Monday, March 31, 2014

What's Your Plan?

"And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them." - Luke 4:38-39
People desire good health for a number of reasons. They yearn for renewed strength to travel, play sports or make more money. There is also the undying hunger for "eternal youth" without any real goal. Some people make every effort to prolong the "looks" of youthfulness even when age has taken its debilitating toll. But, what good is health without a plan to use it well.
Peter's mother-in-law didn't hesitate to put her healing to good use for others. When the Lord touched her and lifted her up she immediately began to serve. Her renewed strength was a blessing and she knew just how to show her gratitude. She served the Lord and those who joined Him in ministry. She had new-found health and had a plan to use it well.       
Well my friend, are you praying for healing and new strength for the days ahead? Should the Lord bless you, what will you do with what He gives? Give it some thought; when you finally have a new lease on life with health and vigor, what's your plan?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Whole Story!

"And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth... When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath." - Luke 4:22, 28
I grew up in the New York metropolitan area and have been a New York Yankee fan since the days of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. This is not very unique since there are more Yankee fans than anyone could number. There is one characteristic about New York fans that proves to be a tough nut to swallow; when the team wins they're loved and when they lose it's the wrath of Khan!

From the very beginning of His ministry the Lord experienced a similar contrast. When His words were gracious, the crowds loved it and when He spoke convicting truth they were filled with wrath. Such people are still with us today; those who are happy to feel good about themselves but never guilty before God.
When you speak to others about Christ my friend, never hesitate to give the bad news and good news. While many people only want to hear comforting words, without the whole truth hearts will never experience conviction. And without conviction there won't be repentance toward God and faith in Jesus. The Lord always told the whole story and so should we.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dealing with fire

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry." - Luke 4:1-2
While in college I worked at a foundry that manufactured fire hydrants. The plant had three huge furnaces that melted down metal to be recast. Tons of steel would come into the yard by train and eventually be dropped into the fire. The furnaces would roar with heat as the purged molten steel would be poured into carefully prepared molds. The end product can be found on street corners throughout the country, prepared by fire to deal with fire.
Jesus was led into the fire of trials intentionally by the Holy Spirit. The trials were part of a process, preparing the Son of God for Gethsemane and finally the Cross. The desert experience of Satan's temptations did not come as a sudden surprise. These moments were planned by God to achieve his purpose and ultimate glory. Jesus was prepared by fire to deal with fire.
From day to day we are led by the Holy Spirit into the fire of trials. We are led by Divine design to prepare us for greater and more demanding moments ahead. Don't run from them; face them with the Word of God and the power of Christ, and be... prepared by fire to deal with fire.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Connection an Conduct

"Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham." - Luke 3:8
I attended Bible College at a school that was centered on a mega-church. People came down the aisle to profess faith in Christ at every service and there were baptisms every week. Yet I would often meet the most evil people in the community that were "saved" and baptized in that church. They claimed a godly connection without a godly conduct.
John cut to the core of true conversion with the words "Bear fruits in keeping with repentance". He took away all hope of being a child of God through family or religious relationship. It really doesn't matter where someone grows up and attends church. Genuine connection with God begins with a repentant conversion that leads to godly conduct.
Where do you trace your beginning with Jesus my friend? That moment may bring nostalgic warmth to your heart, but has your life changed for the better since that time? Have you become more godly and Christ-like from year to year?  Consider the words of 2 Peter 1:10, "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." Remember, true godly connection produces godly conduct.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Servant Leader

"And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart." - Luke 2:51
"But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented." - Matthew 3:15
Every sports team has one head coach and many players. Quite often the best coaches are those who were once players themselves. They are good leaders because they were good followers. A true "servant-leader" understands the value of both qualities in the game of life. Obedience is the prerequisite to oversight.
Jesus is our Lord and Master, yet at one time He was an obedient son and cooperative baptism candidate. He set the example for all "servant-leaders" as mentioned in Hebrews 5:8, "Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered." Obedience is the prerequisite to oversight.
Do you have the qualities to lead others my friend? God may have called and gifted you, but the lessons learned through submission to others are character building. And just as significantly, our continued surrender to the Lordship of Christ is imperative. Obedience is always the prerequisite to oversight.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Good News

