February 2, 2019 -Today is Groundhog Day. Of course that is nothing to get overly excited about, because groundhogs are notoriously bad at predicting the arrival of spring. But if you are like many people, even if you enjoy the winter season, the truth is that you can only have so much fun and have probably cast a thought or two towards the coming of warmer weather and bluer skies. Groundhog day arouses within us the hope of brighter days ahead.
Groundhog day revolves around the premise that if a groundhog sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter, but if the sun isn’t shining then spring is close at hand. It seems a little odd that for those seeking an end to the short, dark, dreary days of winter, the presence of light is a bad thing. I think whoever concocted this little bit a folk wisdom was confused, especially since its origin seems to stem from the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for the year as the Church celebrated the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple. How this evolved into animals forecasting the seasons isn’t exactly clear to me…but German immigrants to America expanded on the idea, and replaced the traditional hedgehog used to predict the weather in Europe with the more abundant groundhogs found in Pennsylvania.
To a Christian…light should signify a good thing and not be a harbinger of bad times ahead. Consider Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (ESV) Light helps us to see the way so we don’t stumble and fall.
And then, there’s Numbers 6:22-27…. “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.’” (ESV).
The light of God’s face shining upon us is a blessing…a wonder and a comfort for the soul…much as the light of the sun on our face warms our body. And speaking of the sun, replace the s-u-n with the S-O-N. In His own words…Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior said in John 8:12 “…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Maybe old Punxsutawney Phil gets confused because he takes his eyes off of the sun and thus sees his own shadow, which scares him and he runs and hides. Shadows shouldn’t frighten because they have no power to cause harm. In life, direction is everything…and we should remember that if we are facing the light…we cannot see the darkness. Think about Hebrews 12:1-2 and decided for yourself where you should be looking.
December25, 2018 -Last evening our celebration of the first Advent of Christ came to an end. We had lit a candle on four Sundays in honor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
On the first Sunday at Advent, we lit a candle to remind us of the hope we have in Christ because our God keeps His promises to us. Our Lord Jesus coming to earth was a history-changing, life changing event. Had He not come on that night long ago as a babe in the manger… we could not have had the man Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.
Each year, as we prepare our homes for Christmas, we also need to prepare our hearts for remembering the Advent, which means the coming, of the Christ Child. The candle we lit on that first Sunday is symbolic of the years of waiting and hoping…hoping for that wonderful event.
The prophets, inspired by God, kept reminding the people to look forward to the coming Messiah, the Son of God… who was to redeem the people from their sins. Their message gave the people the Hope…the quiet expectation of what was to be fulfilled in God’s own time.
The Hebrew word ”Jesus” means “Salvation” or “Savior”, and we are told in the scriptures to watch and wait for His return. It is us who today have a blessed hope of that second Advent of Christ. We lit that first candle because, like God’s people centuries ago, we also look forward with hope to the coming of the Messiah…the Shepherd of God’s people everywhere and of all time.
On the second Sunday, we lit the candle of peace. Jesus Christ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He is the Prince of Peace, and the fruit of His presence is peace. (Isaiah 9:6; Galatians 5:22). Christ comes to bring justice… wholeness… and harmony to every relationship… throughout all creation. He wants to continually grant us peace in every situation. (2 Thessalonians 3:16), and we celebrate the peace we are given in our minds and hearts when we come to God in faith.
The peace Christ gives is like no other peace we can experience…certainly not as the world gives. The peace of this life is fleeting and unsure…but the peace that Christ gives is eternal. It is the most wonderful and precious peace of all, because for those who have been justified by faith in Him, the peace of Christ is a state of divine grace and eternal hope, because the peace Christ offers to us…is peace with God.
The Third Candle spoke of the joy we can all share because the Holy Spirit fills our hearts and minds with the presence the God. Joy and happiness walk in each other’s shadows. Sometimes they seem to be the same…but sometimes, there is a difference.
Consider the agony someone may endure while undergoing a medical procedure. There is little to be happy about while being in pain…and yet…while happiness may be absent, at least for the moment, there can be great joy in knowing a life threatening condition has been resolved.
In a similar way, our daily lives can be filled with struggles and heartaches. In John 16, Jesus spoke of sorrow… but sorrow that would one day be turned into joy, and in John 16:33 He said: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Life can be painful…and happiness can elude us. But Jesus has told us to take heart. He told us not to be afraid. When times are hard…go to the back of the book and see how it all ends. Read Revelation 21:1-7 and be encouraged!
Much as the joy of the cure encourages us during the procedures we must endure to achieve it, we can take great comfort in the promises of God, because they are rock solid and sure. We are here for a purpose…we are ambassadors for Christ…workers in the field of a lost world. Soldiers of the Cross, if you will…and while happiness may appear distant in the heat of battle, we take joy in being on the right side…in being faithful to the cause.
And when our work here is done, the words of our Savior point the way to our future. In speaking of the faithful, Jesus said in Matthew 25:21 He said “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” To enter into the joy of our master…in our case… into the joy of our Lord…for all eternity… this is indeed the most joyous of thoughts…. and is reason for celebration.
Last Sunday we lit the candle of Love. As the 4th candle is lit, we should remember that Jesus came to earth… to “ show and tell” us of God’s love for us. Love has many voices… and speaks in many places… smiling as a friend… sharing someone’s burden… lending a helping hand…completing a task for the infirm or the aged…making a card for someone who is ill…or visiting the sick.
Love is a gift we give of ourselves, a gift that shows that we care for another….and who among us does not cherish receiving such a gift? Love is the mark of a true disciple of Christ.
And then, on Christmas Eve, a single candle remained… the Christ candle. We lit the Christ candle to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, and to remind us that it was the light of the world that was born that night because Jesus Christ, the true light of the world had come. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life!” (John 8:12)
Christ is a light shining in a dark place. As we observed the light of that candle, we celebrated our certain knowledge that God loved us when we were still deep in sin and unloveable… and because of that love…we are saved from that sin through our Savior Jesus Christ. Because of Christ, we rest in the safely of God’s eternal care.
The Christ candle gave its light to everything that surrounded it, and it reminded us of the giving part of Christmas. God has given us many gifts, and when we try to count our blessings… we discover that the list is always long. But the greatest gift of all is the gift of His son Jesus… because In giving us His son, He gave us Himself.
This Christmas, please remember to thank God our Father for His greatest gift of all to us…the gift of His Son Jesus. Jesus the Christ…our friend…our redeemer…our Savior.
Let us remember why we celebrate at all. Let us remember Israel’s hope for that first Advent….the coming of God’s Messiah to save, to forgive, and to restore. Let us remember our own hope for the second Advent… the second coming of Jesus Christ. Let us remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins…and let us remember to make room for Jesus in our lives.
Consider praying that our Heavenly Father will always and forever, guide our feet onto the path of peace (Luke 1:79), and that we would always feel His presence and embrace the comfort He provides for our souls with every beat of our hearts.
As we think back on the light of the candles of Advent, try to remember that even a single candle has great power. In the darkness of night, the smallest of candles brings comfort and joy to those who behold it. Embrace the Christmas season, as it holds a special wonder for us… an unmistakable joy that cannot be denied…the joy in giving… joy in kindness and love…. joy in bringing happiness to others….and most of all…joy in the hope….the assurance of our salvation.
May our lives radiate the light of Christ into a darkened world…and may people see in our faces the joy that is in our hearts…. joy we have because we know Jesus. Let us share the wealth…spreading hope, peace, joy, and love in the world by the way we live… the way we give….and in the things we do and say.
In the name of our Blessed Savior Jesus Christ, Merry Christmas!
November 22, 2018 – Happy Thanksgiving! No doubt many of us will be using that phrase today or have it said to us as families and friends gather for a time of eating, watching football, sleeping, and in many cases, plotting out the strategies for shopping on Black Friday. When and if you come face-to-face with the phrase today, I hope they are words that bring gladness to your heart.
Sadly enough, all too often this may be the only day of the year that some ever see their relations as the busy schedule of life keeps them apart. Sadly enough, for some this day of “family togetherness” is one day too many… as even this brief contact with other family members frequently offers little more than the prospect of a long, dull, irritating day that cannot pass quickly enough. That’s sad…and, sadder still…for some this day is a time of loneliness and despair, either over what once was and is now not, or what never was but longed for.
Whether you look forward to the day with great anticipation or apprehension, let me offer you an insight gleaned from over 22 years of schooling and 60 plus years of experience…being thankful is a matter of attitude. You may be thinking that this gem of wisdom is in itself pretty sad based on all of the preparation that went into it, but it is…nevertheless… the truth.
If you find nothing in the present which instills a feeling of gratitude in you, try thinking “outside the box”. We can be thankful for what we have, or what we don’t have. Ponder that thought. Is there something that you are just as happy isn’t part of your experience…hunger…illness…abject poverty…or loneliness perhaps? Is there something in your past that causes you to smile when you reflect on the memory? Is there something you can look forward to in hopeful anticipation? If any of these apply…Happy Thanksgiving!
Here’s another thought…instead of receiving a blessing for which to be thankful for, perhaps you could dwell on the prospect of being a blessing that makes someone else thankful. In 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20, Paul writes of his affection for the Church there, and his earnest desire to see them again. The reason he looked forward to being with them once more was that they were his hope, joy, and the crown of rejoicing in which he would glory in the presence of the Lord when He comes. Are you the cause for some else’s rejoicing? Oh, to be such a person…to be such an influence! Conversely, do you rejoice because of those you have helped along the path of salvation? Saved people are the reward of evangelism. Seeing people saved is a joy that lasts for eternity…far longer than the joy of a good meal! My hope is that during this holiday season and always, we all strive to be people others look forward to being with because of the love and light of Christ that shines from our lives!
May this be a day of blessing and thankfulness for us all!
November 2, 2018 -For most of us, this Sunday we will observe the biannual “Changing of the Clocks”. Since it is Autumn, the schedule of our lives will slip a little. Regarding the hour of the day, we “fall back” to where we were eight months ago. You might hear someone say that we gain an hour, that we get another hour to sleep, or do whatever else it is we want to do. But the truth of the matter is that most of us will do little more with this alleged “bonus hour” than to experience it. Well, that’s not to be unexpected, since the number of hours in the day remains exactly the same, and we have exactly the same number chores and activities to fit into those hours.
Whether that bonus hour actually exists is a matter of perception, and to be sure, perception is a key helping us to make sense of life. That being said, if your perception is that you get a bonus of an additional hour this weekend…enjoy!
It’s great when perception and reality go hand-in-hand. Some of us may think of this weekend as giving us a gift…but others may embrace a different perception, one brought on by the changing of the seasons from summer to fall, realizing that winter will soon be upon us. Their perception as they observe the current changing of the seasons is that time is running out. And to help foster this particular perception, when checking the weather forecast on the Internet, based on where I live and the day I’m writing this, I see that tomorrow will be 2 minutes 52 seconds shorter than today. Now, I understand that the writer was not referring to the actual length of the day, but to the hours of sunlight we can expect to experience. Tomorrow there will be less light than today…and on Sunday when we change our clocks, even less.
The reality of the situation is clear. We may or may not embrace the concept of having an “extra hour” which, at best is a loaner since we give it back down the road, but irregardless of our perception of that, our reality today that the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine is growing less and less each day. And, let me extend this reality a little to propose that the opportunity we have to be the sunshine…the light…in someone else’s life is less today than it was yesterday, because our time here on this earth is less.
Our opportunity to be light is decreasing, and if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, your opportunity to see and embrace the light of Christ is passing away with every tick of the clock. The grains of sand representing the moments of our life never stop their relentless flow in the hourglass until they all pass through.
In Psalm 39:4-5 the Bible says “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (ESV). And again, in Psalm 90:12, the psalmist calls out for God to “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (ESV). There is indeed wisdom in understanding that our days are numbered, and the opportunities to use them wisely expire as each day passes. Is there work you want to accomplish? Are you certain of your eternal destiny? For us here in North America, the seasons reflect God’s handiwork, and as the shadows grow longer and longer, and the darkness extends it’s embrace over the land earlier every day, the words of our Savior Christ Jesus should guide us: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4 (ESV)
July 1, 2018 -Over the years, faith has been an important element in the lives of many. In May 1788, George Washington, the 1st U.S. President of the United States issued the following order, which summarizes his general view on faith: “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” (The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343)
In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861, the 16th President of the United StatesAbraham Lincoln said: “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.
And, on November 16, 1982, in remarks made at the Annual Convention
of the United States League of Savings Associations in New Orleans LA, President Ronald Reagan said:
“Above all, let us remember the mountain of strength that offers the greatest hope and inspiration for all. I believe with all my heart that standing up for America means standing up for the God who has so blessed our land. We need God’s help to guide our nation through stormy seas. But we can’t expect Him to protect America in a crisis if we just leave Him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living.
There’s a lovely old hymn which says: When morning lights the eastern skies, O Lord Thy mercy show, on Thee alone our hope relies, let us Thy kindness know. Trusting in Him, believing in each other, working together, we will rebuild America — the land of our dreams and mankind’s last great hope.”
President Reagan also made the following comment in remarks made at an Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast held in in Dallas, Texas, 23 August 1984: “Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
You know…if there’s a word that you could use to describe our society today, I believe that calling it “coarse” is right on the money.
Whatever Happened to GOD and Country? And by GOD…I’m referring to the GOD of our founding fathers…and by country I’m referring to the United States of America…a place where children recited the pledge of allegiance…a place where prayer was allowed in school…a place where we celebrated our own independence….not the independence of some foreign land.
The United States of America, a place where we were not only proud to display our nation’s banner, but were not prohibited from doing so by homeowner’s associations or some community’s misguided concept of inclusion and political correctness. America…a place where being an American and being a Christian was something to be proud of….not something to hide because it might be offensive to someone.
