Thursday, November 7, 2013

"For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined." - Titus 1:7-8 

Think about this: "Truth through Personality is our description of real preaching. The truth must come really through the person, not merely over his lips, not merely into his understanding and out through his pen. It must come through his character, his affections, his whole intellectual and moral being. It must come genuinely through him. I think that, granting equal intelligence and study, here is the great difference which we feel between two preachers of the Word." 
- Phillips Brooks, Lectures on Preaching

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." - 1 Timothy 4:7-8


Think about this: "A compass is narrow-minded—it always points to the magnetic north. It seems that is a very narrow view, but a compass is not broad-minded. If it were, all the ships at sea and all the planes in the air would be in danger. We must discipline ourselves, personally, to fight any deviation from the course Jesus set for us. We cannot be tolerant of any other course. To deviate is to sin."
             - Billy Graham

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." - 1 Timothy 1:15-16 


Think about this:  "Those are the best prepared for the greatest mercies that see themselves unworthy of the least."
                                                               - Thomas Watson

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. " - 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

Think about this:  "It is not only our duty to pray for others, but also to desire the prayers of others for ourselves."
                                                                                                  - William Gurnall        

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word." - 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 

Think about this: "A little from God is better than a great deal from men. What is from men is uncertain and is often lost and tumbled over and over by men; but what is from God is fixed as a nail in a sure place."
                  - John Bunyan

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring." - 2 Thessalonians 1:4

Think about this: Polycarp (69-155), one of the early church fathers, was put on trial because of his faith in Christ. When the Roman proconsul told him to deny his faith, Polycarp answered, "For 86 years I have served Him, and He has never wronged me. How can I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?"
The proconsul then threatened to cast him in with the wild beasts, but Polycarp answered, "Call them!" He was then warned that he might be burned at the stake. Even that failed to move him. He responded, "You threaten me with fire which burns for only a moment, but you are ignorant of the fire of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly."
These are Polycarp's final words: "O Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son, Jesus Christ! I bless Thee that Thou has counted me worthy of this day, and of this hour, to receive my portion in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of Christ."

Friday, October 25, 2013

"... give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. " - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Think about this: "It's only when we choose to give praise for the rough spots in life that we will begin to see them from God's perspective. If we don't give thanks in all things, we are living in unbelief, for we are assuming that our circumstances are not controlled by a God who loves us! " 
                                                                                                    - Erwin W. Lutzer

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." - 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Think about this:  "Bless God that there is in us resurrection life, and that there awaits us a resurrection morn!"
                                                                         - J. J. Bonar

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

  "For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord." - 1 Thessalonians 3:8 

 Think about this: "No teacher should strive to make men think as he thinks, but to lead them to the living Truth, to the Master himself, of whom alone they can learn anything."
- George Macdonald

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us." - 1 Thessalonians 2:8 

 Think about this: "For the early Christians, koinonia was not the frilly "fellowship" of church-sponsored, biweekly bowling parties. It was not tea, cookies, and sophisticated small talk in Fellowship Hall after the sermon. It was an almost unconditional sharing of their lives with the other members of Christ's body."
- Ronald J. Sider

Monday, October 21, 2013

"For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,  and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come."  - 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 

 Think about this: "Conversion is a deep work—a heart-work. It goes throughout the man, throughout the mind, throughout the members, throughout the entire life."
                                                                  - Joseph Alleine

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." - Colossians 4:5-6 


Think about this: "Jesus... wants us to see that the neighbor next door or the people sitting next to us on a plane or in a classroom are not interruptions to our schedule. They are there by divine appointment. Jesus wants us to see their needs, their loneliness, their longings, and he wants to give us the courage to reach out to them."
         - Rebecca Manley Pippert


Saturday, October 19, 2013

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." - Colossians 3:1-2  

Think about this: "A zealous man in religion is a man of one thing. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God."
                                                                            - J. C. Ryle

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." - Colossians 2:6


Think about this: "There is a difference between devotion to principles and devotion to a person. Hundreds of people today are devoting themselves to phases of truth, to causes. Jesus Christ never asks us to devote ourselves to a cause or a creed; he asks us to devote ourselves to him."
        - Oswald Chambers

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" - Colossians 1:9


Think about this: "Our duty is found in the revealed will of God in the Scriptures. Our trust must be in the sovereign will of God, as he works in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives for our good and for his glory."
                                                                     - Jerry Bridges

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Good Morning,

Due to a rotator cuff injury and upcoming surgery my blog posts will be on hold for a few weeks. Typing has become quite a challenge. I greatly encourage those who follow this blog and the Bible reading guide to stay on point with your reading and we will reconnect again soon.

