't get bored. Why? Well, can you imagine all the things they are able to see? Can you imagine all the sounds they hear? Can you imagine all the activity they witness? Furthermore, boredom is not in their experience because they are doing just what they should be doing - honoring God with their existence. They are fulfilling the purpose for which they were designed. How could they be bored?
We need to keep this in mind as we consider our lives. We need to be fulfilling the purpose for which we were designed: giving glory to God and honoring his person and presence. We should never be bored with what we are doing to honor Him! Our lives will never be boring if we are focusing on God and fulfilling his intent!
Tue Dec 29 07:11:21 2015
My mother loved Christmas, but she did not like to fly. Because of her fear of flying my mother, like millions of others, never flew in her life. Despite all the statistics showing that flying is much safer than driving, the fear of going up in the air aboard a jet stops many from flying. The thoughts of putting themselves in a position where they are suspended in the air high above the earth for an extended period of time just is more than many want to handle. Researchers say that the real fear is not that they may crash, but that they lose control of their lives once the jet leaves the ground.
We experience a similar crisis of faith when we put our lives in the hands of God. The issue is one of control - we do not like to relinquish control of our lives. Living by faith means letting God have the right to do with our lives as he pleases, and that is a struggle for many. The apostles struggled with this when Christ spoke to them about levels of service and forgiveness that they had not heard of before. In Luke 17:1-4, he warns them to not cause others to stumble and to forgive others unwaveringly. Their reply to this is "Lord, increase our faith." (Luke 17:5) Christ asked them to step out into the thin air of ultimate trust in him, and at first they reacted in fear as they began to grasp what Christ was asking of them. What we do know from looking at Acts and early church history is that they responded in a positive way and "got on board."
We need to so the same. As we encounter circumstances that bring fear because we are aware what Christ is asking of us, we need to ask him to increase our faith so that we will not shrink back from what needs to be done. We need to take that first step of obedience and he will give us the strength to do what is required.
Mon Dec 28 09:21:26 2015
Christmas is a time for unwrapping secrets. Those secrets under the tree that had been growing over the past few days are now revealed. In one sense, this keeps up the tradition of the very first Christmas. Christ was a secret that had been promised through the ages. Then, at the time appointed by God and known only to God, he was revealed to the world. For those who cared to listen, angels announced his birth, a celestial event proclaimed his presence, and when he was taken to the temple for the purification rights when he was 8 days old, he was recognized (Luke 2:22-38).
Paul speaks of the mystery of Christ and this mystery being revealed in Ephesians 1:7-10: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment--to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ."
Since Christ is no longer a secret, we need to unwrap His message for others. We need to do all we can to reveal the news of "redemption through his blood." We should be more eager to do this than we are unwrapping the secrets that we find under our trees. His message is no secret!
Sun Dec 27 09:22:07 2015
Our season of Christmas is over for the most part. There are still celebrations going on, but most of our observances and special activities have already taken place. Did you attend many Christmas plays this year? These enactments, at whatever level, require preparation and design. Most of them have lead characters and then other roles that need to be cast for the drama to be carried out. All roles are important, and then there are folks who work behind the curtain with scenery, costumes, props, makeup, and other important production necessities. All of the participants are vital for the presentation to be what is intended. The intent of most plays presented at this time of year is to portray the story of Christmas and what it means to us. All of those involved in these exercises are significant, no matter what they do.
The church is like this. There are many roles that need to be filled in order for ministry to take place. The body of Christ needs to have all of the members doing what needs to be done in order for progress to be made. In Ephesians 4:16, Paul speaks of the cooperative effort that needs to take place: "the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Are you doing your part? Remember that is takes all of us doing what we should in order for the church to be what it could!
Sat Dec 26 07:46:17 2015
Recently I read a rather interesting article that conjectured a different reason for Herod's question about the birthplace of Christ (read Matthew 2). The thesis was that Herod already knew the answer to the question, and really was wanting to see if it was possible to arrange for the birth to take place in his palace in Jerusalem. The reason for this was so that Herod would have an opportunity to essentially interfere in the life of this person who was a possible successor to his throne. This sounds rather convoluted, but considering the madness of Herod, and that he had already done away with some potential successors by killing his sons, who knows what was going on in his mind?
Of course, trying to manipulate the plans of God is never a good idea. The bottom line is that the place of Christ's birth had been declared by the prophet Micah to be Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 says, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
It is never good to try to manipulate God's plans. So why do we do this? We try to manipulate God's plans when we don't follow him the way that we should. When we make decisions without consulting him we are trying to manipulate God's ways. All of these are just as foolish as Herod's attempt, regardless of his motives. Whether he wanted Christ to be born in his palace so he could control him, or simply wanted to kill him, which is what seems to be the case, he was trying to manipulate God's plans. Not a good idea. Remember this the next time you try to do it.
