Saturday, January 20, 2018

Celebrate the moment...

" 'But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”  - Luke 15:32
Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, retirements... and the list of reasons to celebrate can continue. We are ready to celebrate over almost anything that comes along. Our family will celebrate the day before, on the day and the day after, just to be certain that we did it right. Over time we just celebrate to celebrate and the reasons grow less and less. Have we lost the sense of what's really important and worthy of celebration? In the words of a popular film Hitch"Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it's the moments that take your breath away."
Jesus tells a story that contrasts all the achievements and values of life with one great moment. That moment is the redemption of a lost soul. The father doesn't give a stern reproof or wisdom for future temptations on that day. He rejoices and leads the entire family in a huge time of celebration. His son was dead and is alive again. Every time I read "...he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him" (vs. 20), I am deeply moved. You see, the return of a soul to our Heavenly Father is worth celebrating because... it's a moment that takes your breath away!
The question I have for you today is: what have you celebrated of spiritual worth lately? When that little child or older neighbor trusted Christ last month, did you celebrate their new birth? Do we teach our children that moments of spiritual change and growth are tremendous occasions of joy? Consider a father, filled with compassion, embracing his wayward son, and remember... "Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it's the moments that take your breath away."

Friday, January 19, 2018

To win...

"In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." - Luke 14:33

Olympic swimmers wear very little when they compete. Their swim suits are designed for speed and competitive edge. They even wear caps to prevent their hair from hindering their progress in the water. They dress with one purpose in mind, to win.
The words found in the latter part of Luke 14 are hard and demanding for anyone who would be a disciple of Christ. Yet, the Lord's concern for those who follow him is to set aside anything that holds them back spiritually. The spiritual life is a demanding race for Christian disciples, and Jesus has one purpose in mind, to win.
Will you read this passage today with an open heart and mind? Will you take inventory of your life in light of Christ's demands? What's holding you back in the spiritual race today? As a disciple of Jesus "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1) Take your spiritual life seriously and have one purpose in mind, to win.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

His way...

"Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”" - Luke 13:14

"Revival Here - Every Friday Night"! When you've seen such signs, what comes to mind? Do we really think the God of all creation will ever be tied to our schedules? We look for the Lord to do great things, but only on certain days and in specific ways. What makes us believe that God can be put in a box? God works miracles every day, not just Fridays... his way, not ours.
This synagogue ruler was driven by a misguided commitment to God's Sabbatical commandment. He was a strong believer in man-made additions to the Word of God. As a result, his expectations of God were terribly limited. He concluded that God would only do the miraculous six days a week. The irony of the story comes when this man sees a mighty, supernatural work of God before his very eyes, but is unmoved. By putting God in a box, he lost sight of the fact that God works miracles every day, not just six... his way, not ours.
Is your life so tightly scheduled that God has been given an appointment? In contrast to this synagogue ruler, do you expect revival only on Sundays? Will you allow God to do great things in your life, anytime and in any way? Look to Jesus today; he's doing great and mighty things, because he works miracles every day, not just Sundays... his way, not ours.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

To protect and guard...

"Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you." - Proverbs 2:11
Sometimes I have to wear a leg brace. This contraption slips over my knee and has two steel bars on either side. Putting it on can be rather difficult at times, but when it's worn, my knee joint is fully protected from slipping side to side. It keeps my knee from suffering damage when weak and helps in the healing process when injured. It looks clunky but it does the job as it... protects and guards.
This entire proverb speaks of a brace for the spiritual and moral life. To obtain wisdom one has to work at putting it into the heart. But once wisdom enters the heart you will understand  "what is right and just and fair—every good path." (vs. 9) Wisdom will save you from slipping from "straight paths" to walk in "dark ways". (vs. 13) Wisdom from the Lord has two steel bars named discretion and understanding that will... protect and guard.
Wisdom will not be acquired all in one day. It will only come from the hard work of time spent in God's Word. Will you make time today, tomorrow and the next day to value God's wisdom and store it up in your heart like a priceless treasure? If you will, it will save you from moral failure and will lead you into paths of life, because it will... protect and guard.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rest in Him...

