Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hospitality...

"Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God." -- 3 John 5-6
Walmart had a great idea when they hired people to greet shoppers at the main entrance. The majority have a friendly smile and make me feel very welcomed. While there are some greeters who seem to be bored with their job, most are quite sincere. Even though we are strangers, a hospitable spirit goes a long way.
Along those same lines, my wife and I were visiting a church some time ago while on vacation. We were given a happy and pleasant greeting by a friendly usher. While there were very few others that said hello, we will never forget that kind usher that welcomed us upon arrival and gave a very fond farewell as we left. Even though we were strangers, a hospitable spirit went a long way.
How do you treat visitors at your church? Do you go out of your way to greet them with a warm welcome? As you reach out to new faces this Sunday, be sure your love is sincere and your spirit is worthy of the Lord. Remember, even though you are strangers, a hospitable spirit goes a long way.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Accessory...

"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work." -- 2 John 10-11
In the legal community there is conduct called "Accessory" that is considered criminal. By definition an Accessory is "a person who assists in the commission of a crime, but who does not actually participate in the commission of the crime as a joint principal". Guilt follows the action with criminal charges and legal ramifications. Basically, anyone who is an Accessory shares in the evil work.
When it comes to spiritual matters we often lose our clarity of thought. John saw the need to give instruction on this point, as unwarranted tolerance seemed to run rampant. Time has not remedied the matter, since tolerance is the way to go for many contemporary believers. While social crime is a serious matter, spiritual heresy endangers the eternal future of the soul. John made it clear with the words, "Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work."
Know what you believe my friend, and stand firm in your faith. Take notice of those who have perverted the doctrines of the faith and do not condone or encourage them. You will notice that this teaching comes in the same letter that speaks about loving the brothers. The command to love one another is well established, but do not welcome those who would lead others astray from the truth or you will share in their wicked work as an Accessory.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Who loves you?

"This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." -- 1 John 5:3-5
The simplicity of a child's devotion is a wonder. They love their parents with all their heart and trust them implicitly. Because of this relationship they will obey at times when others might question. The process is very basic, but is soon lost as they mature. Adults have great difficulty trusting and obeying. The missing element may just be love.
So it is with our walk with God. Simplicity may be fine for children, but as adults we question and doubt far too much. Some believe that the Lord's commands are "burdensome" while others believe that victory is impossible. While faith is critical, the real issue is the focus of our faith. The one we trust and obey can only be the one we love.
Who loves you my friend? And who do you love with all you obedience and faith? Your relationship with the Lord is far more than just trusting and obeying. It is a confidence in God's love for you and your desire to respond with a life of love. As John already said in chapter four, verse sixteen, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us."

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Elusive Love?...

"We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." -- 1 John 4:19-21
"What the World Needs Now Is Love", a song written by Hal David with music by Burt Bacharach was released on April 15, 1965. Being quite well received, it reached number 7 on the US charts in May of that year. Yet, within the next seven years 58,193 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam, and both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated in 1968 followed by riots in 60 American cities. Why is love so elusive?
The children of God have the only hope for real and lasting love. How do I know this you may ask? The above passage says it emphatically, "We love because he first loved us." By the very transforming work of the Holy Spirit love for one another becomes a reality. On this basis we are commanded to love our brothers as we love God. For the believer, love should never be elusive.
Anger, bitterness, hatred and bigotry have marked our world throughout history. In truth, "What the World Needs Now Is Love". And you, my friend, may be the only genuine evidence of God's transforming love in your workplace, family or school. Let the world know that love doesn't need to be elusive.

Friday, December 8, 2017

"Clean House"...

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." -- 1 John 3:2-3
Our home is always orderly and clean. But when guests are coming for dinner, or even if family is coming for a few days, my dear wife works like crazy to spruce up the place. She vacuums, dusts, brings out the best dishes and stocks the kitchen with good food to eat. She hopes that our visitors will enjoy their stay and be pleased that they came.
John reminds us that we are children of God and the best days are ahead. He tells us that a day is coming when the Lord will return and we shall see him face to face. Furthermore, if we have this hope as a driving force in our hearts, we will get ready. We will "clean house" to purify ourselves just as Jesus is pure. We will want the Lord to be pleased when he arrives.
Take time on a regular basis to do an inventory my friend. How does your house look today? If the Lord returned this afternoon, would he find things in good order and a purified life? Maybe today would be a good time to get out the vacuum cleaner and dust cloth and "clean house". I'm sure that you would want the Lord to be pleased when he arrives?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Restored...

