Wednesday, July 18, 2018

His easy yoke...

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -- Matthew 11:28-30
There is nothing more rewarding than serving the Lord. For me, preaching is an incredible blessing and fulfillment. The only weariness that comes is a physical exhaustion after a long day or week of service. Within my heart I am rested and at peace. Sleep comes easy and joy comes in the morning. I have found rest in Jesus at the same time I have taken his yoke.
The above comment is my testimony of finding rest in serving the Lord. Jesus offers to all who will come, rest from their worries, guilt, discouragement, bitterness, heartaches and anxieties. He brings peace and purpose that satisfies to everyone who will follow him. The rest Jesus offers isn't cessation from work; it's a new labor of love that fulfills the soul and brings joy to the life. What a privilege to be  partners with the Lord as we wear his easy yoke.
Are you following the Lord in your daily life? Have you taken on his yoke, learned from him and found rest for your soul? The invitation has been given and now it's up to you. Rest is not illusive and unattainable; it's a genuine offer to all who will come to Jesus. The promise is his and the privilege is ours... will you come to Jesus today? 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Don't be afraid...

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." -- Matthew 10:29-30
One of the world's best-known and most abundant small birds is the "House Sparrow". It lives in towns and on farms worldwide, having accompanied Europeans from its original home in Eurasia and northern Africa. Introduced into North America in 1852, it spread across the continent within a century. A little bird, beyond counting, blessed with God's caring.
Jesus spoke of dangerous times of opposition and persecution for the Christian. But there is never a time that the Lord isn't with every believer, just as he is with the sparrow. The time never comes that Jesus doesn't care. We may feel as if we are one among so many, but the Lord watches over every one of his children. He values those who are his.
Do you feel that you are so very small in the works of the kingdom? Or, that your struggles are not to be compared to the needs of others? Remember that a high price was paid and you are greatly valued by your Lord. You may be one among the countless billions, but you are one assured of countless blessings. "So don't be afraid."

Monday, July 16, 2018

What do you see?

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." -- Matthew 9:36
Crowds may mean little to you, but wherever I go there are crowds. For twenty years we lived in the metropolitan region of New York City. People were in abundance and they were everywhere. The interesting question is; what goes through the mind when we are surrounded by such crowds? Do we see them as a burden, or do we see their burdens?
Jesus was never impersonal or uncaring about the multitudes that followed him. He saw their emptiness and their need for someone to care. He saw their broken and storm ravaged lives and he was moved with compassion. Their need for the Shepherd touched him to the core. To Jesus, they were never a burden; he just saw their burdens with eyes of love.
Are you upset and irritated when you are surrounded by too many people at the mall, on the road or in the grocery store? What do you see with your "born again" transformed eyes? Do you see them as Jesus sees them? Do you see that ... "People need the Lord"?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Main Thing...

"Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”" -- Matthew 8:21-22
Life can become so busy that we lose sight of our priorities. Once, I was so busy preparing for a trip that I forgot to fill the gas tank. I had a family in our church years ago so preoccupied after church that they left without their daughter. There are some matters that should hold our interest above all else. We need to keep the main thing, the main thing.
Jesus may seem to be quite cruel at this point in his response to this disciple. But, he knew far more about this man than words can express. He knew the heart of the matter and there was something in the picture that was keeping this disciple from the goal. We may have excuses galore that explain why we need to put off spiritual callings. Yet, the Lord knows when we have just lost sight of our priorities.
Have you proposed reasons for putting off the spiritual disciplines and demands of today for another time? Has the Lord called you to a task that you are procrastinating over? Don't lose sight of the goal my friend, and keep the main thing, the main thing!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Forgive and Forget...

