Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
He has made me GLAD. Those words of Scripture are uplifting. Genuine happiness is a wonderful thing. It is something to cherish and to rejoice in. In a world of pessimism and discouragement, it is good to know that in Christ I can be truly GLAD. Unfortunately, many Christians do not appear to be very GLAD. Perhaps we are a bit too skeptical, or maybe we have become so cynical that we are waiting for something bad to happen. Even the disciples on the day of Christ's resurrection were not immediately GLAD. Mary and the others ran in with the tremendous news of Christ's resurrection, but all that they received were looks of doubt. You must remember that at that time a woman's testimony was not even permissible in a court of law. Peter and John went to the tomb to see for themselves, but they returned with confusion instead of gladness. On this day, the Lord's Day, we know that He is risen and that there is truly life through His name. Therefore, we should BE GLAD. Our gladness should be so infectious that those who do not know Christ see it and desire to have the joy that we are experiencing.
This past week was a wonderful week of VBS at Lighthouse. I was so thrilled with the great group of kids we had and all of the workers. Every night was a blessing, and the Lord really lifted my spirit during the week. There was one little boy that taught me the meaning of this verse. His name was Jeffrey. Jeffrey does not attend our church regularly, but he lives down the street from a couple of families in our church. For some reason, Jeffrey and his two brothers were about three minutes late every night without fail. They would always walk in while we were singing our theme song for the week. One of the thrills of standing on stage is getting to see every thing that goes on in the audience. By Wednesday night I was looking so forward to when Jeffrey walked in that back door. He came in with the biggest smile that you could imagine. He obviously could hear the music before he came in the auditorium, because he walked through the doors singing the theme song. He was clapping with all that he had (Timing was not his strong suit.). He was the very definition of gladness. Maybe it would be good for all of us to learn a lesson from Jeffrey and realize that when we walk through the doors of the Lord's house gladness should be our garment of praise.
One further note on this passage, notice that gladness is not just an action but a state of being, BE GLAD. If you are a child of God, gladness is what you should be. God has saved you and redeemed you. He has given you life and hope for eternity. He has transformed you from being a child of darkness to a child of Light. BE GLAD about the miracle working power of Jesus Christ that has made such an effect on your life.
May you BE GLAD with God's people in God's presence today!
Friday, June 25, 2010
When I ask people what area of their Christian life that they struggle with the most, the average response is their prayer life. I understand completely. Prayer is one of the most vital areas of our spiritual walk. God in His love has given us free access to His throne. He implores us to come boldly to His throne of grace. He desires communication with His children. However, we often feel that we cannot come to God for several reasons. Some of us fear rejection. Others get discouraged because they are afraid of saying it wrong. Whatever the reason for our not coming to God in prayer, we are misguided to not bring our hearts desires to the Lord.
I have always loved the passage of Luke 18. This oppressed widow teaches us so much about prayer. There are three things that we can learn from her. First, we can learn honesty. If there is any one thing that needs to change about most of our prayer lives, it is that we need to simply be honest with God. So many are afraid to tell God how they feel. Yet, that is exactly what He wants us to do. He tells us in Matthew 11 to come to Him with all of our weariness and pain. The psalmist David enjoyed such a rich relationship with God, because he was not inhibited in his honesty. Peter tells us to cast all our care upon God. Speak openly and plainly with God. You will not offend Him or hurt His feelings. We are told in Matthew that He already knows what is in our hearts anyway.
Second, we can learn dependence. We will never receive our heart's desire from any other source. Only God knows what we truly need and how best to meet that need. The widow would not leave the judge alone, because she knew that he was the only one that could take care of her problem. In the same way, it is God and God alone that is the answer to your prayers. By coming to Him you are demonstrating faith in and dependence on the Lord.
Third, we can learn persistence. The reason stated for the parable was that men should always pray and not lose heart. Think of that phrase "not lose heart". How often have you been discouraged in your prayer life? I imagine that there have been several times. There were some answers to prayer that you thought would never come, but in some of those situations you saw God step in right on time. Jesus compares the Father to the unjust judge in the parable and demonstrates how much more the Father cares for His children. God does hear your prayer each day. Solomon told us in Ecclesiastes that God makes all things beautiful in His time. With that persistence we must have patience. Do not quit. Do not give up. Lift up your head for your redemption draweth nigh. Pray fervently and honestly with your heart open before a holy God who loves you and is joyful that you have entered into His presence once again.