GOD and Country. I heard about it when I was very young when it stood for something. It used to be ideals we were to strive to embrace…GOD and country said it all. They were to come before anything else…but oh, how the mighty have fallen!
So many in this country have come to either ignore the Christian faith…ridicule the Christian faith…and some are even outright hostile to the Christian faith. And while they sure don’t mind taking their place at Uncle Sam’s feed trough, or don’t shy away from enjoying the benefits of living in such a wonderful, GOD blessed nation as this, I wonder if they ever stop to realize that the principles of Christianity were so deeply entrenched in the establishment of America… that we must believe that without Christianity, there very well would never have been a country such as the United States of America.
And… I wonder if they ever stop to consider that as our late President Ronald Reagan said: “If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
In my opinion, that’s the crystal clear lesson to be learned from Deuteronomy 8:19… “And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.” (ESV) I wonder…do we today as a nation who once relished the concept of being one nation Under GOD… do we have a reason to be concerned about the warning found in Deuteronomy?
When we as a nation celebrate our independence in a political sense, we often forget is that when our founding fathers declared their independence from England, they…at the same time…. made a resounding “Declaration of Dependence” upon Almighty God. When we as a nation celebrate our independence, we need to be careful…we need to watch out…that we don’t forget about GOD.
And what goes for a nation goes for the individual as well. We can’t rely on the righteous acts of others to keep us safe. We can’t depend upon the faith of our neighbors to keep Heaven’s blessings pouring out on our land. Each of us are….individually….responsible to GOD…and, each and every one of us… as individuals…as we celebrate the birth of our nation….each and every one of us must also re-affirm that this nation was truly built on the foundation of faith in Christ….and that it remains “One Nation…Under GOD…”yesterday, today, and forever.
Happy Birthday America!
June 16, 2018 -Well, Father’s Day is upon us once again! This day can certainly mean different things to different people. For some, it’s a time to pause and pay respect to the man who either has, or who is, raising you. And time here, is irrelevant! We are never too old to learn from our dads!
For some, this day is a day to pause and remember the Dad who, though no longer with us, gave us such a great start in life. A time to pay honor to the one who sacrificed for us and provided so many valuable lessons that made us the persons we are today. And then for some, today is a bitter reminder of a Father who was never a Dad. It’s not a time to reminisce about the good times because there were none…at least none that overshadow the bad.
Maybe you can relate to a Father who left you with fond as well as unpleasant memories. I would suspect this may be the case for many of us. After all, our earthly fathers are, or were, only human. And, I believe that most of us try to do the best we can with the resources we have.
Fatherhood, as well as motherhood, is a role we learn through on the job training. When my first child was born, I remember when we left the hospital that the nurse handed me my little daughter but no instruction manual to use as a guide. Oh sure, there may have been information about feeding, bathing, caring for… but nothing about parenting that I could gain through osmosis. Well, nothing I really trusted anyway. Lots of people write books but not everyone knows what they are writing about. What I had to draw from about being a father was what I had learned through my own experience with fathers, my own and those of my friends.
Well, whatever your experience with your own father has been, as a rule, we don’t get to pick who our fathers are. But I believe if we could pick our own fathers, we’d pick the very best, or at least what we perceived as being the very best. I wonder what this ideal person would be like? Was your father an ideal father…or if you are a father, do you hope that your children think this of you?
Good and sound advise for any father who aspires to be such a man is found in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (ESV)
I think many fathers love their children the minute they are born, and more than likely, even before they are born. I think the love starts to grow as soon as a father finds out that he’s going to be a father. The sweet thing here is: the child hasn’t done anything to earn your love, but you love them anyway. You love them first! Why? Because they’re your children. And most of the time, a father continues to love them, no matter what.
Now, at times the child may disappoint. At times the child may cause anger or heartache. But no matter what the future holds, a father will continue to love his child.
A father loves his children, and our heavenly Father is no exception. On this day when we set aside time to honor the men we call our fathers on earth…our Dads… may we always keep in mind our eternal Father in heaven. May we honor Him as well for His love, His provision, and His work to prepare us for life in heaven with Him.
Happy Father’s Day!
December 16, 2017 -In the literary work “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, near the end of the story (after his visits by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future) we read where Scrooge was moved by the ringing of church bells. He said the sound was glorious! Not knowing what day it was, he ran to his window and called out to a boy on the street below “What’s today?” The boy replied “Why, Christmas Day.” Scrooge was elated. “It’s Christmas Day! I haven’t missed it.” he said.
Here’s just a little reminder…Christmas Day is almost here…please don’t miss it!” That might seem a little surprising to read because we talk of a whole season of Christmas, not just a single day. But sometimes we can get desensitized to what is going on. We become overly familiar with the trappings and before we know it, it’s gone… leaving us to wonder what happened. But there’s a way to make sure that doesn’t happen to you, because Christmas should be more than a day or even a season.
In Hebrews 12:2a we are told to keep focused…we are to keep our eyes on the Savior: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith”. Celebrations and get-togethers are great, but please try not to be so preoccupied with events that you lose sight of the real “reason for the season”.
“A Christmas Carol” is one of my favorite stories because it speaks of redemption on a grand scale. It illustrates that people usually don’t become cynical and bitter overnight, but are helped along by disappointments and rejection. Scrooge became distracted about what is really important in life and it cost him, but even he was not beyond hope.
As a Christian, as we go through life, perhaps we can help someone else discover or rediscover the meaning of Christmas. Any day can be Christmas Day for someone when, for the first time, they understand that the Christ child is not just a savior, but that He is in fact… their Savior. That is the day that Jesus becomes real to them …and they receive the best Christmas present ever, no matter what the calendar says.
November 21, 2017 -Thanksgiving is almost here. It’s a day when we should be reminded to give thanks…to be grateful for the blessings we enjoy. But what does it mean to be grateful, or what does it take to make us grateful? Many of us may have a problem in answering this because of what we receive on a daily basis. There’s trouble ahead when blessings are so plentiful that we start taking them for granted.
We may forget that blessings are gifts, but gifts that come to us frequently lose some of the impact of actually being a gift, and we eventually come to expect them and we get out of sorts when they don’t happen. It isn’t a question of gratitude because being thankful never enters into the picture. Gifts and blessings become entitlements; after all, they are only what we have coming to us anyway…our rightful fair share…and so very, very often…. we are completely unwilling to give thanks to anyone for anything.
This Thursday most of us will celebrate another Thanksgiving. I think that Thanksgiving is one American holiday that Jesus might thoroughly enjoy. It’s a celebration of thanks with family and friends, all gathered around a table full of great food. What’s not to like? If this does indeed describe what you expect to experience this holiday…boy are you ever blessed. Just look around and take note of those who will be without family, friends, a table, or even a decent meal on Thursday.
I see Jesus as a great person to be around. I see a Savior who is more into celebration than mourning. While with those who know Him…those who love Him… I see joy in His holy face….not a somber look of sadness. In fact…Jesus was criticized for the feasting He and his disciples engaged in. (Mark 2, Luke 5, Matthew 9). If you are fortunate enough to have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a sound roof overhead, and a place to sleep…then you are richer than 75% of this world. I’m told that if you have money in the bank and in your wallet or purse and a little spare change in a dish someplace…you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. What’s more, I’ve read that if you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death…you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
This thanksgiving…as the smells of the meal fill the house or the restaurant if you go out, as you contemplate the turkey and dressing and sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce… as you feel your belly start to grumble and roll…before sitting down at that table…ask yourself one question – what are you really hungry for? We all know what it’s like to be hungry and thirsty to a degree, regretfully some more than others…but have we ever experienced that spiritual thirst and hunger that leads us to the foot of the Cross.? Have we ever known of the need for the sustenance that only Jesus can provide for us?
This Thanksgiving we must ask ourselves a question: are we more concerned about what we can get out of Jesus rather than being with Jesus, and do we really appreciate what we are provided…or is it always just a little less than we hoped for? Are we afraid it won’t be enough, or are we disappointed that we don’t see the exact dish we wanted at the buffet table of life?
Our best example of expressing gratitude and thanksgiving is Jesus Christ. He gave thanks for nourishment, for fellowship with the Father, for answered prayer, and even for the cross at Calvary (check out Matthew 26:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 11:24-28). This being the case, should we do any less? If we claim Him as our example, then we too must be a people of gratitude. We can do this by expressing thanks for GOD’s wisdom, for our food, for answered prayer, and most of all, for Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross.
Many of us truly live in a veritable cornucopia of blessings and express a little gratitude from time to time. But friend…all of the thanks in the world for what you have won’t save you. it isn’t enough to be thankful that Christ sacrificed Himself for you, because you must also know Him as your Lord and Savior. If you’ve never done this, make this thanksgiving season truly a season to rejoice and give thanks. God’s altar is open and the time is now….but the decision is yours.
September 8, 2017 -When an activity is trying to get your attention or generate interest, you sometimes hear the phrase “For A Limited Time Only!” I suppose the assumption is that when you know the opportunity to acquire a product or engage in an activity won’t be around for very long, that you will drop what you are doing and rush right out and take part while you can. I must be different, because although there are exceptions, when I hear or see that something won’t be around for very long, the first thought that often goes through my mind is “Why Bother?” If this was the usual response, I’m sure such advertising campaigns would end in disaster and wouldn’t be repeated very often.
“For A Limited Time Only” … that’s the phrase that comes to mind from the recent news and images concerning the massive fires and hurricanes that are impacting our nation. Wholesale destruction and devastation in so short a span of time illustrate how fragile material things are and how quickly they can be done away with. How tragic for the people in harm’s way. I don’t think it is possible for those who are not affected to fully appreciate the misery being experienced and in store for those impacted. Not to take the tragedy lightly, and surely our prayers go out for their safety, but how tragic also to have a life based on such things…to have them as the foundation of our existence.
“For A Limited Time Only” … it’s a phrase that I fear can also be applied to the spiritual life of so many people. The “hallelujahs” roll only so long as the spiritual skies are clear and sunny. The foundations are suspect, and when the storms of life come they crumble and are swept away by the tidal surges of circumstance. When refined by the fires of testing, the ashes are left to fly away in the winds. It’s all gone.
In 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, the Bible warns us to be careful of the foundation on which we build. The only foundation that is safe and secure is Christ. To build a life on anything else is asking for disaster, and it is a disaster that is sure to come. It’s not a question of “if” but of “when”. And, what’s true for individuals is also true of ministry. Each and every Christian has a ministry to perform for the Savior… none of us are here to sit on the sidelines in the spiritual battle that surrounds us. Please make certain that the work you do in the name of Christ is actually for the Lord, that it is inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit, and has as it’s goal the glory of God’s kingdom … and not your own. Please strive to make sure that your work as eternal value, and is not just hanging around “for a limited time only”.
August 4, 2017 -Every Christian has a variety of jobs to do, and one of them is given to us in Galatians 6:1-10. We all carry a burden to work for Christ, and working for Christ involves helping others with the burdens they bear. A common burden all believers are subject to is the burden of falling out of fellowship with God and others by committing some kind of transgression. Transgressions can lead to embarrassment and shame. Offenders may be very sensitive to their failings and shy away from the fellowship of others. They may feel that they would be unwelcome because they have damaged the name of Christ and the church’s witness in the world. Because of these feeling, unless they are approached in the right spirit, they could become lost to doing any further work for Christ.
It is common for fellow believers to chastise and reject those who stumble, when the loving Christian thing to do is to try to help the one who has transgressed to be restored in a gentle and caring manner. Some may believe they are so spiritual that they are incapable of committing transgressions. Some may think they have reached a level of spirituality that rules out sinning, but they are wrong in every case. The Bible makes it clear that all believers are subject to temptation and falling (Galatians 6:3; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
In Galatians 6, the Bible does not identify a specific kind of transgression or whether it be large or small, but speaks to all failings. The fact of the matter is that any Christian can be overtaken by sin, and the question to be answered is how restoration can be done. When dealing with someone who has transgressed, instead of shaming, withdrawing, gossiping and criticizing, the church must adopt a gentle, loving, and helpful spirit and attitude.
The church must realize that the ministry of restoration is the ministry of God, and one to which He has called us. The church can accomplish this by letting the spiritual believers, meaning those who walk in the Spirit, handle the matter by approaching the offender in a spirit of meekness, while being on guard that they themselves not fall into temptation (Galatians 6:1). Too often what one Christian displays to a believer guilty of some transgression is a spirit of hardness, harshness, and rejection. They criticize and spread rumors, but this approach does not concern itself with restoring a fallen brother or sister, and neither is it likely to do so. This is not the spirit that the scriptures tell us need to be shown. We are to be meek, meaning to be gentle, warm, loving, and caring (Ephesians 4:1-2). Since we are all prone to succumbing to temptation, we need to approach others in the manner we would want to be approached. In addition, the matters need to be discussed with the offender, not with others.
Our God is a God of restoration. This is evidenced by the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 and by the very fact that each and every believer has been restored from a fallen state by the grace of God through the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. The church is to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). The law of Christ is the law of ministry and love (Matthew 20:28). Christ bore the sins of man for man, something which we of course cannot do, but we can bear each other’s burdens. We all suffer under the burden of sin, and can encourage one another with compassion when transgressions occur (Romans 12:15). We can forgive others just as we ask God to forgive us.
Christians must remember that all believers are subject to falling, and that none are so spiritually superior to others that they do not have any transgressions themselves (Galatians 6:1). Believers must not judge others who have fallen to be too tarnished or unspiritual to try to help them. None of us are perfect, and it is only in the type and magnitude of sin that separates us, not the fact of sin itself.
Galatians 6:3 points out that we may think we are something when in fact we are nothing. The good news is that Christ came to save us nothings, He came to save sinners. All men are sinners whether they will admit it or not. All believers are both saved and kept not by their own righteousness, but by the righteousness of Christ, and the only acceptable approach to God is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. No person is better than any other person in righteousness (Matthew 23:12; Isaiah 64:6; Proverbs 20:6). We must remember that all people are on the same level of ground when standing at the foot of the Cross of Christ. God loves all of His children, and all of His children are worthy of our concern for their spiritual well being.