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.." - 1 John 1:7-9
Family life isn't always a peaceful experience. When children deliberately disobey their parents their relationship is strained. In most families disobedience doesn't cause Mom and Dad to toss little Johnny out on his ear. They still love him dearly, but his conduct places a wedge where there had been a tight family bond. Without the restoring work of the Lord that wedge may remain long after apologies are made.
In a similar way our Christian walk isn't always a peaceful experience. When we deliberately disobey the Lord in our thoughts, words or actions we disappoint Him. The fact that He loves us never changes, but our fellowship with Him is strained. Thankfully, the simple step of confession and repentance will always dispel any wedge, since we have a Savior whose blood washes away any and every disobedience.
Are you out of fellowship with your Lord my friend? Have there been too many days without prayerful communion and meaningful worship? Have you allowed sin in your life to strain your precious relationship with Jesus?  Remember, you are a child of the King and He loves you with an everlasting love. Don't allow a wedge to get in the way of joyful fellowship. Come back to the Lord, for He is ready to forgive and wash away your disobedience. His restoration will be full and complete.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Fire-Snatchers...

"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit... snatch others from the fire and save them..." -- Jude 20, 23
When the house goes up in flames and fire-fighters arrive, you hope they are in good shape. If someone is caught in the house and needs to be rescued, you hope the rescue team is skilled and well trained. People's lives depend on those who are always ready to save the day. The best fire-fighter is a prepared fire-fighter.
In the face of eternity there are souls in danger of fire every day. They need someone who is well trained to "snatch' them from the flames. But too many believers have allowed the "good life" to eat up their time and energy. When the alarm rings they aren't ready to help. The best fire-snatcher is a prepared fire-snatcher.
The emphasis of verse 20 is to build oneself in the faith. If you hope to snatch others from the flames, you need to be skilled and trained. Are you spending time every day in the Word of God and in Spirit led prayer? Do you practice these disciplines so that you're always ready? Remember, the best fire-snatcher is a prepared fire-snatcher.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

In His time...

"First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." - 2 Peter 3:3-7 
Some years ago, news headlines revealed that the remains of Noah's Ark have been discovered 13,000 feet up a Turkish mountain -- according to a claim by a group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers. From the first announcement, scoffers came out of the woodwork. The comments range from the flood being nothing more than a myth to the whole discovery concept being a "crock". The world is filled with more man made theories and less belief in God than ever before.
Peter wrote about our days prophetically and spoke of those who would "deliberately forget". He reminded us that God has intervened in his world with past judgment and one day he will do so again. By the Word of the Lord, destruction will come upon scoffers and unbelievers who choose to forget God.
Christian friend, don't be troubled by scoffers and critics that deny the Lord and his marvelous works. Remember that God's timing is not ours, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." (8)  Just stay focused on your own walk with God in this godless world and consider, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." (11-12) 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Distressed?

"... and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) — if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment." - 2 Peter 2:7-9
The movie "Gone with the Wind" came out in 1939. This film brought an explicative to the silver screen before the ears of the public for the first time and with it came great distress from Christians. Seventy-three years have passed and profanity on the big screen and television has become regular fare. Sadly, Christians aren't so distressed anymore. As the world has drifted farther from moral absolutes, the Christian community has followed... not far behind. Where is our distress?
Lot was a man of mixed allegiance to God. His choice to live "near" Sodom, and eventually "in" Sodom is a story of spiritual slippage at its worst. But, Peter recorded that Lot never lost his righteous sensitivity that was tormented by the lawless deeds that he saw and heard. Lot was never disconnected from the Lord, and before judgment fell, God delivered him. Lot was surrounded by evil, but he persevered as a "righteous soul" and he was distressed.
We live in an age of great evil and unrighteousness. Our country murders children in the womb without any sense of guilt. We see the lifestyles of the first chapter of Romans surrounding us every day. We know that in time, God's judgment will fall and he will deliver his own. But while we wait for his coming, will we slowly accept and tolerate the Godlessness around us or will we remain a "a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (1 Peter 2:9) and be distressed?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Reminders...

