Monday, August 3, 2015

Nostalgia

"Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds." -- Psalm 77:10-12 
Nostalgia can be a mixed bag of memories. The good old days may bring pleasant thoughts for reflection. Then again, if the "good old" days were really that good, we might feel discouraged about the present "not so good" days. The best memories are those that restore faith and hope.
Such was the case for the psalmist.  As he said earlier, "When I was in distress, I sought the Lord". In the midst of discouraging circumstances, he took time to remember God's faithfulness and miracles of long ago. He knew that a God who never changes would be as quick to perform "mighty deeds" today as yesterday. This kind of reflection restored his faith and hope.
Nostalgia is a very good medicine when we remember the deeds of the Lord. Jeremiah said it best in Lamentations 3:23, "Great is your faithfulness". Since we have a Savior who is the "same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), we have every reason to be daily restored in faith and hope.    

Sunday, August 2, 2015

God Alone

"No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another." -- Psalm 75:6-7
Stars come and go without public elections or political power struggles. Our Solar System is just one member of a vast Milky Way galaxy with 200 to 400 billion stars. But how many galaxies are there in the entire Universe? A recent German supercomputer simulation put that number at 500 billion. Who determines the size or placement of one star or another? God alone is in control.
The Psalmist says in Psalm 147:4, "He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name." and we are told in Isaiah 40:26, "He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." Since God rules every corner of the universe, why should we find it hard to believe that he rules in the affairs of men? Just when men have deceived themselves into believing that they control their world, this truth knocks at the door, "But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another". God alone is in control.

John the Baptist said in John 3:27, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." Be wise my friend and look to the Lord for your promotion in life. Be assured as well, that though your world may seem to be in complete disarray, there is order in the universe. Trust in this great truth: God alone is in control.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Right Directions

"Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." -- Matthew 22:29
 Have you ever been lost in a city? You stop and ask someone for directions and they give you a rather nebulous response. A few blocks later you have to stop again. This time you have an interchange with two or three bystanders and the discussion becomes even more confusing. Oh for a map! (Quite often more dependable than any GPS)
The Scriptures are God's map for life. We can sit around and discuss many ideas about spiritual matters, but if we don't use the map, we will get lost. A good map not only shows the right roads to take, but also has the power to provide us the distance and time our trip will take. God's Word gives clear direction and his power brings possibilities into reality. 
Be careful when theological discussions move toward perplexity. The study of the Scriptures will always give insight and the power of God will always give confidence for the future. Don't stay lost in a labyrinth of spiritual confusion. Study the Scriptures and find the direction and power you need for the journey.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Religious or Relational?

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." -- Matthew 21:28-31
I had a friend some years ago that would argue to great lengths to explain why he wouldn't or couldn't do some task requested of him. It was a curiosity though, that on just about every occasion he came around and quietly did the work. On the other hand, there have been a vast number of committee members in every circle of my life that have failed to fulfill their assigned tasks. Which of the two were truly devoted?
Living for the Kingdom of God is far more than saying the right thing. Jesus pointed out that one needs to walk the talk, not just talk the walk. The walk does not provide entrance into the kingdom; it only verifies that one has been truly changed from within by the Spirit of God. Saying you've been changed and showing you've been changed are two different things. Which of the two are truly devoted?
You may have grown up in a church and may know the right lingo. But, has your heart been changed by Jesus? And if your heart is new in Christ, does your obedient walk evidence this fact? Some church goers have passive "religious" ties and some have active "relational" ties. Which of the two are truly devoted?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A little louder

"As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him." -- Matthew 20:29-34
When I was a little guy, the Ice Cream truck would come around our neighborhood every day during the summer. I would be given money to buy something, but I was told not to yell for the truck; I was to be polite and call out in a normal tone of voice. Needless to say, I missed out on ice cream more often than not. Sometimes you just have to speak a little louder.
Along with all the teachings our Lord gave about prayer, we find a perfect example on this occasion. Two blind men would not give up, nor would they tone it down. They wanted to see and Jesus was able to do the job. They shouted and the crowd was irritated, but the Lord had compassion. He honors those who pray without ceasing and give it all they have. Sometimes you just have to speak a little louder.
Has the ice cream truck passed you by too many times? Do you wonder if your prayer life is what is should be? Pray, and don't give up. Pray, and open you your heart to the full. Keep on asking, seeking and knocking; for the Lord will have compassion when the world would have you give up. Sometimes you just have to speak a little louder.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who will be first?

"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." -- Matthew 19:29-30
Over the recent years of economic troubles, stories of greed have been rampant. We read about officers of large companies that continue to receive rather large annual salaries.  In addition, they receive huge bonuses at year end, even though the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. When we ask if they have made great sacrifices and were worthy of such exorbitant remuneration, we are told, "No, but it's in the contract". Will these "first" of today still be "first" in eternity?
Jesus spoke the above words after a provoking exchange with a young man of great wealth who was unwilling to give it up to follow Jesus. The disciples were in question about the life that sacrifices all for the Lord. Does God ultimately honor those who honor him? Jesus made it clear that when we give up temporal pleasures for the kingdom, eternal pleasures will be ours in abundance. The "last" of today will be the "first" in eternity.
God is all about the bigger picture, are you? Wisdom should lead us to focus on eternity and willingly sacrifice for the kingdom of God. The wealth of today will soon be gone, or certainly be left behind as we move on to our eternal future. Though you may be considered "last" in this life, when you follow Jesus with all your heart, you will be "first" in heaven.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

True Wealth

"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." -- Psalm 73:23-26 
How many people languish over the wealth and success of others? They live in a world of "shoulda, coulda, woulda". Envy floods their hearts when they see the lifestyle of the rich and famous and they wonder where they went wrong. Yet, in the face of eternity, all the wealth and success in life will never amount to anything. The greatest eternal value is being personally held in the right hand of God.
This psalm comes from a struggling soul who had great difficulty dealing with the abundance of the wicked. Why live righteously and have nothing to show for such a choice? But, when he looked within the sanctuary and within his soul, the truth came to light. The psalmist was wealthier than any one on earth, since the Lord was his "portion forever".
What drives your life my friend? What do you define as success and what do you value the most? "Stuff" will come and go throughout the years, but when you walk with the Lord, he holds you by his right hand. Step back and take inventory. What is your most precious possession? When the Lord is your portion, earth will have nothing you desire besides him, for he is the strength of your heart. With the Lord, you have wealth and success beyond imagination!