Thursday, October 19, 2017

All you need...

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The basics...

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On a mission...

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

A moment of worship...

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Random Acts?

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

He hurts...

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Show them the way...

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Time waits for no man...

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trust His Heart...

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

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Take Courage!

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

Called by God...

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Do you suppose?

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A glad reception...

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

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Without question...

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

CONSIDER THIS

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Be on your guard...

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Be wise about good...

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

You need others...

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Acceptance leads to acceptance...

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Build up, don't tear down...

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