"So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things." - 2 Peter 1:12-15 
I stood with six men that I had known for years and found myself unable to remember the name of one of my friends. My mind went totally blank. The memory is a tricky thing at times and in the best of health we can have a loss that totally frustrates us. Spiritual truth is easily forgotten was well, no matter how long we have known the truth. We all need regular reminders if we are to be firmly established.
There are times when we are tempted to seek the "new" and "unique" at the cost of leaving the old paths behind. Peter knew that the old truth was the life changing truth that is timeless. He also knew that we all need reminders and he was totally focused on the ministry of remembrance. He wanted to leave behind a solid foundation as a lasting legacy.
Why should we revisit Scripture reading year in and year out? Why should we sit under the preaching and teaching of the same Biblical truths on a weekly basis? The fact is, that we all tend to forget and we need to remember spiritual truth if we are to be firmly established. Never hesitate to remind yourself and others of spiritual truths that will change your life for the better.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

For the love of another?

"Do your best to come to me quickly,  for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." - 2 Timothy 4:9-11
How sad to see marriages deteriorate because the husband or wife has become too caught up in their career. Their love for each other has been replaced by an overwhelming love for the job. The preoccupation can also be something or someone else, but whatever the reason, the relationship is deserted... for the love of another.
Demas was committed to the Lord and Paul as they labored together in the ministry. Then he fell in love with the world and left it all behind. What a sad legacy to be recorded in the Scriptures for all time. It seemed that over the long haul the world wooed Demas from his first love. He deserted Paul and the mission... for the love of another.
Where is your devotion today my friend? Are you as committed to the Lord and his call as you were in the beginning? Does the ministry of the Word still have your wholehearted devotion? Or have you been wooed away by another pursuit and deserted His greater purpose for your life... for the love of another?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Our spiritual "Leatherman"...

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:14-17 
I remember the first Boy Scout knife I owned. It was more than cool; it had a knife blade, fork, spoon, and can opener. It was all a guy ever needed for the emergencies of life. Today I own a wide selection of knives that include a number of "Leatherman" products. A "Leatherman" is more than cool; it has multiple knife blades, a saw, scissors, multiple screwdrivers, a file and still more than I can list. It is all that a guy will ever need for the emergencies of life.
When Paul rounded out his counsel to young Timothy, he directed him to his spiritual "Leatherman". He reminded Timothy to continue to use it with confidence. He reviewed the many qualities of the tool and explained how useful they are in daily life. When all was said, Timothy was assured that the Bible was all a guy will ever need for the emergencies of life.
Take a moment to look at your spiritual "Leatherman"... isn't it more than cool? Do you have it sharpened in your heart and ready for use? Do you use this spiritual tool that God has blessed you with day by day? The Lord didn't give us His Word to set on the shelf. When he gave us the Bible, he gave us all we will ever need for the emergencies of life.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Passing the baton...

"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." - 2 Timothy 2:1-2
During the Olympics we find a wide variety of competitive races. Most involve one athlete who will carry the whole race by themselves.  But the "relay" race depends on the involvement of many. At certain points in the race the next athlete picks up the cause until they pass it on to the next team member. The relay race is all about "passing the baton".
When Paul taught, mentored and wrote Timothy he was passing on the great truths of the gospel. He expected Timothy to do the same by entrusting these truths to reliable believers who would also pass them on to others. Gospel truths are not to be hoarded and kept as eternal trophies. They are intended to change our lives and be passed on to a new generation. We are expected to "pass the baton".
Every believer has great gospel truths to pass on to others. The theme of the "Great Commission" is the heartbeat of this passage. We are to "make disciples", who will "make disciples", who will "make disciples". Who are you mentoring today? Do you have someone to whom you are "passing the baton?".

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Refresh someone today!

