Friday, October 20, 2017

The right clothes...

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." - Colossians 3:12 
They say that clothes make the man. That may or may not be true, but clothes often tell a lot about the person. An immoral person will dress promiscuously, and a moral person will dress modestly. Most often the outer appearance is a reflection of the inner attitude.
Throughout this chapter Paul emphasizes the believer's daily choice of dress. He is focused on the spiritual clothing, not the material. When we have put on a "new self" (vs. 10), our heart changes and our outer appearance takes on a whole new look. When we are God's chosen people, we dress accordingly.
You are a child of the King my friend. The kingdom attire isn't expensive suits and gowns; the clothing of the court is "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience". Before you spend time in your clothes closet thinking about what you will wear today, spend time in your prayer closet putting on the clothes that reflect a new heart.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

All you need...

"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority." -Colossians 2:8-10 
Self help books and new life-changing programs are beyond number. The issue comes down to this;  people feel inadequate to face the challenges of life. Sadly, even believers find themselves in this deceptive rut. The lingering value of previous conferences quickly slips away as a new approach enters stage left. If the child of God would look within, they would have no need to look elsewhere.
The problem stated above is far from new. Paul found it necessary to give warning and counsel to the believers of his day. There have always been charlatans and profiteers that would take captive poor souls who were insecure. Human traditions have always been attractive for the moment. But in time, every tradition and philosophy loses it's luster and inadequacy returns with a vengeance. There is only one timeless answer that never fails the child of God. Look within, for you have been filled in HIM.
Where is your adequacy, security and sufficiency my friend? Do you feel as if the ground on which you stand constantly slips away? Is there a sense of hollowness in your philosophy of life? Well, take a moment and gaze upon your Savior. In Him the fullness of deity dwells and you have have been filled in Him, and He is all you need!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The basics...

"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, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." - Colossians 1:9-10
You can dress your car to the fives with the slickest hubcaps, sport suspension, finest audio system and sharpest interior tweaking. Yet, if you don't change the oil and keep the engine in good shape, eventually all that you will have is a pretty lawn ornament. You need to take care of the basics.
When you look carefully at Paul's prayer for the Colossians, he was all about their spiritual condition. I have no doubt that he had concern for their physical and financial issues, but his priority was for their knowing the will of God and living in a manner worthy of the Lord. He always prayed about the basics.
When you attend your church prayer service my friend, what is the focus of prayer? Prayers are lifted up for broken bones, lost jobs, safe traveling, church projects or youth activities. While all these requests are important, how much time is spent on the spiritual welfare of people? When do we pray without ceasing that our church family would be filled with spiritual wisdom to bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God? Are we really praying for the basics?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On a mission...

"There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured." - Acts 28:7-8
When we set out on a trip, we're focused on our destination. Flat tires, detours and illnesses are just inconveniences that are quickly dealt with so we can move on. The thought of stopping and smelling the roses or slowing down to give a helping hand is often rejected because...We're on a mission.
Paul was on a journey and the trip had been rough. The need to regroup and move on was great. But, Paul was willing to take time to get involved in other people's troubles. His needs were put aside to show the love of Jesus to someone else. Paul's life and ministry was reaching people everywhere for Jesus. Trips and troubles were never more important than people. Every day, Paul was on a mission.
What is your destination today? Are you going someplace exotic? Somewhere exciting and challenging? Is your plan more important than those you meet along the way? Is your ministry for Jesus always down the road and in the future? Take time to show the love of Jesus to those you meet day to day. Because people all around you need the Lord, you too are on a mission.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A moment of worship...

"After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat." - Acts 27:35
Jonathan Edwards would lead his family in a prayer of gratitude before and after every meal. George Muller of Bristol would lead the orphan children in a prayer of thanksgiving and faith before meals, where the food was yet to arrive. As the crucifixion approached, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it saying "Take and eat, this is my body" (Matthew 26:26). Saying grace is far more than a Christian obligation, it's a moment of worship.
Paul and an entire crew of storm worn sailors were about to eat some bread. It wasn't a feast and it wasn't a celebration. With the surrounding events so discouraging and threatening, appetites were long gone. Yet, Paul encouraged them to eat for strength and as they prepared to eat, he gave thanks. With the mess they were in, one might wonder why he would express gratitude. Grace isn't just being grateful for good and plentiful food it's... a moment of worship.
Do you take time to  give thanks before your meal wherever you are? Do you give thanks in the restaurant? Do you pray over your sandwich at work? How about your cereal in the morning when you are alone? Is your prayer an obligatory "Thanks", or in light of God's presence and provision is it... a moment of worship? 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Random Acts?