May you open your heart up before your God today!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I was watching the news yesterday, and they were talking about the situation currently in Afghanistan. They were discussing the dangers that are all around our American soldiers each and every day. They have to be constantly alert, because the enemy seems to be lurking around every unexpected corner. Every day our brave men and women go out on a mission knowing that there is the possibility that they could lose their lives. We here at home hear the reports of those who have been killed, and it breaks our hearts. Yet, we cannot begin to understand the intensity of the anxiety of that soldier. He understands the brevity of life more than any of us.
However, the truth is that none of us are promised tomorrow. We have no idea what is around the next corner for our lives. You do not have to be in a war zone to know how fragile life really is. The Bible describes all of our lives as a vapor. Just as steam ascends off a pot of boiling water and dissipates in the air, so our lives dissipate into days, weeks, months, and years. So what do w do about it? First, make sure that you are ready for the day when death comes to your door. By being ready, I obviously am speaking of having a relationship with Christ. There are those that teach many things about what happens when we die, but the Word of God is truth and teaches that man will spend eternity with God or be separated from Him eternally. Make sure that you know Christ as the Savior and Lord of your life. Second, since life is short, give every day your best for the glory of God. Moses asked the Lord in Psalm 90 to teach him to recognize the importance of each day so that he could live it wisely. I believe that God wants us to live our lives fully and richly. Take pleasure in those that God has given you. Do not waste a moment with the frivolous cares of this world. Use what God has blessed you with to bless others. Serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Make every day count so that when you lay your head on your pillow each night you have no regrets and you know that He is pleased.
One last comment, I am thankful for the soldiers that I mentioned above. They are the true unsung heroes. In a world that celebrates celebrities for doing nothing, we need to thank God for our service men and women and let them know how much we appreciate them today. Many of us were excited that our national soccer team won in the World Cup yesterday. However, I believe that most of us had rather see our victorious soldiers come home from this war than see our team return with a World Cup trophy. Pray for our country, its leaders, and our military today.
May we live life today to its fullest for the glory of Almighty God!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
God's order of things is much different than ours. Think about God's economy compared to our economy. Our economy says get everything that you can so that you will have more. God's economy says give everything that you can so that you will have all you need. God's kingdom says that the least in the kingdom is the greatest. In our kingdoms we fight and war to be at the top. I love this passage because it proves that when God steps in He causes kings to bow before servants.
Nebuchadnezzar is ready to execute every one of his wise men and astrologers, because they could not reveal to him his dream. I imagine that he fit the description of pompous and arrogant. He was used to getting things his way when he wanted it. However, this time everything was different. No one could do what he wanted. The situation was brought to Daniel's attention, and he and his friends began to pray. God revealed to them the dream so that the lives of all of these men would be spared. In Daniel's prayer of praise for God revealing the dream, he said, "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever...He removes kings and raises up kings..." Although Daniel had a respect for the position of King Nebuchadnezzar, his loyalty, love, and devotion belonged to God alone. With boldness Daniel interpreted the dream, and when the king received the interpretation he fell down at Daniel's feet. This of course was highly unusual. How amazing it was for all in the court to see the king prostrate at the feet of a foreign servant! The Scriptures tell us that God takes what the world considers to be foolish to confound the wise. Nebuchadnezzar not only bowed at Daniel's feet, but he also recognized the source of Daniel's power. Nebuchadnezzar's official title was the king of kings. However, we hear him now proclaim that Daniel's God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings.
There are two powerful lessons found in this story. First, God can and will use any of us that are surrendered to His purpose for His glory. It is in Him alone that we place all of our trust, and we humble ourselves before Him that He might use us to accomplish His plan. Daniel never dreamed the day that he was taken into captivity that one day the king would bow before him. I also believe that this was never his goal. His goal was to be a witness of the majesty and truth of the one true God in a pagan land. With God's power this plan was accomplished. Second, God can bring any king to his knees. Proverbs tells us that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. We must fervently pray for our leaders that God would accomplish His will through them as He chooses. Pray that God would do whatever it takes to humble their hearts so that they might have a Nebuchadnezzar experience. How awesome it would be to see the leaders of our nation fall on their faces before a holy God and proclaim Him to be the Lord of lords and the King of kings! With God all things are possible.