When we fully realize our own nothingness without Christ (1 Corinthians 3:5-6; Philippians 4:13), it is then that we are willing and prepared to reach out and share the burden others feel from sin. It is then when we are willing and able to come alongside and help shoulder their burden of being out of fellowship with God and His church. Are you willing to work for Christ? Are you willing to lend a hand to lighten a burden other than your own? You won’t have to look very far or very hard to get a chance because opportunities abound!
July 2, 2017 -Happy 4th of July! You know, it seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Easter. The departure of winter and the arrival of warmer weather brought a sigh of relief to many. And then all of a sudden, as the weather turned from warm to hot, some began asking “Whatever happened to spring?” And here we are into July already. Not only that, the second of the big three summertime holidays is upon us, with only one more to go. Before you know it, we’ll be asking ourselves and each other… “Whatever happened to summer?”
Yes, once again for another year we celebrate America being America. It’s a time of flag-waiving, patriotism, and cookouts. It’s a time of reflections on our nation’s beginnings. And for the moment at least, all of these activities are still legal in this land of freedom. But oh, how quickly those sentiments fade! For many, they don’t last much past the fading of the fireworks…the last flicker of the “rockets red glare”…. if they indeed ever had them at all. And it leaves me asking a question: “Whatever happened to GOD and Country?” Whenever someone starts out a sentence with “Whatever happened to”, usually they are reminiscing about the past, and the 4th of July our Independence Day, is tailer-made for reflection, so allow me to take a little stroll down memory lane.
Although there are plenty of folks nowadays who will try to do so, no one can honestly deny that many of our nation’s founding fathers were men of deep religious convictions that were based on the Bible and their faith in Jesus Christ. They were without doubt Christians. I’ve read that of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, nearly half (24) held seminary or school degrees which contained the title “Doctor of Divinity”. And while certainly not all were ministers, it’s an odd practice for a non-religious society to saddle their best educated members with such a title. I’ve read that four of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were in fact current or former full-time preachers, and many more were the sons of clergymen. And their Christian beliefs and values have been recorded for us, so that in our time….we can know and understand the principles on which this great nation was founded.
This Tuesday, the United States will celebrate the anniversary of a crucial moment in the history of our nation… the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But as we stuff down hamburgers and hotdogs, as we dabble with making a small vat of homemade ice cream with salt and ice and what will seem like an eternity of cranking, as we anticipate the fireworks and good times with family and friends, I wonder how many of us will pause to reflect on what a monumental life-changing… and downright dangerous decision it was for each man who dared to sign that document Americans have traditionally cherished so much. In fact, John Adams reportedly said as he signed it, “Whether we live or die, sink or swim, succeed or fail, I stand behind this Declaration of Independence. And if God wills it, I am ready to die in order that this country might experience freedom.”
In Deuteronomy 8:7-14 Moses tells the people, “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land. . . where you shall have plenty to eat. . . When you have eaten & are satisfied… you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.” Well…that was the good news for the people, and I’m sure it gladdened their hearts and put a spring in their step. But along with the optimistic assessment of the future, there came a warning. Now listen….Moses said…. You’d better watch your step….. Make sure that you never forget the LORD or disobey his laws. Don’t fill your belly….build fine houses to live in…. increase in goods….and then get eat up with pride….and forget that it was the LORD your God who brought you up out of Egypt and made it all happen… Don’t forget that it was God who fed you and kept you safe in the wilderness. When you become successful, don’t say, “We’re rich….and what’s more we did it all ourselves. No…don’t you do it! Remember that it is GOD who gives you the strength to make a living. I’m warning you—if you forget the LORD your God and worship other gods, the LORD will destroy you… just as he destroyed the nations you fought.
You know, it appears to me that this great land of ours has done the very thing the Israelites were warned against. We relied on GOD as we fought for our independence, we leaned on GOD’s providence as we grew, but now…we are fat and comfortable and just eat up with the sense of our own ability to provide for ourselves. and we…as a nation…have no time for GOD… not in our homes…. not in our schools…. not in our society…. in fact….it also appears to me that GOD….and I mean the true GOD…the Holy One of Israel….the GOD of Abraham…Isaac…and Jacob….the LORD God has a hard time finding a place in our public worship as well. I wonder….do we today as a nation who once relished the concept of being one nation Under GOD…. do we have a reason to be concerned about the warning found in Deuteronomy?
When we as a nation celebrate our independence in a political sense, we often forget is that when our founding fathers declared their independence from England, they…at the same time…. made a resounding “Declaration of Dependence” upon Almighty God. When we as a nation celebrate our independence, we need to be careful….we need to watch out… that we don’t forget about GOD.
And what goes for a nation goes for the individual as well. We can’t rely on the righteous acts of others to keep us safe. We can’t depend upon the faith of our neighbors to keep Heaven’s blessings pouring out on our land. Each of us are….individually….responsible to GOD. Independence speaks of freedom…. but we need to be careful that our freedom doesn’t consume us.
June 18, 2017 -What makes an ideal father? I suppose that might depend on who you ask and maybe even when you ask them. A child’s idea may be different from someone older. A young one might think that a 365-day-a-year Santa Clause with an ice cream cone in one hand and a bag of chocolate in the other would be just about as perfect as you could get.
Someone older may think that the ideal father is defined as a man who is holding out a set of car keys in one hand and a fistful of cash in the other. And then with age there may come wisdom. To an older child, an ideal father may be the man who can be counted on to be there, to offer support and not just criticism, and when asked….provides sound advice. And I think there are those who, as they mature, go through similar stages in their concept of what a perfect GOD is as well.
Some may look to secular experts and role models. Others may look for a more spiritual connection. There are a multitude of Fathers in the Bible. We can’t tell much about the parenting skills of some of them and some are downright bad. Some are good most of the time and others are sure in the running for “Father of the Year”. But I would say that as a rule…none of them were perfect fathers.
Well…I take that back. There is ONE perfect Father, and we read about Him in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. “ This tells us something about a perfect father. A Father loves his children. “For God so loved the world…” You know, that takes in everybody. There’s no kids stomping off into the other room crying ”Daddy loves you best!” No…he loves us all.
A father loves his children. Fortunately, our Heavenly Father is not shy about expressing all those touchy-feel-y sentiments that make some men uncomfortable. His love for His children is mentioned in many places in the Old Testament, but many of these are conditional upon obedience. But here in John 3:16 we find a statement that is totally without any sort of conditions whatsoever! And it comes from the very mouth of Jesus Christ… GOD incarnate….the GOD who loves us so much that he took the form of a man and walked among us, expressing His love for us…not through inspiration…not through visions or revelation… but face-to-face…..directly from His lips to our ears.
That phrase “GOD so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” …. sort of rolls off the tongue. When people hear it…probably most think immediately of the cross. But that cross was only the endpoint of what this gift implies. Think of what God gave up when Christ laid aside His heavenly attributes to become flesh and bone. Christ always had the nature of GOD…He is the very essence of GOD… and yet, by His own free will, He stepped away from the glory of Heaven and embraced humanity. Now, that’s Love with a capital “L”.
And so, to my Heavenly Father I say “Happy Father’s Day, Abba!” And to men everywhere I say, follow the example off what it means to be a father, and strive to earn to hear those words from your own children: “Happy Father’s Day!”
June 7, 2017 – Do you ever consider helping others? If so,what motivates you? Do you spring into action because it seems like the right thing to do, or do you first stop to consider “What’s in it for me?” What if no one would ever know the good you do for someone else, even the person you help, would you still want to lend a hand?
Sometimes we render aid in order to get recognized… to have others think and hopefully say what good people we are. Sometimes we help others because it makes us feel good. What we do is as much for ourselves as anyone else. We get a sense of satisfaction that is rewarding but unfortunately, self serving. I believe that to help means coming to the aid of someone in need, whether that be financial, physical, or spiritual in nature. Sometimes we can help someone by simply not adding to the burden they carry even when it is in our power to do so.
In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus said that we are not to give in such a way to draw attention to ourselves. In fact, when Christ said that even our own left hand shouldn’t know what our right hand is doing implies to me that our aide should be instinctive, not calculated to gain us any kind of advantage. Jesus said a reward for such behavior would be coming from GOD, but I believe the reward is not the motivator… just a bonus. The reason I say that is because I firmly believe that the kind of help that warrants praise from God is help that comes out of love.
There are many times in life when most of us do something for someone else for no other reason than we love them, and know what we do will make them happy. It may even make us a little miserable to do it, but we do it anyway, out of love. Husbands and wives do this for each other….children and parents do likewise. Hopefully, everybody goes out of their way to do something good for another… all out of love. And I think this is the attitude we should carry into our motivation for helping anybody. Of course, we know we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, but there’s a deeper motivation at work as well.
In Isaiah 26:8 the prophet writes: “…In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.” The focus here is completely on GOD, not ourselves. We remember GOD… what He has said to us, and our heart’s desire should be to glorify His name.
We should help others out of love….both for the ones we help, and most importantly, for our Heavenly Father. Any other motivation falls short of the mark for Christian living. Keep asking yourself this question as you go through life: “Am I helping to bring attention to myself…to make myself feel good perhaps…or am I helping to glorify and honor GOD?”
May 25, 2017 – There are times when we humans can we be quite forgetful. This can either be a help or a hindrance, because there are actually three kinds of memory…good, bad, and convenient. It can be a good thing to forget the unhappiness we encounter in life. Other forgetfulness causes us problems. We remember we have to go somewhere for an appointment, but can’t seem to recall what we did with the car keys. We remember to put coffee in the coffee maker, but forget to turn it on. The truth of the matter is that most of us forget things from time to time. Sometimes there isn’t much consequence, it’s more a matter of a little inconvenience or embarrassment, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes our absent mindedness causes real harm and one the worst forgetfulness of all is to forget people! One of the biggest lessons that we need to learn is that God didn’t put us here and save us just for ourselves. God put us here for others as well.
On Monday all across this land of ours, people will celebrate Memorial Day. But many will celebrate for the wrong reason. Many people see it as just a day off, a three day weekend. It’s the first holiday of the summer season. It’s a time for barbecue and hamburgers, maybe going to the lake or on a picnic. But even though the real intent of the day is right there in the name (after all, it is called Memorial Day) I have a feeling that many Americans couldn’t care less. For some, if they remember anything at all, what they’re interested in is making sure they bought charcoal for the grill or put gas in the boat before heading for the river.
I suspect that for those who have actually lost a loved one because of war or military action, the emphasis of Monday will be more than a day off. No doubt many will pause and reflect on that loved one who gave their all on some battlefield so the rest of the family could go on with life as usual. But this should be true for every American, because those who have spilled their blood for this nation, those who have sacrificed to make America what she is today, have made it possible for each and every one of us to pursue peace…. prosperity…. and happiness… and most importantly….we have the right to worship GOD as He calls to us…. and we have the right to hear God’s word openly preached.
Thank God for those who sacrificed to make us free!
I said earlier that one the worst forgetfulness of all is to forget people, but that’s not the worst way we forget. The absolute worst without question is to forget God. In Deuteronomy 8:11-20, the LORD warned the Israelites not to forget Him when they became prosperous and well fed. Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 11:18-19 He said: ““You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” I wonder…have we in this land of plenty forgotten to honor our God who has blessed us so abundantly?
We have an obligation to do our very best to see to it that the gospel message is passed on to the next generation. GOD Himself expects it of us. And, we have an obligation to see to it that what we pass on to the next generation is true to the Bible, that we pass on the message found in the word of GOD unchanged and unaltered. The message found in the word of GOD needs no addition or subtraction…that message is perfect!
May 11, 2017 -“HAPPY MOTHER”S DAY!” It’s a time of respect and reflection, of either receiving honor or bestowing honor on another; and in a perfect world, Mother’s Day would be special to everyone. It’s supposed to be a happy time…but for many of us, especially those who are not spring chickens any more, or for others who have had to part with their mother at an early age, the day can be bittersweet.
There are others for which the whole concept of motherhood brings tears to their eyes…either their own experience with their mother left them with sad memories, or some desired to be mothers and weren’t for some reason. For many, the slogan for the day we hear over and over, “Happy Mother’s Day”, brings no joy.
In the Bible, we are told of a time when Jesus rode a donkey into town, with a crowd of untold number singing His praises. It should have been a thrilling moment…and yet…when He saw Jerusalem, He wept. We are told of a time when He was on His way to raise a friend from the grave…to show the power of GOD…a wondrous time to be sure…and yet again…when He saw the unhappiness of those around Him…He wept.
There’s an lesson for us here…and that’s the importance of Christians being sensitive to those around them. We need to make certain we don’t grow callous to the situations others find themselves in just because we are in a good place. This is important…if there are a thousand people…there are a thousand situations…and each and every one matters, or should matter to a Christian. How can we say that we love our neighbor as ourselves if this isn’t so?
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:15 that we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”. Most importantly, I believe it is essential that a Christian not do this in a hypocritical way. People can tell if your words are genuine or if you are offering up nothing more than “crocodile tears”. If you rejoice…be sincere. If you weep…be truly moved by the plight of another. Jesus never faked it, and neither should we.
Sometimes the greatest help we can be to someone is to just be there. Sometimes GOD puts us in places for a reason…to be a comfort and reminder of God’s love. Let’s make sure He doesn’t have to send another to finish a task He has given us to do.
April 27, 2017 -Here’s a news flash hot off of the presses: America’s getting to be a tough place to be a Christian. Society is getting more and more tolerant of just about everything except Jesus Christ. Just hearing the name sends some into a frenzy, and as a result, GOD is getting squeezed out of ever facet of our public life.