Fri Dec 25 09:47:40 2015
We often hear this song sung at Christmas time. It was first recorded by Andy Williams in 1963. I am sure you have heard it:
It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer"
It's the most wonderful time of the year
And so it is. What makes it wonderful? The realization that Christ has come into the world and given us the hope of eternal life is what makes it wonderful. Actually, this knowledge makes any time of the year the most wonderful time of the year. The fact is Christ came to the world to bring salvation to all who would believe in him. When we consider what this means, anything else in life pales in significance. Why can we "be of good cheer?" Because we know we have our sins forgiven and that we have a relationship with God that none can take away. A life in Christ makes anytime of the year wonderful. A life in Christ makes life wonderful in spite of what we may be facing. A life in Christ means we will live with him forever.
Paul writes about our hope this way, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" (Romans 8:31-32, 34-35) Yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year. Merry Christmas!
Thu Dec 24 09:11:09 2015
David McCasland writes about a December visit to the New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the museum, there was a magnificent Christmas tree that was covered with angels and a manger scene at the very top. At the base of the tree, there was an enormous Nativity display of almost 200 characters. All the characters were looking up at the angels or at the manger scene with the exception of one - a barefoot man with a heavy load on his back looked down at the ground, weighed down by his burden.
There are many who feel this way at Christmas time. Economic struggles, family issues, job issues or other concerns weigh heavily upon them and prevent them from experiencing the joy that should be ours at this time of year, or at any time of the year for that matter. Remember that Christ came into the world to lift up all of those who are "looking down." He came into the world "to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed." (Luke 4:18)
If the things of the world have you looking down, remember to look up to the provision of Christ. He has given the greatest Gift that can be given just for you. He intends to raise your spirit through the salvation of your soul. Do not discount what he has done for you. It is not dependent upon what you may or may not have. An old song says, "Burdens are lifted at Calvary." Let Christ lift yours so that you may enjoy him!
Thu Dec 24 08:38:55 2015
David McCasland writes about a December visit to the New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the museum, there was a magnificent Christmas tree that was covered with angels and a manger scene at the very top. At the base of the tree, there was an enormous Nativity display of almost 200 characters. All the characters were looking up at the angels or at the manger scene with the exception of one - a barefoot man with a heavy load on his back looked down at the ground, weighed down by his burden.
There are many who feel this way at Christmas time. Economic struggles, family issues, job issues or other concerns weigh heavily upon them and prevent them from experiencing the joy that should be ours at this time of year, or at any time of the year for that matter. Remember that Christ came into the world to lift up all of those who are "looking down." He came into the world "to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed."
If the things of the world have you looking down, remember to look up to the provision of Christ. He has given the greatest Gift that can be given just for you. He intends to raise your spirit through the salvation of your soul. Do not discount what he has done for you. It is not dependent upon what you may or may not have. An old song says, "Burdens are lifted at Calvary." Let Christ lift yours so that you may enjoy him!
Wed Dec 23 08:50:30 2015
When I was growing up, we would spend Christmas Eve at the home of my mother's parents. There we would have dinner, and then open gifts after we ate. I remember enduring those dinners. Who wants to eat with all those packages under the tree just begging to be opened? This all came back to me just this past weekend when we had to stave off our granddaughter from diving into the gifts before we ate. I felt her pain.
When it came time to open the gifts, I plunged into mine with my usual gusto. I always noticed that my grandmother would take great care in opening her gifts. After she removed the paper, she would fold it carefully and set it aside before she would open the box to see what she had received. I could never understand this - how could she demonstrate such restraint, and why save the paper?
My mother explained to me one year that Mamaw opened packages this way because when she was growing up paper was a premium item. The family did not have a great deal of money and so Christmas wrap was one thing that was recycled (of course, they didn't use that term back then). Mom told me they did this even when she was growing up.
What is interesting is that I find myself doing now what my grandmother did. When I unwrap a gift, I usually do so carefully as if I am saving the paper for future use. The funny thing is, I don't repurpose the paper, and I really don't know when I started doing this. I didn't make a conscious decision to begin this practice, I just do it. The practice reminds me of my Mamaw and all the many things I learned from her.