"May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus." - 2 Timothy 1:16-18 
There are those of whom we can ask help if it's convenient and there are those who will drop everything to help. It's even rarer to find a person who will go out of their comfort zone to search for someone to help. Such a person truly refreshes the soul.
Onesiphorus was just such a person to Paul. He searched hard for Paul until he found him and then helped him in many ways. At a time of great discouragement, this Christian Brother came along side when he was needed the most. His effort far exceeded a kind word and it brought him into the most uncomfortable settings, but as a result, he refreshed Paul's soul.
Are you waiting for the opportunity to help someone to come knocking at your door? Are you available only when it's convenient? Why not be an Onesiphorus today and search for someone who needs help? Why not make the time today and... Refresh someone's soul?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

It's all about giving...

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." - Hebrews 13:15-16
The "Prosperity Gospel" has been popular for quite some time. Our generation has been quite taken with what they can get from God in riches. We come to worship and pray when we want something from God. The thought of bringing sacrifices to Him or giving generously to others is quite foreign to this self-centered theology. But what is it that truly pleases God?
We may be careful to choose a church that teaches the true gospel, but do we worship and serve in the spirit of that gospel? God is most honored in worship when we offer "a sacrifice of praise" and He is most pleased when we "do good and share with others". John put it this way in 1 John 3:16, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." The right response to the gospel is giving, not about getting.
So, what are you planning for this coming Lord's Day? How will you worship the Lord? Will you arrive with your heart focused on Him and lifting up all that you are to praise him? Will you in turn give to others this week and share God's blessings with them as unto the Lord? For "... with such sacrifices God is pleased"  

Monday, November 27, 2017

Reverence and awe...

"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." - Hebrews 12:28-29
In 1970 a group named Ocean recorded the catchy tune "Put Your Hand In The Hand". The lyrics cover Jesus stilling the water and calming the sea encouraging the listener to put their "hand in the hand of the man from Galilee". A simple song with simple thoughts about God.
The writer of Hebrews doesn't give us simple. He reminds us of the awesome fact that our God is a consuming fire. In response to this sobering truth we are counseled to offer "acceptable worship, with reverence and awe". A profound passage with profound thoughts about God.
Always be encouraged by the fact that Jesus stills the water and calms the sea my friend. He is the answer to every storm you will ever face. But also remember that your God is a consuming fire. Be sure that your life is full of acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. May every day bring consuming thoughts about a consuming God.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Have you missed it?

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." - Hebrews 12:15
We occasionally have quite a bit of fruit in our house. When it first arrives it's sweet to the taste and healthy for the body. As time passes we fail to eat it all and it starts to rot. The taste has changed from good to bitter. We missed the opportunity to enjoy the sweetness.
Living with trials and struggles brings about the same process. In the midst of troubles, God avails himself to give us the sweet taste of his Grace. (Hebrews 4:16) When we choose to ignore this opportunity, we miss his grace and a bitter root grows up. We start to complain and eventually cause trouble for others. The sweetness is gone and we've started to rot and taste bad to others.
Have you missed the grace of God lately? Did you ignore the need for his grace when you were offended, tried or pressured by change? Are you now living with the results of a bitter root? Are others finding your presence to be a bad taste? Here is a word to wise, don't miss the opportunity to be sweet to the taste... "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Good choices...

"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." - Hebrews 11:24-26
Our journey through life is full of choices. Every choice we make will determine our future to one degree or another. We are most alarmed when a bad choice can never be reversed or rectified. But it is most encouraging when a good choice reaps untold benefits for years to come.
Moses made a choice early in life. He calculated the limited value of earthly wealth to be a poor choice. A far better choice was the lasting reward given to those who chose to stand with the Lord. While the temporal cost was mistreatment and loss of treasures, to follow the Lord was a good choice that reaped benefits eternally.
Today and tomorrow will call for many choices my friend. May you seek wisdom and carefully calculate what are "fleeting pleasures" in contrast to eternal treasures. Remember that bad choices are most often irreversible, while good choices reap untold benefits for years to come.

Friday, November 24, 2017

What's your longing?