May you live humbly before a holy God today!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Have you ever watched someone doing something that should have been fairly simply, yet they made it extremely complicated? It is interesting how we do that. It is almost like we refuse to take the easiest and most direct path. When I was in college, I went with some of my college classmates to Multnomah Falls in Oregon. It is one of the most beautiful sites that I have ever seen. It is the second tallest waterfall in the country dropping almost 620 feet. There are two trails that lead to the top of the waterfall. One is a winding trail that gradually ascends to the overlook. The other trail is for the ambitious hiker/climber. Of course, if you know me, you know which one I chose. One young lady and I chose the ambitious trail, and everybody else decided to walk the winding trail. About halfway up we knew that we had made a mistake. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. At some point I was climbing a small portion and then reaching down to pull her up. It took forever. We made something that was easy very hard.
I am not about to tell you that the Christian life is easy, but I will say that God has laid out a plan to follow that is much easier than making our own way. So many are concerned with how to live the Christian life. They are constantly afraid of "doing it wrong". Many talk about God's will assuming that is a place where God will send you or a job that you will work. They are constantly wondering if they are out of the will of God. What they don't understand is that God's will is a daily walk with Him. If we are obedient to the Word and the Holy Spirit, we will be directly in the center of God's will no matter where we may physically be. If you are following His plan and His path, He will guide your steps to the places that He would have you go. This passage of Scripture teaches us what it is that God requires of our lives. "To do justly" is simply the requirement to live righteously before God. Keep your feet from evil. Protect your heart against the wickedness of this world. "To love mercy" is to treat others with loving-kindness. That is why God taught us to love others as He loves us. We do not love people based on what they deserve; we love them especially when they deserve nothing. Finally, we are commanded "to walk humbly with your God." Isn't it amazing that we are given the privilege to walk with God? How could we walk any way but humbly? Day by day we are to wake up and take the first step out of bed in submission to Him. That is why Solomon told his son to acknowledge God in all his ways and He would direct His path. If we determine to live by the principled requirements of God's Word, we will see that the path is clearer, because the Lord has gone before us in preparing it.
May you live according to God's Word today!
Some passages of Scripture bring your imagination to life. You can just see in your mind's eye the events taking place. As I read this passage that is exactly what happened. I could see the first few people realizing that Jesus had just entered into their region. The word began to spread rapidly among the community. As it did, the people went from house to house gathering together those who had illnesses. You can almost see the countryside filled with people scurrying around carrying their loved ones to Jesus. There was hope and expectancy written plainly on their faces. They knew that the day of deliverance had come for their loved ones. You can just feel the excitement in the air. I can also see Jesus smiling as He watched the comedy/drama playing out before Him. It looked like an ant hill had been disturbed, yet these were not ants but souls that were hungry to experience what only He could give. He knew each and every story that came to Him. He knew their past, their present, and what the future held for them as they would leave Him that day. I believe that He was as thrilled about the experience of their deliverance as they were.
We need to take this passage to heart. As believers we know very well that Jesus is alive and well. We have personally experienced the deliverance that He brings to a sin-sick soul. We know the power and privilege of His presence. Therefore, let us get up and run through the surrounding region where God has placed us. There are so many around us that are sick with the disease of sin. They are literally dying before our eyes. We have the cure, and we know the Great Physician. It is our responsibility to carry them to Christ. We must place them on the stretcher of prayer and bring them to the Lord. We must open our mouths to tell them of the wondrous love and deliverance that can only come through Jesus Christ. He already knows each one of them by name. He knows their past, and He is not intimidated by it. He knows the stubborn heart that is presently within them and is not discouraged about what He can do for them. He also knows what we do not: their future. He is without any doubt their only hope. Let us be diligent to love them as Christ would and give them the hope of everlasting life.
May you run through your region today finding the lost for Christ!
What is that you are looking for God to do in your life today? What is it that you desire to know and experience as you gather with brothers and sisters in Christ? Let's all be honest with ourselves. Too often we are content to simply go through the motions of another religious ritual and say that we have been in the house of God. We are really not looking for God to do something great. If there is an emotional experience during the day, that would be fine. However, we are not normally looking to experience the stirring of the Holy Spirit.
