"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit... snatch others from the fire and save them..." -- Jude 20, 23
Saturday, December 31, 2011
When the house goes up in flames and fire-fighters arrive, you hope they are in good shape. If someone is caught in the house and needs to be rescued, you hope the rescue team is skilled and well trained. People's lives depend on those who are always ready to save the day. The best fire-fighter is a prepared fire-fighter.
In the face of eternity there are souls in danger of fire every day. They need someone who is well trained to "snatch' them from the flames. But too many believers have allowed the "good life" to eat up their time and energy. When the alarm rings they aren't ready to help. The best fire-snatcher is a prepared fire-snatcher.
The emphasis of verse 20 is to build oneself in the faith. If you hope to snatch others from the flames, you need to be skilled and trained. Are you spending time every day in the Word of God and in Spirit led prayer? Do you practice these disciplines so that you're always ready? Remember, the best fire-snatcher is a prepared fire-snatcher.
Friday, December 30, 2011
"This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." -- 1 John 5:3-5
The simplicity of a child's devotion is a wonder. They love their parents with all their heart and trust them implicitly. Because of this relationship they will obey at times when others might question. The process is very basic, but is soon lost as they mature. Adults have great difficulty trusting and obeying. The missing element may just be love.
So it is with our walk with God. Simplicity may be fine for children, but as adults we question and doubt far too much. Some believe that the Lord's commands are "burdensome" while others believe that victory is impossible. While faith is critical, the real issue is the focus of our faith. The one we trust and obey can only be the one we love.
Who loves you my friend? And who do you love with all you obedience and faith? Your relationship with the Lord is far more than just trusting and obeying. It is a confidence in God's love for you and your desire to respond with a life of love. As John already said in chapter four, verse sixteen, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us."
Thursday, December 29, 2011
"We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." -- 1 John 4:19-21
"What the World Needs Now Is Love", a song written by Hal David with music by Burt Bacharach was released on April 15, 1965. Being quite well received, it reached number 7 on the US charts in May of that year. Yet, within the next seven years 58,193 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam, and both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated in 1968 followed by riots in 60 American cities. Why is love so elusive?
The children of God have the only hope for real and lasting love. How do I know this you may ask? The above passage says it emphatically, "We love because he first loved us." By the very transforming work of the Holy Spirit love for one another becomes a reality. On this basis we are commanded to love our brothers as we love God. For the believer, love should never be elusive.
Anger, bitterness, hatred and bigotry have marked our world throughout history. In truth, "What the World Needs Now Is Love". And you, my friend, may be the only genuine evidence of God's transforming love in your workplace, family or school. Let the world know that love doesn't need to be elusive.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." -- 1 John 3:2-3
Our home is always orderly and clean. But when guests are coming for dinner, or even if family is coming for a few days, my dear wife works like crazy to spruce up the place. She vacuums, dusts, brings out the best dishes and stocks the kitchen with good food to eat. She hopes that our visitors will enjoy their stay and be pleased that they came.
John reminds us that we are children of God and the best days are ahead. He tells us that a day is coming when the Lord will return and we shall see him face to face. Furthermore, if we have this hope as a driving force in our hearts, we will get ready. We will "clean house" to purify ourselves just as Jesus is pure. We will want the Lord to be pleased when he arrives.
Take time on a regular basis to do an inventory my friend. How does your house look today? If the Lord returned this afternoon, would he find things in good order and a purified life? Maybe today would be a good time to get out the vacuum cleaner and dust cloth and "clean house". I'm sure that you would want the Lord to be pleased when he arrives?
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
"And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming." -- 1 John 2:28
When I was in elementary school my Mom would have quite a time getting me to do my homework. She would set me down at a desk and give me time to finish the job, but when she would return, there was no progress. I had day-dreamed and wasted time, and the work wasn't completed. No matter how bad I felt, it never changed the fact that I just wasn't ready.
Procrastination is a very real problem and spiritual procrastination is an even greater one. If the believer puts off walking in the truth and growing in grace until another time, the day will come when there is no more time. Jesus will return and we will have nothing for which to be confident. No matter how bad we may feel, it will never change the fact that we just weren't ready.