Thank you for your kind support and faithful commitment to the Word of God,

In His Eternal Grip,

PJVS

PS - Yes, the Bible reading guide will be kept up to date... with a fairly regular quote from the ancients.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained." - Philippians 3:13-16
Our family Doctor has his own medical practice. I often wonder what it is that he practices. He updates his expertise quite regularly through various workshops and seminars, but what does he practice on me? Over time I have concluded that aside from the newest upcoming procedures, he takes what he has already learned and puts it into practice.
Paul was driven to grow in Christ. He wasn't satisfied to stay where he was spiritually. He pressed and strained toward greater goals for the Lord. But while he pursued new ground for Jesus, he was careful to live up to what he had already learned. Paul always put his gains into practice.
Are you living up to what you've learned today? Or are you occasionally preoccupied with new stuff and slip back from the basics? Don't ever lose sight of what you've already learned and be sure to put it into practice.

Think about this: "Practice is the soul of knowledge."
                                                    - Thomas Adams

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" - Philippians 2:14-15 
Whenever I plan to make a major purchase of electronics, appliances or a car, I spend hours reading product reviews. They are some help, but the complaints are often beyond belief. Given the opportunity, people will complain about the silliest things and expend incredible time and effort in the process. It's such a joy to meet someone who doesn't complain.
Paul wrote about the humility and sacrifice of our Savior in this chapter. He pointed us to Jesus as our example for selfless living. This kind of lifestyle will always produce people who face life without complaining and arguing. As a result our lives shine like stars in the world, with quality, purity, and contentment. People will listen to our witness because they see our consistent joy.
No one likes to be around complainers. Arguments turn people away. But we have been sent into the world to bring the light and joy of the Gospel. The next time you want to complain, consider the Lord's selfless sacrifice for us and find reason to rejoice. To win people to Christ, you often have to woo them first.

Think about this: "Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses."
- Alphonse Karr

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:4-6 
Throughout history, works of art have been left unfinished, for a wide variety of reasons. Some of these have, over time, become quite valuable as is, while others have little or no value. No matter the outcome, every artist begins their work with high expectations of finishing.
Paul was full of expectation as he prayed and worked for the Lord. He had great confidence that his labor would never be in vain. He knew that the Lord's work would certainly come to completion in those he had led to Christ. It is God alone who saves, sanctifies, and sustains us until the end. And God always finishes what he starts!
Are there times when you feel spiritually depleted and wonder if the Lord has given up on you? Did you begin your walk with God with great excitement, only to arrive at a place of confusion and doubt? Stop for a moment and remember... You are God's work and He always finishes what he starts! 

Think about this: "God watches and weeds us, and continues his labour upon us, till he brings us to the end of his promise."
                                                                 - Richard Sibbes

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." - Ephesians 6:19-20
Fear can be a crippling emotion. There are those who are afraid of dogs, snakes, spiders, crowds, darkness, heights and some are even afraid of peanut butter. Fear is no respecter of persons or things. The truth is if we don't overcome our fears, our fears will overcome us.
Paul, of all people, asked for prayer to be fearless. He was passionate for Christ and burned with desire to see others come to know his Savior. Yet, he sought prayer to "fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel". In light of mentioning this twice, one might conclude that Paul struggled with fear. Yet, for the sake of the gospel, he chose to overcome and be fearless.
You may be afraid of many things my friend, but never allow fear to hold you back from witnessing. Pray and enlist others to pray that you will be fearless, "...as you should". Rememberif you don't overcome fear, your fear will overcome you. Be an over comer and make the good news known to someone today.