What things are others learning from your life? What patterns of living are being observed and finding their way into the consciousness of your children or your grandchildren? As I said, I learned a great deal more from my grandmother than how to unwrap a Christmas gift so as to save the paper for future use. We need to remember we are influencing the lives of future generations. Many of our lessons may be unintentional, as it was with the unwrapping, so we need to make sure we are modeling good practices. However, we also need to be intentional with other important lessons. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 reminds us of this, "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." Christmas is a good time to apply this wisdom, and you can pass on more than just how to properly unwrap gifts!
Tue Dec 22 08:10:18 2015
We ended our Christmas Candlelight and Communion service this past Sunday night in our usual way - singing "Silent Night" a cappela. I never get tired of doing this. Actually, we ended our Sunday morning worship in the same way.
"Silent Night" is one of our most beloved Christmas songs. Whenever I sing it, I cannot help but think of the origin of the song. I would imagine you know this, and I certainly have written about it before. Rev. Joseph Mohr, a pastor in Oberndorff, Austria, brought the lyrics of "Stille Nacht" to Franz Gruber just before Christmas in 1818. Gruber was the church organist, but the organ was not working. So, he composed a melody to be played on the guitar for the Christmas Eve service of the church that year. The song was born out of necessity because of something that was broken. Now it is one of our endearing treasures. Bing Crosby's recording of "Silent Night" is the third best-selling single of all time.
Good things can come from bad circumstances. A broken organ led to a beautiful composition. This can take place in our lives as well. We need to remember this as we face those times where things aren't going the way they should and we encounter broken dreams and hopes. Out of those times can arise something that will be beautiful and enduring. Would "Silent Night" be with us had that organ not been broken? We can't answer that question, but we know that it exists because an alternative had to be sought.
As we face those times where plans fall apart and what we expect doesn't happen, look for the positive alternative. Ask for the perspective of Joseph who told his brothers that feared for their lives because of the treachery they had dealt to Joseph, "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) From eternity past, God knew he would have to pursue an alternative because his Creation would become broken. In reality, this is the real reason we have "Silent Night."
Mon Dec 21 10:05:56 2015
Yesterday in church we did something we typically do on a Sunday morning - take time to acknowledge folks who are having a birthday during the coming week. It is a practice we adopted many years ago, and one that is replicated in other forms in churches everywhere.
As I watched the folks come forward to put their money in our receptacle which is in the form of a small church, I thought about the birthday we are celebrating this Friday. Of course, much was said about this birthday during our services yesterday. As we did so, I thought, "It's good we celebrate Christ's birthday, but we really don't even know when it was." December 25 was a day chosen by the early church as the day we acknowledge Christ's birth, yet December 25 is likely not the actual day of his birth.
We honor the birthdays of many historical figures, and know with reasonable certainty the day we celebrate is the actual day of their birth, but we really don't know the actual day of Christ's birth. I don't think God said, "I am not going to reveal the day of My Son's birth to his followers", but he did not deem this important enough to give us details so that we may know when it actually took place. We can determine the day of his death with a great deal of confidence, but not the birth.
As I think about this, I believe it simply portrays to us a feature of our life with God. There are some things God chooses to reveal to us explicitly, and there are times when we simply need to trust him because we do not know the answer. I don't know if not revealing the date of Christ's birth is an actual example of this feature, but I do know there are many things that God chooses not to reveal to us and simply asks that we trust him. He did this with Abraham when he called him to leave his home and go to a land that he would show him. We read in Genesis 12:1, "The LORD had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.'" God didn't say, "Let me show you a nice piece of real estate I think you would like and will probably want to obtain." He said, "I WILL show you" - future tense.
Doing anything when we really don't know for sure what we are doing or where we are going is difficult; however, we often find ourselves in this situation with God. We need to trust him. We don't know the date of Christ's birth, but we know he was born. We may not know the way which God is leading us, but we know he is and we know it will be good. As Christ told Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed." (John 20:29) That is the essence of faith.
Sun Dec 20 07:05:18 2015
"The Christmas Truce" occurred on Christmas Eve in 1914 during World War I. Firing ceased along the line of battle between the Germans on the one side and the British and French on the other. After darkness fell, the German troops set out lanterns and began to sing Christmas carols. On Christmas Day, the troops met in what had been No Man's land and exchanged greetings, food, and gifts. The truce was short-lived as the battle resumed the next day; however, no one who experienced The Christmas Truce was unaffected and it made the desire for peace even greater.
We have a great desire for peace as well. In Isaiah's prophecy, we read a statement about Christ, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end." (Isaiah 9:6 & 7) The world has not known peace. Conflict has been part of man's experience since the fall. There are times of truce, but as with the Christmas Truce during World War I, it is brief in duration.