John wrote this letter to believers. He knew that they fight a spiritual battle with sins that easily get the better of them. But if we confess our sins moment by moment and walk in the Spirit, there will always be confidence at the Lord's return. Don't procrastinate, "continue in him" my friend and you'll always be ready.
Monday, December 26, 2011
"First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." - 2 Peter 3:3-7
Not long ago we were told that the remains of Noah's Ark had been discovered 13,000 feet up a Turkish mountain -- such was the claim of a group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers. From the first announcement, scoffers came out of the woodwork. The comments range from the flood being nothing more than a myth to the whole discovery concept being a "crock". The world is filled with more man-made theories and less belief in God than ever before.
Peter wrote about our days prophetically and spoke of those who would "deliberately forget". He reminded us that God has intervened in his world with past judgment and one day he will do so again. By the Word of the Lord, destruction will come upon scoffers and unbelievers who choose to forget God.
Christian friend, don't be troubled by scoffers and critics that deny the Lord and his marvelous works. Remember that God's timing is not ours, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." (verse 8) Just stay focused on your own walk with God in this godless world and consider, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." (verses 11-12)
Sunday, December 25, 2011
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you"... "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." - 1 Peter 5:10 and 2 Peter 1:3-4
Today is Christmas and many throughout the world are celebrating with great joy and rich blessings. But there a greater number who have very little temporal reason to celebrate. They may be without homes, jobs, families or health. Their suffering overwhelms them at a time when happiness and fulfillment warms the hearts of others. Is there really any Christmas hope?
The believers of Peter's time suffered a great deal. They often lost homes, jobs, families and health because of their faith in Jesus. Days of temporal joy and blessings were few and far between. How did the Christian faith survive in such circumstances? The knowledge that "the God of all grace" would "restore, confirm, strengthen and establish" them kept the fire burning in their hearts. The fact that He granted to them "His precious and very great promises" filled their hearts to overflowing. They celebrated a very real Christmas hope.As you reflect on the manger today my friend, I pray that you will find rest in "the God of all grace" whose "divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness". You may not have the abundance of temporal wealth that others rejoice in, but you have "eternal glory in Christ". You know that the story isn't over and in the end the Lord will establish you, and that is real Christmas hope. Have a blessed Christmas my friend.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Martin Luther said he had only two days on his calendar - today and "that day". The end was always on his mind. As a result, Luther was man of intense prayer, spending his best three hours a day in prayer. As the future pressed upon him, he prayed."The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. " - 1 Peter 4:7
Peter wrote to a community of believers that were under constant persecution. Harassed on every side, Peter called their attention to the Lord's return and their need to be clear minded and self-controlled so they could pray. The best way to handle the present and the future is to pray.
While we celebrate during the Christmas season, let us remember that the end of all things is nearer than ever my friend. Shall we spend our hours in frivolous pursuits or invest them in that which is eternal? If our days on this earth are coming to an end sooner than later, let us make the best use of the time that we have... let us pray.
Friday, December 23, 2011
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." - 1 Peter 3:15-16
During the 90's we would occasionally watch a political talk show called "The Capital Gang". My son, who was quite young at the time, would ask why the guys kept yelling at each other. He concluded that they were angry and to a young mind, that just didn't make sense. Belief and conviction is good, but it is best communicated with gentleness and respect.
Many Christians are quick to quote the above passage up to the word "But". They are armed to the hilt and ready for battle whenever questioned about their faith. Peter called believers to always be ready with an answer for their hope, "but" with gentleness and respect. It's not just what we speak that brings truth to light, but how we speak. Belief and conviction is good, but it is best communicated with gentleness and respect.
Always be well prepared with Biblical truth in the face of error my friend. But may truth come with love. Love the lost as Jesus did. Answer their queries with the grace that has changed your life as well. Be someone with a clear and concise conviction, but communicate it with gentleness and respect.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." - 1 Peter 2:21-23
A couple of years ago we showed a "Voice of the Martyrs" video to our young people. A group of teenagers were on a V.O.M. visit to Vietnam and were asking a Christian leader if he felt anger when the authorities would often tear up his ministry center. He responded without ill feeling, that he was committed to reach his world for Christ, no matter how much opposition came his way. He entrusted himself to the Lord.