Think about this: "Only he who can say, 'The Lord is the strength of my life' can say, 'Of whom shall I be afraid?'"
                                                                  - Alexander MacLaren

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Therefore do not be partners with them." - Ephesians 5:7
A number of years ago I had a friend who went into business with an unbeliever. They were partners. Over time the decisions of the unbeliever led the business into a federal investigation and brought the business to the brink of bankruptcy. My friend almost lost his house, car and family security. Partnership is a very serious matter.
When Paul wrote about immorality and greed he expected a complete break from such a lifestyle. He pointed to the empty life and final outcome of those who remain in this path. Furthermore, he gave clear counsel for believers to separate from those who live in this way. Because Paul knew that partnership was a very serious matter.
It has been said that believers are to live in contact with the world, but never in contract with them. This passage is a strong support for such counsel. Choose your partners wisely my friend. Be involved with those who will lift you up and not tear you down. An immoral and greedy partner will eventually bring you into spiritual bankruptcy. Be very careful, because partnership is a very serious matter.

Think about this: "The money, the pleasures, the daily business of the world are so many traps to catch souls."
                                                                        - J. C. Ryle

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29
One of the more common complaints about the recent political battles is the amount of abrasive and critical attacks made from both sides of the aisle. Rather than working together in more productive and positive ways for America, the time has been largely spent tearing the opponent down. The best way to win the hearts of others is to build people up with words of grace.
Over the last two millenniums since Paul wrote these words little has changed. People are more prone to make themselves look good by making others look bad. This is just the way we are without a renewed spirit and mind in the likeness of God. In contrast, the mark of a true believer is clear: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32) This is how we build others up with lives of grace.
Take an inventory this week my friend. Jot down the nature of every conversation you participate in during the next few days. Look especially for "build up" or "tear down" content in each encounter. I have no doubt that you will be surprised at the results. We need to be intentional to "put on the new self" and "build up" others on every occasion.

Think about this: "One of the first things that happens when a man is really filled with the Spirit is not that he speaks with tongues, but that he learns to hold the one tongue he already has."
                                                              - J. Sidlow Baxter

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." - Ephesians 4:2-3
I've been in a large boat as the engine roared with incredible force to cut through stormy waters. I have also been in a small canoe when one stroke of an oar would propel us a great distance in quiet waters. Life is much like maneuvering a ship; the more peaceful the waters, the smoother the ride,
Paul often addressed the subject of peace to believers. One might conclude that such a concern would be unnecessary for the children of God. Yet, the instructions were given in detail to be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. The Christian community should be a place where peaceful waters prevail, always providing a smooth ride.
Are you making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace? Do you treat others with humility, gentleness, patience and love? These are the ingredients that provide and sustain peaceful waters for a smooth ride. Stormy waters are never fun... so don't make waves!!

Think about this: "Our Lord has many weak children in his family, many dull pupils in his school, many raw soldiers in his army, many lame sheep in his flock. Yet he bears with them all, and casts none away. Happy is that Christian who has learned to do likewise with his brethren."
                                                                   - J. C. Ryle

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:14-19
Some time ago a missionary friend of mine let me take a close look at a bottle he brought home from Vietnam. The bottle was filled with wine and a coiled snake with a scorpion in its teeth. Yikes! I was more than happy to quickly return the unique conversation piece. The simple bottle took on a very distasteful aura from the fullness that was inside.
Paul prayed for the Ephesians to be "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Such filling would come from the Father's riches, being strengthened with the Spirit's power and knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.  As a result, the simple believer would take on a very tasteful aura from the fullness that was inside.
The day you came to Christ, the Spirit of God made his home in your heart. His desire has been to expel the snakes and scorpions of your past and fill you with his fullness. This process is a matter of daily growth. Will you pray Paul's prayer for yourself and other believers today? May it be the intentional effort of your life to have the very fullness of God inside?

Think about this: "God does not communicate things to us so much as he just is himself in us. We are the vessels, the containers, so that the first work after the new birth is to cultivate the habit of receptivity."
               - Norman Grubb

Monday, October 7, 2013

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." - Ephesians 2:1-2 
In 1998 Christopher Nolan directed a film entitled "Following". The plot tells the story of a young man who follows strangers throughout London for inspiration to write a novel. In time he is drawn into a criminal underworld as a result of following the wrong people. Following can be beneficial or it can be detrimental; it all depends on who you follow.
Paul referred to the life left behind in the passage above as one that "followed the ways of this world". Jesus called his disciples with the call, "Follow Me". In response, twelve men left the old world behind and followed the Lord in learning and serving. Their lives were dramatically changed for the better as they found someone worth following.
The most important question to ask when you rise in the morning is: "Who will I follow today?" Will we choose to slip back into "the ways of the world", or will we follow Jesus wherever he leads? The day can be a blessing or burden; it all depends on who you follow.