Christ will bring peace to the world, and makes peace possible between man and God as he was willing enter the No Man's Land that existed between God and man so that a truce can be declared. For those who receive the gift that Christ brings, lasting peace is given to them. And the good news is there will be no return to war.
Sat Dec 19 10:18:19 2015
One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies is "White Christmas". It was my all-time favorite until "A Christmas Story" came around 32 years ago and started messing with my head. "White Christmas" is still way ahead if I figure in the nostalgia factor, because it was a movie my entire family would watch when I was a kid. Of course, it was in black and white, and sometimes the snow was not really intended to be there; it was created because of the poor reception of our TV set.
I imagine you may know the premise of the movie - During WWII, Captain Bing Crosby is saved from death by Private Danny Kaye who is hurt during the rescue. Bing visits Danny in the field hospital and is "roped" into going into show business with him after the war when Danny plays the "injured when I saved you" card. They are successful, and wind up at a Vermont Inn at Christmas time where their entertainment talents save the day for their formal general who owns the inn but is about to go under. One big problem is that it is December in Vermont but there is no snow, so no customers. A recurring event during the movie is that any idea brought up that Bing doesn't like but Danny does is met with a rub on the arm by Danny reminding Bing what he owes Danny for saving his life. If you can't follow my synopsis, then you need to watch the movie. I am sure you will enjoy it!
I wonder if at times Christ feels like he needs to "rub his arm" in our presence to remind us of how much we owe him. He shouldn't have to do that. We should never forget all that he gave up and all that he gave so that we might be able to live.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, whether it is a white Christmas or not, don't forget to give thanks to the One we are celebrating. Remember the words of Mark, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) We sing this chorus upon occasion:
He paid a debt he did not owe
I owed a debt I could not pay
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
An know I sing a brand new song - Amazing Grace!
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay!
Now that is a Christmas song!
Fri Dec 18 08:10:23 2015
For those of us old enough, July 20, 1969, is a date that we recall specifically. That was the day that Neil Armstrong first stepped off the Lunar Landing Module onto the surface of the moon. As he did so, he uttered these memorable words, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."
It has been almost 50 years since that incredible day - and I often wonder just how far man has actually leaped in those 50 years. There have been many technological and medical advances as well as improvements in many other areas, but we still face many of the same problems. Problems such as poverty, unemployment, armed conflict, racism, and others are still with us. Even the program that brought about the great accomplishment of putting someone on the moon is not what it was. Billions of dollars were spent in the space shuttle program, and I certainly do not want to downplay the accomplishments of that program especially since 14 people were killed during this era, but the moon is as far as we have reached and there is no capability of replicating this in the near future with the current state of NASA. All this goes to show the limitations of man in spite of abilities to do great things. There are still many things we cannot do.
That is why we need to continue to rely upon God. We need to realize that an even greater thing than man walking on the moon was God walking on earth. Man walking on the moon led to some significant advances, but also demonstrated limitations. God walking on earth leads to new life for all who will believe and demonstrates God's limitless power. Remember that your "help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:2)
All of the problems listed above will vanish through God's intervention. Man's greatest problem - the problem of sin - was dealt with through God's visit to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. We have the ability to enjoy the giant leap into eternal life because of the step God made towards us. As you celebrate this Season, thank God for being willing to make that step.
Thu Dec 17 08:16:18 2015
Pablo Casals of Spain was the preeminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and perhaps the greatest cellist of all time. His father, a church organist and choirmaster, gave him instruction in music at an early age. He taught him the piano, violin, and organ. Pablo and his older brother were required to stand behind the piano and identify what note was being played, what chord was being played, or what scale was being played. At four, he could play the piano; at six he was proficient on the violin. Later, he turned to the cello. At the age of 95, he was asked why he still practiced the cello six hours a day. He said, "Because I think I am making progress."
We need this type of attitude with regard to making progress in our Christian lives. We should never feel as if we have "made it." Our desire should be to continue to learn and to grow, to continue to make progress regardless of how far along the journey we have come. )
Paul wrote, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3:12 As believers in Christ, we should never think we have reached some self-defined pinnacle of success. Along with Paul and along with Casals, we need to keep practicing because we think we are "making progress."
Wed Dec 16 08:04:07 2015
When I was a kid I loved to watch "The Lone Ranger." I would imagine most of you are familiar with this program, even though you may not be old enough to remember it on TV. It was first a serial on the radio (now that was before my time) and later on the television. The Lone Ranger was conceived in a radio station in Detroit. I have always thought that odd, given that the main character is a Texas Ranger. Texas - Detroit, oh, yeah, the connection is obvious (yeah, right). Anyway, a familiar line from the show, and I imagine it would have been on the radio show as well, was "Who was that masked man?" This was a question usually asked at the end of the show by the grateful beneficiaries of the Lone Ranger's particular skills.