Persecution of any kind will bear witness to genuine faith and real discipleship. The fully surrendered Christian knows that there will be suffering for their faith. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". Jesus is our example in this matter, as he suffered without retaliation or threats. He entrusted himself to the divine provision and purpose.
My brethren, we're in a battle led by the Captain of our salvation. We will be persecuted and oppressed at every point. Some of us will suffer great loss and others will suffer humiliation, but commit your way to the Lord. As David wrote in Psalm 37:5-6, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." Stay the course my friend, and entrust yourself to the Lord.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you." - 1 Peter 1:23-25
These days cause me to be acutely aware that "All men are like grass". MacArthur Arbado, an elder at the Bible Baptist Church in Carmen, Cotabato, Philippines was murdered on November 10 as he returned to his farm; Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been held in a Iranian prison since 2009, and is now facing a possible death sentence; On November 13 a gang of men attacked leaders from the Agape Baptist Church who were participating in a spiritual renewal meeting near Hanoi, Vietnam. One pastor was left unconscious for hours after the attack, and several others were seriously injured. Yet, in all of this they testify of being secure and at rest in their imperishable life with God.
Peter wrote to fellow believers at a time when they suffered great persecution for being Christians. Their faith was severely tried, but they were encouraged by Peter to stay focused on their eternal and enduring inheritance in heaven. Persecution and even the daily struggles of life can be more than discouraging. But when we live each day, looking for the coming of our Lord, we find our hope in him and are encouraged to press on in faith.
Being persecuted for our faith and suffering loss of jobs, homes, freedoms and even loved ones will certainly take its toll. But we can find strength and courage my friend, in the one who has given us his enduring word and everlasting life. Remember the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
"He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." - Luke 24:44-45
A few years ago I purchased a set of CDs that promised to open a whole new world of a foreign language. These CDs were supposed to be the key that would bring instant understanding with very little effort. Well, after some time I disposed of them because I couldn't find the promised "key" to instant understanding.
As Jesus shared with the disciples, he didn't offer them a set of CDs or any other academic program. He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. As a result, over time we read, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13) Jesus is the "key" to instant understanding.
Don't be afraid to open the pages of your Bible. Pray for understanding and read on. The Lord will give what you need and each day you will find new insight from him. Take the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation and look for the Lord on every page and you will find the "key" to instant understanding.
Monday, December 19, 2011
"So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them." - Luke 24:28-29
"Stop in sometime!" These words are heard quite often, but do they express a genuine invitation? For some people who live quite casually, the answer is yes. But for most, such words are just a social nicety. In most cases we only stop in and visit when there is a sincere request for our presence. We need to know that we are really wanted.
This is quite an interesting moment as the Lord travels on the road to Emmaus. We are told that "He acted as if he were going farther". But those with whom He conversed "urged Him strongly" to stay with them. They were quite serious about their invitation and the Lord responded accordingly, "So He went in to stay with them". The Lord is no different than we are in this matter; He needs to know that He is really wanted.
Each day brings a new opportunity for close fellowship with the Lord my friend. The question is, do you extend a sincere invitation and "urge Him strongly" to commune with your heart in the quiet hours? He said it best in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." He needs to know that He is really wanted.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
"Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”" - Luke 23:42-42
In 1969 I worked in a computer office with a system that filled the room. It was complex and huge. Today, there are dozens of handy touch-screen tablets, easy to use and small enough to carry anywhere. Technology has come a long way to simplify things for the end user. Religion on the other hand has complicated matters of the soul continually throughout the centuries. Getting to heaven has become a real complex trip.
In the last hour of our Lord's earthly life he encountered a repentant criminal. In this exchange we discover the truth about forgiveness and eternity. The simplicity of "touching" Christ with a heart of faith opened the world of heaven without complexity. As a result of trusting Jesus, this man was transported to glory that day, and not a moment later. Getting to heaven was a real simple trip.
Walking with God in this life and into the next life has always been quite simple. Adding to the picture just makes things more confusing and less achievable. Jesus said, the life of faith is easy to live and small enough to carry anywhere; "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30) and at the end of the journey... getting to heaven will be a real quick trip.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
"Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly." - Luke 22:60-62
When I was a little guy, life was pretty simple. I knew all was well, or not, by the look in my mother's eyes. If I was behaving as I should, her look was pleasant and assured me that all was well. But if I was getting into mischief, mom could look across a crowded room and I knew I was in trouble. I never wanted to see "the look".