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!" - Luke 12:25-28

Over the years I have been put to sleep during minor surgical procedures. Prior to the procedure I had various thoughts about the process as well as the outcome. Will everything go alright? Will they discover anything serious? The next day I realized that all my concern amounted to nothing and was of no help to physician. I probably should have been put to sleep long before the surgery so I wouldn't worry. Just as the surgeon can do his best when we rest in his hands, the Lord does his best when we rest in him.
Occasionally Jesus shows us the silliness of our ways. How silly to worry about anything. Worry has never added or subtracted from the events of life. God is in control and he cares for his own with great precision and compassion. As the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 147:11, "the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love". God's "unfailing love" is his spiritual anesthesia for us in the midst of life's surgeries. When you know his love you will rest in him.
Lay your heart on the pillow of God's love today and let him do what he does best. When the anxiety rises within, remember how much more the Lord cares for you than the lilies and rest in him.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Great light...

“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.” - Luke 11:33-36

One year we traveled north for the holidays, through a heavy snow storm. Since our trip was made at night, every now and then we had to stop to clean the snow and ice off the headlights. Within a few miles the lights were once again reduced to a very dim condition. We had power and we had bulbs but we had little light.
In the same way, when we travel through the storms of life we need good eyes. We need eyes that provide the body with light so we can shine in the darkness and not be filled with darkness. The light of Jesus brings us all the light we could ever need. The more we learn from the Lord the more light shines within. But, while we can have the availability of light, if we don't focus our eyes on Jesus, we have little light.
Simply put, the more time you spend with Jesus, the more light you will have. Do you want to shine for the Lord today? Remember that you can only shine with the light that he gives. It's what you choose to read and watch that really makes your eyes good. If you take in too much "snow" your eyes and life will be dim. But if you take in the Word and things that are worthy, your eyes will be good. Your whole life will shine in the darkness for Jesus, because you have great light.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The good portion...

"But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” - Luke 10:41-42

According to the Mayo Clinic staff, "stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the culprit. Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior." Being "anxious and troubled about many things" is an age-old problem.
We have been told that our stress could be reduced if we would "stop and smell and the roses". This is good counsel to a point, but roses can only go so far in soothing the troubled soul. The bottom line is this: the greatest stress relief is found when we "spend a little time with Jesus". When we sit at His feet and listen to His teaching everything comes into perspective.
Having a "quiet time" every day is not just a commendable religious exercise. Just as the phrase suggests, it should be a "quiet time" at the feet of Jesus. How is your "quiet time" these days my friend? Do you regularly leave your anxiety and troubles with the Lord and take in His soothing and uplifting Words for each day? Take a lesson from Mary and choose "the good portion".

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." 
~ Matthew 11:28   

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Planning for the unplanned...

"When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing." - Luke 9:10-11

Plans, plans, plans! Day by day we plan the hours to the minute. We live by tight schedules that will be the most productive and get the job done. Plans keep us focused, plans keep us busy, and plans bring us success. Sadly, too often plans become the goal, an end in and of themselves. The question is... "Do our plans allow room for the unplanned?"
Jesus planned to debrief the disciples and further mentor them alone, in a restful place. But the crowds came and he "welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God".  Most often, the unplanned turns out to be people. Jesus always made time for the unplanned and welcomed the providential occasion with open arms. Because he loved people, "His plans allowed room for the unplanned".
What's your plan for today? Will you get it all done the way you want? Are you focused with the intensity of an Olympic athlete? Or are you prepared for the unexpected intrusion of people who need the Lord? Are you willing to make time for those who didn't make an appointment? The question is... "Do your plans allow room for the unplanned?"   

Friday, January 12, 2018

Can't make it...

"O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love." - Psalm 6:1-4

Why do we answer the question "How are you" with a perpetual "I'm fine"? Especially when we're not "fine"? Maybe because we don't like complainers, so we don't complain. Or maybe because we don't think other people really want to know how we really are. Then again, we may just be working on the blue ribbon for martyrdom with the determination of... "I can make it on my own".
Transparency may not be the best approach with some people in your life, but it's definitely the best in your relationship with God. What made David a man after God's own heart? One reason is found in the fact that he was an open book in his prayer life. He never held back his fears, pains, weakness or anguish. He even brought his complaints to the Lord with an honest confession... "I can't make it on my own."
Even though the Lord already knows how you are, he still wants you to tell him all about it. He looks for us to be wide open about our needs and feelings. He wants us to lean on him for the healing, strength and courage for every moment of the day. Will you choose to be a "Macho, Macho Man" (or woman) today? Or will you be honest with yourself and the Lord by asking for help with that really hard confession... "I can't make it on my own"  

Thursday, January 11, 2018

He worked for you...

"Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him." - Luke 8:37-39

You will often see an ad that highlights an average person who gives testimony for some new medicinal treatment. They will talk about their physical problem and they may mention many others who suffer in the same way. Then you are given the amazing details of how this new product can help you, because in the words of an average person like you, they say..."It worked for me".
Sometimes we resist the actual source of help. We may be intimidated or just filled with doubt. We need to know someone like us who has been helped. The day Jesus cured a demon possessed man was one of those occasions. Jesus was asked to leave because the locals were "overcome with fear". Jesus left in a boat, but not in his heart. He sent the cured man, an average person like them, back to say "Jesus can help you" because... "He worked for me".
Has the Lord done great things for you? Has he changed your life and set you free from sin, guilt and fear? There are those in your world who resist the preacher and church. But they know you; work with you, live next door to you. You're an average person just like them and you've been helped by Jesus. Take time today to tell someone you know, how much Jesus can do for them, because... "He worked for you". 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Respect?

"So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed." - Luke 7:6-7
In November of 2009 Michaele and Tareq Salahi casually slipped into the White House state dinner without a formal invitation and had a great time. Their attorney said, "They just went to party". People today are so flippant toward position and authority that they have no qualms about "crashing" a presidential dinner. Respect has left the building.
The man was a rough and powerful Roman Centurion. He was revered and obeyed at many levels. But, when it came to Jesus, he considered himself undeserving of the Lord's presence. How interesting that a man of worldly authority approached the Lord with humility and honor and yet, so many of God's people come before the Lord of All Creation "just to party". Respect has left the building.
When you walk into the morning worship service this week how will you approach? While you have every reason to celebrate and rejoice, will you do so with a humble and worshipful attitude? Others may attend "just to party", but you choose how you will come before the Lord. If you will remember that we are all "undeserving" of standing before the Lord of Glory... Respect will return to the building.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Getting and giving...

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back..." - Luke 6:32-35

Christmas cards! People send them out every year. They have a list of friends and family, but that list often gets smaller as the years pass. One reason a name might be deleted is failure to respond in like manner. If a certain friend fails to send a Christmas card this year, they won't get one next year. The simple fact is... if you don't get, you WON'T give.
I don't work for a greeting card company, nor am I endorsing the perpetual sending of Christmas cards. But, we often find ourselves dealing with others in the same way as we do with our card list. Jesus cuts to the heart when he says "Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them". You see, it's all about motive. If you love in the Name of Jesus and for sake of his love, you will do it forever and expect absolutely nothing in return. Nothing... no love, no gifts, no gratitude, no kindness... but you will still love. The simple fact is... if you don't get, you WILL give.
Take inventory today my friend. Who have you cut out of your circle of love and kindness because you just didn't GET what you thought you should? Even "sinners" give when they get something in return. But you and I are different, because we are children of a merciful Savior who, "While we were STILL sinners... died for us". (Romans 5:8) The simple fact is... if you don't get, you STILL give.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Jesus knows better...

"When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let downb the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break." - Luke 5:4-6
Some years ago there was a young man in our church that couldn't seem to hold a job for long. Shortly after beginning a new job, he would tell his boss ways to improve his business. For some unknown reason, his employers didn't appreciate his ideas very much. We rarely take advice from those who are inexperienced in our field of expertise. We certainly know better...
The day Jesus told Peter how to fish was one of those moments for the experienced fisherman. How could Jesus know anything about fishing since he had been a carpenter and now a teacher? Peter agreed, out of respect, but with a slightly disagreeable attitude. To his surprise and wonder, the catch was overwhelming. Jesus certainly knew better!
How many times has the Lord prodded you to do something other than what you planned? How often have you resisted, believing that you knew better? Were there moments when you tried and failed too many times, and you were completely void of any faith? Make a note for yourself... Jesus always knows what will work and what he asks of you is always right. Jesus certainly knows better!  

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Embracing Rest...

"I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me... I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." - Psalm 3:5; 4:8
During the nineteenth century Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a vast number of fairy tales. One of the most well known is the story of Sleeping Beauty. A fair princess lies asleep for a hundred years until a brave prince arrives to kiss the sweet girl awake. The princess certainly didn't suffer from sleep deprivation. In real life many people lie down, only to toss and turn with worries and fears haunting them through the night. Rest evades them.
David wrote at a time when trouble and danger bit at his heals and yet he could sleep restfully. His faith in the Lord who sustained him was great. David found safety in nothing else other than the Lord and as a result he could sleep in peace. Rest embraced him.
Are you pressed and stressed in the night hours by anxiety? Are you so concerned about the problems of tomorrow that you can't find sleep for the here and now? How big is your God today? How focused is your faith in Him? Is God able to protect you and provide for your every need? Put your trust in the Lord, lie down to sleep and he will sustain you in safety, and then... Rest will embrace you.  