"The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for." - Acts 27:3
"Random acts of kindness". We often think of this phrase when we see unsolicited and undeserved care shown to someone in need. But, are such acts always "random"? Or, is it possible that such goodness may be a kind gift of our loving heavenly Father?
Paul received such an act of kindness in the midst of a most troubling time in his life. When we look at this moment in light of Romans 8:28 it takes on a very significant quality. The "Random act of kindness" becomes one of the God initiated "all things" that work together for our good.
The next time you receive an act of kindness, however small, stop and consider the real source. While appreciation should be certainly be expressed to those who bless us, let us always remember our heavenly Father, from whom comes "every good and perfect gift"(James 1:17) 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

He hurts...

"... In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them...“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied." - Acts 26:11, 15
When someone offends my wife, I am offended. In most cases, when family members are troubled the whole family is troubled. But, the most painful experience is for mothers and dads when their children are hurt. It is true that most parents would rather suffer instead of their sons and daughters. When children hurt... parents hurt.
The experience of Paul on the road to Damascus was revealing in many ways. The church is the bride of Christ and we are the children of God as well. The relationship is deep and sealed in his blood. We are the apple of his eye and those who trouble the church trouble the Lord. The Lord put it simply, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" The Lord takes persecution and offenses personally because... When God's children hurt... he hurts.
When you go to worship this week, remember, the church is the family of God. The thought is wonderful in many ways, but it also puts us on the spot. Take care in how you speak about your brothers and sisters. Be cautious in you criticisms of the Assembly of God's people. Be kind to the bride and the groom will be pleased because... When God's children hurt... He hurts.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Show them the way...

"Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges." - Acts 25:19-20
I've been using a computer on a daily basis for over eighteen years. As time has passed, I have become reasonably skilled in using this great tool. Occasionally, I am called upon to explain the features of some Bible software to a newbie. The results are often quite frustrating. They don't understand the basics and it takes great patience to show them the way.
This Bible reading provides a similar revelation of the unbeliever's mind toward the Gospel. After all was explained, Festus was at a loss. He understood Paul's claim that Jesus was alive, but he failed to see the significance. In the end, it all seemed to be religious "mumbo jumbo". Festus needed someone who would, with great patience show him the way.
Have you grown weary of that "someone" who just doesn't get it? Have you given the gospel to them time and again and they are still confused? Prayer is imperative, but patience is critical as well. The gospel may seem so simple to you, after knowing the Lord for many years. But the unbeliever needs someone who will take the time and patiently show them the way. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Time waits for no man...

"As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”" - Acts 24:25
"Please get back to me when it's convenient". You have heard or said this polite and considerate statement from time to time. When is it ever convenient to deal with uncomfortable situations? In most cases we just have to make the time to deal with matters and hope for the best. Time waits for no man.
Paul brought Felix the message of salvation and "judgment to come". As always, Paul was thorough and most convincing in his discourse. The pressure of conviction upon Felix became so great that he said, "That's enough for now!" God's Word will always bring truth to bear and then we are pressed for decision. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2) There is no other convenient time because... Time waits for no man.
Have you put off the message of God's saving grace in Christ? Do you think there will be a more convenient time?  When God speaks to your heart, the time to respond is now, not later. Remember... Time waits for no man. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trust His Heart...

"When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium."  - Acts 23:23-35
When the Lord directs our steps, he carefully arranges the details. Paul was informed in verse 11, "... you must testify also in Rome.” but the way was not specified. An ambush, a nephew, and a wise tribune were all pieces of the puzzle to bring Paul to his destination. 
Have you ever wondered what details are at work to bring you to the next step in your journey for Jesus? Never minimize the importance of the small things in your life. When the Lord is in charge curious moments are often critical elements in fulfilling God's plan.
Take courage my friend and stay close to the Lord every day. Allow him to guide the events of your life and follow him each step of the way. While you may not be able to trace his hand... just trust his heart.