"And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child." - Luke 2:17 
My first regular job was working on a paper delivery route for an afternoon edition. Some of my customers would be waiting every day for their paper to "read all about it". Today I have an "app" on my phone that gives me the ability to "read all about it" in forty three national newspapers, without  getting ink on my fingers. People have always wanted to know "what's new?"
The shepherds were given a great announcement and the opportunity to be the first on the scene. They observed the wonder of the birth of Jesus and then spread the news throughout their region. In a time of many sad and disturbing news reports, they knew that people would want to hear all about the "Good News".
Have you experienced the gift of new life in Jesus my friend? Are there those in your world that are still in the dark, overwhelmed with the bad news of these dark days? Well, why not join the shepherds in making known your "Good News"? Take the time this week to share your faith with those who are waiting to "hear all about it".

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" -- "Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid." - Luke 2:7/23:53

"Be the proud owner of ..." These words are heard and read in various ads for cars to condos. The most important part of the equation is ownership. We are driven by the need to be proud owners. The best commentary on this subject is the bumper sticker that reads: "He who dies with the most toys wins". It's OK to own, but never OK to be owned by what you own.
Jesus said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” His comment was vividly seen in his birth and in his burial. He was placed in a borrowed manger at birth and a borrowed tomb in death. Jesus was a steward, not an owner. He used this world for one purpose... eternal values. That's where his heart was.
What are your goals in life? Are you driven by ownership or led by stewardship? Will you own more of this world, or will you use it to "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:20)? The choice is yours but ... "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

Monday, March 24, 2014

God my Savior

"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior'" - Luke 1:46–47
History serves us well, as long as we keep personalities in perspective. Great men and women of the past may be portrayed as heroes and heroins. They may have performed significant feats that qualify them as such, but the fact remains that they were just as human and frail as the next person. As David reminds us in Psalm 103:14, "For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust". No pedestal of fame can change this fact.
Biblical history serves us well too. We will find a pantheon of spiritual giants as we skim through the Scriptures. They include those who were strong leaders, bold heralds of truth and skilled builders of God's kingdom. Among these personalities is the woman that gave birth to Jesus. Her name was Mary and she was blessed with great privilege. But her own words testify of a basic truth: she needed a Savior, and God met the need. Even Mary believed what David wrote in Psalm 14:3, "...there is none who is good, not even one." No pedestal of fame can change this fact.
If we learn anything from history, we understand that all people are sinners, in need of a Savior. If Mary, the mother of Jesus, rejoiced in God her Savior, everyone has the same need. No one is so heroic, strong, bold or skilled that they are not equally dust, without true goodness and God in this world. (Ephesians 2:12). There is no pedestal of fame high enough to lift you above the need for a Savior.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Showing Up

"And Mary said, 'Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.'" - Luke 1:38
When I was young, every guy in the neighborhood played sandlot baseball. I wasn't very good at the game, but I played every weekend. The reason I got to play was because I showed up early and played anywhere they put me. Someone has said that success is 10% skill and 90% showing up. That may be an over-simplification but it does emphasize the real issue of effective ministry. Those are most used who "show up" when needed.
Mary was a true and successful servant of the Lord. She showed up when called and was willing to serve in any way the Lord asked. No matter how embarrassing or demanding, the simple response to God's direction was, "let it be to me according to your word." Most believers would find greater joy and fulfillment if they would just be willing to show up and play wherever the coach put them.
How about you my friend? Are you serving in the way the Lord has called you? Or have you complicated matters by inserting your plans over and above God's will? Why not take the simple path of happiness and success by starting every day with the prayer, "let it be to me according to your word."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wait and be Faithful