Mary seemed to have the same sort of moment on the night that Christ was born. After the visit from the shepherds, the Scripture tells us "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) She may not have asked, "Who were those masked men?", because they weren't masked, and their identity as shepherds was evident, but she probably did ask, "Why were the shepherds our first visitors?" Now that is a really good question.
Determining the identity of the Lone Ranger could be answered easily, but determining all the reasons why the Lord chose to have shepherds be the first visitors to the scene of the birth is a different matter. There are some good thoughts as to why - the revelation to the shepherds would have shamed the religious leaders; the visit would be a confirmation to Mary and Joseph; the revelation would bring joy to the shepherds; and it would bring glory to God. There is irony in the story of the Lone Ranger in that good guys don't normally wear masks, so folks had to get beyond this to appreciate him the way they should. The visit of the shepherds was indeed ironic in that it certainly was not what people would expect. That is God's way, though, isn't it? He doesn't do things the expected way, he does things his way.
We need to appreciate this and remember that God is God. Doing so helps us appreciate so much more his ways in our lives. Instead of asking "Who was that masked man?", we should say, "Thank God that we have been visited."
Tue Dec 15 08:20:28 2015
Each year we drive to Ohio to celebrate Christmas with our family. Our oldest daughter now lives in Ohio, so there is all more reason for us to go there over the holidays. As we make this trip, we are usually in high spirits, knowing we are going to see family and friends.
There have been a couple of times when this usually-enjoyable drive became anything but. One year we encountered a raging snow and ice storm. I had to stop many times during that trip to clear the windshield. Our six and a half hour drive turned into 7, 8, and eventually 10 and a half hours before we were able to pull into the driveway of my mother's house. I remember thinking that I had never seen a more beautiful sight in my life than that house with its lights and trimmings, beckoning me to come inside and escape the struggle we had just endured and rest from our ordeal. Sound familiar?
We often encounter storms in life that turn our usually joyful experience into a conflict. This can happen literally and we often face circumstances that rob our joy and make life hard in other ways. When we are faced with hard times and difficulties, it helps to remind ourselves that we are not finished yet. We are moving towards a home in heaven, and along the way we are going to encounter situations that make our journey difficult. It helps to fix our eyes on what is ahead, rather than focus on what surrounds us.
Jesus did this. Hebrews 12:1 tells us that "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." He did this so that we may have a hope before us.
Paul encourages us to "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:2) As we do so, especially at times of struggle and conflict, we will find strength for our journey and an impetus to move on. In the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, when he sees Heaven for the first time, the unicorn says, "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I've been looking for all my life." This is how we will feel when we reach our forever home.
Mon Dec 14 08:14:22 2015
In 1879, a reporter for a newspaper in Boston witnessed a heart-tugging scene. It was just before Christmas, and he saw three girls standing in front of a window of a local store. There were all sorts of toys in the window, and at first he thought they were all admiring the toys. As he drew closer, he realized that one of the girls was blind and the other two were describing the toys to her so that she could "visualize" them.
Another sad story involving those who are blind is found in Matthew 2. When you read the response of Herod and others to the account of the magi, you realize you have a situation where descriptions of reality are being given to sightless people. I am always the most amazed at the response of "the people's chief priests and the teachers of the law." (2:4) I can understand Herod's response as he proved his godlessness through other acts. However, although the religious leaders can quote the Scripture about the location of Christ, they are utterly oblivious to the significance of the news brought by the magi. You do not see any response from them as to a desire to learn more based upon what they have heard. Their spiritual blindness is evident.
The diligent search being conducted by visitors from a far-off location is a stark contrast to the cluelessness of the nearby scholars who could cite by heart every Scriptural citation about the promised Messiah. Rather than the response of the magi, "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed" (verse 10), they stay nestled in their cocoons and did not search.
Don't be oblivious to the significance of the coming of Christ. Realize he has come to bring peace to your heart and true joy to your life. Overcome your spiritual blindness by allowing the Savior to find residence in your heart. Then you will not have to be dependent on others to explain the significance of the story of Christmas.
