Thursday, August 31, 2017

Never in vain...

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." -- 1 Corinthians 15:58
One of the first jobs I had as a high school student was working in a paint store. I stocked paint, mixed paint, sold paint and even rolled paint. I unloaded trucks, emptied cartons, swept floors and cut up boxes for the dumpster. I worked hard, but I knew that at the end of the week I would receive a pay envelope filled with cold hard cash. My labor was never in vain.
Paul's teaching on the resurrection is a great motivator. The promise of a glorified body in our future gives us hope and a driving force to press on in our spiritual lives. The work of the ministry may be hard and exhausting, but as we push ourselves for Jesus there will be a final day when pay envelopes are handed out. Then we will find, not cold hard cash, but an imperishable body that will inherit the kingdom of God. Our labor for the Lord is never in vain.
Last week, or last month may have been grueling. You may be so tired and almost too weary to continue. Don't give up my friend. The way may be hard, but the end will be sweet. Keep your eye on the prize and be assured that your labor in the Lord is never in vain.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Be alive and work harder...

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me...For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." -- 1 Corinthians 15:10, 21-22
Ah yes, we are what we are by the grace of God. Such is a profound truth that should keep us focused every day of our lives. But, as a result, do we work harder? In another place we read, "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13). We love His grace and HIS working, but what about OUR working?
Evangelicals have battled so much over "grace alone" for our salvation that we forget about the fact of Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." God gives free grace, and we should freely work.
How about it my friend, are you working harder today because you are what you are by the grace of God, made alive in Christ? Are you so devoted to His cause that you work with resurrection diligence? In the words of our Lord, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) By the grace of God, be alive in Him and work harder.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Order to be productive...

"What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church... For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." -- 1 Corinthians 14:26, 33
The first edition of Robert’s Rules of Order, whose full title was Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, was published in February 1876 by U.S Army Brigadier General Henry Martyn Robert and is currently in its tenth edition. Robert desired a means to provide order in church and various business meetings. Over the years I have used this little treasure successfully to keep organization and peace. There needs to be order to be productive.
From the time Paul penned the above words, to church meetings conducted last week, without organization and orderly direction there can be no benefit. There are many who come to services and meetings with much to offer for the strengthening of the assembly. But like a beautiful symphony, each part must be contributed at the right time and in the right way to the produce sweet music. There needs to be order to be productive.
The next time you attend a service, special meeting or business session, allow good order to prevail. Pray for the leadership to have wisdom to guide the event in a peaceful manner. Should you have something to contribute; remember that you are only one part of the whole and are participating in a Divine symphony. There needs to be order to be productive.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Preaching the Word...

"Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy... the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation." - 1 Corinthians 14:1, 3
Today entertainment is king. We are tantalized in every way possible from television sitcoms to commercials for cars. But, when we are preparing for a career we attend serious class lectures. Entertainment is set aside for the necessary instruction of truth. One is short lived and emotionally charged while the other is of life long value and mentally challenging.
In a similar manner some spiritual gifts are for momentary use, while others are necessary for the long run. The "prophesy" that Paul speaks of is the Preaching of the Word. There are many spiritual gifts that are exciting and draw attention to the individual believer, but that gift that draws attention to the Lord and builds up others is spiritually life changing... forever.
The Reformation brought the pulpit back to the center of the sanctuary. The preaching of the Word once again came to the forefront. We need to return to a preaching that proclaims "Thus Saith the Lord" my friend. Never settle for a church that entertains you with light and exciting ministries for the moment. Look for, and pray for the church that  
builds, encourages and consoles the flock through the preaching of the Word.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

No empty promises please...

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." -- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
We were reminiscing recently and remembered a family member ordering a lobster dinner some years ago. When the little critter arrived at the table and the claw was cracked open, there was... nothing! Absolutely nothing! The appearance on the plate was quite promising, but with no meat, no meal.
The spiritual life and ministry is very much the same. The outer shell may look great and might attract great interest, but it's what inside that counts. Love is not just an action; it's the very heart of the matter. Believers that appear pleasing may look quite promising, but with no meat, there is no meal.
Our ministry is the saving and nurturing of souls. The Lord has sent us out into the world to satisfy hungry and thirsty lives with love. But we can never accomplish this calling with empty shells that just look good. Are you filled with and compelled by the love of Jesus? The world needs more than an empty promise of love, because with no meat, there is no meal.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

We are ALL important...