Think about this: "It is not our trust that keeps us, but the God in whom we trust who keeps us."
       - Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Take Courage!

"The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”" - Acts 23:10-11
Of the 102 passengers that boarded the Mayflower in 1620, 37 were members of the separatist Leiden congregation seeking freedom of worship in the new world. They were willing to take a most dangerous journey for the hope of religious freedom. For those believers, seeking and serving God freely was worth any sacrifice, so they chose to set sail and... Take courage!
Paul was faced with opposition and persecution time and again. There were times when his very life was endangered. Yet, the Lord was always faithful to come alongside to encourage him as needed. Paul knew that God had much for him to accomplish and the path would not be easy, but he pressed on with the Lord's message ringing in his heart... Take Courage!
The Lord has a purpose and plan for every believer, but it may not be easy. Paul wrote Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12... "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted".  Your path may be difficult at times but the Lord will stand near to encourage you. The Pilgrims found freedom and you will achieve God's task if you will just press on and... Take Courage! 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Called by God...

“Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard." - Acts 22:14-15
Who are you? Many people would answer that question by stating their profession. Their career is their identity. There are bankers, lawyers, physicians, contractors, hairdressers and then there are ministers. But, should the minister be listed in the same way as other careers? The minister is a calling, and it runs deeper and wider than any career. When careers have come and gone, those who have been chosen to "witness to all men of what they have seen and heard" continue to be ministers... called by God.
Paul was chosen to know God's will, see the Lord and hear his words. He was set apart to bear witness of these things for a lifetime. His calling was quite simple; listen, learn, live and light the way for others as a minister of Christ. Paul might have said that his profession, career or identity was being a tent-maker. But, when Paul put aside the tools of his daily trade, he continued to be a minister... called by God.
Who are you? Are you a policeman, fireman, soldier, designer or software programmer? After you have answered that question, who are you in light of God's calling and giftedness? "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses..." (Acts 1:8) Every believer is chosen of God to listen, learn, live and light the way for others. To a certain degree every believer is a minister... called by God.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Do you suppose?

"When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple." Acts 21:27-29  
"You can't judge a book by its cover" became popular in contemporary literature during the 1940s. This phrase has been part of folk wisdom ever since, but sadly, not as often practiced as preached. We still judge others by the people they are seen with or the places that they visit. We "suppose" by appearances.
Paul was seized and dragged out of the Temple due to false conclusions. He was judged, tried and convicted by those who saw him with Trophimus the Ephesian. A good person was deemed guilty of wrongful doing before the "cover" of the situation was opened. Paul's future suffered a downward spiral because someone "supposed" by appearances.
Just as David prayed in Psalm 139:23 "Search me, O God, and know my heart!", may we search for the facts before we judge other people. As we follow the second "Great" commandment of Matthew 22:39, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself", may we judge others as we would be judged. Never just "suppose" by appearances.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A glad reception...

"When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly." - Acts 21:17
I like dogs. I own a dog. I don't own a cat. All this to emphasise the major difference between the two and why I choose one over the other. When I am away from the house more than ten minutes and return, my dog JoJo, unlike any cat, jumps around with such excitement it's insane. There's just something special about coming back home and having a glad reception.
Christian fellowship runs far deeper and is of great significance than the companionship of a dog. But, having stated the obvious may I say that when Luke recorded the events before us today he was blessed and grateful for warm Christian fellowship. He considered it just something special to come back home and have a glad reception.
When other believers saunter into your church or Bible study, how are they received? How do the brethren respond to you when you arrive, after being away for vacation? Along with everything that makes up Christian fellowship, the first quality is the special blessing of receiving a glad reception.

Think about this:  "Keep company with the more cheerful sort of the godly; there is no mirth like the mirth of believers."
                                                                        - Richard Baxter

Friday, October 6, 2017

Without question...

"Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”" - Acts 21:13-14 
We have had a number of young men from our church who spent numerous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every time they left for a new tour we had great concern for their safety. The truth is; no one wanted to see their loved ones go to war. But our young men and women who choose to serve their country go where they are called... without question.
The Christian life to which we are called is warfare. There are some battles that are more demanding than others, but Paul was ready to serve the Lord, anywhere at any cost. He was deeply loved and no one wanted to see him exposed to danger, but when his Commander and Chief called Paul obeyed... without question.
Has the Lord been calling you to new challenges lately? Have there been dear loved ones that are worried for your "welfare"? Have they expressed emotional concern and tried to discourage you? Take a lesson from Paul and obey your Masters call. May "The Lord's will be done."... without question. 
________________________________

CONSIDER THIS

 "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,
 “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.
 Yet not as I will, but as you will.”" 
- Matthew 26:39

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Be on your guard...

"I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." - Acts 20:29-31 
We have a neighborhood full of squirrels. Usually they are cute little creatures who scurry up and down the trees. On one occasion though, we had a rogue squirrel that chased people, jumped onto their backs and would bite them. Someone eventually got hold of the little guy and put an end to the spree of terror. While this little "nut case" is gone and things are back to normal, we never know what may suddenly jump up, so we are always on our guard.
Paul was far more concerned about "savagery of the soul" than "terror from the trees". He knew that people would come into the church with ulterior motives and lead believers astray. Some would come "into" the assembly and some would jump up from "within". His words of caution directed the Ephesians back to three long years of consistent teaching and warning from God's Word. He called on them to remember and be on their guard.
The church seems to be a quiet neighborhood where we should feel spiritually safe. But, there will always be those who will sneak in without warning and "distort the truth". We need to be well versed in God's Word and always alert to those who "will not spare the flock". Read the Word daily, study faithfully, listen carefully and be on your guard.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Be wise about good...

"Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil." -- Romans 16:19
The pursuit  of  knowledge  can  be  quite  profitable. This week classes will be filled with students  seeking  an  education  in  preparation  for  a career. While these studies can be good, there are some college experiences that would be best avoided. Some students will graduate wise in what is good, but others will not be so wise.
Paul was very well educated. His writings and testimony reveal great insight and understanding in many areas. But he saw the need to be discerning in our pursuit of knowledge. With only so much time and too much to learn, Paul directs us to be "wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil"
Knowing all about evil will never improve our ability to deal with temptation. Being wise about what is good will deepen our walk with God and strengthen our resolve against sin. Choose your reading and media carefully my friend. Someone wisely said, "You are what you read.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

You need others...

"I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf" - Romans 15:30
You go to your doctor, lawyer, professor or some other professional for specific help. You see them as people who have expertise in their field to give help, not receive help. But, don't they ever need support from others? Doctors need nurses, lawyers need paralegals, and professors need research assistants. No man is an island ... people need people.
In that spirit, Paul was never so independent that he didn't need others. He was a premier apostle with credentials galore and yet he sought help from brothers in Christ. His request was made with passionate words that acknowledged the need for prayer support. No Christian is an island ... believers need believers.
Are you always ready to pray for someone in need my friend? This is good, but when have  you been transparently honest about your own needs? When was the last time you asked for prayer and support from others? Follow the example of Paul and be as ready to ask for help as your are to give help. You're not an island ... you need others.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Acceptance leads to acceptance...

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" -- Romans 15:7
Being accepted onto a college campus as a freshman can be quite a challenge. It all begins with someone who is willing to welcome you. An upper class-man that remembers receiving a kind welcome themselves always helps. Acceptance leads to acceptance.
Paul knew what it was like to be suspect as a new believer. To be accepted by Jesus was a great blessing after he had persecuted so many believers. This gracious reception by the Lord marked Paul's ministry forever. Acceptance led to acceptance.
In the Christian family we all stand on level ground. Jesus forgave each of us and lovingly receives us into his fold. If our Lord is so accepting of us, how can we not be accepting of one another? Acceptance should lead to acceptance.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Build up, don't tear down...

"Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand... Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." -- Romans 14:4, 19
Where I grew up there were occasions when neighborhood pranks would take a bad turn. One such prank was the use of Coke poured on someone's car. Over night the chemicals in the soft drink would eat into the paint finish. The soda would taste sweet but have the power to damage.
The process of judging someone with a critical attitude is very much like Coke on a car. It may seem sweet to the taste to talk about others and put them down, but over time this practice will damage. It eats away at relationships as well as the heart of the one who criticizes.
Do you find it easy to find fault with your brother or sister in Jesus? Is it your expectation that they follow the Lord in the same way as you? Remember, we are all the Lord's servants, unique and accountable to him. Rather than pour acid on others, learn to accept them without passing judgment. Build up, don't tear down.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wake up...