"He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." -- Proverbs 17:9 
I put a screwdriver through my hand years ago. Since the injury was located between the thumb and index finger I was constantly reopening the wound from activity. As a result what should have cleared up in a week or so took months. Reopening a wound always slows down the healing process.
Offended hearts are much the same as wounded hands. Once the offense is dealt with, it needs to be covered over with love and forgiveness. Time will bring the desired healing. On the other hand, if we choose to repeat the incident we reopen the wound and healing will separate close friends.
What good does it do to harp on the wrong done to you? Does it really contribute to healing? Do you feel better after you revisit the situation with your friend or do you feel more grieved? To forgive and forget promotes the love that heals. Value your friendships and whenever you are offended, deal with it and let it go. Time will bring the desired healing.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Be Honest!

"Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay." -- Psalm 70:5 
We live in world that applauds achievement by sweat and blood. The Marines are always looking for "A Few Good Men" and Olympic coaches drive their athletes with "you can do it". The idea is centered on never admitting personal weakness and living strong. For most people it's unacceptable to say "I am poor and needy".
I have always appreciated the writings of David for a number of reasons. One significant aspect of the Psalms is his complete honesty and transparency. David was a strong warrior and powerful King, but he never hesitated to express his need for God's help and deliverance. When he was hurting and in trouble, an open heart cried out, "I am poor and needy".
Do you ever free too proud and independent to acknowledge your need? Have you been led to believe that you can go it alone? Is personal strength enough for the battle? Or are you willing to be honest with yourself and the Lord with a simple prayer... "I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God."

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Just Do It!

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." -- Matthew 7:24-25
People spend millions of dollars every year attending instructional conferences, workshops and reading numerous handbooks. Their purpose is improvement of skills or life in general. Sadly, there are many whose skills or lives never change. The reason is simple: they fail to put their learning into practice.
Many Christians suffer from the same experience. They study the Scriptures and read any number of books on spiritual growth. They attend conferences and listen to speakers galore but see little to no change in their spiritual lives. The endless cycle only discourages the average believer as they crumble in the midst of every storm that comes their way. The missing element is always the same: they fail to put their learning into practice.
If you hope to have a strong life, built on the rock, practice is required. You can't just know it my friend, you need to do it. We learn how to pray by praying, we learn how to serve by serving, we learn how to trust by trusting, we learn how to love by loving and we learn how to forgive by forgiving. As always, we can only learn by doing. NIKE made the point well years ago in their commercial: "Just Do It".

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Where is your heart?

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -- Matthew 6:21
My parents bought their first and only house in 1961. They chose to have a house built for them in a new housing development. During the months that followed they visited the hole in the ground, the foundation, the shell and the latter days of completion. There were times that they spent more time inspecting the process than anything else. Through the coming years they also spent an abundance of time on upkeep and improvement of their house. Their heart was in that house.
Jesus taught us a great principle as he spoke the above words in their context. Choose your treasure wisely, for your choice will rule your life. The house I mentioned above was sold in 1973 and my parents never looked back. All the hours, days, weeks and years of effort were past with little to show for the future. Houses and other tangible things are temporal at best. They carry no eternal value, but provide a means to better serve God's Kingdom work. The question is... will you serve a thing, or the King? Only one can have your heart.
Choose your treasure wisely my friend. That choice will most definitely rule your time, talents and toil. But, what will it bring you in the end? The idea has been well worded this way: "Only one life twill soon be passed, Only what’s done for Christ will last."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Happiness that runs deep...

"Blessed..." -- Matthew 5:3-11
"Happiness is a Choice" is a title for at least two contemporary books; one secular and the other evangelical. The underlying premise is caught in the title, as the eternal pursuit for happiness is ultimately an individual choice. Many people seek happiness by choosing possessions, positions, or achievements as the source. But such happiness is fragile at best and quickly slips away at the slightest change of circumstance. Can anyone find a happiness that runs deep and forever?
Jesus began the "Sermon on the Mount" with the above word repeated nine times. The word can be fairly translated "happy", but in a much deeper sense than we usually understand. As you follow his teaching you come to realize that this word, or experience, is a fruit of spiritual growth. In the sincere choice and consistent pursuit of qualities such as humility, righteousness, mercy, purity, and peacemaking you will find happiness. Yes, happiness is a choice, but more significantly, it is a result.
We spend our lives in the pursuit of the intangible. We want to be happy, but when we arrive, we are most often disappointed. Has this been your experience altogether too often? Take a good close look at the Lord's teaching and finally realize, my friend that happiness comes from a chosen lifestyle. Happiness was never meant to be an end in and of it. Happiness that runs deep and forever is a result... of Godly living.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Patience is better...

"Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city." -- Proverbs 16:32
We used to live in an urban region that produced a wide array of rage. We saw road rage, shopping rage, restaurant rage, sport rage and family rage. Call it what you will, this lack of patience is epidemic everwhere. Such conduct takes the peace and joy out of simple pleasures. The greatest personal victory and community blessing is found in the exercise of patience.
Solomon knew that conquering the whole world was of little import, compared to conquering the temper. When the temper is controlled, the efforts to succeed are improved exponentially. Patience allows us to wait out the setbacks in life and press on to accomplishment. We will always see life more clearly through the lens of patience. 
When you find yourself in a fit of rage, do you ever consider the cost? Do you stop and consider the alternative and its value? Patience is often a choice my friend. By the power of Christ, we can choose to control our temper and show the world the beauty and blessing of patience.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

God's Power...

"Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies. You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people." -- Psalm 68:34-35 
While in college, I worked as a security guard. One night I was alone in a small guard booth during a very heavy rainstorm. At one point my attention was drawn to the loud sound of an oncoming freight train. Since we had tracks nearby I gave it little thought until the next morning. I then discovered that a tornado had touched down just beyond our parking lot, right in line with the guard booth. On the night before, I had heard God's power in the skies.
The Fujita Tornado Damage Scale tells us that tornadoes can reach the strength of 318 miles an hour. These are F5 storms and some refer to them as "the finger of God". During touchdowns in populated areas such power will be devastating. But, what happens when a believer experiences the "finger of God" in their heart? God's power in the skies becomes power in their lives.
My friend, why do you say that the task is too great for you? How is it that you retreat in the face of spiritual challenges? Have you not heard? Do you not know? The God of Israel, whose power is in the skies, gives power and strength to his people! "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." -Ephesians 6:10

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Fishers of Men...

"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him." -- Matthew 4:18-20
I will always remember Bill Scevior with tremendous gratitude. Bill led me to the Lord. He had been converted himself sometime earlier and was excited about his faith. He looked for every opportunity to tell others about Jesus. One Sunday morning in 1964 he showed me the way to trust Christ as my personal Savior and that day I was born again. Bill was a "fisher of men".
Jesus called the disciples from every walk of life. He gave them a new purpose as they followed him. Their training wasn't focused on religious jargon or theological arguments. The Lord set them apart for a far greater goal in life. They were to reach out to people and lead them Jesus. The disciples were called to be "fishers of men".
No matter what your spiritual gift my friend, the Lord has a greater purpose for every believer. He is in the work of drawing a great catch from the deep. We are called to join him in this effort of bring others to the knowledge of him. The ocean of life is full of souls, floundering around looking for hope and we are sent out to be "fishers of men." ... When was the last time you had a catch?

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Hand of God...

"John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River." -- Matthew 3:4-6 
I think I have heard the strangest thoughts from pastoral search committees over the years. Here are two; "We can't consider him because ... he's so skinny the wind could blow him over" or "He'll never fit because... he talks like a policeman".  Then there was the church that was quite impressed because the pastor under consideration wore a tie to the search committee meeting. Apparently God can only speak through men of proper weight, who speak eloquently and wear ties. What about the hand of God on his servant?
When we sit back and talk about those great TV preachers or make judgment calls on the latest sermon we heard, on what are we focused? The Pharisees and Sadducees were curious, but John knew that they were unwilling to accept him and were critical  of his preaching. He didn't dress like them and he wasn't eloquent like them. To these religious elite, this preacher was nothing more than a "country bumpkin".  What about the hand of God on his servant?
When God chooses you to speak for him, your dress, looks or smoothness are not the most important issues. When God chooses to speak to you through his servant, none of the above should turn you away either. Ultimately, all that really matters is the hand of God on his servant... is there a Word from the Lord?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Read AND Follow....