"The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"" -- 1 Corinthians 12:21
The day after I had knee surgery I made my way to the eye doctor with a retina problem. It didn't matter how uncomfortable my leg was; my eye needed care. While my leg was important enough for corrective surgery, my eye was just as important. I need them both.
Paul gave wise counsel to a church family that had suffered from divisiveness. There was no member that was any more important than the next. Paul wrote in verse 27, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."  As each one is a part, each one is important. They are all needed.
As a member of the body of Christ you are important. You have giftedness and purpose that has been given by the Spirit of God. While this is incredibly significant, always remember that the body is made up of many parts. We are all important and all needed.

Friday, August 25, 2017

"Self-Examination"...

"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup." -- 1 Corinthians 11:27-28
There are many physical maladies that need to be detected early. The best way to discover certain problems is to do a regular "self-examination". Along with such "self-exams" are those pesky annual physicals. Over the years I have received positive medical care due to these exams and always wondered why anyone would ignore such helpful procedures. I guess some people just figure "what you don't know won't hurt you".
Paul had a very different belief. He knew that unchecked sin leads to an unsafe life. The Lord's Table is to be approached with a prepared and cleansed heart. The bread and the cup are to be received in a worthy manner by an examined people. Careless and sinful living is not a lifestyle that will just be ignored over time. A "self-examination" is imperative because, "what we don't know can hurt us".
As we come to the communion table, we are reminded of our Lord's sacrifice to redeem us and set us apart as a people of God. Moments of examination bring us back to the basics of our relationship with the Lord. Take time to learn what may have broken your fellowship and pray with David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

In it together...

"Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. - 1 Corinthians 11:11-12
I have experienced numerous surgeries over the years. These procedures were scheduled well in advance and every time my spectacular wife made plans for my recovery needs. I am incredibly grateful for my life partner. While I am called of God to fulfill a role of spiritual leadership in our home, I am never independent of the one God called to be my "suitable helper" (Genesis 2:20 NIV) We are in this thing together.
Paul gave clear and distinct directions for marital roles of leadership and partnership. Over the years these instructions have either been ignored by some or misinterpreted and abused by others. Right in the middle of his instruction Paul gives the balance of dependence to protect from both extremes. And for every marriage to be blessed, the central truth is highlighted... "All things are from God".
My friend, the strength of our marriage should always be the ruling presence of the Lord and the supportive partnership of two. We should laugh together and weep together. We should grieve together and grow together. We are never independent of each other, and all that we are and have is always from God. When I wake later today I will find the caring presence of my Lord and the sweet comforting presence of my soul mate... and all will be right in my world.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Glorify God...

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31
When I turned sixteen my Pastor gave me a copy of "In His Steps" by Charles Sheldon. This book, which was first published in 1897, has since sold over 30,000,000 copies which places it as the ninth best selling book of all time. The full title is "In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?" While the lingering phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" has been quite popular, the more precise and Biblical question should be: "Does It Glorify God?"
Paul led believers to live a selfless life that considered others first. The greatest focal point was the honor and glory of the Lord in everything. He never handed out wrist bands or bumper stickers that raised a qualifying question for decisions. He just stated a simple word of counsel; "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God". Life becomes so much clearer and far more simplified when we bring every decision and action into line with this mandate.
Here it is my friend... Will that purchase glorify God? Does that conversation glorify God? Is that thought or action bringing Glory to God? Does your treatment of that person Glorify God? Is your conduct at work glorifying God? You may ask; What does God have to do with it? EVERYTHING. Remember... "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever" (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lessons...

"Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did." -- 1 Corinthians 10:6
It has been said that the only thing we learn from history is... that we don't learn anything from history. Could this be true? Is it possible that some people never learn from the past? While in high school drivers education I remember being shown pictures of auto collisions caused by careless drivers. That same year one of my classmates died from the same kind of careless driving. Some lessons from the past are never learned.
As Paul wrote to believers who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, he was confident that they could learn from history. While the unbeliever is lost in their sin-bound condition, every believer has the freedom and power to learn from the past, avoid evil and live rightly. Examples are recorded in the pages of Scripture as lessons to keep us from careless living. Lessons from the past are given to be learned.
Do you regularly read the Scriptures from Old Testament through the New Testament? Have you considered the positive lessons to follow as well as the examples of evil to avoid? Don't be like my friend who ignored tragic examples of the past. "... if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (verse 12)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Whatever is necessary...

"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible... I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." -- 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22
They call us at dinner on a daily basis. They send us brochures in duplicates. They come knocking at our doors on a regular basis. Who are these nefarious schemers that seek our attention with such determination? They are sales people! They strive to win us over to buy their product or service and they won't take no for an answer. They will do whatever is necessary to win as many as possible.
While you will readily relate to the above experiences, do you believe that there might be a greater reason for which to win people? Don't you think that a heavenly home is more valuable than new siding for your earthly one? Sales people are seeking the big paycheck, but Paul was seeking the big blessing of souls saved. He was willing to do whatever was necessary to win as many as possible.
Are you afraid of offending people with your witness for Christ? Paul said earlier in chapter one, verse eighteen, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." A soul is worth far more than a paycheck, so never give up. Do whatever is necessary to win as many as possible!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Well known...

"Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God." -- 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
The world is full of scholars and experts in their various fields. They know that they know, and know how to inform others about that knowledge. Only a select few have the capacity to exercise their knowledge graciously to benefit others. These are those who are moved with love and compassion to use their knowledge to build up, not criticize and tear down. Such individuals are often well known by the world.
In the church there are also those who are scholars and experts in Biblical matters. They know the right and wrong as well as all the implications of both. But it takes a special love from God to exercise such knowledge with care and understanding. These brethren care little about what they know, but care very much about how they love. Such individuals are always well known by God.
Which one are you my friend? Do you know that you know, or do you know that you might love with such knowledge? As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:15 "...speaking the truth in love... we will in all things grow up". When we love God and his church with all that we know, we will always be known by Him with love.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What really matters?

"What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." -- 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I have lived through the years that moved from "Laugh-In" to "Saturday Night Live". These years were filled with the hopes a four day work week and tons of fun on the other three days. The bumper sticker said it all with these words: "He that dies with the most toys wins". In the light of this present world passing away, when will we ever get serious about what really matters?
Since Paul had been very clear about marital commitments in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, I am sure that his comments here were about the balance of life in light of eternity. He counseled the believers to deal with "the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them." Rather than laughing away our grief and finding ways to be entertained with new gadgets, Paul reminds us "that the time is short". When will we ever get serious about what really matters?
When was the last time you took inventory of your life my friend? On what do you spend your time and money? Are you of the misguided persuasion that you will always have tomorrow to live for God? Have you been duped by the world to "eat, drink and be merry" and "you only live once, so get all the gusto you can"? One thing is true; you do only live once, but only what is done for Christ will last. When will you ever get serious about what really matters?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Honor Him...

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." -- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
From our church family, during the past few years, we have had one young man serve in Iraq as a Ranger Officer and two other young men at sea in a naval vessel. As many of us have experienced, these young men are bought and paid for as military property. As a result they must honor their country with all that they have and are. For now, they are not their own.
While we might resist the thought, as believers, we have also been bought and paid for as God's property. The price was higher than we could possibly comprehend. We were purchased by the blood of Jesus and sealed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The only thing left for us to do is honor God with our body. Now and forever, we are not our own.
Why do we think that we are free to live any way that we choose? We come to Christ and receive his marvelous gift of salvation, but we refuse to wear the uniform of the day? Those that try to live this way in the military are most often tried as deserters. While military personnel have personal freedoms, they always live within certain perimeters. So it is with us: Christian liberty should always be lived within the perimeters of being a temple of the Holy Spirit, owned by God. Be sure to honor Him today my friend!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Surgery...

"Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. " -- 1 Corinthians 5:6-7
I had my first knee surgery four years ago. A certain part of my knee joint that had been healthy and valuable tore away and became hard as a rock. The good old "stuff" became bad old "stuff" and brought pain with the promise of future damage. Since the "stuff" wouldn't change for the better, it had to be removed. It's just that simple.
The Doctor made it clear that bad days were ahead if I didn't have the surgery, and Paul said the same thing for a church that wouldn't remove bad "stuff" from the fellowship. The church is full of sinners saved by grace, being changed everyday to be more like Christ. As believers, we may not be perfect, but if we love Jesus we are fighting "the sin that so easily entangles" (Hebrews 12:1) everyday. Those who stop fighting and become hardened in sin need to repent or be removed from the fellowship for the sake of spiritual health. It's just that simple.
Do you find yourself overlooking unrepentant brethren in your church because you don't want to judge? Paul gave clear counsel in verses 12 and 13, "Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."". Don't be that brother or sister hardened in sin and don't allow such fellow believers to damage the "body". Sometimes surgery is necessary. It's just that simple.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

More is caught...

"Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." -- 1 Corinthians 4:15-17
I will always remember the man who led me to Christ and his Christian testimony. It has dramatically marked my life and my spiritual devotion. I watched his conduct and listened carefully to his witness and counsel because he was my spiritual father. I am thankful that he was consistent in his walk with Christ.
Paul noted that believers have many teachers that come along after the new birth, but only one spiritual parent. He always encouraged those who came to Christ through his witness to follow his example. Such was a bold word of counsel and quite demanding for Paul. Since children learn from their parent's lifestyle, a consistent walk is critical.
Have you ever led someone to Christ? If so, have you proved to be a faithful example for them to follow? Has your lifestyle been one of consistent study in the Word, dedicated times in prayer and passionate witnessing of your faith? Remember that other eyes are watching and as someone once said, "More is caught than taught"!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Do your part...

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
Football season is fast approaching. These days take me back to when I played “Pop Warner” football. I didn’t have a very stellar beginning, as I was assigned the position of offensive tackle and I always wanted to run the ball. I was constantly struggling to accept my task and trust that the coach knew best.
Church ministry needs servants who will be faithful to their “assigned task”. Each one is important and is needed for overall success. Yet, as each worker does his or her task, God alone makes the church grow. Wisdom tells us to accept our task and trust the Lord to do his part.
While it may be hard for you to accept your place in ministry, remember that the Lord knows best. In divine wisdom God assigns your role and faithfully fulfills his. When you do your part you will be most blessed and the ministry will be most successful.

Monday, August 14, 2017

No more secrets ...

“However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
Secret societies and fraternal organizations have existed for ages. People are drawn to them because they promise the knowledge of secrets that only members can know. We all seem to be interested in knowing secrets of the hidden past and the unknown future. But the only secrets worth knowing are those that can change our lives for the good.
From ancient times, God prepared to help his people with unheard and unknown blessings. In a real sense they are secret blessings that begin with salvation by grace. With this gift comes the Holy Spirit who reveals even the deep things of God to all his children. There are no more secrets.
Why look elsewhere for spiritual wisdom my friend? There is no church or special group that will give you that certain edge to know the mind of God. Take advantage of the truth that Paul writes, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (vs.12) Walk in the Spirit and know the mind of God.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The power of the Cross...