"If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." - Hebrews 11:15-16
The puritan pilgrims arrived on the shores of America with a longing in their hearts. The days ahead were brutal and demanded great sacrifice. Eventually, opportunities came for a return to England, but they were focused on a better future in a new land. More significantly, they were looking and preparing for a heavenly country.
Whether it is the patriarchs of the Bible, the puritan pilgrims of the seventeenth century or the new believers of 2010, the dynamics are always the same. If we are still too tied to the old ways of the world, we can always return. But, devoted believers have left the past behind for good, with no desire to return. They are focused on the future, preparing for eternity every day.
Search your heart my friend. What is your longing? Are you so deeply rooted in this world that you rarely think about heavenly things? Are you so satisfied with the present material possessions that you have no longing for a heavenly country? Remember, God's children are those who have "admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (verse 13) and their "... citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). God is never ashamed of those who are looking for the city that he has prepared for them!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Every member...

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25 
From one season to the next sporting competition catches the attention of more people than can be counted. They root for their teams hoping that each player will do their very best. The coaches are just as determined to motivate every player toward peak performance. Because a team is only as strong as it's weakest player, every member of the team needs to be involved to their utmost.
The church is much like a sports team. Every member is important to the success and influence of the ministry. With this issue in mind, the writer of Hebrews instructs us to root for and motivate one another toward spiritual excellence. Just as sports figures need the encouragement of fans and coaches, so do believers. When we are regularly stirred up by fellow servants we most often give our utmost for the Lord.
As you serve the Lord this week my friend, are there others who are lagging behind? Are there those who are neglecting church services and Bible studies? When was the last time you called or visited them to stir them up to love and good works? We need all God's people to be involved, and they need us to cheer them on toward success. The Lord's church needs every member to give their utmost for His glory.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

God forgets...

"Then he adds:  "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." - Hebrews 10:17
There is true forgetfulness and there is a forgetfulness of convenience. At my age there is no convenience about my forgetfulness. There are some things that I truly desire to forget and there are those matters that I can't afford to forget. One thing is for sure, there are some things we need to remember and some that we need to forget.
As we think about our own memory issues, consider this: God chooses to forget and therefore he does. An omniscient creator who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and knows our every thought before we think them (Psalm 139:2) can willingly forget. But what is it that he chooses to forget? The true joy is in this: God never forgets us (Hebrews 13:5), but he forgets our sins. God has chosen to completely clear his memory of the sins of the repentant sinner.
On this Thanksgiving day, may we remember the many blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us. May we rejoice in the wonderful grace of Jesus poured out upon us during this last year. And in all our gratitude, may we give praise to a God who always remembers us with loving care and yet always forgets our sin and transgressions.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Be prepared...

"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." - Hebrews 9:27-28
"You only go around once", "This is a 'one time' offer", "You're only young once", and so the phrases go that tell us about onetime events. So it is with death, in this life, you only die once. There are no retakes or second chances after that moment. Since no one knows when that moment will come, it's best to be prepared.
Jesus died once to take away the sins of many, not all. The fact is, not everyone is ready for death. The most important way to "put your house in order" is to clear your sin debt. Jesus came the first time to do just that; pay for your sin. Only those who have been set free from their sins (verse 15) are truly prepared.
Yes, you only live once in this life, but there is a life to come. Are you ready? This is not a matter to put off until another day. Paul put it well in 2 Corinthians 6:2 "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." Don't wait my friend, you only die once, so be prepared. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Best!

"But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises." - Hebrews 8:6
Over the years Sears & Roebuck made the practice of categorizing their products as "Good, Better and Best". The practice has caught on and a vast number of retailers are now doing the same thing. The consumer is left with a choice that will be affordable and work for them. Sadly, many people must settle for the "Good" or "Better" because they simply cannot afford the "Best". Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could have the "Best"?
In spiritual matters though, everyone can have the "Best" or "superior" product. In comparison to the old covenant of works and all other religious expressions, the ministry of Jesus is "superior". The new covenant is founded on "Better" promises and therefore, He will be our God and we will be his people by faith and the Lord will forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more. Now, that is the "Best" offer to all who will receive.
Why try to work your way to heaven? Why follow religious teachings that always fall short of changing your heart? Give up the "Good" and "Better" and accept the "Best" as you trust Jesus and all His promises. Remember, "Whoever believes" (John 3:16) can have the "Best"!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

No better intercessor ...

"Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." - Hebrews 7:25-26
Lawyers are those who speak to the court on our behalf. Some are fairly dependable and some are just interested in their fee. Yet, it is recommended that we have an advocate to protect our legal interests. I have had so many requests to recommend a "good" lawyer that I've lost count. Thankfully, when it comes to the court of heaven, I can recommend an excellent lawyer to intercede with perfection.
Yes, priests are like lawyers. In the Old Testament they spoke to God on behalf of the people. Today we have one high priest who speaks on our behalf... his name is Jesus. There is no better intercessor for our souls, for he is "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners". Since he is able to "save completely", we can say that he has never lost a case. Jesus is the best lawyer that money can't buy. (He represents his clients "pro bono")
Why be represented before God by another sinner? Why try to represent yourself? We all need a high priest that "meets our need" perfectly because he is perfect. Jesus always lives to intercede for you my friend, so give your case to him. He alone is able to "save completely those who come to God through him".

Saturday, November 18, 2017

You are what you eat!

"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." - Hebrews 5:13-14
I watched as our sons matured, moving from milk to solid food. They quickly grew strong and agile, leaving me no other choice than to stop wrestling with them for my own safety. During those same years I watched my father relegated to a puree diet and saw his weight and strength slip away. The choice of food will always make a difference in our health and strength.
The spiritual life is no different than the physical. We need to move from spiritual milk to solid food to become strong. Furthermore, we need to train ourselves "by constant use" or feeding on solid food so we can "distinguish good from evil". The choice of spiritual food will always make a difference in our ability to know right from wrong.
We all need to grow up in spiritual teachings about righteousness. But, we also need to stay the course so we don't become weak from the lack of constant use. You may have been a Christian for many years, but remember, you still need the meat of the Word to stay strong in the faith. You are what you eat!!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Draw near...

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  - Hebrews 4:16 
Over the years we have all met people who feel the need to "share breath" with us during conversations. They venture into our "comfort zone" without invitation. It's alright to sit across the table and talk, but we really get uneasy when they force their way into "my space".  Are we really willing to allow needy people to "draw near"?
Thankfully, we have a friend, a Savior, a high priest who is willing to receive us into his "comfort zone". He has invited us to "draw near" to his throne of grace to receive mercy. There is never a time when we need to hold back from "sharing breath" with our Lord. In a way, Jesus has said, "Come with confidence into 'my space' so I can help in your time of need." 
The devotional writings that have made the greatest impact on my life over the years have been written by those who have ventured into our Lord's "comfort zone". They provide the encouragement and blessing that can only come from those who have "drawn near". Now, why depend on those who have "shared breath" with the Lord when we can go with confidence into "His space" today? Draw near my friend, draw near!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Faithfulness...

"Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house." - Hebrews 3:1-2 
As I occasionally review the wedding ceremony that I perform, I see that timeless word "faithfulness". The phrase is "and thereto I solemnly pledge to you, my faithfulness." Later in the ceremony, rings are exchanged with the words "This ring I give you, as a sign and pledge of my constant faith and abiding love". And yet, the number of divorces every year continues to stagger the mind. When will we fix our thoughts on Jesus, who taught us the meaning of "faithfulness"?
Faithfulness to marriage, to family, to our employers and to God's calling in our lives is as important today as it was for Jesus and Moses. We are so comforted when we think about God's faithfulness to us in times of need, but how faithful are we to our promises? True faithfulness will come from hearts that are focused on Jesus and are full of faith.
Being faithful may be difficult at times, but if we begin everyday fixing our thoughts on Jesus, determined to live by faith, faithfulness will follow. Consider the words of David in Psalm 15:1-2 and 4, "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart ...who keeps his oath even when it hurts" Be faithful my friend, even when it hurts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Because he suffered...