The World would have us to believe that it has so much to offer that we would be foolish to ignore the pleasures to be had. Temptations are all around us, seeking to lure us away from the Throne of Grace and drive us like animals towards a multitude of idols. A brand new one opened up just this week and it brought traffic to a standstill on I-5 for hours. The temptations are everywhere to be sure, and while we may not be able to isolate ourselves from them, we can certainly refuse to participate.
In 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, the Bible warns us to be careful. No one is above succumbing to temptation. That first cookie may be hard to resist, but the second may seem to be impossible! An important point to remember about temptation is this: if you don’t want to eat the second cookie, don’t eat the first one.
It’s the nature of temptation to lure us in farther than we wanted to go. Even so, scripture gives us assurance that no temptation will come our way that other people haven’t had to face, and that God will never let us be pushed past our limit to endure. He will always provide us a way out…but whether or not we take it is up to us.
Now, if you don’t care for GOD, this way out isn’t going to help very much. It is described clearly in Psalm 119:9-16, and if it will help the young avoid temptation, it’s good for everybody. I believe the key verses are verse10: “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!”, and verse 11: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Seeking GOD’s face and studying His word until it becomes part of us is the way out. It’s a way we all can take advantage of. If we find this unappealing or unacceptable… well, maybe there’s more than just a little temptation we have to worry about.
April 18, 2017 – Have you ever noticed that even close friends tend to drift apart if they are separated and lose contact for a long period of time? Members of any relationship can become strangers without good communication and fellowship. Communication is vital in a relationship, and is absolutely essential if there is to be growth, meaning the deepening and strengthening of ties, and an increased level of understanding.
In Psalm 139:7-10 the Bible tells us that GOD is everywhere…there is no where we can go to get away from His presence. GOD is Spirit, and is omnipresent. In verses 9 and 10 the psalmist writes “ 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.” What a comforting thought! It speaks of guidance and protection.
The question is, do we really have an awareness of GOD’s presence being with us, wherever we are and whatever we face? Without that awareness, His nearness can do little to bring peace and assurance to us.
Our communication with GOD is enhanced primarily through Bible study and prayer. Without adequate attention to both, we may never gain that sense of His presence that brings comfort in times of trouble. Without them, we may feel alienated and alone. If you are a Christian, practice keeping those channels of communication open and in good repair. If you do, you’ll find yourself sensing that nearness with GOD we all need.
25 January 2015- Here we are at the end of January already, and if you made any resolutions for changes you wanted to make in the new year, it’s time to examine how you are doing so far. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t take very long for the casualties to start mounting up, and I suppose that is because many of the changes we plan for ourselves just aren’t us…they aren’t who we are, they are who we would like to be.
New Year resolutions attract people because the calendar draws a line in the sands of time for us. It marks the point where a change is to be made. For many, the changes we envision have a negative aspect. For instance, if you want to get into better shape…it implies you may be little lazy. If you want to devote more time to prayer and Bible study…it implies that you aren’t spending enough time with GOD…and you know it.
Many yearn to be “better” …and the list of things we want to change can be seemingly endless, but the truth of the matter is that most will never happen. Most will never happen, but some will.
Quite often folks don’t achieve personal goals on the first try, and when that first effort fails it can be devastating. Some have found it helpful to have a guide…a coach…a helper to keep them motivated as they struggle to make changes. They find that not being alone in the journey can make all the difference.
If you have resolved to be a better Christian, to grow spiritually this year (and I hope this is the case as none of us are so perfect that we can’t be better), please remember that you don’t have to take up this battle alone. And make no mistake – change is the order of the day in the life of every believer. Indeed, the Bible tells us to Ephesians 4:17-25 that for those who know Jesus, it’s off with the old and on with the new…like changing out of the dirty old clothes of your former life and putting on the spotlessly white robes of Christ’s righteousness. The question is…can you do this by yourself? Is your resolve up to the task?
While other kinds of resolutions are prone to failure because we try to make them happen by our own power, spiritual growth is aided by the Holy Spirit and the light of GOD’s Word. Use the tools GOD has provided to help us in life and you can be a winner. In Ephesians 2:8-9, the Bible tells us that our salvation is not achieved by any works of our own hand, but by the grace of GOD, and I believe spiritual growth comes the same way.
But you know something…the Bible does not tie spiritual rebirth or spiritual growth to just one date on the calendar… so we shouldn’t either. It can happen at any time, and our “line in the sand” is not a day…it’s a conviction….a conviction that things aren’t what they should be in our relationship with GOD. If you sense this is where you are, listen to that guide…that coach…that counselor that GOD in His wisdom and mercy has provided in this age of grace. Confess, repent, and then resolve to make the change.
Remember that many of the changes we plan for ourselves just aren’t us…they aren’t who we are, they are who we would like to be. What is it that you want be be? Do you want a closer walk with GOD? GOD’s grace…His unmerited favor towards us makes this possible. He provides the tools, we just have to use them. Confess, repent, resolve to make the change…call out to GOD and He will help you!
24 December 2014- Ah, the lights of Christmas…how they add to the sense that this is indeed a very special time of year. I love to see them, especially those which exhibit a distinctive Christian theme. That’s not so common where I live now. There are santas, snowmen, reindeer and the like…but coming across a display where the theme is the faith embraced by the people here is difficult.
I love to see the lights of Christmas, but I rarely decorate myself…other than a light on the garage, at night my house is dark. There never seems to be enough time or enough extra money to really do things up right, myself. The inside of the house is no problem, but for the outside, I depend upon the displays put up by others.
Christmas is about lights…it always has been, and always will be. In Isaiah 9:1-7, the prophet speaks of a lifting of the darkness and gloom for those who are in trouble…”The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” And, of course, the reason for this light is told in verse 6: “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;” and this child is Christ the Lord.
As we journey through this Christmas season, please keep in mind that it is wonderful to have the inside of the house lit up for the celebration…to have the light of Christ in our own hearts, but unless we decorate the outside…unless the light of Christ in our hearts radiates from us as a beacon of our faith and a testimony of what Christ has done for us, the world around us will remain drab and dark, and the lost may look to snowmen and reindeer for their inspiration.
3 November 2014- I used to have a horse whose lips would quiver when she was standing still. It made me smile because it looked as if she was whispering something under her breath. If horses could talk, I suppose we’d find out what they really thought of being cinched up with a tight saddle strap and ridden off into the sunset!
Words can be a great help to us, but they can also do great harm. In Matthew 12:34-37, Jesus said that our words are a clear indication of the condition of our heart…whether it be good or evil. He also said that we would one day have to account for what we say…even the idle talk. The word translated as “idle” implies being lazy and useless…those which shun the labor they ought to perform.
What labor should our words be doing? Ephesians 4:29 tells us our speech should minister grace…they should be used to edify or build up rather than tear down. Words should be a benefit to someone…or they should be kept to ourselves.
Idle words…whether they be words that are up to no good…or words that do no good…are useless. And here I’m talking about words that talk about the weather or politics or anything else…when they should be used to talk about Jesus. I wonder if our idle words we will account for includes those times when we should have witnessed to a lost person, but instead…because of an indifferent heart…we chose not to.
Useless words are wasted energy and opportunities missed. We should strive to make our conversations count instead of just being a way to pass the time, engage in gossip, or get back at somebody. Before engaging in mindless chatter, perhaps we should check in with the Holy Spirit to see if something more worthwhile might be more appropriate. It takes conscious effort I know…but the more you practice, the better you will become at it.
12 October 2014- Motivation…we all look for it…we all need it. It’s the thing that gets us going. There’s all kinds of motivation, and it’s important that you understand where you find yours.
Some are motivated by self interest. They may find motivation in money, trading away huge slices of their life for it… and leave what they accumulate behind when GOD calls them home. Others find motivation in fame. They work because they want to be well known or popular. They want to be looked upon as being special.
Some are motivated by the self satisfaction they get out of what they do. Sometimes our motivation is just to keep the peace…to stop that irritating nagging. And then, maybe we do for someone else because we want them to do something for us.
It’s also not uncommon to find those who find motivation in trying to stay out of trouble. It’s the reason they work to fill out their taxes each year…even if they don’t get a refund. In West Virginia, it’s the reason we take our vehicle to be inspected, or if we drive, why we go to renew our drivers license.
Sometimes, we find our motivation in the love we feel for the other person. We work out of love and for no other reason. We want our families to be provided for and happy. Maybe we work to keep another safe, such as shoveling a path after a snowfall, so an elderly or physically impaired person won’t injure themselves.
Yes, there’s all kinds of motivation, and whatever you find may be motivating you for some of the things you do…whether it be money, fame, fear, or even love…the greatest motivation in your life should be that you are a child of GOD. You might think you are doing something for Uncle Charlie or your cousin, your sister, or your friend…but essentially, the one you are working for is Christ.
In Colossians 3:23-24 the Bible says: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Ultimately our greatest motivation should be one of love…love for the Savior…because through Him we are, as I said, GOD’s children.
So if you find it hard to get in gear and get busy, think about who you are really doing the task for, and why. Do everything as if you are doing it for Christ personally, because what you do… or fail to do… ultimately reflects back to Him. A great effort results in a great witness!
10 May 2014- Mother’s Day is here again. It’s supposed to be a happy time…it’s meant to be a day to honor someone who has been a special influence in our lives. But for many of us, especially those who are not spring chickens any more, or for others who have had to part with their mother at an early age, the day can be bittersweet.
There are others for which the whole concept of motherhood brings tears to their eyes…either their own experience with their mother left them with sad memories, or some desired to be mothers and weren’t for some reason. Despite all this, the slogan for the day we hear over and over is “Happy Mother’s Day”.
In the Bible, we are told of a time when Jesus rode a donkey into town, with a crowd of untold number singing His praises. It should have been a thrilling moment…and yet…when He saw Jerusalem, He wept. We are told of a time when He was on His way to raise a friend from the grave…to show the power of GOD…a wondrous time to be sure…and yet again…when He saw the unhappiness of those around Him…he wept.
There’s an lesson for us here…and that’s the importance of Christians being sensitive to those around them. We need to make certain we don’t grow callous to the situations others find themselves in just because we are in a good place. It’s important…if there are a thousand people…there are a thousand situations…and each and every one matters, or should matter to a Christian. How can we say that we love our neighbor as ourselves if this isn’t so?
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:15 that we are to “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep”. Most importantly, I believe it is essential that a Christian not do this in a hypocritical way. If you rejoice…be sincere. If you weep…be genuinely moved by the plight of another. Sometimes the greatest help we can be to someone is to just be there and reflect the love of GOD into the life of another. Sometimes GOD puts us places for a reason…let’s make sure He doesn’t have to send another to finish a task He has given us to do.
3 May 2014- We fill up our lives with stuff of all kinds. It piles up higher and higher as the years go by. Some people can never seen to throw anything away…they hang on to everything. When this get out of control, others might call them hoarders…and it can be a real problem.
Keeping items that only “might” be useful…but then again they may “never” be used is not always bad, but It’s good to do a little house cleaning every now and then. After all, we only have so much space to store our things. On the other hand, hanging on to stuff that can only cause harm is never a good idea.
I believe the same thought process applies to how we handle anger and resentment in our lives. As we get older, the incidents that can lead to bitterness and thoughts of getting even are bound to pile up, but these do nothing but suck the joy out of our life. In other words, they can only cause harm…they can never help you…and a little regular “house cleaning” is in order to get rid of them.
When people hurt us, we want revenge. I think it’s the human thing to do…but it’s not the Christian thing to do. We are all far from perfect, and because we can never see the “Big Picture” as GOD does, we are not competent to decide what the payback should be, anyway. Besides…the Bible tells us that GOD claims this right. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Romans 12:189; Deuteronomy 32:35).
We, on the other hand, are instructed not to return evil for evil ( Romans 12:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, 1 Peter 3:9, Matthew 5:38, 39)….so if you’re hoarding ill feelings, if you’re piling up bitterness and thoughts of revenge…it’s time to do a little house cleaning. These thoughts can never do anything positive for you, they can only get between you and GOD.
26 April 2014- If you have ever walked along a wet beach after the tide had gone out and looked behind you, you would have seen a line of footprints stretching off into the distance. Yes, they definitely stand out and give you a good sense of where you’ve been…but they don’t last very long. Water starts filling them in and soon they are just depressions in the sand…and when the tide comes back in, it erases then completely.
Things are a little more permanent when walking in snow. Depending on the temperature and additional snowfall, those prints can hang around for quite a while. The footprints you leave behind in the snow leave a clear trail of where you’ve been for others to follow…maybe for days or even weeks.
And if you really wanted to leave a trail behind for a long, long time, the moon is where you need to go. I’ve read that the footprints our astronauts left there will last for thousands and thousands of years…maybe longer.
The question I have for you is this: what kind of trail do you want to leave behind? Parents think about this all the time…what will they have to leave for their children..what will their estate value be? Many people, such as politicians and sports figures, think about their legacy. They want later generations to know how great they were. But material stuff and fame sometimes don’t leave a trail much more substantial than walking along a beach. It’s washed away in no time.
By far, the greatest trail you can leave behind for your family, friends, or anybody…are the footsteps you made through life as you lead a genuine Christian life. Jeremiah 6:16 reads “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” The most lasting imprint we can leave for others to follow is the path that leads to the cross of Christ. Live so that the “old paths…the good way” are easy to find. Make your journey through this life count for something eternal! Leave a trail that never fades.
18 April 2014- When we go to visit a doctor, we like to see those diplomas hanging in the office. When we take our vehicle in for service, it’s reassuring to see those “Certified Factory -Trained Technician” certificates on the wall. But what we don’t care for so much..what can really make us edgy…is to see where our doctor was being sued for malpractice, or walk in to the service center and listen to some angry customer complain about how he had just been ripped off by incompetent repair work. We just don’t like to see the qualifications of those who we depend on questioned.