"And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years ... But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John' ...' 'Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.'” - Luke 1:6,7, 13, 25
Does it pay to live righteously? Are the godly always blessed with good things? Are their prayers always answered quickly with abundant and joyful results? Is God's timing always the best? Such questions occasionally haunt even the most faithful believer. 
As we look at the experience of Zechariah and Elizabeth today we see a very relieved couple. Their "reproach" and "prayer" has finally been addressed. But for years they had been faithful to the Lord with an empty nest. In their day being barren was seen as a really bad thing. Was God displeased with them or did He have a very different plan?
Blessed are those who wait on the Lord my friend. And as you wait, be faithful. Be assured that your prayers are heard and your heartache is felt by the very "God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). May you find rest in the fact that He makes all things beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11) ... "And you will have joy and gladness" (Luke 1:14).

Friday, March 21, 2014

In one ear and ...

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him,  just as he told you.’ ” - Mark 16:6-7 
Job said, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." (Job 42:5) The occasions that I have been told something and forgotten the information is legendary. As well, I am always amazed how often we announce events at our church that are never heard. As my Dad would often say, "some things go in one ear, and out the other." 
The day that Jesus rose from the dead was an amazing morning. To the disciples though, it was an unexpected event, but how could that be, since they were told time and again by our Lord? He had taught so much and the most important truth was his promised resurrection. While the followers of Jesus could have lived from Friday to Sunday with great expectations, they were saddened with overwhelming hopelessness. What Jesus had said about rising again, went in one ear, and out the other.
Jesus is coming again. There is no doubt in my mind, because he said he would. If we have heard and read this, do we live in expectation? Or do we live with a hopeless Friday to Sunday outlook? Jesus will meet us in the air, just as we've been told. How then shall we live? May this great truth go in one ear... and change our lives.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Torn Curtain

"And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." - Mark 15:37-38
On November 17, 1558, Mary Tudor died. That moment brought the end of a bloody reign of persecution which caused the death of some 300 protestants. The passing of this volatile queen opened the door for a new queen and the English Protestant Church. The curtain was finally torn.
Such was the day of our Lord's crucifixion. As He breathed His last, the days of legalism and ritualism were ended. A new day of grace and mercy had arrived for all who would embrace the finished work of Jesus. All who were religiously weary and burdened would find spiritual rest for their souls. The curtain was finally torn.
Why labor for that which has already been purchased my friend? Why carry the load of religious trappings and stained glass rituals when the door to spiritual freedom has been opened? Take the hand of the One who breathed His last for you and walk into the light. The curtain has been torn and it's a new day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Against the Current

"Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified." - Mark 15:15
It is said that comedian Milton Berle had his mother sit in the front row when he performed. She would laugh loudly and heartily when a joke fell flat and usually the audience followed. In this scenario each person would respond to the actions of others in complete contradiction to their own feelings. The influence of the majority has often led to wrong decisions that were regretted later. It takes courage to swim against the current.
Pilate was a significant political leader in his time. He was entrusted with serious and demanding responsibilities. Yet, in his leadership role, he was torn between what he knew was right and what he knew was politically correct. He fought hard, but eventually caved into the cries of the crowd. Filled with fear and political pressure, attempting to avoid further conflict, Pilate lost his courage to swim against the current.
Are you willing to stand alone with Jesus? Or does the crowd play a large part in your choices and conduct? Who do you strive to please from day to day? Are you led by God or by man? The day that you accepted Jesus as your only means of salvation, you stood apart from the crowd. As a follower of Christ today, will you be courageous enough to live the right way and swim against the current?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Do We Care?

"Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept." - Mark 14:72
Emotions greatly differ. Some people rejoice at weddings and others cry, some weep at funerals and others grow quiet, some rejoice at the moment of salvation and others shed tears. No matter how we show emotions, there are moments in life when our souls are touched to the core. The heart that cares is always moved in times of joy or pain and sorrow. The question is: Do we care?
Peter was quite confident that he would never betray his Lord. He followed Jesus to the courtyard and watched as the trial began. He was recognized and in fear he denied the Lord three times, just as Jesus predicted. Peter's emotions were moved at his failure and he wept because he cared.
Does betrayal of the Lord move your heart and emotions? Are you deeply saddened when you sin? Take a closer look at Peter today and then consider your own heart. Have you become so familiar with the process of sin and forgiveness that you no longer feel sorrow when you fail the Lord? We grieve the heart of God whenever we sin (Ephesians 4:30)... Do we care?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Great goals demand great sacrifices

"Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'" - Mark 14:35-36
A young person desires to become a doctor. The path of education and internship is more than grueling. Another individual plans to become a Navy Seal. The training is more than overwhelming. Then there is an athlete that has an eye on an Olympic Gold medal. The preparation absolutely consumes their life. Great goals demand great sacrifices.
Our Lord saw the incredible cup of suffering that was ahead, and He prayed for possible deliverance. But as always, Jesus was fully committed to the will of the Father. He knew the value of our souls and our need for deliverance from sin. He went to the cross with his eyes wide open and heart surrendered. A great goal demanded a great sacrifice.
What has the Lord called you to accomplish my friend? Where has he placed you in His vineyard to labor? Is the work too demanding, or have the years been too discouraging? Have you come to the place where you have experienced your own "Gethsemane"? After you have poured out your heart, may you join the Lord in the words of surrender... "Yet, not what I will, but what you will." Why should you willingly yield? Because, great goals demand great sacrifices.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Words or Action?

"And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same." - Mark 14:30-31
An inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City reads: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  While this  is quite a promising slogan, our family, and many others in our community went without mail delivery this winter due to snow. Words are good, but action is where real devotion comes alive.
Peter and all the other disciples spoke with great determination, but when the pressure came, where were they? Jesus knew the heart of everyone, as we read in John 2:25 that He... "needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man." Words of faith take conviction, but steps of faith take courage.
In time the disciples came to know both conviction and courage as they fulfilled the great commission. Do you speak too quickly and make commitments without counting the cost my friend? Remember that at best, we all have feet of clay so, "... be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." (Ephesians 6:10) In His strength alone will words become action.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Stay Alert

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” - Mark 13:32–37
During my college years I worked for a security company. My responsibilities included traveling to all our locations every night to be certain our guards were doing their jobs. I lost count of how many times I found guards asleep at their desks, in their cars or somewhere in the building. I never kept the same schedule, so they never knew when I would arrive. I learned that it takes real effort to stay alert.
Jesus taught a great deal concerning his second coming, but he never pinpointed a set time. He simply left his disciples and all believers with a word of council: Be on guard! Be alert! Watch! He intended for us to stay on top of our game as we waited for his return. He doesn't want sleepers; he wants his followers showing real effort to stay alert.
You can study prophecy for years and still live like the Lord's return will be sometime in the next millennium. The Lord calls us to be spiritually on point. What are you doing to redeem the time for the Lord today? When the Lord returns will he find you showing real effort to stay alert? 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Deception

"At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time." - Mark 13:21-23 
Henry Ford had no idea what the auto industry would become. From a simple form of transportation, to cars that cost far more than most homes. And along with the wide array of models to choose from comes the legendary "salesmen". As the industry has gone out of control, so has the sales floor. While you might occasionally find an honest salesperson, the truth is this: buyer beware, because deception rules the day.
Deception is in the wind and Jesus told us ahead of time. Being deceived over the price of a car is small potatoes compared to being led astray spiritually. Every town is peppered with car lots and churches. Anyone can find a car or a religion, but will it be the right one? While, you might be able to unload your "lemon" before you suffer too much loss, your loss will be eternal if you buy into a false religion. Buyer beware, because deception rules the day.
Jesus made it very clear in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." and again in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." While the Model T Ford has "come a long way baby", Jesus is still the same "yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) Deception may rule the day, but it doesn't have to rule your heart my friend. Be on your guard and trust in Jesus, because He alone is the real deal!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Power of God

"Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?" - Mark 12:24
My Bible software of choice is Logos. While I have other computer programs for Bible study and sermon preparation, I find this resource to be the best. After using Logos for over ten years I have only scratched the surface of its potential. Yet, while having a variety of font sizes, screen options, search formats and study guides, the real power is still in the Scriptures themselves.
Jesus spoke to those who should have known the Scriptures well, but they were too caught up in their traditions and arguments over minutiae. They had slipped into error and furthermore, they were oblivious to the power of God. As they drifted from truth, they also misunderstood the purpose and provision of God for the future. Hope was dashed due to lack of study and faith. They had little to offer those in need since they didn't know the Scriptures or the power of God.
Are you aware of all that you possess in the Word of God my friend? Do you realize that the power of God can change your life and provide every need for now and all eternity? Do you study the Word to learn all that it has to offer? Do you trust the Lord for his capacity to do the impossible? Imagine, even without a computer, you can know the Scriptures and the power of God.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rejection or Reception?

"And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others." - Mark 12:8-9
The historic events that came upon Israel as a nation are devastating and heartbreaking. One event in particular is the destroying Jerusalem in 70 A.D. While ill feelings can be mustered toward Titus and the Roman government, issues of accountability before God take precedence. When the Messiah was rejected and crucified, Israel as a nation was rejected as well.
The key to the above account is found on a hill called Calvary, "...they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard". John 1:11 spoke of it in this way, "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him." If this is the case for an entire nation, how is it with everyone who makes the choice to turn their back on Jesus? Rejection of God's Son is never anything less than devastating and heartbreaking.
How have you responded to the claims and invitation of Christ my friend? The above passage from John 1:11 continues into verse 12 with the following promise... "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God". Your response to Jesus will make all the difference in the world. Rejection will bring ultimate devastation, while reception will bring immediate and eternal blessing. Which will you choose?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

House or home?

"And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'" - Mark 11:17
Over the years I have visited many homes. Some were definitely "lived in" and others... well, they were show places, but certainly not much more. Some people love to "pimp" the larger part of their homes for others to see, but limit their living quarters. They have turned their homes into houses.
In a similar way, the religious leadership of Jesus' day was all about using God's Temple as house of profit rather than a home of praise. When Jesus arrived he was appalled at the loss of space which was intended for people of all nations to pray. He expressed rebuke toward a people who would misuse the Temple for their own gain, but would fail to use it for God's glory. It was time for God's Temple to be restored from a house to a home.
I have heard many believers show great disdain when a special speaker of musical group would sell books or CD's in the church foyer. I have been more intrigued in the absence of those same believers from prayer meeting. They want to protect the church from being misused, but they fail to use it as they should. Are you more concerned with the looks and use of your church rather than using it to the glory and praise of God yourself? Is your church a house or a home?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Keep on Asking

"And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say,  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” - Mark 10:47-48 
I often marvel at those who are facing situations that require the help of a specialist. I ask them if they have contacted the right person for an appointment and I am told that they called and left a message. Many weeks may pass by with no return call, so they give up.  When you really want help... you've got to keep asking.
Blind Bartimaeus was weary of being blind and wanted relief. He heard that Jesus was passing by and cried out for help. The crowds rebuked him, but he was determined and wouldn't give up. When there appeared to be no answer, he "cried out all the more". This poor beggar recognized that he had to keep asking.
Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:7 to keep on askingkeep on seeking and keep on knocking. His reasoning had nothing to do with his being too busy or unable to hear. He wants us to exercise faith and determination in our asking. The issue comes to this: everyone needs help, but not everyone wants help. Those who really want help from the Lord will keep on asking.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pay Attention