When I began to think on this little word "AND", I realized that there were many times that God offered us an AND. In other words, He wanted us to experience more than we were looking for. In John 10 Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, AND that they may have it more abundantly." If God is not satisfied to give you just a portion, why should we be satisfied with the minimum of what God can do? One of the reasons that the church in America is so lukewarm is that we are not expecting anything from God. I would challenge you to go to any place in the world where God is moving in a miraculous way (China, Haiti, etc.) and you will find the Christians there expecting God to do miraculous things in their presence. They have decided they are going to be AND Christians. They are not going to be satisfied with the status quo. They will spend countless hours in prayer. They meet together openly or in secret as their situation allows studying the Word of God. They are not ashamed to praise God and tell of His wonderful works. When I was in Haiti in 2003, the first night we had service beginning at 7PM. They sang praises to God for quite a while. They also publicly prayed together for an extended period of time. Two different pastors spoke. The service ended around 10PM. We heard the next day that there were some complaints about the service. They didn't think it was long enough. They wanted to start the next day at 5PM. Also understand that prayer and praise meeting started each morning at 6AM and lasted for over an hour. There was an expectancy for God to do great things. Let us not be satisfied with the mediocre or the status quo. Let's praise God for what He has done AND expect even greater things.There is one passage of Scripture that I think is perfectly fitting with this study of the word AND. The passage does not contain the word AND, but it does show how God wants to do more than we are really expecting. Paul said in Ephesians 3:20, "Not to Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."
May we live with desire to see God do great things today AND more.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
If there is any one thing that universally gets people in trouble, it is our tongue. The Bible tells us that without the Lord's help it is impossible to tame. How many times can you remember your mouth getting you into some serious trouble? On the other hand, how many times can you remember your mouth getting you out of trouble? I would imagine that it has gotten you into more situations than it got you out of. You are not alone in that, but we still can't use the excuse that everybody else is doing it. We must learn to be responsible with all that God has given us.
Solomon in all his wisdom knew that the mouth could be a destructive force. He warned us about speaking before we think through what we are saying. This is especially true when we open our mouth to God. How many times have people told God that they would do certain things for Him if He would get them out of their current situation? They made a vow to God based on the emotions of the situation and not with their heart. Most of the time those vows go unfulfilled. Therefore, we have lied to a holy God and treated Him as if He didn't really matter. I love what Solomon encourages us to consider. First, he tells us to remember where God is, in heaven. This makes me recall the beginning of the Lord's Prayer: Our Father which art in heaven. Why is that so important? It makes us see that He is not like us at all. He reigns supreme and is higher than the thoughts and ways of man. It also reminds us that He is not the creation of man's hands or man's imagination. Those who worship false gods utter repetitive prayers in hopes that their god will eventually hear them. There is not a chance of our God being deaf. He hears our cries, and He knows our hearts. We must be wise as we come before Him. Second, we are to consider that we are on earth. Simply said, we are God's creation that was made from the very dust that we walk on. We only have life because He breathed it into us. It is with humility and gratitude that we stand before our holy God. With that in mind, let us consider carefully our words as we pray and vow to God. Fewer words often mean greater consideration before one spoke. We are walking into the throne room of God when we come to Him with our vows. Let our words be few and let them be wise.
May you speak to a holy God with an open heart today!
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Once again, this is no ordinary day. This is the Lord's Day. It is with great reverence that we set aside this day to worship our mighty God and say to Him that He is first above all things. Of course, He should be first each and every day, but this is the day that we recognize this corporately with the body of Christ. I hope that you will take advantage of this obligation and opportunity.
Let us consider what we should be doing on this day. The context of this passage tells us prophetically of the rejection of Christ. This rejection of the Cornerstone led to His eventual crucifixion. On the cruel cross of man the Savior of the world gave His life for sin. He bought the redemption of His children. He came to His own, but they did not receive Him. However, those who received Him and believed on Him became His eternal children. No wonder the psalmist speaks of how marvelous this is. For a child of hell to be transformed into one of God's own children truly is marvelous. For this reason it is clear that on this holy day we WILL REJOICE. Notice there is no doubt about our rejoicing. It is not that there is simply a possibility of rejoicing. How powerless the psalm would sound if it read that we might rejoice! The psalm is an expression of the heart. Because of what the Savior did for us, we WILL REJOICE. Jesus told those who criticized the rejoicing crowd at His triumphal entry that if the people did not rejoice the rocks would cry out in their place. While all of creation can express praise, God created us with a soul that feels joy and a mouth to express it. The mouth WILL REJOICE because of the joy that is in our hearts. Do not allow anything or anyone to hinder you from rejoicing in Christ your Savior. Make Him your focus as you gather with brothers and sisters in worship. Pour out your heart to a holy God that longs to hear your praise!
