Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wisdom from Heaven

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." -- James 3:17-18
I have attended more board meetings than I can count. There have been church boards, associational boards, library boards and consultation boards. Each board has had a different personality and focus. And, time and again there would be some dear soul that believed they were wiser than any other. Their wisdom was to be accepted or there would be tension and stress beyond belief. Wisdom it might have been, but it wasn't from heaven.
The beauty of God given wisdom is the way it is expressed. Godly wisdom is given in a merciful, considerate and submissive manner. There is no partiality and peaceful results are sincerely sought. Wisdom of the natural man seeks praise and honor for the great insight that has been offered. If their counsel is rejected or altered, trouble comes and peace goes out the window. Only heavenly wisdom can raise a harvest of righteousness.
Before you enter the next meeting my friend, seek the wisdom that comes from heaven. You will know it comes from God when you are more concerned about others and a peaceful conclusion than your own ideas. The difference between a peacemaker and a peace-breaker depends on the kind of wisdom you choose.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Love them like Jesus

"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." - James 2:8-10 
Herb was a businessman who attended our church many years ago. Over time, his life fell apart and he became homeless, unkempt, with an unpleasant smell. In the colder months Herb used to stop by the church to get warm and have a bite to eat when we would have a church supper. I am thankful when some of our church family would talk with him and invite him in for a meal. But it saddened me when other believers would avoid him at any cost. How can we love one another and not love Herb?
James called us to a deeper level of compassion when he challenged our "Love Capacity". It's easy to love those who love us back and those who are lovable. Such are the people we choose to show that extra interest and care. But, if we are going to be consistent in our obedience to the second greatest commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39), we must take time to love the Herbs of our world.
Today you will meet someone. They will not win your attention or your desire to show compassion. They may offend you by their conduct and attire. How will you choose to treat them, my friend? Will you avoid them in the name of inconvenience or will "Love them like Jesus"?

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Tight Rein

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." - James 1:26
What a time for speaking carelessly. The social media, which includes everything from Facebook to Twitter, reaches the whole world with every small comment. Some people are losing lifelong friendships and even lucrative careers over thoughtless remarks made in cyberspace. Conclusion? It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.
James makes the quality of thoughtful speech a significant characteristic for the believer. We can do all the right things and teach others with great insight, but with just one wrong word we can irreparably offend someone. Many a Christian testimony has been lost over a few thoughtless words. As James said earlier in verse 19, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak". It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.
By the grace of God, there have been many thoughts that have come to mind that I refused to verbalize. I would encourage you to do the same, my friend. We may have "Freedom of Speech", but it's not freedom to offend. The treasures of friendship, peace, harmony and unity are far more valuable than words can say. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 25:11, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." and in Proverbs 17:28 "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Sacrifice of Praise

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." - Hebrews 13:15-16
The "Prosperity Gospel" has been popular for quite some time. Our generation has been quite taken with what they can get from God in riches. We come to worship and pray when we want something from God. The thought of bringing sacrifices to Him or giving generously to others is quite foreign to this self-centered theology. But what is it that truly pleases God?
We may be careful to choose a church that teaches the true gospel, but do we worship and serve in the spirit of that gospel? God is most honored in worship when we offer "a sacrifice of praise" and He is most pleased when we "do good and share with others". John put it this way in 1 John 3:16, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." The right response to the gospel is giving, not about getting.
So, what are you planning for this Lord's Day? How will you worship the Lord this morning? Will you arrive with your heart focused on Him and lifting up all that you are to praise him? Will you in turn give to others this week and share God's blessings with them as unto the Lord? For "... with such sacrifices God is pleased"  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Missing the sweetness?

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." - Hebrews 12:15
 We often have a lot of fruit in the house. When it first arrives it is sweet to the taste and healthy for the body. As time passes we fail to eat it all and it  starts to spoil. The taste changes from good to bitter. We missed the opportunity to enjoy the sweetness.
Living with trials and struggles brings about the same process. In the midst of troubles, God avails himself to give us the sweet taste of his Grace. (Hebrews 4:16) When we choose to ignore this opportunity, we miss his grace and a bitter root grows up. We start to complain and eventually cause trouble for others. The sweetness is gone and we've started to rot and taste bad to others.
Have you missed the grace of God lately? Did you ignore the need for his grace when you were offended, tried or pressured by change? Are you now living with the results of a bitter root? Are others finding your presence to be a bad taste? Here is a word to wise, don't miss the opportunity to be sweet to the taste... "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

PS ~ For all our friends... today is a sweet day indeed! Our Joel is marrying his best friend Arrianna... Sweethearts for life!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Untold Benefits

"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." - Hebrews 11:24-26
Our journey through life is full of choices. Every choice we make will determine our future to one degree or another. We are most alarmed when a bad choice can never be reversed or rectified. But it is most encouraging when a good choice reaps untold benefits for years to come.
Moses made a choice early in life. He calculated the limited value of earthly wealth to be a poor choice. A far better choice was the lasting reward given to those who chose to stand with the Lord. While the temporal cost was mistreatment and loss of treasures, to follow the Lord was a good choice that reaped benefits eternally.
Today and tomorrow will call for many choices my friend. May you seek wisdom and carefully calculate what are "fleeting pleasures" in contrast to eternal treasures. Remember that bad choices are most often irreversible, while good choices reap untold benefits for years to come.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Looking ahead

"If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." - Hebrews 11:15-16
The puritan pilgrims arrived on the shores of America with a longing in their hearts. The days ahead were brutal and demanded great sacrifice. Eventually, opportunities came for a return to England, but they were focused on a better future in a new land. More significantly, they were looking and preparing for a heavenly country.
Whether it is the patriarchs of the Bible, the puritan pilgrims of the seventeenth century or the new believers of 2010, the dynamics are always the same. If we are still too tied to the old ways of the world, we can always return. But, devoted believers have left the past behind for good, with no desire to return. They are focused on the future, preparing for eternity every day.
Search your heart my friend. What is your longing? Are you so deeply rooted in this world that you rarely think about heavenly things? Are you so satisfied with the present material possessions that you have no longing for a heavenly country? Remember, God's children are those who have "admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (verse 13) and their "... citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). God is never ashamed of those who are looking for the city that he has prepared for them!