Think about this: "There is a time when we must firmly choose the course we will follow, or the relentless drift of events will make the decision."
           - Herbert V. Prochnow

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead..." - Ephesians 1:18-20
Whenever I shop for a new car I am intrigued with the reviews of consumers and experts alike that are so focused on power. I grew up in the age of muscle cars but today we are tremendously energy conscience. Yet, power is still the great desire of automobile owners. They're like Tim "The Tool-man" Taylor on "Home Improvement" who always wants "more power". The greatest disappointment comes when there is no more power.
As children of God we are blessed with an unusual phenomenon. We have "more power" than we will ever be able use in a hundred lifetimes. The greatest difficulty for believers is that we don't realize how much power we truly have in Christ. Paul prayed fervently that the Ephesian believers would know "his incomparably great power for us who believe..." For every believer, the greatest discovery comes when there is more power, and more power, and more power to live for Christ.
Have you ever given thought to the fact of God's power in your life? He has given you the power that he exerted at the resurrection of Christ. This being true, is there anything that you cannot do for Him? The answer is obviously no, but your effectiveness is linked to drawing on God's power every day for spiritual living. Just remember, "Ar, Ar, Ar"... you always have "more power".

Think about this: "God is not waiting to show us strong in his behalf, but himself strong in our behalf. That makes a lot of difference. He is not out to demonstrate what we can do but what he can do."
                                              - Vance Havner

Saturday, October 5, 2013

 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." - Galatians 6:14
Graduations have come and gone this year. Diplomas have been awarded and these highly educated and well prepared young people are looking for career opportunities. Their expectations are running high since they have been well trained. But, does having a diploma really make a person successful?
Paul brought everything in life down to the main thing - the cross of Christ. It's the cross that puts an end to our sinful past and opens the door for a bright future. It's the cross that breaks the chains of sinful habits and sets us free to live for Christ. It's the cross of Christ that makes it possible to live a successful life.
As someone has best said it, "Keep the main thing the main thing". Never leave this basic truth behind and never lose its power to change you day by day. Having that diploma is good, but starting each day at the foot of the cross is the real key to success. 

Think about this: "The cross is the center of the world's history. The incarnation of Christ and the crucifixion of our Lord are the pivot round which all the events of the ages revolve."
                                                      - Alexander MacLaren

Friday, October 4, 2013

"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." - Galatians 5:13-15
One of the interesting results of the Alcoholic Anonymous program is the support given to others after sobriety is achieved. Recovering alcoholics know that they need each other to make the journey in life. For years they were bound to a lifestyle from which they are now free. They use this new found freedom to serve others.
Paul spoke to the Galatians about a new life in Christ that set them free from the law and sin. They were now a transformed people who were called upon to love others as themselves. Any other lifestyle would be devastating. This expectation was a timeless truth found as early as the giving of the law. God knew the need for his people to lovingly serve one another. 
All too often my friend, the church of Jesus Christ is guilty of shooting its own wounded soldiers. We give way to selfish agendas and critical attitudes. As we cut each other apart we lose the battle and the blessing. We have been set free from such ways. Use your freedom to love your brothers unconditionally and help them up. Be a brother or sister who lovingly serves others today.

Think about this: "Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as if you do. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."
                     - C. S. Lewis

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus." - Galatians 4:13-14
It was due to family illness that I found myself back home on Long Island, preaching at a small church in Dix Hills in 1977. Those circumstances, difficult as they were, brought me together with a loving church family that invited me to be their pastor. I will always treasure those God appointed years as a great blessing. Troubling times are God's ways of achieving eternal purposes.
As Paul traveled far and wide with the gospel message, he reached some people and not others. God's plan was often clarified with such leading as in the Macedonian call, recorded in Acts 16:10. On other occasions Paul and his team were led by the prevailing winds of providential circumstances. For the Galatians, his ministry to them came about as a result of "a bodily ailment". Troubling times were God's ways of achieving eternal purposes.
Are you struggling through a series of hard times my friend? Is life full of illness, financial setbacks, or family trauma? Do you find yourself dealing with people and places that you never expected? Well, look for Divine connections or unique opportunities to be a blessing and share the Lord. Remember... troubling times are God's ways of achieving eternal purposes.