May you gather today with those that WILL REJOICE with you!
Friday, June 11, 2010
"I am right, and everybody else is wrong!" Have you ever met someone with that attitude? Chances are that if you have been in church for any length of time you have. This attitude almost seems infectious within the body of Christ. When I was in college, I remember there were several periodicals published by different people and groups. It seemed that the main purpose of these papers and magazines was to correct the others. Most of the things that they were trying to "correct" were issues that were really not that important. They were spending thousands of dollars on ink and paper over things that didn't matter.
It is so easy to get caught up in this war of words. Why? The simple answer is pride. We never want to admit that we are wrong. Even more, our pride has convinced us that every one should think, believe, and act like we do on every issue. However, wasn't it God that made each of us differently? God doesn't have "cookie-cutter" creations. He gave me my own mind and allowed me to experience things personally that others have not experienced. He has allowed me to have preferences that have shaped who I am and who I am able to reach. Christ is more concerned about what we think of Him than He is about what others think of us. That is a good statement even if I said it myself. If we were to begin living our lives each day with the thought of what does Christ think of our lives, it would revolutionize the body of Christ. Please understand that the fundamental doctrines of God and salvation are non-negotiable. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. What I am speaking of has to do with personal issues that are based on preference and not Scripture.
There was once a time that John returned to Jesus and boasted that they had rebuked a man that was casting out devils but was not part of their group. It seems obvious in the context that John felt that he was doing the right thing. This man wasn't part of his tight-knit circle, so surely he couldn't be doing right. Jesus gave them some advice that we all need to remember: "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side." My prayer is that God's people will unify under the banner of Jesus Christ. Truthfully, it is not just my prayer. It was Jesus' prayer for us as well. Take some time to read John 17.
May you learn to live in perfect peace with your brothers and sisters in Christ!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Some verses in the Bible are greatly misunderstood. People take the words out of context and fit them into their own frame of mind. This is one of those verses. I have actually heard people say that Christians should never get upset or offended by anything, and they used this verse to back it up. My desire today is simply to encourage you to read the Bible in the context that it is given. Don't make the Bible say what you want it to say. Let it speak for itself. Let's take this verse for example.
First, the misconception that those who follow God should never get offended is way off base. There are plenty of things that should offend a Christian. Shouldn't you be offended by sinful behavior? I often get quite upset with our media. I try to find a wholesome program to watch with my children, and in the middle of the show a commercial comes on that is vulgar and blatantly sinful. When that happens, I am offended. I have been out in public with my family, and suddenly an individual begins to use crude and vile language. I am offended that my children had to hear that coming from their mouths. I read an article in a magazine where a man was mocking Jesus Christ and those who followed Him. I was deeply offended. Because I was offended, does that mean that I violated the above Scripture? Of course not, because that is not what is being taught in the context of this passage. A Christian should be offended by sin. I should take offense to the fact that someone would violate the innocence of my children with their open sin.
Second, so what does this passage mean? Well, read the context of the verse as well as the surrounding material. This passage is found in Psalm 119 where every verse except for a handful talks about the law of God. The psalmist is emphasizing the importance of God's law in our lives. He talks about how we need to understand it and embrace it. With that whole context in mind, we then read our passage for today. If I embrace the Word of God and choose to let it apply to my life, then I am not going to be fighting against it but will find peace in it. Therefore, if I am at peace with God and His Word, I will not be offended by its message. There are many that see the Bible as a narrow-minded book, because they have not learned to love the Author. When you come to know the Author of the book, you will understand and even embrace what He is teaching. God's Word is not offensive to someone who loves God. Let the Word speak to your heart and your conscience and not just your intellect.
I write this today, because I am convinced that the church needs a revival of deep Bible study. We need to dive into the Word of God and learn its great truths to make us stronger in Christ. We can only do this though if we are studying it in the context of what was intended.
May the Word speak to the deepest part of your heart today!