Sun Dec 13 06:55:46 2015
I really miss Christmas trees at my Papaw and Mamaw's house. Of course, it has been over 40 years since our last tree there. My grandparents have been with the Lord for this amount of time, and the house is now the possession of another family. The trees at their house were really special. They weren't trees from a Christmas tree lot or a farm; they were trees that my Papaw had cut down himself from the woods he owned. Now, these trees had not been "groomed" as they were growing, so they were not perfectly shaped when he first cut them. Often they were mishap hen, gnarled, crooked, and really didn't look anything like a Christmas tree. But after my grandpa would cut them, he would begin to work on them. He would prune, snip, and even pull up branches with twine, to shape the wild pine into a Christmas tree. Then, he would turn it over to Mom who would finish it off with decorations. When my brothers and I grew older, we were even allowed to help with the decorations. Upon completion, the tree always stood in the corner of my grandparents' living room as a beautiful symbol of Christmas! What a marvelous transformation!
God does this with our lives. When we come to him in faith, he takes our misshapen, gnarled, crooked, and sinful lives and transforms them into something beautiful. Philippians 1:6 tells us about the work that he is doing in us: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." After his supernatural work on the inside, he puts us in the care of his family, the church, and they continue to adorn us with lights of truth (Ephesians 4:15), ornaments of hope (Romans 5:4), and garland of love (I Peter 4:8). We become something really special when we were something really plain.
I really miss my grandparents' trees. But what God is doing with me right now is marvelous. If you haven't allowed him to change your heart, do it today and experience the transformation.
Sat Dec 12 07:04:27 2015
Random acts of kindness - that is something to think about. Doing something kind for someone with no desire to have anything given back. You just do something because it is the right thing to do at the right time. We think and talk of this often, and even understand that it is based in biblical teaching. Christ said, "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same." (Luke 6:33) How good are we at following through?
A rather interesting illustration of this is described by Dave Branon. He writes about a campaign called "The Drive-Thru Difference" started by a Christian radio station. The station challenged listeners to pay for the purchase of the car behind you in a drive-thru line. The campaign was meant to emphasize the importance of doing kind things for others, even those you do not know.
We should be concerned about selfless giving, whether it is buying someone's lunch at Dairy Queen or Hardee's, putting money in a Salvation Army kettle, helping with Toys for Tots or the Christmas Food Basket Project, or some other effort. Giving to others should be a part of your life. It was certainly part of Christ's.
Sat Dec 12 07:04:05 2015
Fri Dec 11 07:52:12 2015
Well, we are in the season where "you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm telling you why." Now, (spoiler alert) we know the individual that is actually referenced in this song (that would be Santa Claus) really does not have the magical powers of observation of all people at all times, let alone all children. But that does not mean there isn't someone who does. As a matter of fact, it is the omniscience of God that was the idea behind assigning this ability to Santa. Santa can't do this, but God can.
If God can actually do this, then why do we live as if he can't? Why do we think we are actually able to get away with hidden behaviors, hidden sins? We live as if we are clueless at times. We are like the referees in that commercial for State Farm that features Aaron Rodgers talking to a referee after a game about a particular call. A flashback reveals that on a certain play, none of the referees actually saw what happened, so they huddled. The umpire told one ref to scratch his head as if thinking, another to wave his arms as if indicating a lack of possession, and another to take off his cap. The result was they were going to say the receiver didn't catch the ball. At this point, someone from the crowd yells, "Hey, your mike is on." Seventy thousand people in the stands heard every word the umpire said. Yikes.
Well, folks, your mike is on. Remember that the next time you think you are doing something and getting away with it. Hebrews 4:13 tells us, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Santa doesn't see everything, but God does. Can't make it easier to see why we should watch how we live.
Thu Dec 10 08:06:54 2015
My grandfather on my Mom's side owned a small farm not far from where I grew up. Of course I was at the farm frequently as a child until my grandmother died when I was 18 and Papaw came to live with us. There were a few cattle to take care of, and a barn of course. I remember the sights and smells vividly that you encountered when you first entered the barn. I remember thinking, especially around this time of year, "And Christ was born here?" Obviously, not literally right there, but in similar surroundings, whether his birthplace was a cave serving as a stable, a structure used for animals, or part of a house that was a shelter for animals.
Christ was born where the animals were kept, and then laid in the feeding trough. The scripture tells us the reason for this, "because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7) Not only was Christ born in a place where animals stayed, he was born there because there was no room for him where people lived. Doesn't that sound oddly ironic? It describes a reality that still exists today. For many people, there is no room for Christ in their lives. Even those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ at times can live in a way that we are saying, "I have no room for you right now." Don't let this be the case in your life.
Make sure you make room for Jesus. And why was he born in such rude surroundings? One reason is that it shows he is not afraid to go where he will encounter filth. He is not affected himself, but he is not afraid to go where the dirt is found in order to clean up the junk and bring life. He isn't afraid to go into a barn.