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” -- Mark 10:33-36
Have you ever listened to a discussion between two children? Quite often you will hear two conversations about very different topics and neither child has any idea what the other is talking about. We can understand this phenomena occurring with children, but when it takes place with adults it is quite revealing. Someone isn't paying attention.
Jesus spoke of a series of dramatic events that would fall into place in a short time. These moments would be painful, challenging and life changing for everyone. Yet, in the very midst of this revelation James and John were focused on their own selfish desires. As a result, they totally missed the Lord's message. They weren't paying attention.
Do you ever come away from your devotions, Bible study or worship having missed the Lord's message my friend? Is it possible that He was speaking quite clearly, but you were preoccupied with your own selfish desires? In the spiritual school of life, great truths are only heard by those who pay close attention.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Just for the asking

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it... Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of  God!”... Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” - Mark 10:15, 23, 27
It has been said that you can't buy happiness. It is also true that you can't buy heaven. The simple truth is money can't buy everything. It can't buy relationships, love, or peace of mind. More often than not, those who fall into great wealth suddenly, fall into great troubles. On the other hand, when a child is born into a loving home, they have all that's needed and more... without money, just for the asking.
As Jesus taught on this particular day, there is a stark contrast between those who love money those who love God. It's hard to let go of our material dependencies and simply trust our heavenly Father. But this is where life truly begins. Heaven is a gift to the simple in heart, who, like a child will gladly receive it with thanksgiving. As hard as this may be for some, it's not impossible, God can change the heart. He invites us into a loving family where all our needs will be met... without money, just for the asking.
The simple joys in life and eternity can be yours. They are God's gift to those who will, with a child-like faith receive them. If you will turn to the Lord and trust his heart, he will gladly save you and bless you as his child. Your needs will be met, and so much more... without money, just for the asking.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Greatest

"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest." - Mark 9:33-34
I've been told that at certain business luncheons the biggest moment is when the check comes. The decision for covering the bill is made on the basis of who has had their American Express Gold card the longest. The earlier the year the most successful the person. It's all about being ahead of the rest of the crowd by being first.
Who is the greatest? While the argument was quite heated, it couldn't be answered by credit card memberships. Furthermore, when the disciples were asked to admit the subject of their discussion, they were rather quiet. Why not tell Jesus what was on their mind? Could it be that they already knew that to be first, one had to be servant of all?
We live in an upside down world my friend. Our Lord, Creator and Redeemer has made certain things quite clear. The way of worldly success is quite upside down. If you want to get ahead of the rest of the crowd, you can only get there by being the very last, and servant of all. Take a lesson from the one who... "did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ask

"But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it." - Mark 9:32
How often were we told by our teachers not to be afraid to ask questions? How many questions did we ask? There are so many reasons why we don't ask questions when we are in doubt. Sometimes we are too proud, sometimes too embarrassed and sometimes too afraid. But whenever we fail to ask, we fail to learn.
The disciples were walking with the Lord Jesus day by day. He taught them great truths that changed their lives and his wisdom was beyond measure. What a wonderful opportunity to ask the Lord about everything they ever wondered about. Yet, they were afraid to ask about the Lord's death and resurrection. The result was tremendous sadness and frustration during the days of his Crucifixion and resurrection. I often wonder if they would have been better prepared by having asked questions. Whenever we fail to ask, we fail to learn.
The Lord has opened a door of opportunity for us in the words of Matthew 7:7, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" and James added in James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." Be confident to ask, and you will grow in your understanding. Be willing to ask, and you will be certain to learn.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

He has a plan

"They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly."  - Mark 8:22-25
I had rotator cuff surgery this last October. The procedure was far more aggressive than expected, taking three hours for an usual one hour surgery. The doctor considered the extensive damage and spent the necessary time for repair. Such is the case with the human body, for we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:1). When a good surgeon performs a procedure he considers all the differing needs in his patient and has a plan.
When the Lord performs surgery on us he considers every need we have from top to bottom. Sometimes, as with this blind man, the personal need may require a very different approach than past occasions. The Lord is concerned with our body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). As the Great Physician, the Lord takes each of us into his care with individual attention and he has a plan.
Too often, we grow impatient with the Lord's work in our lives. We expect healing, improvement or change to come in our way. Then the Lord gives us a thorough "scan" and chooses a different way to proceed. Will you trust the Great Physician for what he does best? Will you wait for his unique and individual care to bring you his blessing? Remember, he has a plan... and his plan is always PERFECT!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The details of life