"When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written" -- Matthew 2:4-5
Instruction booklets are great when we actually follow their directions. I can't remember how many times I read the booklet, followed my own plan and ended up starting all over again. These booklets were not written for our reading pleasure. Directions are only as good as they are followed.
As a group of foreign dignitaries inquired concerning the birthplace of the Messiah, the answer came quickly. The Biblical Instruction Booklet was immediately opened and the answer was found. The priests and teachers knew where to look for direction, but while others quickly followed, they were satisfied in just knowing. Directions are only as good as they are followed.
What have you learned from your Biblical Instruction Book? Are there steps to take that you have put aside for another time? Have you shared such steps with others, so they might find their way spiritually? Don't just know the Bible... follow its leading as well. Remember, directions are only as good as they are followed!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Promises fulfilled...

"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."" -- Matthew 1:22-23
Promises, Promises... how often are we given promises that never come to pass? Promises made by our parents, promises made by our friends, promises made by our employers and promises made at the wedding altar are often broken. Over time we become quite cynical about promises and we accept them with a grain of salt. Is there anyone who still fulfills their promises?
The birth of Jesus is the most amazing fulfilled promise in the world. The promise was made time and again, over thousands of years, with considerable detail. God never forgot, and as Paul put it in Galatians 4:4, "... when the time had fully come, God sent his Son". The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, among many other things, tell us that... the Lord always fulfills his promises.
Do you think the Lord has forgotten his promises lately? Have you become cynical and doubtful of his keeping his word? Just remember the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." The Lord is never late and he never fails to fulfill his promises.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A little sin...

"If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!" -- Psalm 66:18-20
A few years ago I installed a surround sound system in our living room. I must make it clear that I am not well experienced in wiring audio equipment and things just didn't go very well. I thought that using a staple gun would move things right along, but I failed to understand that the staples would short out the signal. After all the work was done there was the most beautiful silence you can imagine. A little staple in the wrong place can really block sweet music.
In the same way, small things can neutralize our spiritual lives in  many ways. We may spend days, months and years building a great spiritual surround sound system in ministry. Everything can be well placed and look just great, but when we seek the Lord's blessing, all we find is silence. What could be the problem you might ask? Well, a little sin can really block sweet music from the Lord.
David knew that, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened". Do we have the same conviction? May we be far more careful to maintain an unhindered communication with our Lord? David also prayed another prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 "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." Remember, a little sin can block the sweetest music of God's blessing.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Godly Counsel...

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." -- Proverbs 15:22
One of the age old questions throughout life is: "How can I know the will of God?" From the earliest years, the child of God searches for the answer. Books have been written and workshops given beyond number. At times we would just like God to make it simple and write his will on a wall. The search continues for an easy way to discern his leading.
Over the years the insight has been given from every known source; search the Scriptures for principles of wisdom, pray for the Spirit of God to guide and evaluate the providential working of God. One last, but most important resource is to seek the counsel of many advisors. How quickly do we go astray when we fail to seek Godly counsel?
But be careful to seek counsel in the right way my friend. Choose those whose hearts are clearly in tune with God's heart. Find those who give evidence that they are led by the Word of God and his Holy Spirit. Be prepared to accept Godly counsel, even when it might disappoint your expectations. If you seriously desire to know and follow the will of God, he will never fail to "guide you in paths of righteousness for his names sake". (Psalm 23:3)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Nothing else will satisfy...