If there’s something every Christian depends on, it’s Christ coming through for us and providing that resurrection power to our bodies, fulfilling His promise of eternal life. We certainly don’t want to hear anyone tell us that He can’t pull it off. And you know something? Of all the detractors Christ had in the Bible, I don’t recall any of them questioning whether or not He worked miracles.
No, they got after Him for working on Saturday, or where His power came from, but they never denied the quality of His work. They didn’t even question His resurrection! Matthew 28:11-15 tells us the religious leaders had to bribe the soldiers to say that the disciples came and stole the body of Christ…but the way it reads tell us they knew the truth.
Without question, Jesus is the Christ…GOD’s anointed… that first Easter Sunday proved it for all time. And because of His resurrection from the dead, we all have a rock-solid guarantee of eternal life with Him in heaven. What a loving GOD we serve…what a Savior we have…Hallelujah to the blessed Lamb of GOD!
12 April 2014- Life can be hectic. There are days when we have more to do than we have hours to do them in. When this happens, a sensible person will prioritize the tasks at hand to make sure the most important ones get done. A not-so-prudent person will do what is more enjoyable or what takes the least effort and put the rest off until tomorrow…or at least some other time.
Prudent or not, I’m sure that we have all at one time or another put something off that really needed to be done, but we just didn’t get around to it. When this happens, catching up on the important matters that got missed should be on the top of our agenda for the next day…but sometimes this doesn’t happen either, and a real important task slips to yet another day. Eventually, that important task becomes a critical issue.
There’s a word for putting stuff off until bad things happen…and that word is neglect. If you neglect to keep the maintenance on your vehicles up to date…they stop working. If you neglect to keep your house painted…the wood rots. Neglecting family responsibilities causes irritation and conflict. If not addressed, a once happy home suddenly isn’t…and the damage may be hard to repair.
As bad as all this may be, the very worst neglect we can practice is neglect of GOD and His word. In Matthew 7:24-29, Jesus compared those who hear His words and obeys them to a wise man who built his house on a rock. Those who hear His words and ignore them are like a foolish man who builds on sand. In other words, neglecting GOD and His word can undermine your entire life.
Putting GOD first in our lives is non-negotiable. Not only is this essential to grow in our faith, but this will also work its way into other important areas as well. A sincere disciple will be conscious of being a good steward with the blessings and resources received from GOD. Cars and houses are kept in good repair, and families are cherished for the treasures they are.
Life teaches us all the high price of neglect. Let’s take these lessons to heart, and put GOD first every day of our lives…there is no more important task we will ever do.
29 March 2014- Sometimes the weakness of one part of a structure can go along unnoticed. The remaining parts are strong enough to keep the integrity of the building whole. But if more parts become decayed or unstable…the building may fall.
An architect usually takes great care in deciding what to incorporate before construction begins, and each piece has a purpose. If the whole is to stand, each part must be accountable to perform the task for which it was intended.
When tragedy strikes, investigators will sometimes be able to point to a specific reason…a structural flaw perhaps…or weakness that developed after a beam or a link deteriorated over time or due to an impact, fire, or earthquake. Sometimes the quality of the building materials themselves is determined to be at fault.
In the opinion of more than a few Christians today, the Church has been taking some hits. Will it continue to stand? Well…there is certainly no structural flaw in the Church…God is the Master Designer…and if the Church suffers it is due to some of its members that are not willing to be accountable for the task God intended. We each have a role to play…we each have been gifted for the edification of all.
But what about the quality of the “materials” that goes in to building the Church? Are we up to standards? Maybe we were at some point but have been weakened by too much of the world in our daily lives or too little of real spirituality (meaning prayer, Bible study, communion with your brothers and sisters in the Lord) day in and day out. Maybe we’ve never found the role that GOD intended for us to have…thus leaving a “hole” in the structure where we should be… and us just standing around serving no useful purpose somewhere else!
Romans 14:12 tells us that one day each of us will give an account of himself or herself to GOD. Try to find the “place” where you belong. I’d suggest that this is often the place where your talents are most needed or would do the most good for the Church as a whole. Be the reason that GOD’s building plan moves forward, not the “flaw” that led to problems!
22 March 2014- What’s the first impression that you get when you hear the word compromise? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Well, by itself, it’s neither actually…it depends on the situation.
Most of us like compromise when it would be to our advantage. Sometimes we may feel that we are getting a raw deal, and then compromise…entering into negotiations…gives us some hope. But if we think compromise may take away something that we have already, we’re not so crazy about it.
Compromise is necessary in relationships, whether that be between a factory and it’s workers, a democrat and a republican in Congress, or a man and a woman in their marriage. Without compromise, relationships fall apart. Nobody gets everything they want when you compromise, but everybody gets something.
To be willing to compromise helps to keep the peace, but there are times when the cost is too great. Take for instance, raising children. If a parent compromises too much on what the child can and can not do, disaster may strike and the child become a wayward child.
There’s one area in particular where compromising is like walking in a mine field…and that’s in the area of faith. Compromise can weaken and destroy faith, and it can certainly destroy a person’s witness.
Take for instance Galatians 2:11-21. Here, Paul calls Peter out for not living his faith. Peter drew back from the Gentile converts when the Judaizers showed up. He compromised his faith, showing preference for the Jews, and the Gentiles may have never looked at Peter the same way again, or the freedom they had in Christ. And what might this have done to Peter himself once he realized that he had failed his Lord….again. He knew better…and here is a compromise where everybody loses.
When you are tempted to compromise as a Christian, be certain that it is something that falls in the realm of personal choice… manners of dress, service hours, music (within limits), even how the pews are arranged…and yes I know a case where this little thing drove a member away because he was not willing to compromise. Always think first of Christ and your witness for the Savior, then think about compromising…and not the other way around.
14 March 2014- The world has really changed in the last 50 years…30 years…10 years…no…make that the last five years. Not so long ago, if you were out somewhere and made a telephone call, you really needed to talk to someone because making that call required you to hunt up a telephone booth and spend a little cash. I remember when a long distance call was a big deal and carried a sense of urgency because of the cost. It had a air of mystery about it. You could always tell it was long distance because the sound quality was not as good as a local call and it gave you a feel for the distance involved. Things aren’t like that any more.
When you go out anywhere today, most of the time…most of the people have their attention glued to a little device to communicate. They can’t even drive without it. Texting, talking, blogging….it’s an epidemic! Even standing in line at the store, people will find something to look at on their phone or someone to talk to…usually about trivial things. It seems like they just can’t be alone with their thoughts any more…and besides…surely the world is interested in every little move we make and needs to be updated.
Please don’t misunderstand. I have a “smart phone”. But so far I’ve managed to escape the “constant communication” syndrome as far as that phone is concerned. After all, being in constant contact isn’t a bad thing…in fact it’s in the Bible!
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us that we are to pray without ceasing. If you want to be in constant contact, this is the connection that is worthwhile….the other party on this call is interested in what you’re doing…always…and is probably the only one who really is!
Now, to pray without ceasing doesn’t mean to be on your knees 24 x 7, but to be in an attitude of prayer, and if we look to see how Jesus prayed, the Bible says He frequently did this by Himself where He could be “one-on-one” with the Father.
Take time for the communication that really counts. Don’t get so caught up in being “connected” that you disconnect yourself from GOD. He’s waiting for your call…why not put His number in speed dial and use it often?
8 March 2014- Oh NO! Say it isn’t so…it’s happening to us again! We’re losing an hour! Daylight Savings Time has us firmly in its grip. Saturday we had 24 glorious hours and on Sunday we only have 23…and no matter how you look at…something’s got to go. Some will give up an hour’s sleep…some will give up breakfast and have a brunch…some will get a late start on shopping or leisure activities….and sadly enough…some will give up Sunday School or Church. It’s time to prioritize what’s important in our lives. We don’t want to miss out on the good stuff just because the clock moved ahead.
When I was younger and kept a small place in the country, Daylight Savings Time was a real grind because there seemed to always be an endless amount of stuff to do. When I got home from work…I went back to work….cleaning stalls..digging post holes for new fences…mending old fences…seeing to supplies of hay, oats, wood chips…feed for the other animals…clearing trees and brush…and on and on and on it went…often until dark.
And then in the fall, when we fell back to normal time…it was dark about the time I got home from work, so I shifted into “maintenance mode”…no new projects or any projects really…just maintain the status quo until spring. I could sit inside and talk about all the great stuff I could be doing if it wasn’t dark. But since it was dark….I was safe!
In John 9:4, Jesus said “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” That’s something we all need to pay attention to. We only have so many hours in this life…no matter what the clock says….we really haven’t lost an hour. But what we do for the Lord, we must do while we are living…because in the dark night of the grave we can do nothing.
I wonder…have we slipped into a “maintenance mode” when it comes to our faith? No new projects…doing only what we have to do? If so, this time of year is a great reminder that the sun is up… and we should also be about our Father’s business, while there is still time.
28 February 2014- ”All I want is to be happy…and I’m not”. Did you ever hear someone say this? To be happy is a good thing…but if that’s all we want out of life, we’ve set our sights far too low.
The Bible tells us of happiness, and in the overwhelming majority of the cases…GOD can be found as the basis for it. But although happiness is a good thing, I don’t believe the Bible proposes that we should seek happiness for happiness’ sake. We are, however, encouraged to seek holiness.
The blessings of Christianity are for the most part spiritual. God does not guarantee health, wealth, and prosperity to the believer in this life. In Ephesians 1:4, the Bible says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” Paul goes on to write in the next verse: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: “ One could take from this verse that GOD wants us to be holy, and indeed it is spelled out for us in no uncertain terms in 1 Peter 1:16 that: “ …it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”
To seek happiness is all about yourself…but to seek holiness is all about GOD. Nothing so points out the goodness and holiness of GOD than living here in this fallen world…and when you compare the difference between the good and evil all around us, the choice between heaven and hell couldn’t be any clearer.
A “happy” person…at least one who thinks they are happy… if unsaved…has to wrestle with the fact that one day they will die…no matter how wealthy, popular or comfortable a life they may lead. One day…it will all end, and they have to ponder the uncertainty in their mind as to what comes next. But those who have Christ as Savior have inherited life eternal…and they know it….and with that knowledge comes peace, joy, and contentment….and maybe even happiness in the here and now. But one thing is certain…while we may or not be “happy” in this life, this world will one day pass away…and happiness for all eternity is waiting for us in heaven.
22 February 2014- For me, it seems like what it takes to really want something is to consider buying it..deciding not to….then deciding to…then not…then to…and when I finally make up my mind to make the purchase, I set out for the store only to find out that it is no longer available. What a disaster!
We take for granted that products will be there whenever we decide we want them. The ball is completely in our court…we are in control of the situation. And it isn’t only being able to acquire something new whenever we get good and ready that we take for granted. We get complacent about many other things in our lives as well. Our health, the roof over our heads, our families and friends….things in our day-to-day existence that add so much but are valued so little..that is…until they are gone.
If we live long enough, our health will fail us…families and friends will be taken away one by one…and no matter how much we want them..our ability to enjoy them are gone. The same can be said for GOD’s offer of salvation. This is a limited time offer if there ever was one, because it expires when you you.
This winter should have brought one thing into sharp focus, and that is that the church house is always there and open…and whether or not we decide to “grace” the building with our presence is totally our decision…something we are in complete control of. Well…this just isn’t so.
Jeremiah 8:20 is one of the saddest verses in the whole Bible: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” It speaks of opportunity and promise, but both have come and gone…. and both were squandered or wasted. Please don’t let this be said of you…don’t squander or waste the opportunities you have to worship with GOD’s family or more to the point…to become part of that family. Jesus is waiting for you…don’t don’t delay your decision to “make the purchase”…either to worship or to accept Him as Lord and Savior. It may be later than you think.
18 January 2014- The quality of a building is determined by three things: the quality of the materials, the quality of the workmen’s skills who put it together, and the quality of the foundation. Poor construction always poses a danger of collapse, but given gentle weather and infrequent use, a bad building may survive for a while. But if hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, overcrowding, and probably a host of other things have taught us anything, it’s that inferior materials, inferior workmanship, or a poor foundation can spell certain doom.
It’s no different with the building of our lives. The foundation has to be sure, the life skill real, and the thoughts that fill our minds have to be pure in order for us to stand when times get hard. A life which is built on Christ as it’s foundation, which has as it’s skill set the ever growing relationship with the Savior, and the resulting sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit within us, and has the Holy Bible as the materials on which it is based will withstand the roughest torrents the world can throw at it…because this life is ultimately built in Heaven…and whatever happens here below is just a mere shadow of reality.
In Isaiah 28:16-17, GOD said “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation:” and the Apostles identified this stone for a foundation as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-6, Acts 4:8-12). Christ has to be the cornerstone of our lives, or one day our life will crumble…maybe not here, but certainly as we stand before the Great White Throne Judgement. The Holy Spirit has the skills we need to build a great life…if we will but listen to what is told to us. The Spirit has the skills and we don’t…it’s imperative that we realize this. We do not know better than GOD how to handle life. And certainly there is no better materials on which to build our life than the word of GOD.
Joshua said in Joshua 24:15 “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD “ Make sure that your house, like his, is built to stand the test of time.
11 January 2014- Did you ever have a “Fair Weather Friend”? You know…someone who is always around when times are good or you have money to spend or something they want? Maybe they hang around because they are bored and want you to entertain them. Fair Weather Friends are there when there’s something in it for them, but if there’s work to be done or they see no advantage to being with you….or worse yet…if money’s tight and you may need to borrow…why, these “friends” are no where to be seen…they vanish and are hard to find. “Fair Weather Friends” – who needs them?!
But what about those people who only seem to know you when they are desperate for help? When times are good, they have a hard time remembering your phone number or where you live. No doubt you know someone like this…people who greet you with a smile and seem overjoyed to see you…but if you don’t run into them on the street or while out shopping, you never hear from them unless they need a hand with something. I call these people “Foul Weather Friends”…and I say again….who needs them?!