"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." -- 1 Corinthians 1:17
Over two thousand years have passed since the above passage was written. Yet to this very day the average public is still drawn to the eloquent speaker. There are times that they will choose one personality over another because of well spoken words. Lack of experience or skill may be overlooked if the crowd can be wooed with fine words of human wisdom. Words may satisfy, but they can never save.
Salvation comes from a work, not words. The cross of Christ is the power of God to save the souls of men and women. When religious charlatans lead people astray by winsome words they have emptied the cross of Christ of its power. So, when a faithful preacher gives the message of the gospel it should be simple and focused on the power of the cross and not the proficiency of words.
Be careful who you listen to my friend. Be wise in your choice of preachers. Those who are well spoken may tickle your ears and make you feel good, but are you receiving the truth in all its power? Never sacrifice the life of the cross for the love of words.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Your Divine Travel Agent...

"Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, 'After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'" - Acts 19:21
Every summer people spend tons of money traveling to parts unknown. Many of these world explorers  begin with a visit to a travel agency. They map out their trip with every detail considered, yet the end results often end up quite different than planned. Wouldn't it be great if we had a travel agency that provided a way that guaranteed good results?
Good Results? When Paul followed the lead of the Spirit, the days got very tough. But all along the way God used Paul to bring great blessings. No matter how strong the persecution, people came to know Christ when Paul spoke. Life is not just about "entertainment", it's also about "entering Heaven"; and with that goal we guarantee good results.
Whatever your plans are this summer, resolve to follow the Spirit's lead my friend. Allow Him to be your Divine travel agent and seek to be a blessing wherever you find yourself. When you travel this way, every trip will bring good results. Remember, you may be the only "Jesus" some people will ever meet.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Whole heart or Half heart?

"Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power." - Acts 19:18-20 
In a time when unemployment is so high, employers can be very demanding in their hiring choices. They are looking for employees that will be fully committed to the business. They want someone who will  leave their personal life at home and come to work completely focused. Anything less than this work ethic will lose someone their job. In this climate, there is no place for half-hearted workers.
In the same way, disciples of Christ are expected to be fully committed, leaving their past behind. A great number of new disciples in Ephesus were coming to Christ from a background in the occult. They recognized the need to make a complete break from this past if they were to be faithful followers of Christ. The sacrifice and monetary loss was great, but on that day in Ephesus, there were no half-hearted disciples.
When you came to Christ you became "a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17) As the heart becomes new, so should the lifestyle. Our connection to past sins and gods needs to be broken forever. The Lord looks for disciples who are fully committed and totally focused on Him. Have you taken practical steps to put the past behind you with a whole heart, or are you still a half-hearted disciple?
___________________________________

A QUOTE FOR THE DAY

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

- Jim Elliot, October 28, 1949 (Martyred Missionary)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The personal touch ...

"He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately." Acts 18:26
The days of "Mom and Pop" stores are quickly slipping away. The mega store with all its bells and whistles is the place to go for whatever you may need. The stock is plentiful, the prices are great and tons of people can shop at the same time. There is one thing missing though... the personal touch.
 In the days of Paul, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila people gathered in large groups for worship and study, but they also spent quality time in the home "explaining the way of God more adequately". From the very early days of Acts 2:46 believers met in the Temple courts and their homes. While group study and fellowship was of great importance, they also studied together in their homes. They saw the value of... the personal touch.
 Some believers are satisfied in meeting together in the mega church setting. This might be 10,000 people or it could be just 100 people. The attraction of the larger church seems to be more like the mega store, providing a vast number of ministries. But in the process, the one-on-one disciple making and mentoring has slipped away. You and I can make a difference today, if we will take on the mantle of Priscilla and Aquila. We can open our hearts and our homes to others and share the "way of God" in small individual settings. In a day of mega everything, we can still provide... the personal touch.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Be a lighthouse ...

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." - 2 Thessalonians 2:15 
We collect lighthouses. We visit them while on vacation and regularly add to our collection of miniatures and pictures. Lighthouses remind us of being a light in the darkness and a guide to wayward. They are those great stone edifices that stand firm in the storms and send forth the light that saves from a watery grave. God also places lighthouses on the shores of this world to save souls from eternal damnation.
Paul writes of coming days of increasing evil and tribulation. He assures believers of their deliverance from this time, but until those days arrive he calls us to stand firm and hold to the teachings passed down to us. The winds of time may bring change, but the truth remains the same: Those who refuse to love the truth will perish, and those believe the truth will live eternally. As we spread the light of this truth, we are God's lighthouses.
There is no lighthouse of worth that doesn't stand firm in the midst of the storm. The lighthouse serves the mariner with the same purpose today as it did hundreds of years ago: it gives light to show the way to safety. Stand firm my friend, hold to the teachings passed down to you and be the lighthouse that God called you to be.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Praying personally...