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." -- Psalm 63:1 
Today, my wife and I begin a new adventure in life. Our days of full time church ministry have ended and we move into the world of retirement. We are both excited as we ponder the path that lies ahead. No matter how different the days may be though, the cool and refreshing times with our Lord will be the same. Nothing else will satisfy!
This is the point of David's thought in Psalm 63:1. He was far from home and found his soul to be dry and weary. The pressures of battle and fleeing from his enemies left him worn and empty. He missed the refreshing days spent in the sanctuary, worshiping and singing praise. The only thought he had day after day was a long cool time with God, his God. Nothing else would satisfy.
Are you empty today my friend? Do you feel like David; dry and thirsty in a land where there is no water? Why seek that which will never quench your thirst? Consider the invitation of Jesus in John 7:37, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." Take the time to spend a long cool season with God because... Nothing else will satisfy!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Patience - The Great Imperative

"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" -- James 5:7-9 
In a time of great impatience, farmers are a rare breed. When the internet and rapid transit has made everything lightening fast to the touch, these stalwart souls still have to be patient. Over two thousand years have passed since the above writing and little has changed for the farmer. Patience remains the great imperative.
The same remains true for the believer who awaits the return of Christ. His coming is nearer today than in James' day, but we still need to be patient and stand firm. Our conduct should be God honoring with brotherly love. Our faith in the Lord's timing must continue strong through the darkest days. As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:8, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."
All believers know the end of the story and we live in great expectation of the Lord's return. The question is; how then shall we live? Take a lesson from the farmer my friend, and patiently sow your seeds of Christ-like living. As the spring and autumn rains come, the Lord will also come... and He's never late!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Submit to God...

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you..." -- James 4:7-8  
I have known too many people who have suffered physically rather than seeking the care of a doctor. I knew a man who came to a point that he daily swallowed a dose of Listerine for throat pain. One morning he just collapsed. He died of advanced cancer that was never diagnosed or treated. We can fight disease in our bodies all we want, but until we are willing to come under the care of a skilled physician, we will only get worse.
The soul is far more diseased than the body. We have a condition called sin and it will eat us up if we don't seek help. Choosing to deal with the habits of sin in our own strength is like taking aspirin for a tumor. We can determine to resist temptation, sin, and the devil all we want, but until we submit ourselves to the Great Physician of our souls, we will only get worse.
The simple prescription for spiritual health is found in the words, "Submit yourselves, then, to God". Place yourself under the care of the Great Physician. Allow him to heal your soul, knowing that if you "Come near to God and he will come near to you." Only then will sin, temptation and the devil flee, and you will get better.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Heavenly Wisdom...

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." -- James 3:17-18
I have attended more board meetings than I can count. There have been church boards, association boards, library boards and consultation boards. Each board has had a different personality and focus. And, time and again there would be some dear soul that believed they were wiser than any other. Their wisdom was to be accepted or there would be tension and stress beyond belief. Wisdom it might have been, but it wasn't from heaven.
The beauty of God given wisdom is the way it is expressed. Godly wisdom is given in a merciful, considerate and submissive manner. There is no partiality and peaceful results are sincerely sought. Wisdom of the natural man seeks praise and honor for the great insight that has been offered. If their counsel is rejected or altered, trouble comes and peace goes out the window. Only heavenly wisdom can raise a harvest of righteousness.
Before you enter the next meeting my friend, seek the wisdom that comes from heaven. You will know it comes from God when you are more concerned about others and a peaceful conclusion than your own ideas. The difference between a peacemaker and a peace-breaker depends on the kind of wisdom you choose.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Love them like Jesus...

"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." - James 2:8-10 
Herb was a businessman who attended our church many years ago. Today, he is homeless, unkempt and has an unpleasant smell. In the colder months Herb stops into the church to get warm and has a bite to eat when we have a church supper. I am thankful when I see some of our church family stop and visit with him. But it saddens me when I see other believers avoid him at any cost. How can we love one another and not love Herb?
James called us to a deeper level of compassion when he challenged our "Love Capacity". It's easy to love those who love us back and those who are lovable. Such are the people we choose to show that extra interest and care. But, if we are going to be consistent in our obedience to the second greatest commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39), we must take time to love the Herbs of our world.
Today you will meet someone. They will not win your attention or your desire to show compassion. They may offend you by their conduct and attire. How will you choose to treat them, my friend? Will you avoid them in the name of inconvenience or will "Love them like Jesus"?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rein it in!