Think about this: "Christian people are generally at their best when they are in the furnace of affliction and being persecuted and tried."
                                                           - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." - Galatians 4:4-5
The words from Alice in Wonderland often come to mind in this busy world we live in: "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date." Too many people, on too many occasions are late for very important dates. As a result, we tend to lower our expectations and even believe that the Lord will be late for our very important needs. But God... is never late!
Paul noted that Jesus came to be our Savior at just the right time. He didn't come too early, or too late. God had a time table that ticked away with exact precision and when the time had fully come, God sent his Son. To this very day God is following his time table and will bring life and blessing to each one of his children on time. Our God... is never late!
Trusting the Lord involves the patience that lives within God's time table. We need to wait on Him with utmost confidence that he will accomplish his will and our best in his time. Solomon said it in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." Wait on the Lord my friend, for he is never late for a very important date!

Think about this: "God dwells in eternity, but time dwells in God. He has already lived all our tomorrows as he has lived all our yesterdays."
              - A. W. Tozer

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" - Galatians 3:3
The story is told of a traveler with a heavy backpack. Along his journey he was given a free bus ride, but he wouldn't take off his pack. When encouraged to do so he replied, "You've been kind enough to give me a ride, I couldn't expect you to carry the weight of my pack as well"... foolish logic, right? The principle is simple; if you're on the Bus, you're all on the Bus or you're not on the Bus at all.
Along the away, Paul grows quite impatient with the believers to whom he was writing. They began their walk with God in faith. The Spirit of God transformed their lives and secured their place in God's family. Yet, they were now misguided to believe that human effort was their resource for spiritual security and growth. Paul reminded them that the child of God begins, continues and ends his journey by faith alone. If you're on the Bus, you're all on the bus or you're not on the Bus at all.
My friend, your greatest frustration in the Christian life will be failure to walk by faith. When you lean on your own strength and human effort, rather than the Spirit of God, the way will be hard. Paul wrote in verse 14, "He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." If we begin by faith with the promised Spirit providing our greatest need, you can be sure He will provide for the rest of the journey. If you're on the Bus, you're all on the Bus or you're not on the Bus at all.

Think about this: "No more, my God, I boast no more Of all the duties I have done: I quit the hopes I held before, To trust the merits of thy Son."
                                                                   - Isaac Watts

Monday, September 30, 2013

"When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray." - Galatians 2:11-13
It has been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. There were times that I wanted to be just like my father and there have been times that my sons have wanted to be like me. From time to time, we are all influenced enough to imitate someone. But do we ever consider that we too are influencing others to the point of imitation? If we are imitated, are we leading others astray or into truth?
Paul was led to rebuke Peter to his face for hypocrisy. Peter's conduct was confusing and inconsistent with Biblical truth. While his personal practice was disturbing enough, the fact that others followed his lead was even worse. Peter's fear of men led him into error, followed by other Jews, and finally Barnabas. By imitating Peter, many were being led astray.
It doesn't really matter who we are, other people imitate us. There will always be someone who looks up to you and is influenced by your life. When you walk with the Lord and live a godly life, this can be a good thing. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Be a consistent and godly example to imitate my friend, for as you follow Christ, you will lead others into all truth.

Think about this: "The world takes its notions of God from the people who say they belong to God's family."
                                                       - Alexander Maclaren

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." - Galatians 1:10
The Sunday that I was being considered for the role as pastor at my first church, a young believer asked this question: "Do you serve God, or man?" The Next year Bob Dylan wrote the song "Gotta Serve Somebody". The issue is thought provoking and life directing. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters"
Paul faced quite a dilemma with the churches in Galatia. The believers had initially trusted in the finished work of Christ for their salvation, but now there were false teachers that sought their allegiance. These teachers were winsome and convincing, teaching a works salvation. They were seeking the approval of their own circle of peers and were determined to increase their followers. Paul sought the approval of the Lord alone and was simply saying, "No one can serve two masters"
There is no safer path than the one that follows the Lord alone. Do you seek the Lord's approval in every decision you make? Is His will the most important thing in your life? Serve the Lord and you will never go astray. Remember, "No one can serve two masters"