When tragedy strikes, many will turn to Psalm 23 because it speaks of GOD’s comfort, deliverance, and trust. Unfortunately, when skies are blue and life is good, GOD is the farthest thing from their mind. They turn to the Almighty when they are desperate for help, but ignore Him the rest of the time. But you know something? GOD is right there beside us…always.
In John 15:14-15, Jesus called those who follow Him friends…and this you can be sure of…He is a friend in the good times and the bad. Christ is the friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Let us strive to be the same, and not just a “fair weather” or a “foul weather” friend…because those kinds of friends…who needs them?
4 January 2014- What time is it? It’s a question we hear often. Some of you may remember a television program that used to ask “Say kids…what time is it?” If you do, no doubt you’re thinking right now that it’s “Howdy Doody Time”. Well, not quite….it’s not Howdy Doody Time… but please say “Howdy Do” to “Habit Time”! It’s time to take a good hard look at our habits.
Maybe I’m referring to it being that special time of year when we make New Years resolutions…. and so it’s time to shake off some unsavory habits and put on some brand new ones. Indeed, the Bible tells us to Ephesians 4:17-25 that for those who know Jesus, it’s off with the old and on with the new…like changing out of the dirty old clothes of your former life and putting on the spotlessly white robes of Christ’s righteousness. But you know something…the Bible does not tie this to the New Year… so we shouldn’t either.
New Year resolutions attract people because the calendar draws a line in the sands of time for us. It marks the point where a change is to be made, and most of the changes that occur to people have a negative aspect. For instance, if you want to get into better shape…it implies you may be a little lazy. If you want to devote more time to prayer and Bible study…it implies that you aren’t spending enough time with GOD…and you know it.
Bad habits impede our quality of life and they also impede our Christian walk…and a bitter truth of life is that sin is, for the most part, habit forming! Little by little, sinful habits grow on us…we keep going back to the well where we got satisfaction for some thirst in our life…and before you know it…we’re hooked! We do it to ourselves! James 1:13-15 makes it clear that this is the case, and the only way to break out of sinful habits is to quit doing them…and to start doing what is right in the eyes of GOD.
So today, say “Howdy Do” to Habit Time, and not just because it’s the New Year, but because every day is a good day to change for the better, and GOD through His Holy Spirit stands ready to help us!
28 December 2013- Remember back to your school days….sitting at your desk and watching your teacher spend so much time writing and writing on those old chalk boards? Remember the sound the chalk made as it impacted with the board and was pulled across the dusty surface, every now and then making that irritating “squeak”? At some point the board would become full, or the teacher would move on to something else…pick up the eraser and erase everything in sight.
Chalk boards….well, that’s what came to my mind as I pondered the New Year. That chalk board can represent our lives…and that writing stands for all the stuff we’ve done this year. There are some activities that are destined to become history at the stroke of midnight on December 31, such as our tax situation for the year or writing “2013” as the current year…all in the past. A quick once over with the eraser, and we’re ready to start over.
There are no doubt other things many of us wish we could erase as well…mistakes we have made…promises we didn’t keep… opportunities we’ve missed. We pick up the eraser and try to wipe the board clean, but you know something? If you look hard, you can still see what was written. Unfortunately, this is how most of us deal out forgiveness, either for ourselves or for others. Oh, we say we forgive…but the transgressions are still there to us….especially if we try hard to see them, and that’s too bad. It shouldn’t be like that. If we look for flaws and faults with an unforgiving spirit, we can usually find them…especially if we’re looking to find them in others.
This sounds real depressing, but the good news is that there’s human forgiveness, and then there is GOD’s forgiveness. If you think back to your school days again, sometimes the board would get so dirty that it would be washed…and then it was clean… everything that had been written was completely gone. That’s what GOD’s forgiveness is like…a good washing of our chalk board. But when GOD washes, there’s the blood of Christ instead of water… and the towel that is needed is that of true repentance. I see the word “hypocrite” often enough in the Bible to know He isn’t interested in cleaning with anything else.
21 December 2013- “Jesus Inside”. It’s a catchy little phrase that pops up on hats and shirts, and I’ve even seen car decals with it. “Jesus Inside”. It’s a great thought! It’s an idea that puts thoughts of heaven in the minds of many. And while you wouldn’t know it based on how people act….our world is very heavenly minded.
It’s very strange….I read of a recent poll that uncovered the fact that 81% of all those asked believe in a literal heaven…and more importantly…I’m talking about a heaven where people go to live with GOD after they die…a place where departed loved ones and friends awaited them. More that half of those asked believed that they went to heaven the very second they died. What a deal!
People believe in heaven…oh happy day! But there is a problem that is very evident if you look around. The world’s a fairly evil and threatening place for so many to rightly believe they’re on their way to heaven. Those other 19% must literally be hell on earth!
Folks believe in heaven…and believe they’re going there…but some have founded their belief on a lie. Some believe they can work their way to heaven…if the good outweighs the bad, then you’re in. Others believe they’re going because they don’t want to go to hell, and still others think we’re all going because GOD is a GOD of love.
But here’s something to consider….many think that Jesus came to earth to put people into heaven…that’s wrong. Christ did not come to that manger on that first Christmas to put people into heaven… but to put heaven into people…and indeed, when we come to faith in Christ, we experience the indwelling of the Holy Ghost…a little bit of heaven…to be with us as a part of us for ever more.
Many people think they are heaven bound, but Matthew 7:21-23 tells a different story. It’s those who have “Jesus Inside”…those who have heaven in their hearts who are making the trip. If you haven’t already, why not pack your spiritual bags and get ready for the journey? It will absolutely be the trip of a lifetime! Merry CHRISTmas!
14 December 2013- When the thought of someone crosses your mind, do you find yourself making a mental statement about that person? For instance, if someone is an avid sports fan or hunter, is that what pops into your mind when you hear their name? Right or wrong, I believe that most of us will categorize someone based on what is important to them. It might be the way they dress that stands out…such as Jerry and those hats or Mary and her bright colors. Maybe it’s not clothing….maybe it’s the activities they enjoy, like Ray and his motorcycle, Steve and his TV or Pam and her garden.
Now, there’s nothing really wrong with any of this, unless the association turns out to be something unsavory or unflattering. Those kind of relationships will make you think of the person in a negative light…almost always….and others may view you in the same way, so the image you project to others is very important.
What we usually relate with a person is that thing which stands out the most in our minds about them, and I’d say what stands out is either that one thing that’s most important to them or something that is at least very near and dear to their hearts…and as a Christian, I truly believe we should strive to have that idea pop into people’s mind when they think of us. Being a Christian ought to be the way we want to be regarded, first and foremost.
With that being said, I myself have a variety of interests. I’m fond of science, of history, of people…I don’t mind watching or playing a little sports every now and then. I like agriculture. But the thing that I want to register with others first and foremost is that I am a Christian…and next, that I am a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:16 that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ… and if that’s the thought that someone has when they see me…that I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ… well, that wouldn’t be all that bad either.
30 November 2013- I’ve heard it said that in a pinch, any tool becomes a hammer. Yes, you can pound away with whatever you can lay your hands on, but the results are usually not the best…either for the project or the “hammer”. The right tool for the right job certainly makes the work easier, and being dressed appropriately for the task helps as well.
As Christians, we have not been saved to sit around and wait for the rapture…we’ve been given a job to do. We are to spread the word, make disciples, and serve as Christ’s ambassadors to a lost world, and if we want to do a good job, we should probably pay attention to our tools and how we’re dressed.
Ephesians 6:10-18 has some guidance on how we are to equip ourselves, and it sounds like the task at hand is more than just weeding the garden because the Bible tells us that we should prepare for battle: the belt of truth around our waist, a breastplate of righteousness, our feet protected from our walk in life by the gospel of peace, a shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of GOD, all put together under an umbrella of continuous prayer.
To wear a breastplate of righteousness implies that one is available, but we know that the only righteousness we have in the eyes of GOD is imputed righteousness from our Lord Jesus Christ. In practical terms, I think we can get a better understanding of what is meant by the “breastplate of righteousness” by looking at another reference made by Paul to a breastplate, and this is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:8. Here, he talks about putting on the breastplate of faith and love. Surely faith in GOD…faith in Christ, and the love of GOD and our fellow man puts us in line to be issued this breastplate of righteousness from our Heavenly Father. Having faith and love is what Christ told us to do, and by obeying Him is how we show we are true disciples.
If we are to do GOD’s work, we must have GOD’s equipment, and as 1 Corinthians 15:58 tells us, we should be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that our labor is not in vain.
22 November 2013- Faith is a great thing…but faith in the wrong things spells disaster because it will end up in emptiness and ashes. There are all sorts of things we need to have faith in, or we wouldn’t be able to live a normal life. We need to have faith that our roof won’t fall on our heads…we need to have faith that our doctors know what they are doing….that pilots know how to fly a plane….and that other drivers are competent to be behind the wheel of a vehicle. But in every one of these cases, we know that sometimes the roof does fall…our doctors do make mistakes…pilots do crash their planes…and drivers we meet coming towards us on the highway are impaired or just not paying attention.
Sometimes we put our faith in other people or our own abilities, and this is all right so long as we don’t put absolute faith in anything other than GOD. People aren’t always what we think they are, or show that they are, after all, just human beings like we are. And sometimes we overestimate our own abilities in reference to the challenges we face. Simply put…people fail. I don’t say this in a judgmental or condemning way, it’s just the truth…people fail….all people fail at something at one time or another.
As Christians we have professed our faith in Christ, and our intention to follow His example in our daily lives, but how’s that working out for you? Do you always, in all situations live a perfect life…a life like Christ? I’d say probably not. But our faith in Christ is a great faith…because it is the only place we can place our faith that will never disappoint us.
In John 10:27-30, Jesus said: ”My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” Now there’s something rock-solid to put your faith in…and this is indeed a great faith…because it is a faith that will never fail.
16 November 2013- Being in a strange place can be unsettling. Being in a strange place and being afraid can be worse. Being in a strange place and being afraid and also being alone can be terrifying. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. It may have been for just a moment, but I’m confident we’ve all experienced a time when our confidence was shaken and we felt less than adequate for the situation at hand.
To a large extent, I believe this happens because we are so accustomed to these fragile jars of clay we walk around in, and so unaccustomed to fully trusting in GOD…the kind of trust that Stephen displayed in the book of Acts…. or Paul, or Peter, or John for that matter. Their faith, their trust in GOD saw them through some frightening situations, and I think it’s because they knew they weren’t alone….ever. Right before Stephen was martyred, he looked into heaven with his spiritual eyes and saw Christ, who had gone on ahead of him, standing… and watching what was happening, and it brought him peace.
In Deuteronomy 31:1-8 we read where Moses told the people that he had come to the end of the trail. After leading the Israelites through the sea and the wilderness, after being their go-between with GOD for over 40 years…he was not going with them into the promised land…a land that had to be conquered before it could be called home. It must have shot a cold chill up their collective spine. But Moses said there was another whom they could follow, and that was Joshua.
The LORD had work for Joshua to do..and Moses tells him to be strong and courageous. He said for Joshua not to be afraid or get discouraged, because the LORD was going on ahead, and the LORD would be with him, and the LORD would not fail him or abandon him. Moses said for Joshua not to be afraid or dismayed.
Even if I haven’t been somewhere before, if someone I know has gone on ahead it seems a little less foreign. This life can put us in situations that are strange and terrifying, and I know we all feel alone when tragedy or illness strikes…but we don’t have to. Our GOD is omnipresent, and there’s no where we can go, no situation we can face that He hasn’t before. And there’s no where we can go where GOD isn’t…we are never alone. Our Lord Jesus Christ has gone on ahead…all we need to do is follow.
8 November 2013- When it comes to helping others….what motivates you? Do you spring into action because it seems like the right thing to do, or do you first stop to consider “What’s in it for me?” What if no one would ever know the good you do for someone else, even the person you help, would you still want to lend a hand?
Sometimes we render aid in order to get recognized… to have others think and hopefully say what good people we are. Sometimes we help others because it makes us feel good…what we do is as much for ourselves as anyone else. We get a sense of satisfaction that is rewarding but unfortunately, self serving.
In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus said that we are not to give in such a way to draw attention to ourselves. In fact, by saying that even our own left hand shouldn’t know what our right hand is doing implies to me that our aide should be instinctive, not calculated to gain us any kind of advantage. Jesus said a reward for such behavior would be coming from GOD, but I believe the reward is not the motivator…just a bonus.
There are many times in life when most of us do something for someone else for no other reason than we love them, and know what we do will make them happy. It may even make us a little miserable to do it, but we do it anyway, out of love. Husbands and wives do this for each other….children and parents do likewise. Everybody goes out of their way to do something good for another… all out of love. And I think this is the attitude we should carry into our motivation for helping anybody. Of course, we know we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, but there’s a deeper motivation at work as well.
In Isaiah 26:8 the prophet writes: “…the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. The focus here is completely on GOD, not ourselves. We remember GOD… what He has said to us, and our heart’s desire should be to glorify His name.
We should help others out of love….both for the ones we help, and most importantly, for our Heavenly Father. Any other motivation falls short of the mark for Christian living. Keep asking yourself this question as you go through life: “Am I helping to bring attention to myself…to make myself feel good perhaps…or am I helping to glorify and honor GOD?”
2 November 2013- Envy….have you ever felt it…maybe just a little? Someone gets a new car and you look out at that old rat-trap you drive and sigh. Somebody gets an award or recognition for a trifling little something or other, and your efforts go virtually unnoticed. Or maybe there’s a whole bunch of people that failed to do something, but you alone are singled out for blame. Envy….it will eat your spiritual joy whole.