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." - James 1:26
What a day for speaking carelessly. Not too long ago a military General lost his position for derogatory remarks about his superiors and an actor had to apologize to the town council for remarks made about the local citizens. Both cases were spoken during an interview for a national magazine. I have no doubt that these two guys will be more careful before they speak out again. It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.
James makes the quality of thoughtful speech a significant characteristic for the believer. We can do all the right things and teach others with great insight, but with just one wrong word we can irreparably offend someone. Many a Christian testimony has been lost over a few thoughtless words. As James said earlier in verse 19, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak". It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.
By the grace of God, there have been many thoughts that have come to mind that I refused to verbalize. I would encourage you to do the same, my friend. We may have "Freedom of Speech", but it's not freedom to offend. The treasures of friendship, peace, harmony and unity are far more valuable than words can say. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 25:11, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." and in Proverbs 17:28 "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The right Leader...

"Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies." - Psalm 60:11-12

Some years ago there was a major upset that involved the leadership of our troops in Afghanistan. The old General was removed and a new leader has been assigned. War brings various changes like this for many reasons. The utmost concern is gaining victory over the enemy. Having the right leader is critical.
Our spiritual battle is no different. Victory over the enemy is the major goal and we can't do it by ourselves. We need more than the "worthless" help of man. We need the Sovereign leadership of our God and King. With the "Captain" of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10 KJV) in charge, our spiritual enemies will most certainly be "trampled down". Having the right leader is critical.
Be wise my friend and understand, "the help of man is worthless" in our spiritual battles. With God and God alone victory is sure. Remember the words of Solomon in Proverbs 3:5 ... "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding..." Having the right leader is critical.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sacrifices that please ...

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

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Missing the sweetness...

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

Friday, June 22, 2018

A Longing...

"If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." - Hebrews 11:15-16
The puritan pilgrims arrived on the shores of America with a longing in their hearts. The days ahead were brutal and demanded great sacrifice. Eventually, opportunities came for a return to England, but they were focused on a better future in a new land. More significantly, they were looking and preparing for a heavenly country.
Whether it is the patriarchs of the Bible, the puritan pilgrims of the seventeenth century or the new believers of 2018, the dynamics are always the same. If we are still too tied to the old ways of the world, we can always return. But, devoted believers have left the past behind for good, with no desire to return. They are focused on the future, preparing for eternity every day.
Search your heart my friend. What is your longing? Are you so deeply rooted in this world that you rarely think about heavenly things? Are you so satisfied with the present material possessions that you have no longing for a heavenly country? Remember, God's children are those who have "admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (verse 13) and their "... citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). God is never ashamed of those who are looking for the city that he has prepared for them!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Fugetaboutit!

"Then he adds:  "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." - Hebrews 10:17
There is true forgetfulness and there is a forgetfulness of convenience. At my age there is no convenience about my forgetfulness. There are some things that I truly desire to forget and there are those matters that I can't afford to forget. One thing is for sure, there are some things we need to remember and some that we need to forget.
Having thought about our own memory issues, consider this: God chooses to forget and therefore he does. An omniscient creator who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and knows our every thought before we think them (Psalm 139:2) can willingly forget. But what is it that he chooses to forget? The true joy is in this: God never forgets us (Hebrews 13:5), but he forgets our sins. God has chosen to completely clear his memory of the sins of the repentant sinner.
The thought I leave you with today is this: If the all knowing God of the universe has chosen, in Christ, to forgive and FORGET your sins... when will you forget them and move on??

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fathers, Fear the Lord ...