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Prepared by fire...

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

Friday, January 5, 2018

No Root... No Fruit...

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”  - Luke 3:10-14

When I was growing up, our family planted numerous trees around the house. One of those trees was a Mimosa tree. The promise of its unique beauty kept us in expectation, but after three leafless seasons, we concluded it was dead and dug it up. We were then shocked to find life in the roots, yet no fruit of leaves on the branches. How could there be root, but no fruit?
The Christian life is very much like a tree. When we're planted and rooted in Jesus, there is fair expectation of fruit. As John prepared the way for our Lord, he preached, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." (vs. 8)  When asked what he meant by fruit, John gave practical and individual instructions. If someone has come to Christ in repentance and faith, they become new creations, like newly planted trees in the God's garden. When there's spiritual root, there should be spiritual fruit.
As you continue into the New Year, what fruit will be seen in your life? If you are spiritually rooted, Jeremiah 17:8 says you will never fail to bear fruit. Yet, what will that fruit be? With each new day ask , “What should I do then?” I have root, what should be my fruit?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Ownership or Stewardship?

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

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

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Life, Light & Love...

"... to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” - Luke 1:77-79

The holiday season has now passed with all the joy and celebrations. The lights and decorations are being packed and stored until next year. Winter days are upon us with weeks of cold and cloud filled days. With all the parties, gifts, songs and laughter gone, is there any sunshine and joy for the days ahead?  The reality of life has set in.
A small but overwhelming ray of hope is found in the song of Zechariah. We have a God filled with "tender mercy" who brings "the rising sun from heaven to shine". When we know the Christ of Christmas as Savior and friend, we can have sunshine every day of the year. The reality of light has set in. 
My dear friend, please don't allow the hard winter days to get the best of you. Remember the One who loves you with a heart of "tender mercy". Jeremiah the prophet once said ... Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  (Lamentations 3:22-24)  You can know peace and joy today because... The reality of love has set in.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Success is...

"... for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young..." - Proverbs 1:2-4

Who was voted "Most likely to Succeed" in your graduating class? Have they really made it big? What's the real difference between success and failure? Success requires more than just knowing what to do; it's all about doing what you know. Too many voted "Most likely..." are on the sidelines because they never put their knowledge into practice. Success is not just in knowing... Success is in showing and growing.
Solomon was a man of great wisdom, but he knew that successful spirituality would be seen in the everyday life. He didn't write just to create philosophers, but to produce "a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair" in his readers. Successful spirituality is more than a life challenged by the Word of God, it's a life changed. Success is not just in knowing... Success is in showing and growing.
As you begin the year reading the Scriptures, what are your expectations? Are you looking for greater knowledge of the Bible? Do you want to get a better handle on the Names of God? Or, are you trying to figure out God's prophetic program for the return of Christ? While all these may be worthy pursuits, how will they improve your walk with God? Spiritual success comes from reading the Word for change, because success is not just in knowing... Success is in showing and growing!

Monday, January 1, 2018

The gift that keeps on giving...

"But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." - Psalm 1:2-3
One week has now passed since Christmas. You received various gifts from loved ones and friends that still work and give you a lot of joy. In a few months, those same gifts may still work and will give you a little joy. By this time next year they may no longer work and be nothing more than a faint memory. There is one gift though, given by our heavenly Father, that will keep on working and will bring great joy to your heart every day because it's a "gift that keeps on giving".
The psalmist found delight in the Word of God and thought about it day and night. As a result, every day was a fresh and fruitful experience. As he carefully reflected on the life changing message, he found ancient words with timeless insight. The wisdom of the ages became good words in season. The end of every year was better, brighter and more refreshing than the beginning, because he had a "gift that keeps on giving".
As you enter this New Year and begin afresh, take inventory of the gifts you have received. Which ones will give you what you need for the daily challenges? Which ones will be as beneficial for you next December as they are today? You will find the best gift is a simple love letter from God. He has written from his heart to your heart so every day will be better than the one before. Take time this year to find delight in the "gift that keeps on giving".