All too often, we compare our situation with those around us and I think a very natural human instinct is to want to come out on top. We want the best or at least what we consider our fair share. We want others to envy us…not the other way around.
Envy has other names…jealousy, resentment, bitterness, and dare I say….covetousness. And I think in virtually every case, the source of envy has its roots in the physical world, not the spiritual.
We begrudge others their success or their possessions for things acquired in this life, not what’s coming to them at the end, and I think any time you find envy creeping into your mind, ask yourself this question: “Would I trade places with them if I could? Would I trade my family, my career, my relationships…all of it..to be them…in order to have what they have?”
There’s one relationship in particular you should remember, and that’s your relationship with Christ. If Christ is your Savior, what do you have to be envious about? People get saved one at time… salvation is an intensely personal experience, and no one can be “more saved” than you are…and I fully believe that no one is loved more by GOD than you are. New cars become old….careers end…but for the child of GOD, the relationship with Him is fresh and new every morning because we are being changed day-by-day into the very image of His Son. What else, eternally speaking, could possibly matter?
In Proverbs 23:17,18 we are told not to envy sinners but to continuously be in the fear of the LORD, for surely an end is coming and our hope will not be cut off. There will come a day when all apparent inequalities will be put right (Psalm 37:28-38). Envy has no place in the heart of a Christian, because we already have the best that could ever be, and we are one family, one body, and since GOD is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), we all stand as equals before the LORD.
26 October 2013- The end is at hand! It’s over! Well…the growing season for this year, anyway. The weather report Friday said a freeze was coming that night, and with it came the end of summer gardening. Summer 2013 is now just a memory. Sometimes we act as if be believe what we experience at the moment is all there will ever be. We know the seasons change, but when you’re picking and canning it seems to be too far in the future to really spend much time thinking about. Then there’s that first burst of cold weather and we come to realize that what we had enjoyed for a season is over.
In Acts 16:16-34, there’s a story about Paul and Silas who found themselves in jail and then there was earthquake. Suddenly the path to freedom was open. The jailer panicked but Paul reassured him none had escaped. The jailer was so moved that he wanted to know how he could be saved. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”, and sure enough they were all saved that night.
The jailer and his house were saved, but his house was not saved by the jailer’s conversion, other than the influence of the witness he gave to his family. Each family member had to come to Christ in the same was the jailer did. Salvation is an intensely individual and personal experience…no one can do it for you.
When the seasons change, we are reminded that life is not static, and the coming of winter reminds us that just as the warm days of summer are numbered, so are the days we have open to us to receive Christ as our Savior. Christians look forward to Christ’s return, but do you ever stop to ponder the question “What of my house?”. Are your loved ones saved? Are they prepared to meet their GOD?
The season for choice is nearing an end. Exactly when, only GOD knows. Before that day happens, we need to make sure that we do everything we can to help those around us we care about come to a saving knowledge of the Savior before the season for choice is closed forever.
19 October 2013- Why is it that every time you wash your car or truck, it rains? It isn’t true of course, but I hear people say this all the time, and I have said it myself. Sometimes, after putting the old shine on my vehicle, I cringe when I see the storm clouds gather or find out that I have to go somewhere that will more than likely get it dirty. This, I must admit, is ridiculous. A wash job, no matter how good, will not last forever. And before you know it, you’re no longer sitting high as you drive down the road, but are instead kind of slouching down in the seat…hoping that no one you know will see you drive by in such a filthy rag.
Well…it’s no different with our lives. Why does it seem that every time you get out of church…feeling all good and clean and spiritual…. why does it seem that something always happens to take that old gospel shine off of your spirit? Something breaks down and needs to be replaced, you get sick, the clerk at the store is especially rude, or maybe Ma burns the supper biscuits and there you are…having those short tempered, judgmental thoughts again…how many times does a person have to make biscuits before they learn to get it right, anyway? Sometimes before you even get settled from being back from church, you sense your halo tarnishing, and you want to slouch down so nobody you know sees how you act.
Friends, this is going to happen…over and over again. That’s a big reason why we need to keep in touch with GOD through prayer and being washed by the study of His Holy Word. This is why we need to keep going back to church. Psalm 51:1-19 is an excellent reminder of where we are every day, and what we need to set things right.
There are those who protect the shine on their vehicle by never using it…never taking it out of the garage. But what use is it to anybody? If you get out in the world, you’re going to get dirty….and out into the world is exactly where Christ sends us. No problem… just make sure to get cleaned up as often as necessary to keep that “showroom shine” on your witness.
13 October 2013- “I can’t believe the way I just got treated in there!” Did you ever have an occasion to say that? Maybe you’ve had a reason to make this statement: “Well…that’s gratitude for you! I’ve given them the shirt off of my back and what do I get in return? That’s the last time they’ll have an opportunity to kick me around!” I’d say most of us have gotten our feeling hurt at least once…and we probably didn’t like it.
No….in this case, we sure don’t like to receive but maybe we don’t mind giving every now and then. But sometimes our perceptions are at fault. Sometimes we see insults and ingratitude where they do not exist…we were just expecting more thanks than we got…and we strike back.
Well, if we can feel this way about others, do we ever stop to consider that someone else may be wringing their hands over our response to some favor or good deed? In particular, I’m thinking about our Heavenly Father…the Almighty GOD…the Creator of the Universe. Did you ever stop to consider that this is how He might respond to us? Does this sound crazy to you? It isn’t as far fetched as you may believe.
In Isaiah 1:11-20, GOD has a complaint to make about the way He was being treated. After all He had done for Israel, their ingratitude was hard to understand. It was rude. They went through the motions of worship, but it was hollow and empty… and GOD had had enough.
When we gather to worship, we have an opportunity to show our gratitude to GOD for all He does. Are we really sincere, or just going through the motions? Do we wait until we get to the church house to begin, or do we spend some time in reflection beforehand, getting our spirits right before seeking to come into His Holy Presence? Of all the the places to show our gratitude, when we come before GOD in worship should be at the top of the list. Actions speak louder than words! If you love GOD and are grateful for all He has done, it should be plain to see don’t you think?
5 October 2013- Imagine yourself in one of those huge home supply houses and you’re frantically searching up and down the 57 aisles looking for some part to fix your favorite chair. Now, you know they won’t have right replacement part you need, but you’re hoping to find something that you can use to patch it together. A little tape, some wire, a screw or two, and a new sheet thrown over it to hide the damage and no one will ever know! No wait…maybe a metal plate and some glue…but what kind?
While you’re searching, one of he employees comes up and asks if he or she can help you find something. Here’s a golden opportunity to get help form someone who very well may know hardware better than you do….but instead of telling about the chair, you ask about some product to get that chili stain out of the carpet!
If there’s ever a time to focus, it’s when someone asks if they can help us. In Mark 10:46-51, we are told about a blind man who cried out to Jesus for mercy. When Jesus asked what it was the man wanted Him to do to help, the man didn’t hesitate or veer off on to some issue like maybe needing a new pair of shoes….no he spoke right up: “Lord, that I might receive my sight.
Our prayer life should be just like that. We should have a definite objective when we approach the throne of grace in prayer…whether it be praise, or intercession, or greater spiritual discernment, or whatever drove you to your knees. There may be times when you don’t know what you need…only that you do, in fact, need. If so, say it plainly. Don’t beat around the bush…if you have a problem, address it clearly. If there’s ever a time to focus, it’s the time we spend in prayer! Remember that if you get the leak fixed, you can quit bailing out the boat!
27 September 2013- Prayer time can be a difficult time. Some look at it as a drudgery…something to get through because Christians think they are supposed to pray. Jesus talked about prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. It’s helpful to go back to this passage and review it every now and then, just to keep the meaning of prayer firmly in our mind.
The first thing to notice is that prayer is a matter between you and GOD. Prayer is not something to do to get the praises of men. Next, Jesus said we are not to use vain repetitions, and I take this to mean we are to think about what we’re praying and not just recite a memorized laundry list. Let’s face it, though…your prayers from day to day are likely to very similar because your concerns, if heart-felt, will still be with you. But just don’t rumble through to get finished…think about what you’re saying to GOD and why you’re saying it.
In verse 8 Jesus said that our Father knows what we need before we ask, and some might ponder “why pray at all”? For me, the answer is obvious. Prayer is a two-way street, or it should be. When you talk to GOD, He talks back through His Holy Spirit.
In verse 10 we see “Thy kingdom come…thy will be done”. In Heaven, this is a done deal because GOD’s will is the only thing that matters. The earth, however, is a battle zone…and when we pray for GOD’s will to be done here as it is in heaven, we are reminding ourselves that GOD’s will is to rein in every aspect of our daily lives. Does it? This is a call to action fro every Christian. GOD’s will should be the bottom line for every prayer. We might not always understand why, but GOD knows best…and He knows best all the time.
When we seek for His kingdom on earth…we pray for His will and not ours be done, and the more we seek it, the closer our thoughts come to aligning with His.
7 September 2013- It’s not uncommon to hear someone say to you “Don’t forget!”
…and it seems like there are lots of stuff “not to forget” as we go through our lives. There sure is a bunch of stuff to remember! There’s birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, obligations, grocery lists, car maintenance, passwords, your phone number and where you live… and it just seems to go on an on!
With so much going on in our day-to-day life, sometimes living seems to take up all of our time. But don’t get so busy trying to remember the little stuff, that you forget the really BIG stuff the Bible tells us to remember.
Hebrews 13:3 tells us to remember those who are in bonds and are suffering as if it were we ourselves in harm’s way….and here I think Paul was talking about those being persecuted for the faith. What a blessing we have been given, and I think we often take it for granted. Here, we are free to worship or not as we please…but in other places, to worship GOD invites death!
We are also to remember those who have lead us in the faith, who have spoken the word of GOD to us. Think about how their lives turned out and follow them in faith. Think of the long line of witnesses we have in the Bible to learn from. And why should we do this? Well, what worked for them will work for us as well, because as Hebrews 13:8 reminds us: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
There’s plenty more, but here’s just one more thing to remember, and it’s something that should come to the mind of every Christian with the waking of every day. It’s a marvelous promise we all have through our Savior Jesus Christ because by the sacrifice He made on our behalf…and what we need to remember is something GOD has promised to forget! It’s found in Hebrews 8:1-13.
The promise I’m speaking of is found in verse 12: – “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Remembering to “remember” this wondrous truth every morning will put the rest of the day in perspective!
31 August 2013- There’s a task ahead, so you start going over in your mind how you should approach it. Is it for you, or for someone else? Is it essential? How much effort do you want to put in to it….a patch and a promise…or give it your best effort? It should be no surprise that the Bible has guidance to help us, and I believe the conclusion from what it has to say is that “… whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” (Colossians 3:23). We labor for Christ, so we need to apply the right effort for the right job.
There is one task that faces us that is actually a labor of love, and this is our worship of GOD. It may have many components, but it is in reality a single task…because we are to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice unto GOD” (Romans 12:1). The life we lead is our true worship we offer to GOD.
With that in mind, our worship should be molded by the concept required by Deuteronomy 17:1, which states that the sacrifices made to GOD are to be without blemish, spot, or stain..and the word used for blemish here carries the additional sense of a moral stain as well. I take this to mean that what we offer should be the best we have to give. Believe me, God knows if it isn’t! (Malachi 1:6-10).
When we work for others…when we work for ourselves, do it as unto the Lord. When we read the Bible, pray for ourselves and others, offer up praises and thanksgiving, and attend services at church, let us not look at it as checking off a box for a daily activity, but do it heartily, as unto the Lord because these are all acts of worship to GOD Almighty…and He knows the heart…you won’t fool Him.
Remember the sacrifice He made out of love for us…remember Christ and that cross at Calvary. He gave the BEST for us…let us give our best back to him in return. It is, after all, our reasonable service!
24 August 2013- Have you ever been accused of being like a bull in a china shop? Usually this carries a somewhat negative connotation…it implies that you are clumsy, off balance, lacking self-control, or maybe rough handed. Sometimes, I suppose, it could also mean that you go overboard…that you use too much force for the situation at hand, like using a sledge hammer where a simple tack hammer would do the job, and as a result, carnage and destruction result.
There are situations where being a little strong-handed is just what the doctor ordered to get your point across. Take fire raining down from heaven. GOD used this device at Sodom and Gomorrah to great effect in Genesis 19:24-25, showing the penalties of sin. In 1 Kings 18:17-40, the Bible tells us how GOD used it to illustrate the difference between Himself…. the one true GOD…and a false god of idolatry.
But sometimes, it is just too much. In Luke 9: 51-56, we read where a village of Samaritans refused to receive Jesus because He was on His way to Jerusalem. Upon seeing this, James and John said “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” Well, instead of agreeing, Jesus turned and rebuked them saying “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
In this last case, the heavy hand was the wrong approach for the situation, and by “we”, I hope James and John were referring to the group collectively…which would include Jesus, and not just to them!
When we deal with those around us….particularly the unsaved…too much of the “holier than thou” attitude can be destructive. We must remember that the lost do not understand and they are spiritually blind. Paul said that the message of the cross was foolishness to them that are perishing (1 Co 1:18). Our job as ambassadors for Christ is to help them to see the light…to understand the difference between themselves and GOD…not the difference between them and us. It’s so easy to get into a game of comparison. Let’s just make sure we get the right pair!
17 August 2013- Different day…same old problems…. Do you ever catch yourself thinking this? Well, people and problems seem to go hand-in-hand, and the Bible tells us that this is nothing new.
In Psalm 106 we certainly read of a whole host of problems for the Hebrews. The psalm starts off praising GOD. Why? Because He is good and His love is eternal, and His acts are immeasurable…and those who obey Him are truly blessed.