"And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." -- Romans 13:11 
Have you ever been awakened by the alarm clock, wondering about the time? Did you find yourself so groggy that you weren't sure what day it was? Thankfully, after a few moments and a splash of cold water on your face, you were awake and ready to take on the world. That's a good thing, because the day wouldn't go so well if you walked around in a state of slumber. The blessings of life will pass you by when you're asleep.
Our spiritual lives are no different. While we have been made alive in Jesus, we're not always awake. If we were, Paul would have no reason to write this admonition. If we walk through life in a state of slumber we won't understand the present time or live in readiness for the Lord's return. Spiritual blessings will pass you by when you're asleep.
Occasionally you will read about someone who has been in a very long coma. When they waken they are shocked and saddened at how much time has passed since they slipped into the deep sleep. Don't be a coma Christian my friend. Wake up from your slumber and live your life to the full for Christ. Get the most out of God's challenges and blessings before they pass you by.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Maintain your fervor...

"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." -- Romans 12:11
When I was growing up I played football and soccer. We always looked forward to game day. Practices were not as much fun or exciting. We were driven by our coaches to built our stamina and skill. To win on game day, we needed to maintain our fervor.
The spiritual life is no different. We all want to do the fun ministry activities. But if we don't practice by performing spiritual disciplines, we'll never build stamina. The Lord wants us to have energy and zeal in the second half of our lives. To win the race set before us by the Lord, we need to maintain our fervor.
You may be excited about preaching, witnessing and counseling those in need. But if you hope to keep your zeal over the years, you need stamina. Make quality time to pray and read the Scriptures every day. Listen to the voice of God and nurture a deeper walk with him through discipline. Get back to the basics of your spiritual life and then you will have the fervor to win.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It's ALL about HIM!

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." -- Romans 11:36
Aristotle embraced the geocentric model, believing the earth to be the center of the universe. In 1543 Copernicus proposed a new paradigm placing the sun in the center. Over the years I have met some rather unusual individuals that dogmatically believe that they themselves are in fact the center of the universe. Could they all be wrong?
Paul has taken the Roman believers from the answer for mankind's lost condition to the divine elective plan for Israel. When all the detail and design is thoroughly revealed the reader can see that all the glory belongs to the Lord of creation. The whole universe comes together with beautiful symmetry when we acknowledge God as the true Center. Paul alone was right.
The best day is the one that begins with this truth: "For from him and through him and to him are all things." Every day continues to grow better and make more sense when, the Lord is given all the glory. Life is never about us... it's ALL about HIM!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

You can't have it both ways...

"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." - Romans 11:6

We make decisions every day. Do you want fries with your order? Does the brown couch match better than the beige? Should you take the highway or the local road? In most cases you have to choose one or the other, but you can't have it both ways.
We find the same issue in spiritual matters. You will worship Jesus Christ or another God. You may believe God's Word or man's word. You may choose heaven or hell. Ulitmately you must choose God's gift or your works, but you can't have it both ways.
Don't you wish you could "have your cake and eat it too" my friend? Some may teach you that heaven is reached by grace AND works. Others believe that our sins are paid for by Jesus AND our efforts. But the truth is clearly stated in the above verse. It's one or the other, but you can't have it both ways.
   "For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing;  it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

- Ephesians 2:8-9

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Misdirected...

"For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." -- Romans 10:2-4 
The pilot announced, "I have good news and bad news; the good news is, we're making great time and the bad news is, we're lost." Yes, it's an old worn out joke, but it readily applies in this case. Zeal and progress may be tremendous, but when the knowledge is lacking and the direction is wrong, all is lost.
Religion may seem to be just right, but if it isn't true to Scripture then people will suffer, both now and eternally. Paul wrote about his nation and the incredible zeal they had for God. Their relationship was solely built on a righteousness of their own without submitting to God's righteousness. For these "religious" people, there was no place for Christ, the end of the law.
Too many people are under the persuasion that they "know" all there is about the Bible and religion. Their zeal is unfounded and misdirected as a result. The reason to read the Scriptures is to find truth and find our way to God. While Paul wrote in verse 13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”, he also wrote in verse 17, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."  Don't be in such a hurry that you lose your way. Stop and read the Word and be zealous for what is true.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Selfless Compassion...