Think about this: "We put one foot on God's side and one on the side of human reasoning; then God widens the space until we either drop down in between or jump on to one side or the other."
                  - Oswald Chambers

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test." -- 2 Corinthians 13:5-6
The following explanation is found on the SAT web site: "The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are a suite of tools designed to assess your academic readiness for college... measuring the skills required for success in the 21st century." Simply put, this is a test to discover your knowledge and skill for further study and success. For many, their future depends on the results.
Paul never took anything for granted. When he wrote to these believers in Corinth, he challenged them to test themselves. He may have offended some, but such a test is far more important than any SAT exam. This is the final test to discover your position with Christ. Is Jesus your Lord and Savior or not? For everyone, their future depends on the results.
When did you take that step of faith my friend? Was it a sincere confession of sin, repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as your only means of salvation? Has your life been transformed by the Spirit of God living within your heart? Don't blow it off; test yourself now, because your future depends on the results.

Think about this: "I cannot believe that a man is on the road to heaven when he is habitually performing the kind of deeds that would logically indicate that he ought to be on his way to hell."
                                                       - A. W. Tozer

Friday, September 27, 2013

"I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing." -- 2 Corinthians 12:11
We live in a day when a smooth talker, pretty face and a winsome smile can win the public in a heartbeat. Political offices, leadership roles and other prestigious positions will often be awarded to those who may lack the heart and skill, but look and sound good. "Fluff" sells, but it never satisfies.
I speak today for my fellow pastors who have heart and skill to feed their flocks. But Sunday in and Sunday out the congregation reminds them of how great the "super-preachers" were that week. They will often compare my dear brothers with those that tell better stories and funnier jokes in the pulpit. There are hundreds of faithful, loving and passionate pastors across this land that should be heard with open hearts and commended with grateful words. These are the men who feed your souls. "Fluff" sells, but it never satisfies.
October has been highlighted as "Pastor Appreciation" month for a number of years. For myself, my church family appreciates me every month and I am blessed beyond belief, but what about you my friend? When was the last time you told your pastor how much you appreciated his messages and his care for you and your family? Unlike the "super-preachers", your pastor prays for you in the night and prepares his sermons with you on his heart. "Fluff" sells, but it never satisfies.

Think about this: "The life-giving preacher is a man of God, whose heart is ever athirst for God, whose soul is following hard after God, whose eye is single to God, and in whom by the power of God's Spirit the flesh and the world have been crucified; his ministry is like the generous flood of a life-giving river. Life-giving preaching costs the preacher much — death to self, crucifixion to the world, the travail of his own soul."
- Edward McKendree Bounds

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." -- 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
It's will soon be the time of year when children and even adults will "masquerade" as someone other than themselves. They dress in costumes for fun and entertainment, but there are those who regularly change their identity for evil purposes. Some wear masks to rob banks and others change names and appearances to deceive people out of money. The "masquerade" eventually leads to their condemnation.
In the spiritual life there are many who seek to lead others astray for personal gain. They talk the talk and appear to be true believers, but in fact they are simply false apostles. They preach and teach another Jesus than the Lord of the Bible. Paul wrote with great concern for his spiritual children, that they would not be deceived like Eve had been in the garden. Remember, if someone's righteousness is only a "masquerade", it will only lead to condemnation.
Costume parties may be fun for the moment, but we eventually need to take off our masks and embrace the truth. Be careful of those who are not the real deal and strive to lead you down the wrong path. Be discerning when listening to the teaching of others and settle for nothing short of the God of the Bible. Any other God is a "masquerade" and will only lead to condemnation.

Think about this: "A man can be outwardly conformed to the Christian way of life while he is inwardly conformed to the spirit of this world."
                                                       - Sinclair Ferguson

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. "For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." -- 2 Corinthians 10:17-18
The lyrics to the Broadway song "Fame" include the following: “… I'm gonna make it to heaven, Light up the sky like a flame, Fame … I'm gonna live forever, Baby remember my name, RememberRemember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember my name” It's a catchy tune as well as a catchy concept. Many people live their whole life for "Fame".
A lot of people believe that living forever is being remembered for becoming someone famous. They commend themselves so often that they become legends in their own minds. But, Paul makes it clear that true "Fame" is only found in the Lord's approval. The lyrics of "The Famous One" written by Chris Tomlin are far more Biblical and true; “You are the Lord, The famous one, Famous one, Great is your name, In all the earth, The heavens declare, You're glorious, glorious, Great is your fame Beyond the earth” Wisdom says that we should live our whole life for God's "Fame".
Are you boasting in yourself or the Lord? Do you live for your own "Fame" or the "Fame" of God? The point is that the Lord is already the "Famous One". So, as you pursue "Fame" in your daily activities, let it be His "Fame"... not yours.