"For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." - Hebrews 2:17-18
My wife had a physical condition some years ago that required medical attention. Of all the Doctors we visited, our family physician was the most understanding. Why? His understanding came, not from his training, but from his experience. This doctor suffered from the same condition as my wife. Because he also suffered, he was able to help.
The wonders of our Savior's incarnation are more than the mind can conceive. But, one aspect that is most comforting is the fact that our Lord suffered when he was tempted, and is able to help those who are tempted. His mercy comes from who he is and what he has experienced.
We should never find ourselves saying, "No one understands". The song writer was dead on when he wrote, "No One Understands Like Jesus". The next time you are struggling with the temptations of life remember, you have a friend who suffered more than you, and he is able to help you through it all.



NO ONE UNDERSTANDS LIKE JESUS
No one understands like Jesus.
 He’s a friend beyond compare;
 Meet Him at the throne of mercy;
 He is waiting for you there.

No one understands like Jesus;
 Ev’ry woe He sees and feels;
 Tenderly He whispers comfort,
 And the broken heart He heals.

No one understands like Jesus
 When the foes of life assail;
 You should never be discouraged;
 Jesus cares and will not fail!

No one understands like Jesus
 When you falter on the way;
 Tho’ you fail Him, sadly fail Him,
 He will pardon you today.

CHORUS:
 No one understands like Jesus
 When the days are dark and grim;
 No one is so near, so dear as Jesus–
 Cast your ev’ry care on Him!

Words and music by John W. Peterson.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

His years will never end...

"He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be hanged. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." - Hebrews 1:10-12
The foundation of the Cologne Cathedral in Germany was laid in 1248 and the work continued, with some interruptions, until completion in 1880. For four years the cathedral was the tallest building in the world and today it is visited by 20,000 people every day. Travelers from all over the world come to view a man made building that stands on a 762 year old foundation. Yet, how many come every day to worship the One who remains the same, whose years will never end?
As we begin our reading in the book of Hebrews, Jesus is presented as the eternal one, preeminent over all creation. When we choose a foundation to build upon, these words serve us well to remember the transitory nature of our world. 762 year old cathedrals, along with every other part of the earth and heavens will eventually wear out like a garment. But Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The message is clear; don't build your life on the sands of this world, but build on the eternal foundation of Christ.
Are you all about building a cathedral my friend? Why spend so much time on what will ultimately be rolled up like a robe? Keep your eyes and heart on Jesus as your cornerstone. Follow his plan as you labor and build what will last... for all eternity.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Fellowship of Suffering...

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." - 1 Peter 5:8-9 

Elijah complained in 1 Kings 19:14, "I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” To this the Lord responded in verse 18 with, "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." In the face of spiritual warfare we often feel alone in the battle, but we find new courage when we are aware there are others who are fighting with us. We're strengthened by the Lord and inspired by the fellowship of suffering.
As Peter wrote to the early church under severe persecution, he charged them to resist the devil and stand firm, because there were others in the fight as well. He reminded them that they were not alone in the battle, so they would be encouraged to remain steadfast. As Elijah of old, there were others who suffered persecution but remained true to their faith. There was strength in Lord and inspiration in the fellowship of suffering.
The spiritual warfare is difficult and the pressure is great, but we are never alone in the battle. Be steadfast my friend, resist the devil and stand firm in your faith. Take time to remember, there is strength in Lord and inspiration in the fellowship of suffering.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How we speak...

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." - 1 Peter 3:15-16

During the 90's we would occasionally watch a political talk show called "The Capital Gang". My son, who was quite young at the time, would ask why the guys kept yelling at each other. He concluded that they were angry and to a young mind, that just didn't make sense. Belief and conviction is good, but it is best communicated with gentleness and respect.
Many Christians are quick to quote the above passage up to the word "But". They are armed to the hilt and ready for battle whenever questioned about their faith. Peter called believers to always be ready with an answer for their hope, "but" with gentleness and respect. It's not just what we speak that brings truth to light, but how we speak. Belief and conviction is good, but it is best communicated with gentleness and respect.

Always be well prepared with Biblical truth in the face of error my friend. But may truth come with love. Love the lost as Jesus did. Answer their queries with the grace that has changed your life as well. Be someone with a clear and concise conviction, but communicate it with gentleness and respect.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Entrusted to the Lord...