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race..." -- Romans 9:1-3
I attended an ordination service for a good friend some years ago. He was being ordained to the Gospel ministry with a focus on inner city mission work. His brother spoke of growing up near the city and making many visits as a family. One thing he remembered about my friend was the way he wept over the homeless and downtrodden of the city. To this day my friend has unceasing anguish in his heart for the city. He has selfless compassion.
Sincere ministry should be passionate. The passion comes from deep within and motivates us as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14, "For Christ’s love compels us..." In the above passage he is also moved by the lost condition of his brothers and he has a passion for their salvation. His passion is so strong that he is willing to be cut off from Christ for the sake of his brothers. He had selfless compassion.
Jesus gave his life for the salvation of the lost, what are we willing to give? Do we love the Lord and the lost enough to be passionate about their salvation? May we pray for the passion of Paul as we look to the fields that are white unto harvest? Sincere ministry needs selfless compassion.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

FOREVER!

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39
Over the years I have used a number of glues and epoxies. Some have been waterproof, others have been limited to wood, plastic or metal. There were also the well known "super-glues" that would restore your broken lamp in seconds. Still, the most important quality of any adhesive product is the ability to remain secure over time. 
Paul was confident in "super-glue" of God's love. It was and is impervious to catastrophes, life changes, earthly powers or the passage of time. Ultimately, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Such love can and will restore your broken life in seconds and you will remain secure over time.
Have you experienced trouble, hardship and rocky roads recently my friend? Have you questioned the love and care of others? Do you feel as if no one can put the pieces back together? Well, there is Someone who loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and is ready to not only restore your broken life, but will hold you tight ... FOREVER!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Heirs and glory...

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." -- Romans 8:17-18
Through the last two hundred years the majority of British monarchs have served in the military. Their service stretched from the American Revolution through World War Two. While they were officers, they were still involved in war, and the way to the throne was not easy. But, because they were heirs, the glory was theirs.
As children of the King of Kings, believers will share in his glory. Our path will lead us through the battles of spiritual warfare and the way may not be easy. As soldiers of the cross, we are called upon to serve our King with faithfulness in the darkest days of suffering. Yet, because we are heirs, the glory will be ours.
Just because you are a co-heir with Christ, doesn't mean the road to heaven will be paved with gold. The battles will be tough and the hardships many. But, remember my friend, "that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us". So, because we are heirs, the glory will ours.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The difference of relationship...

"So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God." -- Romans 7:4
A florist delivers flowers because of his job. A husband delivers flowers because of his love. The one fulfills his task out of obligation and the other out of devotion. Now, when the florist gives flowers to his wife his obligation ceases and his romance begins. The difference is a relationship.
The law was given to reveal the inability of man to fulfill his obligation to God. It was never meant to save his soul or enable him to bear spiritual fruit. In Christ we not only died to sin, but we also died to the law. Now we belong to the One who rose from the dead in order that we might bear fruit to God. The obligation has ceased and the romance has begun. The difference is a relationship.
Why do you strive to live a Godly life my friend? Is it because of legal expectations? This train left the station at Calvary and you now belong to Jesus with a loving devotion. Take him flowers of romance, not of obligation. Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The chains are broken!

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" -- Romans 6:1-2
In his book on Elephants, Gavin de Becker tells how young Elephants are held to a stake by strong chains until they no longer struggle. After a few months, the huge beast can be held in place by a slender rope. The animal is free to run, but the memory of strong resistance keeps him in place. The chains are gone, but the conduct is unchanged.
While such Elephant training may be a good thing for the sake of safety, the chains of sin have been removed with greater expectations. Paul reminds believers that we have died to sin and its power no longer holds us as slaves. Since we are united with Christ we may now live a new life in his resurrection power. Our chains are gone, so we our conduct should change.
Could it be true that believers still live in sin, making grace increase? Is it possible that while we have died with Christ, we don't live with him? The chains are broken and it's up to us to "count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (vs.11). Don't be like a well trained Elephant, held down to sinful living by a slender rope. The chains have been broken and you've been set free. Live for God and reap the benefits!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stay the course...