“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” - Mark 8:2-3
Over the last year my wife and I have experienced a number of physical injuries. The church family has been greatly concerned and prayed for us faithfully. There were also some dear folks that were quite practical in their concern and brought in meals as well as performing some work at our home. Their compassion was in the details of life.
Jesus spent three days with four thousand people and at the end of the "conference" He was quite aware of their needs. The Lord had concern for the crowd as He so often did, but more than this He considered the practical outcome of their long trip home. Jesus' compassion was in the details of life.
Do you find yourself wondering if the Lord ever considers all the little things that weigh upon you my friend? Yes, you know that He is aware of your big needs, such as a new job, restored health, reconciled family or financial provision. But, is He concerned about a sandwich for today's lunch? I believe that He is just as focused on the practical needs of every day as the bigger picture. His compassion is also in the details of life.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Bedside manner

"After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” - Mark 7:33-37
Bedside manner! How often have we had doctors who were quite skilled professionally but not very gifted in the area of compassion? The best doctor our family ever had was a Christian who was truly moved by our distress over the pain of our child. He was touched by our feelings.
Jesus healed the sick and infirmed. He did so, on a daily basis, but he never became compassion-challenged. In this case, Jesus was moved with a deep sigh over the hardship of the man he healed. As the Great Physician, Jesus had true bedside manner and he did everything well. Jesus was touched by their feelings.
In the words of John W. Peterson, "No one understands like Jesus; ev’ry woe He sees and feels; tenderly He whispers comfort, and the broken heart He heals." And in the thought of Hebrews 4:15, Jesus is a high priest who is able to "sympathize with our weaknesses". Never hesitate to bring your needs to Jesus... He is touched with your feelings.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Undivided

"And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’" - Mark 7:6-7
Isn't it interesting when you talk with someone about their job? Those who are new employees are most often excited and totally committed to the company. But, talk with the same people a year or two later and they may still praise the job, but are looking for bigger and better opportunities. There doesn't seem to be any employee loyalty any more. They are very few who have an undivided heart for their employer.
As we read the passage above, we understand that loyalty and devotion has been a rare commodity for generations. Most people are simply focused on themselves and have no real devotion to anyone, including the Lord.  They honor Him with their lips and surface obedience to get all they can out of Him. They are very few who have an undivided heart for the Lord.
Which will it be my friend... lips or heart? Do you wear the cross or proudly display your "fish" bumper sticker, but spend most of your time on personal pursuits? Does the Lord become second or third when new opportunities call for your time and talents?  Maybe it's time to readjust your priorities and become one of the few who have an undivided heart for the Lord.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The hardened heart

"When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened." - Mark 6:47-52 
Spring can't come soon enough! Just about every week my wife and I are buying more gas for our snow blower, getting ready for another storm. Soon the the flowers will be blooming, the trees will be budding and the grass will start growing. I'll be so caught up with getting the lawn mower ready to cut the grass that I may look beyond the miracles all around me. Spring is just amazing, and if I'm not careful I'll miss the beauty and wonder of it because my familiarity and busyness has hardened my heart.
Imagine the disciples walking with Jesus every day, watching him perform miracles again and again. They saw such wonderful works of God and yet they missed the point and didn't understand. How could this be you might ask. How could anyone participate in feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, having twelve baskets of food left over, and be oblivious to the miracle? Familiarity and busyness can harden the heart.
God is doing tremendous things in your life right now. He's performing miracles moment by moment and if you're not careful, you're going to miss it. Slow down to see the melting snow and feel the slightly warmer breezes. Watch for the promise of spring that will come with new color and fresh life. Step back and watch the Spirit of God mold your life into the likeness of Jesus. Don't be so familiar and busy that you harden your heart.