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
We live in a world where it seems that every one and every thing is moving rapidly all of the time. There is always somewhere to go and something to do. Most of us get up each day with our normal routine ahead of us. We are rushing to get the kids off to school. We are in a hurry so that we will not be late for work - again! There is the to-do list that needs to be made out. Some of us have to write that list down, because there is no way that we will remember every thing. Along with all that we need to do during the day, there are also concerns that are pressing on our minds. We worry about personal finances or health issues. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately for many, this stress grows so great that it affects their relationships. It causes a cloud of anxiety to hover over our lives. The worst part is we know that tomorrow will not be any different! Are you discouraged yet?
While this may sound discouraging, living this life is much tougher than it sounds. We all know that. In this small passage of Scripture God gives us the answer to our everyday stress. Some of us read that verse and say, "I don't have time to be still. Do you want to see my to-do list?" While being still is an important part of the verse that is not all the Scripture says. We need to be still for a reason. Many times when we get still it is either to sleep or totally waste time. Do you ever need to just sit down and shut your brain off? All of us do from time to time, but that is not even what this Scripture is teaching. We need to purposely find time to shut everything else out of our lives and sit alone with God. In the stillness and quiet of that moment we need to acknowledge that He and He alone is the Lord of our lives. If we are not careful, all of our anxieties, issues, and schedules can become our Lord. This is why God gave Moses the command, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Only He deserves the place of God in our lives. This time of stillness and quiet is something that you will have to do on purpose. You are not going to accidentally find a few moments to do so. Make it a part of your every day schedule. Don't let anything rob you of your time with the Creator of the universe!
When I awoke this morning, I went into our spare bed room and sat still. While in there I began to listen to the birds singing outside the window. My mind jumped to Togo, Africa. As if I was there again, I remember stepping out on the porch where we were staying and hearing the quiet noises of birds in the trees and animals off in the distance. As I jogged around the "neighborhood", I saw mothers cooking for their little children and the little children staring at the strange, tall, white man running up and down the street. It was amazing, because I realized that in the quietness of that African village the same God that I served at home was God there as well!
May you be still and know without any doubt that He is God today!
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
What do you think about the old saying, "It is not WHAT you know but WHO you know that really matters"? Maybe you have found this to be true at some point in your life. Many times it is said and implied with a negative connotation. Individuals with incredible knowledge in their profession have been overlooked because a less qualified person was friends with the ones doing the hiring. An athlete may not get to play as many minutes during a game because another person on the team is a favorite of the coach. There are many negative scenarios that we could discuss, but let's turn it around and see the positive one from Scripture.
One of the privileges that I have as a minister of the Gospel is the responsibility and opportunity to study the Word so much. I truly am in awe each week as I prepare for lessons and messages and find the richness of the Bible to be overwhelming time and time again. As I prepared for a message last Wednesday evening, a particular principle in the Word seemed to leap off the pages directly into my heart and mind. It has stuck with me, and each day for the past week I have meditated upon it. We as a church are studying through the Secrets to the Abundant Christian Life from John 15. This past week the message was entitled "The Secret to Loving Is Knowing". Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them because the world hated Him. One of the reasons, if not the main reason, the world hates Jesus is because they do not know the Father (John 15:21). As I studied this, related Scriptures began to flow through my mind. For instance, Jesus told His disciples in John 14 that if they believed in God they should believe Him. You cannot believe in the Father and not believe in the Son. They are one and the same. Many in our world want to say that they believe in God, but do not accept Jesus as Lord. That mentality is incompatible with Scripture and the will of God. You cannot separate the two.
However, the thought that has stuck with me this week is from relating the two Scriptures above. Paul's great desire was to know God. It was not to know simply that He existed, or that He was all He said He was. Paul wanted to personally experience Him, walk with Him, talk to Him, and live as He would have him live. Paul desired an intimate relationship with Jesus. How much do you desire to intimately know Christ? How great is your desire to experience a knowledge of Christ like never before? Realize that if you enter into this intimate relationship there are the joys of knowing the power of His resurrection and also experiencing the fellowship of His sufferings. It is this first step that we must take.