On most days, Peter enjoyed pleasant looks from Jesus, as they walked and talked along the road. But this was not one of those days. Peter had been so sure of himself, and then he denied the Lord, not just once, but three times. Fear and doubt had gotten the best of him and he distanced himself from the Lord. But the distance was not enough to escape "the look".
I believe the look Peter received that day was one of disappointment. When we disobey the Lord, Paul says we grieve his Spirit. (Ephesians 4:30) Simply put, when we fail the Lord... we break his heart. As you turn to the Lord today, will you be met with a look that is pleasant and assures you that all is well? Or will you sense the Lord's disappointment as you're met with "the look"?
Friday, December 16, 2011
"A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves." - Luke 22:24-26
I know a young man that has a true servant's heart; it wasn't always that way though. When he was much younger he was determined to be first. He had to be first to the school bus, first on line for lunch and first for most everything else. To be first was a driving force in his little life. But today, the Lord has made him into a "leader... who serves".
This passage amazes me when I see the disciple's dispute in the face of the Lord's drama. Jesus was about to step out as the epitome of a "servant/leader" when He laid down His life for the sheep. The Master humbled Himself toward the cross while His disciples honored themselves toward a crown. Well, the crown is reserved only for the "leader... who serves"
When you give your heart to the Lord and yield your ambitions to Him my friend, great things will happen. You will become profitable for the Kingdom and pleasing in His sight. As one author put it, you will "descend into greatness". By the way, the young man I mentioned earlier is today a gracious Pastor who loves and serves his congregation with great humility. I know this because... he is my son Jeremy, a "leader... who serves".
Thursday, December 15, 2011
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” - Luke 21:34-36
I always had fun with my Dad. He was one of those guys that would let life so preoccupy him that he walked around in his own world. How could I pass up the opportunities to jump out of his closet or from behind a bush in the garden and scare the daylights out of him? Thankfully, he would just laugh it off and drift back into his world of thought. Dad was always unprepared for the unexpected.
The Lord will come for his Church and then after a time of world-wide judgment he will return to set up his kingdom. Both occasions will occur unexpectedly for most. When people become preoccupied with the pleasures and anxieties of life, they tend to drift into their own little world. Thoughts of the Lord's coming slip away and they're unprepared for the unexpected.
In truth, the Lord's return is expected. The time of his coming is unknown, therefore unexpected. Are you living in light of his return? Or have you allowed the pursuits of this life to lead you into your own little world? Even a believer can drift and be embarrassed when the Lord returns. "Be always on the watch" and pray for the daily strength to be prepared for the unexpected.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
"But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” - Luke 20:37-38
While speaking at a funeral service for a deceased deacon, the preacher wanted to emphasize the departure of the soul from the body. He said, "Only the shell remains, but the nut is gone". He meant one thing, but said something else as well. Life after death is a timeless truth found throughout the Bible. It is stated overtly by Jesus and subtly by Moses, but either way, to God... all are alive.
There will be a resurrection and Jesus spoke of this coming event regularly. Some have said that this doctrine is strictly found in the New Testament. But what we find in this passage is a clear reference by Jesus to the Old Testament belief in this truth. Moses meant one thing, but he said something else as well. We believe in the God of the living, and to him... all are alive.
There are two thoughts to consider today. Every soul will exist eternally. The question is; will you live eternally in heaven with Jesus, or will you live eternally in hell alone? The choice is yours to make, but only in this life. The second thought concerns your loved one who knew the Lord and has stepped into eternity ahead of you. You may be assured and comforted in the words of Paul in Philippians 1:23, "I desire to depart and be with Christ". Yes, they are with the Lord, because to him... all are alive.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it" - Luke 19:41
The Christmas season brings out the best and worst in all of us. Crowds and lines can be more frustrating than we can possibly bear. When you live in a metropolitan area as we do, the press of the city crowd can sap all the joy out of the season if you're not careful. But then, you take a moment and gaze at the faces and you're reminded that the crowd is just a lot of people... and people need the Lord.