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." -- Romans 5:3-4
The promises and hope of a new career can be easily dashed when challenges and struggles enter the picture. For some the job is dumped and an easier path is chosen. But others will stay the course and grow through the hardships and become successful. It's all about an inner drive.
For the believer there is great joy in knowing that they have peace with God and are forgiven. But when sufferings come, and they will, how should they respond? They not only press on, but they rejoice in their sufferings finding spiritual qualities growing in their lives. All this is possible only through an inner drive... the Holy Spirit.
Before you give up the fight my friend, remember that God has poured out his love into your heart. He who has begun a good work in your life will never give up. So stay the course and press on, because you have an everlasting inner drive that will never leave you... the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Be persuaded...

"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." -- Romans 4:20-21
Millions of dollars are spent every year with one purpose in mind: persuasion. Efforts are made to persuade us to trust insurance companies, investment firms, law firms, security providers and health providers. Trust them and they will see you through any and every dilemma that may come your way. But, do they have the power to do what they promise?
Promises of an incredible nature were made to Abraham. To the human mind they were impossible, but Abraham believed God, and "it was credited to him as righteousness." Just as Abraham did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, we too should be persuaded. Why? God has the power to do what he promises!
My friend, the Lord has promised the gift of new life to all who will believe. It seems impossible that anyone can begin again and have a totally changed life and heaven to boot, but it's true. This is God's promise to keep and ours to believe. We never need to fear or doubt; no matter how dark the days may become. God paid the highest price in history to persuade us of his power. Jesus "was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification". Be persuaded my friend... Be persuaded and live!!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Our only cure...

"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood..."  -- Romans 3:23-25
Guilt is real. But what has be done to remedy this great weight upon our hearts? Throughout the years psychological pursuits and various forms of religious efforts have been made to set us free from the burden. Yet, guilt continues to lay upon every soul around the globe for "all have sinned" and there is only one cure.
Paul presented a very thorough case of universal guilt of the religious and irreligious. Down deep within every heart there is great guilt that cannot be relieved. To be justified and forgiven a price of redemption had to be paid that was quite specific. That price to clear our guilt was the shed blood of Jesus. This alone is the only cure.
As the old green stamp "redemption center" was a place to find all kinds of treasures, the "redemption center" of the cross of Christ is a place to find the greatest treasure. We no longer need to carry our guilt through life. Forgiveness has been paid for and can be ours "through faith in his blood." That is our only cure.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Change through faith...

"For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." - Romans 3:20
I have two temperature instruments in my home. One is a thermometer and the other is a thermostat. The first one tells me what the temperature is and the second controls the temperature. No matter how cold it gets, the thermometer can never adjust the temperature. Change can only come through the thermostat.
Like these two wonderful instruments, we have the law and faith. Many people confuse the two and believe that the law can change the spiritual temperature and make one righteous. As we read above, the thermometer of law can only reveal sin and never improve the condition. Change can only come through the thermostat of faith. 
Be careful my friend and never depend on the works of the law to change your heart. Learn from the law how great a sinner you are and flee into the arms of Christ and be transformed from within.  Change can only come through faith.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hypocrites...

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." -- Romans 2:1
Over the years I have met a vast number of people who claim one major reason for not attending church. They believe that there are too many hypocrites in the church. The sad truth is; there are and always have been hypocrites in the church. As a matter of fact, our world is full of hypocrites. These are people who criticize others for doing the same things that they do. We are all hypocrites to some degree and we need God's mercy.
Paul addressed the "unchurched" and the "churched" in chapter one and two. In the above verse he speaks to those who think themselves to be without fault. But, he reminds them that God judges us all according to truth and every man needs the Lord's kindness that leads to repentance. Before we pass judgment on others, we ought to look in the mirror and seek God's mercy.
Our human nature will always be prone to see others as sinners and ourselves as righteous. But, let's be honest and take a closer look. We're all in the same boat and we need God's patient forgiveness. The next time you criticize someone, look in the mirror and take inventory. Don't judge hypocrites because you may be one. Be grateful for the riches of God's kindness and seek his mercy.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Real POWER...