In my study I then focused on the word KNOW in the passage, and the Holy Spirit brought to my mind that famous passage of Romans 8. During great trials we have spoken out loud these words. We have used them to help comfort and to help understand. We have tried to draw a conclusion from the passage that everything is going to be all right. May I get you to look at this passage with the other related to it? How do we KNOW that all things are going to work together for good? What is it that gives us such assurance? I have come to the conclusion that only as we KNOW Christ more intimately will we have the understanding to KNOW that all things are working together for His good and His glory. You will never be able to figure out why certain things happen in your life. You will never have an answer to your every question of "Why?" in your life. However, if you get to KNOW Christ more, you will be able to KNOW that He is going to bring all the circumstances of life together so that He will show Himself strong in your life. So obviously, what matters is not WHAT you KNOW but WHO you KNOW!
May you know Him today like never before!
Friday, June 4, 2010
Many people want success without having to pay the price for it. Today we revere the success of men like Thomas Edison who is famously known for inventing the light bulb. What we don't often realize is that he literally failed hundreds of times before he finally got it right. One of our greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, endured many disappointments before he finally reached the pinnacle of his career.
Most of us have a desire to be successful Christians and followers of Christ, and that is a tremendous pursuit. We have some heroes of the faith in front of us as examples that we aspire to follow. We see their success and their walk with the Lord, and we want to live like that. We want to know the apparent joy and seeming continual peace that they know. What we don't often realize is that there has been a life of walking with Christ that brought them to this point. They have put in the time and the effort, the prayers and the tears, and the study and the passion to get to where they are today. Many Christians want the success without the work and that is not the way life works at all. Our passage promises us prosperity and success, but you have to read, understand, and live out the first part of the passage to attain to the second.
The Word of God must be alive in your life. It is the truth that will sustain you from day to day. The first part of the verse is not a suggestion but a command. It "shall not" depart from you. There is no other option but to follow the Word of God. However, before we think that as long as we have it memorized and as long as we are reading it everything will be all right, read the next part of the verse. Meditation of the Word is a lost practice for many believers today. Meditation is studying the Word and then asking God to give us the wisdom to understand how that Word must be applied to our lives. Once we have meditated upon it and have a better understanding of it, well now it is time to go out and live it. Joshua was a man of action. He accepted God's Word for what it was and made every effort to apply it to his position of leadership and his personal walk. He understood the necessity of the Word. We want the Word to be a quick fix tool. The Word was meant to be read, to be studied, to be meditated upon, and then to be practiced. Only after these things are in place will we have and experience true prosperity and success.
May the Word come alive to you today!
Thursday, June 3, 2010
As a father of four children I know how precious children are. I am so thankful to have each one of them in my life. I vividly remember the birth of each child. They are truly amazing. Whether you have children of your own or not, God has given almost all of us opportunities to be an influence in the lives of children. As parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, etc. we are able to instruct and guide children through the obstacle course of life. We need to see this opportunity as both a responsibility and a privilege.
Our passage compares children to arrows in the hand of a warrior. That is a very interesting analogy that I would like you to consider for just a moment. In a day when everything is mass produced, maybe we don't understand what an arrow meant to a warrior. We can go down to the sporting goods section and buy arrows. There are plenty of choices in different price ranges. Before we can understand the comparison of a child to an arrow, we have to step back into history. Consider a few things: 1) Each arrow that a warrior had in his quiver was painstakingly hand-crafted. There was no where that he could buy them at random. He had put in time and effort to make that arrow just as it was. A couple of things come to mind when I think of that. First, every child is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Yes, every child. God sees the value in each child, because He created that child with a special purpose. Second, we adults have the responsibility to hone that child to be all that they can be for God. We have been given the blessed privilege to nurture and instruct them in the ways of the Lord. 2) Because that warrior had hand-crafted that arrow, he would never just shoot it without making sure he knew where it was going. He also would if possible try to recover it after it was shot. Do you remember when Jonathan told David he needed to flee the kingdom? Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. After he did that, he had a young boy with him to retrieve the arrows. We cannot waste our chances and opportunities to love our children and rear them. They are each precious and must be treated as such. We will have to point them in the right direction and send them off into this world. There are also times that we have to go get them out of love and give them more guidance. 3) A warrior with a quiver full of arrows was happy. Why? The more arrows you had the more opportunities there were. It seems in our society today that some adults want to avoid children all together. We need to see our young people as God-given blessings in which we get to have a part. The more children that you can influence for Christ the greater the blessing from God you have received. So, every adult should look at our teenagers, pre-teens, elementary students, toddlers, and infants as arrows that God has given us to point in the right direction.