Think about this: "Seeking to perpetuate one's name on earth is like writing on the sand by the seashore; to be perpetual it must be written on eternal shores."
- Dwight Lyman Moody

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." -- 2 Corinthians 9:8 
We collect lighthouses. One lighthouse in our collection sits outside with a working light that shines in the dark. It has a little solar chip that soaks in sun rays all day and then lights up all evening. The sun rays are free and abundant, providing the blessing of continuous illumination. God's sunlight is a gift that just keeps on giving.
In the same way God provides for the needs of his children in abundance. His grace abounds, so that in all things at all times, we have all that we need. The Lord blesses us this way so we will abound in every good work. In other words, the light of God's grace is free and abundant, providing continuous blessing. His grace is a gift that just keeps on giving.
Have your daily needs been recently met by God's abundant grace? Is there food in the cupboard and gas in the car? Are your bills paid up to date and a little left over? Then God's grace has provided all that you need and enabled you be a blessing to others. Remember, God's grace is a gift that just keeps on giving. So let your light shine and be a blessing to someone today!
   
Think about this: "When we let go of money we are letting go of part of ourselves and part of our security. But this is precisely why it is important to do it. It is one way to obey Jesus' command to deny ourselves .... When we give money we are releasing a little more of our egocentric selves and a little more of our false security .... Giving frees us to care. It produces an air of expectancy as we anticipate what God will lead us to give. It makes life with God an adventure in the world, and that is worth living for and giving for."
                                                                                                            - Richard Foster

Monday, September 23, 2013

"For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will." -- 2 Corinthians 8:3-5
Time and again catastrophes occur and financial help is desperately needed. Money is quite often raised through concerts and similar fundraisers. People are touched by the needs of others, but they still need to be motivated to give. Part of such motivation involves providing the donor with some personal benefit from their donation. Selfless giving is a rare commodity.
Paul noted a very significant quality in the churches of Macedonia. These believers were motivated to give toward the needs of others without receiving personal benefits. Why, you may ask; because they made the choice to give themselves first to the Lord. As a result of such spiritual devotion they pleaded for the privilege to share in helping others in need. When the heart is given to the Lord first, selfless giving is never rare.
Do you struggle when asked to give to the needs of ministry and compassionate care for the hurting? Are you one of those who need to be motivated? Or have you given yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord and consider it a tremendous privilege to share in the ministry of giving? Once you've given yourself to the Lord, the privilege of giving is no longer rare, it becomes an exciting opportunity.

Think about this: Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get. We make a LIFE by what we GIVE."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus" -- 2 Corinthians 7:5-6
"Smooth Sailing Cruises... No bumps, just bargains!" and "Smooth Sailing Success... executive and life coaching." These are just two of many internet sites built on the idea of "Smooth Sailing". Oh, if it were only true, that the many journeys of life could always be "Smooth Sailing". But, life is just not a "Smooth Sailing" experience. In real life we will be harassed at every turn with conflicts and fears, so we need someone to help.
Some believers have been led to believe that the Christian life is a guarantee of "Smooth Sailing". They are under the persuasion that the winds will always blow our way and every storm will pass us by, because we are God's children. But then we read about Paul, and all such thinking slips away fast. The great apostle Paul suffered with harassment, conflicts and fears. The storms raged in his life and ministry, "but God, who comforts the downcast", comforted him! He found someone to help.
Does life leave you battered and beat down so much that you want to sell your boat? Are you wise enough to know that "Smooth Sailing" and real life just don't mix? Storms will come your way more often than you desire, but God comforts the downcast. If he is your God... you will always have someone to help!

Think about this: "God is the great reality. His resources are available and endless. His promises are real and glorious, beyond our wildest dreams."
                            - J. B. Phillips