"With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." -  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
It's that time of the year for weddings, another occasion when gifts are given. As usual, there will be duplicate gifts that need to be returned for exchange. Sometimes the duplicates will be triple and quadruple. Some people just refuse to check the bride's gift registry. Gifts are best when they meet personal desires and needs.
Prayers are much the same as gifts. There are those prayers that seem to be an unending list of unspecified thoughts repeated with very little personal content. Paul prayed in view of his prophetic insight for the Thessalonians. He touched their spiritual needs and spoke about "every act prompted by your faith". His prayers were always personal and spiritually focused for the greatest growth and God's glory.
May I encourage you today to look carefully at this prayer and all of Paul's prayers for the churches? Learn from these prayers how to pray personally, powerfully and precisely. Move your requests for spiritual growth and success to the forefront and focus on each person's desires and needs. Check the registry before you pray.

PAUL'S PRAYERS: Romans 15:5-7; 16:25-27; 1 Cor. 1:4-7; Eph. 1:15-20; 3:14-21; Phil. 1:8-10; Col. 1:9-12; 1 Thess. 3:11-13; 2 Thess.1:11-12; 2:16-17; Philemon 4-6.

Monday, August 7, 2017

E.G.R. ...

"And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone." - 1 Thessalonians 5:14
 As every snow flake is different, so each one of God's children is different. We are different in many ways and our spiritual journeys differ in both speed and level of maturity. A lesson I had to learn early in my ministry was this: everyone is at a different place in their walk with God and I need to be attentive to this fact. I need to be sensitive to their diversity and be kind.
Paul urged the Thessalonians to warn, encourage, help and be patient. Some brothers were idle, some were timid, some were weak and some just needed patience. I recently heard someone use the term "E.G.R. people" (Extra Grace Required people) for those who had special spiritual needs. Showing the love of Jesus is needed by everyone, but especially by "E.G.R. people". Be sensitive to their diversity and be kind.
Who are the believers that live in your circle of ministry? Are they all up to speed spiritually? Or do you find many of them are still struggling in their stability and growth? Be a good brother or sister and be patient and kind to your "E.G.R. people.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The right "more"...

"Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more... And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more." - 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 10
We live in a world that's all about improvement. Improve your looks, your job, your education, your car, or your house. We're never satisfied with the status quo. As in the Dickens classic, Oliver Twist, we are always asking, "Please, sir, I want some more".
What about our spiritual lives? Paul mentioned the phrase "more and more" twice in this chapter. He instructed these believers to "live in order to please God" more and more and "love all the brothers" more and more. In both cases he noted a current lifestyle of Godliness, but he didn't want them to settle for just enough. He wanted to see spiritual improvement, "more and more".
Have you become satisfied with your spiritual life, while being driven for more worldly gain? What efforts are you making to improve your walk with God and your love for the brethren? The next time you want bigger and better or you're planning some home improvements, ask yourself, when was the last time you did some "heart improvements"?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Do you care?

"So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them." - 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3
Some time ago twin babies were found abandoned outside a fire station in Shawnee, Oklahoma. A note attached read, "Take care of my babies. I'm poor and can't do it." In a recent annual statistic, 570 children were reported abandoned in that state. Such stories are sad and quite troubling when children are born into the world and left alone without care.
There is another type of birth when someone is born again into a spiritual life. Paul knew that such children needed care and protective love. With this concern, "when he could stand it no longer", he sent Timothy to provide the proper spiritual nurture. Paul never led someone to Christ and abandoned them, alone without care.
Have you lead someone to the Lord recently? Do you have plans to care for their spiritual needs as new babes in Christ? Will you make the time to follow up their "new birth" with spiritual mentoring? Or, do you know someone who has recently been born again and abandoned? Allow God to use you as spiritual parent and give them the nurture and care that they need.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Motivation...