May God use you to shape the life of a young person today!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
"And the Lord said to Samuel, 'Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.'"
No one likes rejection. It is probably one of the most difficult feelings to deal with. Many have felt this sting from someone that they loved dearly. Children even feel this pain on the playground at school. It seems to be a fact of life, but it is a difficult fact to face. My wife will not be happy that I told you this, but I worked as a telemarketer while in college. (She says that she is not embarrassed about it for her sake; she is embarrassed for me.) My first job as a telemarketer came with American Express. They were offering the first card in their history that you could carry a balance from month to month, the Optima. My job was to call innocent people trying to enjoy the evening with their family and ask them if they would like to transfer the balances from their other credit cards to the Optima. I knew that most of them were sitting at home eagerly awaiting my call any way. If they agreed to do so, this strange man on the other end asked them for all of the information from their other credit card (card number, expiration, balance). I am sure that you know people desperately wanted to give that information over the phone. It was almost an impossible job. As a matter of fact, my point is that I learned rejection well. Our quota for a six (6) hour shift was one (1) transfer. Do you know how many calls you make in six hours? It was quite discouraging. The truth is our department had a high turn over rate, because many people could not deal with the constant rejection.
I think of this whenever someone begins talking to me about trying to reach someone that they love for Christ. You have witnessed to them over and over again. You have presented the good news of the Gospel to them in every way possible. You have pleaded with them, wept for them, and prayed for them. You have tried to convey to them how much you want to spend eternity with them. However, it is to no avail. They seem further away from coming to Christ today than ever. Now you feel like giving up. You are wasting your time. It is never going to happen. The truth is that you also feel personally rejected. They know you. They say they love you. How could they not recognize that you are giving them the chance of eternal life, the possibility of avoiding everlasting punishment? Do they think that you are trying to trick them into something bad? How can they do this to you? When you get to this place, stop and bring to your memory today's Scripture. Samuel felt the rejection of the nation of Israel very personally. God, however, told Samuel that it wasn't about him. Samuel was simply the prophet, the voice of God. Isn't that what you are? Samuel knew that if they came to the Lord they would experience true joy. Isn't that how you feel about your loved one? But, just like you, Samuel was rejected. He couldn't understand it. It seemed so spiritually logical. God spoke up and told Samuel, "They haven't rejected you. They have rejected me." What He was saying to Samuel is what He wants to say to you. "You have done your job. Keep on doing it to the best of your ability. I never called you to save your loved one. You cannot win them to Christ. They must obey My voice. They must turn to the Me and make me their personal Savior. Don't be weary in doing well. Don't faint. Don't get discouraged." I am reminded of what I heard Bill Faye, the author of "Share Jesus Without Fear", say in one of his seminars: "You do the best you can at sharing your faith but leave the results to Christ." Keep sharing. Keep loving. We may never know on this side of eternity the eternal impact that we have made for His kingdom.
May you live above the rejection and discouragement today!
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
"Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price;
Several years ago I was listening to a man that I highly respect preach a sermon. In that sermon he began to talk about how he exercises daily and how he eats as healthy as possible and in moderation. He went on to say that he purposely doesn't have any habits that are harmful to his body in the long term. I thought at first that he was just trying to make the rest of us feel guilty. However, he then shared that he had been diagnosed several years earlier with diabetes. It was a very severe case, and his doctor told him to either change his lifestyle or die at a very young age. As he shared his testimony, he told how he laid in bed one night and considered all the options. He began to think about his wife that lay sleeping next to him. He loved her with all of his heart and had vowed to be by her side as long as possible. He got up and went to the rooms of his children and tried to imagine what life would be like for them if he were no longer there. He spent the night thinking about the ministry that God had entrusted him with. Who would take up the cause if he were to die? That night he made a decision to completely give God his body. Everything from his diet, to exercise, to harmful habits were surrendered to the Lord. It has been almost twenty years since I heard this individual speak, and I know that today he is still alive and well while faithfully serving the Lord in the ministry.
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:13
As a tribute to those who have given all to defend our freedoms and the freedoms of others around the world, I just want to share part of a speech that was given by President Ronald Reagan at Normandy on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. He was addressing soldies that had survived that day.
"Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you."
Thank God for those who have fought for the freedoms that we too often take for granted. They have learned well from the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life so that we might know freedom from self and sin.