Wed Dec 9 08:00:43 2015
As it is with many people, one of my favorite Christmas movies is "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Jimmy portrays George Bailey, a man who had aspirations beyond the confines of the little town in which he was raised, but never made the jump to something better. Circumstances lead him to an act of desperation, but an "angel" intervenes and shows him that his life was indeed significant, in spite of his opinion to the contrary and the situation in which he finds himself. I've commented on this before, but let me be a bit more general.
If a movie was to be made about your life, what would be the central focus? Would your faith in Christ be a predominant theme, or just a secondary plot line in the film? If a Hollywood director would start asking questions of your family, friends, co-workers, and other folks, what would they say about your focus in life? Would your Christianity be a main topic of interest? Someone once said, "All the world's a stage." That is true to some extent, but we need to be doing more than acting when it comes to how we are living our lives. We should not be acting when it comes to our faith in Christ. And we need to let a genuine display of our love for him come through in every facet of our experience. We should not be so much concerned about how others view us, or how important we are considered in the eyes of others, as we are concerned about how Christ is being reflected in our daily walk.
Paul wrote, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him." (Philippians 3:7 - 9) What would a movie of your life reveal? What would be the central focus? "Quiet on the set. . .action!" You're on!
Tue Dec 8 07:22:26 2015
I know I have written about this before, but I want to address a common issue I continue to observe - the issue of "Thinking about me." On the way to a doctor's appointment early one morning, I found myself traveling through dense fog. The doctor I was visiting was not far from my home, yet in the short distance I traveled I passed three oncoming cars with the headlights off. I couldn't believe this - you could hardly see to the end of the hood of your car, but here were three folks traveling with no headlights through fog as thick as pea soup. I wondered if you were to ask them why the lights were off if their response would be, "I could see just fine." Well, that's marvelous, but the point is others have trouble seeing you!
To me, one of the most important attitudes we should display is that of thinking of others before yourself. We need a good deal more of this in general, and this is certainly a characteristic that needs to be evident in the life of the follower of Christ.
In our small groups this past Sunday, we explored the "others first" mentality of Christ. If we are true disciples, this is something that needs to be front and center in our lives. Christ spoke about this attitude, "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave," (Matthew 20:27) He also displayed this attitude, "Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:3 - 5) When you travel through fog - think of others and turn your lights on!
Mon Dec 7 07:33:10 2015
"DECEMBER 7, 1941- a date which will live in infamy- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." These were the words of President Franklin Roosevelt to a stunned nation after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by 350 Japanese Imperial aircraft. Many alive still remember that incident. I don't, nor was I even alive at the time. However, my life was affected by these events as it changed the lives of the man and the woman who would become my parents.
Events have consequences, and events of this magnitude have consequences that are far-reaching. This is the 74th anniversary of the attack, and we still experience the consequences because of what this action caused.
One of the first things we need to learn in life is that actions do have consequences. Developing an understanding of cause and effect is important. Now, not every action will be a world changer in the way that Pearl Harbor was, but our activity does change things. This is why taking time to think about our actions and about possible consequences is always a good thing.
God advised those who were going to serve as judges in the land of Israel: "He told them, 'Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for mere mortals but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict.'" (II Chronicles 19:6) God wanted them to use discernment because their decisions would affect lives. Regardless of the reality that we are not a judge, we still make decisions that affect others. Consider carefully your decisions knowing that your actions are a cause that will have an effect.
Sun Dec 6 07:35:36 2015
St. Nicholas died on this day (December 6) in 343 A.D. During his life, Nicholas had started the practice of being generous to the poor. He even threw some money through the window of the house of a man who was on the verge of losing his daughters into slavery because of debts. Nicholas became bishop of Myra, was imprisoned by Diocletian, freed by Constantine, was part of the Council of Nicea that formulated the Nicene Creed, and preached against the fertility goddess Diana in Ephesus.
In 1087, because of the fear of invading Muslims desecrating his grave, his bones were taken to Italy. As a result, the traditions that had come to be associated with Nicholas were spread to Europe. In the seventeenth century, the Dutch brought the stories of Saint Nicholas to New Amsterdam, which became New York. The Dutch called him "Sinter Klaas" - Santa Claus. The rest, as they say, is history.
When you think of the stories and traditions associated with Santa Claus, remember their origin. Remember the real Santa Claus was a man of faith who put ideals into action. He lived out the principle of James 2:18: "But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds." Let's make sure we make this a part of our celebration of Christmas.