Watch the Lord as he approaches the city of Jerusalem. While others were rejoicing and praising the Lord, Jesus saw the crowded city, and he wept over it. Think about the Lord of Glory, the Creator of the universe, the Ruler of nations, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords weeping over a city. In a city of rebellious and hard-hearted people who would hang him on a cross, Jesus saw lost people. If we will look at the crowds through the eyes of Jesus, we will see people and we too will weep because... people need the Lord.
Whether your community is small or large, it's filled with people. They are not there to make your life miserable; they are people in need, just like you. Pray that you might see the crowds through the eyes of compassion and love them like Jesus. -- Here's a song by Mike Otto to consider today:
"LOOKING THROUGH YOUR EYES"
"Let me see this world, dear Lord,
as though I were looking through your eyes.
A world of men who don't want you, Lord,
but a world for which you died.
Let me kneel with you in the garden.
Blur my eyes with tears of agony.
For if once, I could see this world the way you see,
I just know I'd serve you more faithfully".
Let me see this world, dear Lord,
through Your eyes when men mock your Holy Name.
When they beat You and spat upon You, Lord,
Let me love them as You loved them just the same.
Let me stand high above my petty problems,
And grieve for men, hell-bound eternally:
For if once I could see this world the way You see
I just know I'd serve you more faithfully.
Monday, December 12, 2011
"And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’" - Luke 19:17
We hear the phrase "entry level" time and again in the workplace. These are positions that usually test the metal of a new employee. If they prove to be dependable and productive in a lesser position greater opportunities will be offered them down the line. The simple truth is; you have to start somewhere, and it certainly is not at the top.
Just as lifetime careers begin with "entry level" jobs, so does the Kingdom work of King Jesus. He entrusts us with "very little" and steps back to observe. The Lord looks for those who have servant hearts and serve faithfully. To such dependable Kingdom workers will be greater responsibility. In the face of eternity, this life is an "entry level" job.
How is it going in your "little" task for the Lord my friend? Is He finding you to be a faithful servant, staying the course whatever the cost? Remember; as a child of God you are just preparing for eternity and the job you are fulfilling today will determine the responsibility for tomorrow. Don't be discouraged in your "entry level" roll. Be true to your calling and greater opportunities will come your way.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up... Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”... Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”" - Luke 18:1, 39, 42
Have you ever been turned away by a restaurant hostess because you didn't have a reservation? It can be embarrassing when you made plans and expected to be seated. It's even more embarrassing when someone without reservations harasses the hostess to be seated. People are unsettled and just want the trouble makers to leave. But what if you know the owner and he has invited you to his restaurant? Dinner is served!
At the outset of this chapter Jesus taught the disciples to pray and not give up. Toward the end of the passage we find just such a man who prayed and would not give up. Yet, people felt unsettled and they just wanted the trouble maker to be quiet. The blind man still showed persistent faith and he was blessed with healing. He bypassed the hostess and came to the owner and dinner was served!
Jesus taught us to pray without ceasing and as we do, he welcomes our faith. Remember, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (vs. 27) Don't be turned away by those who have weak faith and doubting hearts. Since you know the owner and you have been invited, just ask... and dinner is served!
Saturday, December 10, 2011
"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”" - Luke 17:15-18
How long will you wait for thank-you notes from the dear friends who will be blessed with your Christmas gifts. Hopefully they will arrive before Easter, after all, you just got a thank-you note yesterday for the wedding gift you gave last May. What's so hard about saying thank you for the many blessings we receive in life? On a scale of one to ten, very few ever get a "ten".
Jesus was disappointed when only one out of ten returned to give praise to God for their healing. Furthermore, the one who returned wasn't even taught in the Scriptures; he was a Samaritan! It doesn't take a wealth of Bible knowledge to know how to say thanks to God for his goodness. As the years have passed, the Church has fine tuned worship and praise services. Certainly more than one out of ten will return to give thanks to God today, but sadly... very few ever get a "ten".
Has God blessed you this week with his goodness? Have you received his provision for your daily needs? Were your prayers answered for healing, for a job or money to pay a bill? Will you be in church tomorrow morning with your thank-you note? The question is... will you be number "ten"?