Despite this insight, the psalmist writes that the people were still wicked, just like their ancestors. GOD had come to their aid time and time again, and for a while, the people believed His promises and sang His praise. But it didn’t last. Before too long, GOD was out of the picture and they were back acting on their own. Instead of GOD, they preferred idols. And, instead of cleansing the land of the heathen as GOD had commanded, they embraced them…and adopted their ungodly lifestyle. In doing so, they became so defiled in GOD’s eyes that He abandoned them for a while and allowed the heathen to rule over them. But even then, when His people cried out in their distress, He showered His compassion on them once again.
Where are you today? Are you beset with problems? To be sure, we have been cautioned to expect trouble, but are your problems those that result from having to live in a sinful world, or are they caused by your rebellion against GOD..your failure to follow His precepts? The course of action you need to take in both cases is the same, and that answer is prayer. If you are oppressed by the evil that surrounds us on all sides, then pray for strength to endure. If, however…after examining the situation, you find that a rebellious heart is the primary cause of your distress, then your prayer should be one of repentance…asking for GOD’s forgiveness.
Yes, in this world we are to expect troubles. Christ told us this in John 16:33. But there is hope for the Christian, because after the bad news comes some of the most reassuring words in the Bible: “but be of good cheer;” Jesus said. “I have overcome the world.”
9 August 2013- Did you ever feel like you got stung when you stepped out in faith? Maybe you extended a helping hand and got bit in return by someone who took advantage of your generosity, or gossiped about how much more you could have done, or maybe was just downright ungrateful…not that we should ever do something just to be thanked for it. Or maybe you sacrificed in order to support a charitable cause just to find out that your effort was squandered because those operating the charity were a bunch of rascals?
Maybe you put a “GOD is my CO-PILOT” license plate on the front of your car (but I’d think a person would rather have GOD as pilot than co-pilot) just to have someone leave an editorial comment about your faith by damaging your vehicle in some way.
If things like this have ever happened to you, did it leave you feeling that you had made a mistake in choosing to step out in faith..that your faith had failed you? Did you have a moment when you actually thought that it was God Himself that failed you?
Well, if that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong in either case. The sad fact of living in a sinful world is that sometimes sinful people will cause us disappointment, but it’s never a mistake to step out in faith. Our faith is in God, not in the things we do, and isn’t that the real reason for acting on our beliefs?
If faith is the substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1), then stepping out in our faith is the evidence that it exists. As James said James 2:20 “…faith without works is dead”. We step out in faith to honor GOD and demonstrate our trust in Him…to illustrate to the world that our faith is alive and well. A saving faith will produce good works, and in order to do good works, we have to step out in faith and trust GOD to make it worthwhile….and if the only outcome of our “act of faith” is that it brought us a little closer to GOD, then it was worthwhile indeed.
3 August 2013- All of us have probably heard the expression “There’s two sides to every story”. What this usually means is that there’s more than than one way to look at a situation. Rarely do you get an unbiased, objective commentary about an event when the person telling you about it has an emotional or financial investment in what happened. The real truth between two opposing opinions is usually somewhere in the middle.
It might be unusual in our day to day life, but as Christians, we should always strive for an objective view of any situation….and by objective, I mean looking at it from GOD’s perspective. There are two ways to look at any circumstance…how it affects you, and how it affects God’s kingdom. As an example, the Apostle Paul could have been the poster boy for being unfairly treated. Assaulted, beaten, thrown into jail (Acts 16:22-23)… lied about and hauled before a king (Acts 24-25)…. shipwrecked (Acts 27)…
and despite all this, he writes in Philippians 1:12 “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel”. Everyone around him, including the soldiers that kept him prisoner, knew he was in chains because of Christ. And because of his circumstance, many Christians lost their fear of being punished for Christ’s sake.
GOD used Paul’s situation to further His kingdom, and when bad things happen to us, the way we respond screams to those around us about the value of our faith. Does our faith in GOD see us through, or does it leave us in despair? The world is watching! If our faith cannot help us overcome, if it cannot comfort and sustain us, then why should we expect others to want to embrace it for themselves?
GOD’s word tells us in 1 John 4:4 that “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world”. Let’s take GOD at His word. We win because He wins. If you have doubts, skip to the back of the book and see how this story ends.
13 July 2013- Did something ever happen to you that caused you to doubt for a moment that it had really happened? Have you found yourself so amazed that you said or thought to yourself “I don’t believe it”? Have you ever asked for something, convinced in your heart of hearts that you weren’t going to get it, only to be pleasantly surprised? I’d say it’s happened to most of us at least once.
In Acts 12:1-15, the Bible tells us that King Herod was causing trouble for the Church.
He had James, the brother of John, put to the sword. He had Peter arrested during the Festival of Unleavened Bread and put in jail and ordered four squads of soldiers to guard him. Herod planned to put him on trial in public after the festival.
While Peter was being kept in jail, the church never stopped praying to God for him…
and their prayers were answered in a supernatural way! An angel from the Lord rescued him right out of the chains and brought him safely through the soldiers, and out into the street. Peter went to the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother and knocked on the gate. Those inside were praying for his release, but when told that he was at the gate, they told the servant that she was out of her mind. So much for their faith!
I think the problem here was that their prayers were not answered in the way they expected them to be, so they failed to recognize the miracle they asked for when it came. Who would have expected Peter to just come walking up to the gate in the middle of the night?
Try to keep this in mind when you pray. Remember that our GOD does wonders (Psalm 77:14)… sometimes when we least expect it, and in amazing ways!
6 July 2013- Have you ever received the “cold shoulder” treatment from somebody? If so, perhaps it was a good friend or a family member…someone who you used to talk to on a regular basis, maybe even every day. And now, for some reason, you don’t hear from them at all unless you initiate the conversation, and even then, their attitude is one of indifference and you get the feeling that they just want to get away from you.
You know, sometimes silence can tell us more about a relationship than small talk. When the words fail to come, it probably indicates that there’s a problem…and if the flow of conversation has all but stopped, more than likely it’s a big problem.
In Amos 8:11, the Bible says: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD”. What a horrendous thought this is, and what a terrible situation to find yourself in…to call out to GOD and hear nothing but silence in return.
The book of Amos expresses GOD’s outrage against His people, who had become indifferent to justice and valued profit or people. Think of that…they got their profits all right…but lost their prophets in the process! Through Amos, we understand that true religion demands righteous behavior..and true religion is more than form and ceremony, it is seeking GOD’s will and treating others with justice.
GOD didn’t just shut off communication out of the blue. He had tried to get the people to repent but they refused to hear what He had to say. Since they wouldn’t listen, He stopped talking. If you have become aware that GOD has grown silent in your own spiritual life, perhaps it’s time to stop examine and your relationship with GOD. Maybe you already know what’s wrong, you just don’t want to do anything about it, or maybe you don’t know. In that case, seek His counsel in prayer. To go through life deprived of GOD’s company is the worst of all famines…because it is starvation of the spirit. It won’t happen unless there’s a reason, and if you understand what’s wrong, do yourself a favor and fix it!
29 June 2013- Everybody likes a bargain, and a sign advertising a “2 for 1” special is sure to get attention. But more is not always better. In the 2nd chapter of Jeremiah, the LORD’s people were having trouble staying faithful. You might think that they had sinned by dabbling in idolatry, and one sin is bad enough, but in verse 13, the Bible says: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
It’s bad enough to turn your back on GOD. It’s worse when you replace Him with something or someone else. The people had committed two sins, not just one. First, there was the sin of omission…they had forsaken GOD. Secondly, there was the sin of commission…they had replaced God with false idols. It’s difficult for someone to turn away from GOD without turning to something else because Man’s heart doesn’t seem to like a vacuum.
To turn away from GOD gets you a “2 for 1” special on sin that nobody needs. Please remember that when you squeeze GOD out of your life, you haven’t reduced the number of hours in a day, so the time you used to spend with the LORD in prayer or study is still there…you have just chosen to replace GOD with some other activity…and it’s not one sin you’ve then got to deal with…it’s two.
Don’t exchange the clean living waters of GOD’s fountain for a meager swallow from the stale waters of a worldly cistern that is all cracked and nasty. Stay refreshed with the most delicious, satisfying, and life-sustaining drink available!
22 June 2013- It’s official….Summer is here! Warm weather and things to do entice us out of doors. And as the sun sets, we begin to notice the first twinkles of light in the sky. To me, it’s a glorious time to be alive, especially when the heat of the day gives way to the refreshing air of the twilight.
When you look up at the night sky, do you ever stop to marvel at the dimensions of the heavens above you? Does it really register that every one of those tiny points of light is actually a planet, or a star, or even a galaxy even bigger than the one we are in? I have to admit that sometimes, it can make my head spin! But I don’t think I’m the first to find myself in amazement in contemplating GOD’s handiwork.
The Bible tells us that David was also quite impressed. In Psalm 8:3-4 he wrote “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” What a testimony to GOD’s love for us, that with a universe so vast and so beautiful, he cares to take notice of each and every one of us and have concern for our welfare.
If you really ponder on the Creation, you may wonder why GOD went to all the trouble to create such a vast expanse of the cosmos, most of which we here on this planet, will never, ever, even see. Well, the Bible has the answer for us. In Psalm 19:1-2 we read: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.”
The universe around us is like the town crier of old…going forth among the people announcing important news from the King’s throne for all to hear. It appears, unfortunately, that many among us have chosen not to listen. Let’s add our voices to that of the rest of GOD’s wondrous creation. Let’s raise the volume, and fill the air around us with the glorious news from the Throne of Grace…the news about Jesus Christ, the Son of GOD…and the Savior of mankind.
14 June 2013- On our currency is a motto that reads: “In GOD We Trust”. If the GOD referenced here is the GOD of the Bible, I fear this is no longer true. But if the GOD spoken of is some other god, then maybe it still is valid. Now, the statement may be valid, meaning that we, as a nation put our trust in something. Whether or not it will do us any good is another matter.
In Jeremiah 17:5-8 the Bible gives us a short poem contrasting the ways of the wicked with the ways of the righteous. In verse 5 is a warning about turning away from GOD and placing your trust in mortal things. The LORD says “Cursed be the man” that would do such a thing. At the time of the writing, it was aimed at Judah, who decided it would be better to look to the Egyptians and false gods for protection from invaders rather than trusting in Jehovah GOD. Well, it didn’t work then…and I have a suspicion that the practice of turning away from GOD and putting our trust in other things won’t work for us, either.
Verse 7 reads “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.“ Which would you rather have, a blessing or a curse? You cannot trust both GOD and something else. To have a “backup plan” displays a complete lack of confidence in GOD’s ability to bring you home safely…and our GOD is a jealous GOD. He won’t share our affection or our devotion. Money will fail you…people will fail you…even your health will fail you….but GOD is our protector for the long haul.
Watch those idols which can creep into your life! Whether it be money, contacts, or even the sweat of your brow…any “salvation” to be offered by them is short-lived. In the good times and the bad, the source of our strength should be the same. “In GOD we trust” is an excellent statement, because it’s “In GOD we CAN Trust”!
7 June 2013- When I was in school, sometimes the teacher would ask for someone to answer a question. This was fine as long as I knew the answer…or as long as the teacher was only calling on those who volunteered. But when I didn’t know the answer and students were being called on regardless of whether or not they had displayed the slightest interest in responding…it was a different story. The deal then was to avoid eye contact and make yourself as inconspicuous as possible…don’t draw any attention to yourself….and breathe a sigh of relief when some other poor victim was selected.
But sometimes our problem is not that we don’t know know the answer, but that we are unsure and lack the confidence in ourselves to proceed. In Exodus 3:1-12, GOD calls on Moses for a special task: “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Well, GOD answers him in verse 12: “Certainly I will be with thee…”. It isn’t just you Moses…we’re in this together!
A similar incident happened to Gideon. In Judges 6:1-14, he is called upon to rescue the Israelites from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said , “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. “ Gideon replied in effect “Well, if the LORD is with us, why are we in this mess? Where’s all the miracles we’ve been told about?” Imagine standing and arguing with the miracle you need to happen when it comes! GOD answers that it is he, Gideon, who will be the instrument of deliverance, but Gideon doesn’t buy it…”How can I rescue Israel?” he says. GOD replies simply… “Surely I will be with thee…”
It isn’t confidence in our ability that sees us through, but rather, it is confidence in the One who calls us. Philippians 4:13 reads: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” We trust Christ for the salvation of our souls…so we ought to trust Him to see us through whatever He asks of us. After all, we aren’t in this thing alone. We have a family of faith…we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit….and we also have a most important promise: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb 13:5)
31 May 2013- We all face decisions every day. For most of us, the majority of them will be sort of mundane…what time to get up..what clothes to wear…what to have for supper. Then there are those with a little more spiritual bite…do I go to work or call in sick? Do I tell the cashier that I received too much change back or just pocket the windfall and go about my business? Do I let that fella into traffic or hit the gas to cut him off? To some, these may seem trivial as well, but let me tell you…decisions such as these can seriously affect our Christian witness, and because of that, they can have eternal consequences. Decisions, decisions, decisions! How can we be sure of the best choices to make, especially in the big decisions of life?
The first thing to consider is this: what exactly is a big decision? You may think the purchase of a house or the career field you choose qualifies…but Jesus didn’t seem to think so. No…He said in Matthew 8:20 that “… The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” He called many of the apostles out of what would be considered lucrative jobs, and asked them to go around the countryside with no visible means of support…preaching about a world to come. To Jesus…it was the decision of eternal life facing those He met that was the biggest decision of their life…and their response to the interaction with Christ made all the difference.
Think about this…out of all the interactions you have with others during the day, which ones do you remember? If you’re like me, you remember the extremes…those people who treated you well, and those who treated you poorly. With this in mind, the biggest decisions you make during the day are those which impact your witness and testimony for Christ. Take time to evaluate if what you are about to do will be pleasing to GOD, and if the action you are about to take brings shame or honor to the Savior. This is important….remember, it isn’t just you that is being impacted by what you do…or fail to do.