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." - 1 Peter 2:21-23
You might well remember being in prayer for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran. He was in custody for nearly three years and faced a death sentence for his faith during the last few months of his incarceration. Youcef was released from prison on September 8, 2012 as the apostasy charges were finally dropped. Freedom came because he entrusted himself to the Lord.
Persecution of any kind will bear witness to genuine faith and real discipleship. The fully surrendered Christian knows that there will be suffering for their faith. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". Jesus is our example in this matter, as he suffered without retaliation or threats. He entrusted himself to the divine provision and purpose.
My brethren, we're in a battle led by the Captain of our salvation. We will be persecuted and oppressed at every point. Some of us will suffer great loss and others will suffer humiliation, but commit your way to the Lord. As David wrote in Psalm 37:5-6, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." Stay the course my friend, and entrust yourself to the Lord.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Hopeful grass...

 "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you." - 1 Peter 1:23-25
I am acutely aware that "All men are like grass". I recall recovering from prostate cancer surgery, while a close friend was recovering from the same surgery, and another ministry friend was scheduled for the same surgery within two weeks. Yet, in all of this we were secure and at rest in our imperishable life with God.
Peter wrote to fellow believers at a time when they suffered great persecution for being Christians. Their faith was severely tried, but they were encouraged by Peter to stay focused on their eternal and enduring inheritance in  heaven. Persecution and even the daily struggles of life can be more than discouraging. But when we live each day, looking for the coming of our Lord, we find our hope in him and are encouraged to press on in faith.
Being sick and emotionally unsettled can take its toll on us. But find strength and courage my friend, in the one who has given us his enduring word and everlasting life. Remember the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Power to use...

"This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone." - Titus 3:8 
Our house is wired with electricity. It's great to have all the power we need for light, cooking, repair work, entertainment and overall comfort. The power is always just a plug away, but if we don't use the power what good is it? Having the power is only as good as using the power.
Titus 3 tells us of God's saving work, in which the Holy Spirit is poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ. Every believer is empowered with the very presence of God. We have all that we need to live for God and devote ourselves to doing what is good. The power is always just a prayer away, but if we don't use his power what good is it? Having his power is only as good as using his power.
Doing what is good comes from careful and thoughtful planning. We have the power, but do we have the devotion? What are you planning to do that's good today? Remember, having his power is only as good as using his power. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fully trusted...

"... but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." - Titus 2:10
I take my car down the road about eighteen miles whenever it needs repair. I also travel to the same location for a simple oil change, even though it costs a little more. Why in the world would I do such a thing you might ask? It's simple; this dealership is friendly, honest, fast and they do excellent work. They never replace anything on my car that doesn't need replacing. I am attracted to this dealership because they can be fully trusted.
The church grows when believers are genuine. Paul knew that being the real thing had to be seen in the workplace as well as the worship center. The message of Christ is exciting, joyful and hopeful; it's full of promise in every way. But if the world can't see it working in the believer's life, they will never be attracted to Christ. They need to see that God's people are genuine and can be fully trusted.
You are being watched my brother and sister in Christ. When you think your employer and fellow employees, to whom you have witnessed, have turned a deaf ear, they are watching you. They are looking for the real thing and if they find that you are genuine in your daily conduct, they will be attracted to Christ, because you can be fully trusted. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Don't be led astray...

"For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain."- Titus 1:10-11
A number of years ago a friend took a trip to New York City. While she was there a street vendor sold her a wireless phone for the house. When she returned home and opened the box, she found a number of rocks nicely wrapped in Styrofoam. She had been deceived and sold a box of rocks. She was led astray.
There are those in the church community that are selling boxes of rocks today. They are religious charlatans. They talk well and are winsome in their appearance, but they are deceivers at heart. The outside looks good, but their teachings will ruin whole households. They do all this for the sake of monetary profit. Those who are not careful will be led astray.
Time and again we are reminded in the New Testament to be spiritually discerning. We are counseled to tag those who teach error and rebuke them. We may be encouraged to be tolerant in many ways, but when it comes to the gospel message, we should only accept sound doctrine. "Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (vs. 9) and you won't be led astray.