Friday, December 9, 2011
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” - Luke 16:13
Sometime after Bob Dylan professed faith in Christ he wrote "Gotta Serve Somebody" and won a Grammy in 1980 as a result. The chorus is as follows:
"But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody."
Dylan seemed to understand the timeless truth that we will serve someone throughout our lives. Furthermore, he saw the matter in one basic concept: "...it may be the devil or it may be the Lord". But whichever one you choose, you only have one heart to give.
Jesus made it clear: you have to choose. You can't serve more than one master at a time. In addition, when you serve one, your attitude toward the other is embittered. If you choose to serve money and temporal gain, you will despise God and eternal values. This sheds great light on our drift from the Lord when we prioritize our wealth because... you only have one heart to give.
Who will you serve today? Who will receive your undying devotion? Will you choose the Lord and serve him with all your heart, soul and mind my friend? Or will you serve the devil for the love of money? Remember... you only have one heart to give.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
" 'But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” - Luke 15:32
Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, retirements... and the list of reasons to celebrate can continue. We are ready to celebrate over almost anything that comes along. Our family will celebrate the day before, on the day and the day after, just to be certain that we did it right. Over time we just celebrate to celebrate and the reasons grow less and less. Have we lost the sense of what's really important and worthy of celebration? In the words of a recent film Hitch, "Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it's the moments that take your breath away."
Jesus tells a story that contrasts all the achievements and values of life with one great moment. That moment is the redemption of a lost soul. The father doesn't give a stern reproof or wisdom for future temptations on that day. He rejoices and leads the entire family in a huge time of celebration. His son was dead and is alive again. Every time I read "...he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him" (vs. 20), I am deeply moved. You see, the return of a soul to our Heavenly Father is worth celebrating because... it's a moment that takes your breath away!
The question I have for you my friend is: what have you celebrated of spiritual worth lately? When that little child or older neighbor trusted Christ last month, did you celebrate their new birth? Do we teach our children that moments of spiritual change and growth are tremendous occasions of joy? Consider a father, filled with compassion, embracing his wayward son, and remember... "Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it's the moments that take your breath away."
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
"In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." - Luke 14:33
Olympic swimmers wear very little when they compete. Their swim suits are designed for speed and competitive edge. They even wear caps to prevent their hair from hindering their progress in the water. They dress with one purpose in mind, to win.
The words found in the latter part of Luke 14 are hard and demanding for anyone who would be a disciple of Christ. Yet, the Lord's concern for those who follow him is to set aside anything that holds them back spiritually. The spiritual life is a demanding race for Christian disciples, and Jesus has one purpose in mind, to win.
Will you read this passage today with an open heart and mind? Will you take inventory of your life in light of Christ's demands? What's holding you back in the spiritual race today? As a disciple of Jesus "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1) Take your spiritual life seriously and have one purpose in mind, to win.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
"Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”" - Luke 13:14
"Revival Here - Every Friday Night"! When you've seen such signs, what comes to mind? Do we really think the God of all creation will ever be tied to our schedules? We look for the Lord to do great things, but only on certain days and in specific ways. What makes us believe that God can be put in a box? God works miracles every day, not just Fridays... his way, not ours.
This synagogue ruler was driven by a misguided commitment to God's Sabbatical commandment. He was a strong believer in man-made additions to the Word of God. As a result, his expectations of God were terribly limited. He concluded that God would only do the miraculous six days a week. The irony of the story comes when this man sees a mighty, supernatural work of God before his very eyes, but is unmoved. By putting God in a box, he lost sight of the fact that God works miracles every day, not just six... his way, not ours.
Is your life so tightly scheduled that God has been given an appointment? In contrast to this synagogue ruler, do you expect revival only on Sundays? Will you allow God to do great things in your life, anytime and in any way? Look to Jesus today my friend; he's doing great and mighty things, because he works miracles every day, not just Sundays... his way, not ours.
Monday, December 5, 2011
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!" - Luke 12:25-28
Over the years I have been put to sleep during minor surgical procedures. Prior to these events I would have various thoughts about the process as well as the outcome. Will everything go alright? Will they discover anything serious? The next day I realized that all my concern amounted to nothing and was of no help to physician. I probably should have been put to sleep long before the surgery so I wouldn't worry. Just as the surgeon can do his best when we rest in his hands, the Lord does his best when we rest in him.