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." -- Romans 1:16
Over 450,000 tons of granite was removed from Mount Rushmore while carving the four presidents. The process was quite dangerous since ninety per cent of the mountain was carved out using dynamite. With the power of this explosive, four sixty foot sculptures were carved out of solid rock. Dynamite is an extraordinary power to behold.
The word used to name Alfred Nobel's invention is derived from the Greek word found in this passage for power. The choice was quite appropriate, since such explosive power is needed to break the chains of sin and set the soul free. When there seems to be no hope, and the grip of sin is rock solid, the dynamite of the gospel is an extraordinary power to behold.
Salvation from the penalty, power and presence of sin is impossible with man. If you feel that religion has failed you and you are completely disconnected from God, try the Gospel. It is simply defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, "...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" For all who believe, the gospel is an extraordinary power to behold.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Love them like Jesus...

"After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece." - Acts 20:1-2
I have a pastor friend in western Pennsylvania that, a few years ago, had a summer of incredible tribulation. His months had been filled with surgery and rehab, followed by further surgery and extensive rehab. All this was mixed with family and church grief of losing loved ones. Yet, in all his rainy days he was ever diligent to encourage others in every way possible. He welcomed each day with thoughts on the Lord and spread the good word.
Paul set us a living and lasting example of how to deal with hardships and trials of life. In the face of violent opposition and personal danger, his mind was focused on encouraging the disciples. He made this his intention where he was located and his goal where ever he traveled. Paul was true to his exhortation as written in Philippians 2:4 "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
The best way to rise above the clouds in your life is to reach out to others. When you are involved in the welfare of someone else to encourage and bless them, your own struggles will fade into the background. Take time to redirect your efforts today my friend. Encourage someone in whatever way possible and love them like Jesus.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Test yourself...

"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.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Masquerader...

"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 won't be long before children and even adults will "masquerade" as someone other than themselves. They will 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.

Monday, September 11, 2017

His "Fame"...

"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.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The grace that keeps on giving!

"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!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The privilege of giving...

"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.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Someone to help...

"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!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Today!

"As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." -- 2 Corinthians 6:1-2
The fifth point in the Procrastinator's Creed states: "I firmly believe that tomorrow holds the possibility for new technologies, astounding discoveries, and a reprieve from my obligations." So, for a great many in our world, the sun will always come out "tomorrow", no matter how dire the circumstances. But, maybe not, for we only have the guarantee of TODAY.
On two counts Paul emphasizes the need for urgency. Those who have not yet accepted the Lord's favor and salvation should respond today. And those who have the opportunity to "urge" others to receive God's grace should always act quickly. While "tomorrow" may hold amazing possibilities, we only have the guarantee of TODAY.
What are you waiting for my friend? If you have chosen to put off God's amazing offer of forgiveness and new life in Jesus, don't wait another minute. And if you have received this wonderful gift, who has God brought into your life that needs to hear? Don't wait, because "tomorrow" on this earth may never come. Remember, we only have the guarantee of TODAY!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Guarantee...

"Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." -- 2 Corinthians 5:5
I saved my pennies for quite some time and on March 16, 1979 I took the love of my life to the beach and wrote "Will you marry me?" in the sand. When she wrote "Yes", I slipped the ring on her finger and we were engaged. That ring guaranteed what would take place sixteen months later on July 19, 1980; we were married and started a new home together. For the months between, my sweetheart would look at her ring and know, without question, that a wedding was coming. She had "a deposit, guaranteeing what what is to come."
For every believer there's a day coming when the promise of a heavenly home will come true. How can we be sure of such a future? Does anyone have a personal guarantee? Rather than a tangible ring of engagement, the believer has the life changing, personal presence of the Spirit of God. The doubts and fears of the future have been replaced with assurance and courage. The Lord has made his home within our hearts to "guarantee what is to come".    
Do you have a fear of death my friend? Are you determined to avoid the passage into eternity at any cost? Why be filled with insecurities about your life after death? As any young couple looks forward to their future, so every believer has very good reason to be excited and hopeful about their heavenly home, because the Spirit of God has been given to "guarantee what is to come."