"He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." - Proverbs 14:26
In America, this last Sunday was Father's day. It's a day when we remember and honor our fathers for their fatherly care. For some the day passes without notice because they either have no father or their father has been a major heartbreak to the family. But, there are those who have been blessed with a father who "fears the LORD".
There are many things I can be grateful for when I remember my Dad, but the best memories are all about his last few years of life. He became serious about the Lord and leading others to Christ. In his declined health he sought opportunities to study the Bible and then shared it with others. Nothing my Dad ever gave me comes close to the value of seeing him live for Christ. Today, I honor him, because he "feared the LORD".
If you are a father I implore you to "fear the LORD". You will most certainly find in Him a fortress for yourself and your children. Furthermore, from your fear of the LORD, you will have a legacy to pass on to your children that will be a refuge and will last forever.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Strength training...

"But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God." - Psalm 59:16-17
There was a time that I lifted weights for strength training. I would rise early and work out like so many others that I knew and read about. Each morning brought another routine that added to the strength building program. While there are a great number who follow this pattern of life, there are fewer who rise early to seek their deeper Strength.
No matter where David found himself, he rose early to sing of his deeper Strength... the Lord. He even named the Lord "my Strength" as he sang praise to him. As a result of rising every day to seek his Strength, David grew stronger. But, his was not strength from within; it was strength from above.
Where does your strength come from today? Are you growing stronger every day as you rise to seek your "Strength"? In the face of great spiritual battles, we all need Strength from above. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."

Monday, June 18, 2018

You only die once...

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

He's "THE BEST!"...

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

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The best lawyer...

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Haven of Rest...

"God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." - Hebrews 6:18-20
Our family has lived near the ocean for many generations. We have lived through and survived some of the most historic hurricanes that Long Island and New England have ever experienced. So, we know that when storms are brewing, many ships are taken out into deep waters and anchored. This prevents damage from the dock and others ships. The anchor protects from drifting and provides safety in the storm.
In like manner, believers have an anchor for the hurricanes of life. Their anchor is a hope that protects from drifting and provides safety in the storm. This hope is founded on the Lord who never lies and it gives an assurance for our soul that is firm and secure. The old gospel song says it this way, "I've anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest".
Why are you tossed every which way in the storms of life? Do you not have an anchor of hope in the Lord? When the winds start to howl, drop anchor my friend and find rest for your soul in Jesus.

THE HAVEN OF REST
Henry L. Gilmour

My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea, so burdened with sin, and distress, till I heard a sweet voice saying, “Make me your choice!” And I entered the 
Haven of Rest.

I yielded myself to His tender embrace, and faith taking hold of the Word, my fetters fell off, and I anchored my soul—The “Haven of Rest” is my Lord.

The song of my soul, since the Lord made me whole, has been the old story so blest of Jesus, who’ll save whosoever will have a home in the Haven of Rest!

O come to the Savior—He patiently waits to save by His power divine; Come, anchor your soul in the Haven of Rest, and say, “My Beloved is mine.”

Chorus: I’ve anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest; I’ll sail the wide seas no more; the tempest may sweep o’er the wild, stormy deep —  
In Jesus I’m safe ever more.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Eat Meat!

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Songs of Praise...

"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music." - Psalm 57:7
Many songwriters are inspired by love or beauty. John Denver wrote “Annie’s Song” in about ten-and-a-half minutes on a ski lift to the top of Bell Mountain in Aspen, Colorado. Exhilarated from having "skied down a very difficult run" and being immersed with the surrounding beauty he was inspired to think about his wife. How different when someone sings and makes music when they are "in the midst of lions" (vs. 4).
David was able to sing and make music while in deep trouble because he was always inspired by God's great love that reached to the heavens (vs.10). In the midst of lions and ravenous beasts David made a choice. He chose to praise the Lord among the nations. Rather than sit in the dark and lick his wounds, he lifted his voice in praise and was filled with song. David chose to awaken his soul to praise.
What will you choose today? Will you sing and make music to the Lord no matter what? Nothing will ever change the fact of his love and faithfulness. Begin your day my friend by awakening your soul and the dawn with songs of praise!