Sat Dec 5 08:04:59 2015
Dr. Mark Bailey writes: "There is a cemetery in London called Bunhill Fields. A number of famous people are buried there--John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress; Isaac Watts, the great hymnwriter; and Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. Opposite the graveyard is the chapel of John Wesley and a monument erected to him. On the same property is John Wesley's house, where on March 2, 1791, Wesley, lifting a feeble arm in as show of triumph, opened his eyes and exclaimed for the very last time, upon his deathbed, these words: 'The best of all is this: God is with us.' God has promised to be with us in life, death, and for all eternity."
This is a point of emphasis at this time of year. We are celebrating the fact that God came to be with us. This is even reflected in one of his names. Matthew writes, "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means 'God with us')." (Matthew 1:23) This statement of God's promise found in the opening chapter of Matthew is echoed in the declaration of Jesus in the closing words of the book, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (28:20) When Christ came into the world, he came for us. Let's make sure we live for him.
Fri Dec 4 07:48:21 2015
Most of you know the story behind the beautiful Christmas carol, Silent Night. Because of a broken church organ, Franz Gruber needed to compose some music for guitar to accompany a poem that had been written by Josef Mohr. A traveling band of musicians were in need of some music for their show. After reading the poem, Gruber came up with the music, and a wonderful Christmas song was born.
Something I've never really thought about with regard to this story is the pursuit of an alternative when the original plan was not going to work. Silent Night is a melodic presentation of the coming of the Son of God into the world. When we hear and sing this song, we can be reminded not only of this, but we can also be reminded of what we can do when circumstances arise that cause us to change our original plans. Basically, we have Silent Night because of a broken organ. What is your response when your "organ breaks?"
God is good at helping us when we need an alternative. He is the master of turning bad circumstances into good things. Think about what Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." He said this in response to their fears about their treatment of him, and what happened in his life. Joseph faced his "broken organ" with faith, courage, and creativity. As a result, good things happened. As you sing Silent Night this year, remember this lesson.
Thu Dec 3 08:07:47 2015
Recently I was driving along a secondary road at an unusual hour. I was returning from the hospital where I had been with a family. I know this begs a question or two, so I will say all was well in this instance. But that is besides the point of this article. As I was driving along the road, I was mildly surprised by the number of other vehicles I saw. One would think the road would be more isolated at that time. In a position where I thought I would be isolated and alone, there were actually a number of folks around.
Are you struggling with some issues that make you feel as if you are isolated and alone in your problems? Remember this is not the case. You are not alone as there are many around you who would be willing to do what they can to help, or at least be there for you as you go along the road. There are even those who have faced, or are facing, similar conflicts. More importantly, as followers of Christ, we are never alone. God promised, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
Even at times when you think you are alone, you are not. There are people there, and do NOT take for granted the presence of Christ. I remember a scene from Mr. Magoo's Christmas Special, an animated feature I watched every year when I was a kid, where a young Ebenezer Scrooge sings, "I'm all alone in the world." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Wed Dec 2 05:43:57 2015
I wrote yesterday that we decorated our church for Christmas this past Sunday. We had a few more people than usual, which was good, but I noticed it was taking a bit longer for some reason. I wasn't sure why this was the case until I found out that a decision had been made to strip the garland that hangs in the front of the church of all of its lights. Several of the lights were not working. Now, this was quite a task as the garland is probably about 50 feet long. In addition, it took some time to take off all the old lights because over the years when some of the lights failed, a new strand would be added without taking off the old ones. One of the folks who had worked on this task told me, "You would not believe how much lighter the garland was after we finished." I would imagine it was.
This can happen in our lives. When we fail to remove what is not working right or when we fail to deal with issues of sin, we can become rather burdened. If we fail to deal with the sinfulness of our lives on a regular basis, problems accumulate and weigh us down.
The writer to the Hebrews gave this advice, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." (Hebrews 12:1) Dealing with all those old lights that had accumulated made the garland appear more vibrant, and made it much easier to work with. When we take care of sin, our lives are more vibrant and we are more useful to God. Throw off what is weighing you down!
Tue Dec 1 07:43:25 2015
This past Sunday night we decorated our church. The abundance of decorations and lights really make the church take on a different appearance for the holiday season. We have lights on our houses, there are ornaments on our lamp poles, and there are decorations all over the place.
The abundance of decorations remind me of the abundance of God. God loves us so much he lavishes his abundance on us in so many ways. He makes our cup overflow (Psalm 23:5). Ephesians 3:20 tells us, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." Because of his graciousness and his abundance, a psalmist declared, "How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house."(Psalm 36:7-8)
Do you see all the lights and the abundant decorations? Let them be reminders of God's abundance in your life.
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.