"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Thessalonians 1:3
Years ago my father worked for a nationwide retailer that gave its employees a vested interest in the company. The more they sold, the more shares they would be awarded. As they succeeded, the business succeeded, and as the business succeeded, so did they. This company learned that success comes from a healthy motivation.
Paul greatly appreciated the work, labor and endurance seen in the Thessalonians. He noted that they were a motivated group of believers who were driven by a much deeper commitment than most. Their faith empowered them to work hard, their love encouraged them to labor diligently and their hope invigorated them to endure to the end. Three spiritual qualities kept them motivated in the most difficult hour.
Faith, love and hope; every believer has these qualities, but not often drawn upon for motivation. From time to time, we will face the giants, but every day we will have to deal with the little foxes that pester us in our spiritual walk. The work, labor and endurance will be difficult at times, but trust in the Lord with all your heart, love the Lord with all your heart and hope in the Lord with all your heart and you will be sufficiently motivated for the greatest success.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Our Vision...Our Hope...

"And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people." -- Acts 18:9-10
When the Lord calls us, he has a purpose and he will faithfully provide. If we look at troubling circumstances, we will be discouraged, but not if we keep our eyes on the Master. When the Lord is our vision, there is hope.
Paul was following the Lord's lead as he preached and was faced with steady opposition. Yet, the Lord came to him in a vision to assure him. God had many souls in the city and he would protect Paul until he completed the task. Paul was encouraged to look to the Lord who was with him and find hope.
When you walk through the storm, in which that God places you my friend, don't be afraid. Keep your eyes on the Lord and his purpose and live for him. Don't be afraid, because you're never alone in the work of God. He is with you.

"BE THOU MY VISION "

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.


Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Are you ready?

"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." -- Acts 17:30-31 
There are times when some wonder if there is any order in the universe. More directly, some are at a loss to see any order in their personal lives. And finally, is there to be any order as we face future days? Well, as sure as the sun rises in the morning, there is order for every life.
Paul speaks of God's order in this way: 1) Now he commands all people to repent, 2) He has fixed a day for judgment and, 3) A man (the risen Christ) has been appointed as judge. To put it in other words, our lives are ordered around two days and one person.
Is your life in order my friend? Has there been a day when you turned from "ignorance" and sought the Lord in repentance? Are you prepared for the "fixed day" to meet the "appointed judge"? As sure as the sun will rise... the Son will come!! Are you ready?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Real Deal...

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." - Acts 17:11 
A Cubic Zirconia, OR a beautifully cut diamond... which would you prefer? Given the stone was free for the taking I am sure most people would choose the real deal. From a distance you might be fooled, but under close examination, there is always a difference. Our world is full of knock-offs and fakes that catch the eye and skillfully mimic the original. To know the difference you need a close examination.
In the days of Paul, there were many traveling orators; some brought truth and some deception. As a result some people became very cautious as they listened to visiting speakers. Some were of far more "noble character" than others and carefully compared Paul's teachings with Scripture. These were men and women who wanted the real deal, so they made time daily for a close examination. 
In the same way today, there are charlatans who mimic true preachers of the Word. They look slick and they are enticing. Their words are smooth as they smile their way into your heart but, are they giving you the truth of the Word? Which would you prefer... a Word from God or a word from man? To know the difference we need to be in the Word daily for a close examination.
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A THOUGHT FOR THE DAY 
  
“Sadie,” a Labrador retriever belonging to the Charles Thurber family in Terra Linda, California, was ordained as a minister of faith by the Hilltop House Church in San Rafael. The dog’s name and $15 were submitted by the Better Business Bureau of San Francisco through a newspaper ad. By return mail Sadie received her “Certificate of Ordination.”

Anyone can be ordained...
but only those called of God will have a word from God.