Occasionally Jesus shows us the silliness of our ways. How silly to worry about anything. Worry has never added or subtracted from the events of life. God is in control and he cares for his own with great precision and compassion. As the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 147:11, "the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love". God's "unfailing love" is his spiritual anesthesia for us in the midst of life's surgeries. When you know his love you will rest in him.
Lay your heart on the pillow of God's love today and let him do what he does best. When the anxiety rises within, remember how much more the Lord cares for you than the lilies and rest in him.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.” - Luke 11:33-36
One year we traveled north for the holidays, through a heavy snow storm. Since our trip was made at night, every now and then we had to stop to clean the snow and ice off the headlights. Within a few miles the lights were once again reduced to a very dim condition. We had power and we had bulbs but we had little light.
In the same way, when we travel through the storms of life we need good eyes. We need eyes that provide the body with light so we can shine in the darkness and not be filled with darkness. The light of Jesus brings us all the light we could ever need. The more we learn from the Lord the more light shines within. But, while we can have the availability of light, if we don't focus our eyes on Jesus, we have little light.
Simply put, the more time you spend with Jesus, the more light you will have. Do you want to shine for the Lord my friend? Remember that you can only shine with the light that he gives. It's what you choose to read and watch that really makes your eyes good. If you take in too much "snow" your eyes and life will be dim. But if you take in the Word and things that are worthy, your eyes will be good. Your whole life will shine in the darkness for Jesus, because you have great light.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
"Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." - Luke 11:1
Someone has wisely said, "More is caught than taught". Over the years I have had some great teachers and professors. While their knowledge has been overwhelming, there were a select few that surpassed all the others. The difference is found in two words... expositor and example. One explains the truth and the other exemplifies the truth. Which one is most successful?
The Pharisees were expositors and explained the truth quite well. Jesus was far more than an expositor; He was a vivid example of life changing truth. The disciples knew that John taught his disciples to pray, but not until they observed Jesus praying did they request such knowledge. They wanted more than just a lesson about prayer, they wanted lives of prayer.
What kind of spiritual life do you lead my friend? Are you someone who explains truth or one who exemplifies truth? When others are with you, do they yearn to learn about Jesus or live like Jesus? Just about anyone can be an expositor, but only a few can be examples. Which will you choose to be today?
Friday, December 2, 2011
"But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” - Luke 10:41-42
According to the Mayo Clinic staff, "stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the culprit. Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior." Being "anxious and troubled about many things" is an age-old problem.
We have been told that our stress could be reduced if we would "stop and smell and the roses". This is good counsel to a point, but roses can only go so far in soothing the troubled soul. The bottom line is this: the greatest stress relief is found when we "spend a little time with Jesus". When we sit at His feet and listen to His teaching everything comes into perspective.
Having a "quiet time" every day is not just a commendable religious exercise. Just as the phrase suggests, it should be a "quiet time" at the feet of Jesus. How is your "quiet time" these days my friend? Do you regularly leave your anxiety and troubles with the Lord and take in His soothing and uplifting Words for each day? Take a lesson from Mary and choose "the good portion".
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
Thursday, December 1, 2011
"When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing." - Luke 9:10-11
Plans, plans, plans! Day by day we plan the hours to the minute. We live by tight schedules that will be the most productive and get the job done. Plans keep us focused, plans keep us busy, and plans bring us success. Sadly, too often plans become the goal, an end in and of themselves. The question is... "Do our plans allow room for the unplanned?"
Jesus planned to debrief the disciples and further mentor them alone, in a restful place. But the crowds came and he "welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God". Most often, the unplanned turns out to be people. Jesus always made time for the unplanned and welcomed the providential occasion with open arms. Because he loved people, "His plans allowed room for the unplanned".
What's your plan for today? Will you get it all done the way you want? Are you focused with the intensity of an Olympic athlete? Or are you prepared for the unexpected intrusion of people who need the Lord? Are you willing to make time for those who didn't make an appointment? The question is... "Do your plans allow room for the unplanned?"