Thursday, November 15, 2018

He still weeps ...

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see,  Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept." -- John 11:33-35
The Doctor that delivered my first-born was a believer and a man of great empathy. When we would bring our son to his office with serious pain, Dr. Kolb would receive us with such kindness and understanding. This physician friend was always moved by our sadness and turmoil for our son, and his medical care was marked by his compassion.
The scene before us is so often presented with greater focus on the Lord's message and miracle rather than his incredible empathy. The shortest verse in the Bible may very well be the deepest verse in concept. The creator, sustainer, redeemer and coming King was deeply moved by the sorrow of friends and wept. His message and miracle was marked by his compassion.
Do you ever hesitate to take your sorrows and heartache to Jesus? While you know full well that he has the power to turn your world upside down and inside out, is he really moved by your brokenness? Be assured my friend, Jesus is deeply moved and I believe that He still weeps when his children weep.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Eternally Secure ...

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” -- John 10:27-30
The well known insurance company slogan "You're in good hands with Allstate" has been around since 1950. The original thought originated from the company commitment to the insured individual. The safety and welfare of clients was of utmost importance to Allstate. Where else can we find such security today?
Security is a very significant word that springs from this passage. Jesus wanted to convey to his followers the thought of protection and provision for all eternity. Like sheep who rest in the ever faithful and watchful care of their shepherd, Jesus carries his flock in his powerful, yet gentle hands... hands that were pierced for them.
How is it possible for you to be fearful in the face of eternity? If you belong to the Good Shepherd, you are someone for whom he laid his life down. Since his hands were pierced for you and still took death by the throat in victory, are they not sufficient to hold you firmly forever? Be secure my friend... be eternally secure!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

No record ...

"If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you." -- Psalm 130:3-4
I recently came across my sixth grade report card. Sixth grade wasn't my most stellar year academically. Yet, there it was, a written unchanging record of less than commendable grades. I suppose I could shred it or use it as kindling to start a warm winter fire, but the record still stands. It sure would be nice if some records just didn't exist.
How absolutely amazing, that the Omniscient God of the Universe has no record of his children's sins. With the Lord there is forgiveness and this gracious act is a most comforting and encouraging expression of love. Once forgiven, we'll never find an old time worn record of our sins anywhere. It just doesn't exist.
So, now you're forgiven my friend. What will you do with such a marvelous gift of love as this? Will you live any way that you want or will you strive to serve the Lord, with reverence? We have been forgiven with grace and purpose, live a life worthy of the One who keeps no record of your sins.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Only Today ...

"As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." -- John 9:4
Every morning, Monday through Friday, parkways across this land are jam packed with people headed to work. Then, as evening approaches, those same people make their way back home after a a busy day. While time passes and progress leads to great change, the work day remains much the same. The majority of people work "as long as it is day".
Some have called it the "Puritan Work Ethic", but the idea of working hard was embraced by our Lord long before there were Puritan Divines. He came to do all the work given by the Father in heaven while it was day. He led a focused life of productive effort accomplishing the tasks assigned. The Lord knew that night was coming "when no one can work."
How diligent are you in the work of the Lord? Have you a clear sense of his purpose for your life? Time flies for everyone of us and the night is coming. Will you be able to say that you made the most of the "day" you were given to accomplish the task assigned to you by the Lord? Work hard my friend, because "today" is the only promise you have.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Free Indeed ...

"Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." -- John 8:34-36
Over the years I've ministered to people who have suffered from substance abuse. For a very long time they believe that they are not addicted. They say, "It's just one drink, now and then". I grew up with family members that would have "just one drink, now and then." The truth was they were slaves to alcohol.
It doesn't matter how you package it, when you're addicted, you're a slave. We are sinners by nature and by action, and "everyone who sins is a slave to sin". You can deceive yourself by saying, "It's just one sin, now and then", but you're addicted. Freedom will only come to those who admit their condition and turn to the Son of God to set them free.
Will you stop and be true to yourself my friend? "... A slave has no permanent place in the family of God, but a son belongs to it forever." Sin must be admitted before freedom and a place in the family can be granted. Do you want to continue in life as a slave, or do you want to be "free indeed"?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Divided ...

"Thus the people were divided because of Jesus." -- John 7:43
People are divided for many reasons. Some hold different political views, others have different ethnic backgrounds and still others differ on social issues. There are those who will even fight for their favorite ball team. Still, none of the above can divide the entire human race.
Our verse for thought is factual and profoundly timeless. While no small passing issue can divide everyone for all time, Jesus does. He is the eternal watershed that divides all mankind. This is clearly stated in John 3:18, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned". There it is; Jesus is the Mason-Dixon Line of history. There are those who believe and those who don't believe. The entire human race is divided because of Jesus.
What about you my friend? You have chosen or will choose to believe or not to believe and your eternal future lies in the balance. This is not a minor issue that you can ignore until it goes away. Every day you check the date on a calendar that is broken at the coming of Christ; B.C. and A.D. As time, so people, some are without Christ and some are with Christ... which are you?

Friday, November 9, 2018

Stuff that spoils...

"Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” -- John 6:26-27
Over the years there has been opposition to McDonald's Happy Meal toys. Some people believe that children only ask for happy meals to get the toy; they don't really care about the food in the box. Just imagine someone being more concerned with a toy that breaks in no time rather than a nourishing meal. Don't work for the stuff that spoils.
Speaking of food, there were numerous people who would follow Jesus anywhere, as long as he fed them. They were all about the momentary pleasure of a full stomach. But Jesus wanted more; he asked that people follow him for eternal reasons that would nourish the soul. He didn't want anyone working for the stuff that spoils.
Why do you follow the Lord my friend? Do you want some blessing in your job or special provision for your future? Are you satisfied with the immediate, and not really interested in the eternal? Jesus counsels every person who shortchanges themselves by seeking the toys of this world. He has so much more to offer... so don't work for the stuff that spoils.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Don't feed the fire...

"Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down." -- Proverbs 26:20
This last year brought more unfounded stories about publc figures. In most cases the reports were either totally untrue or gross exaggerations of minor incidents. These stories succeeded in causing uproar and in some cases damaged reputations. People are all too quick to believe such tales and the fires they cause can burn on for years. It's best not to feed the fire.
It is sad to find the very same conduct in the church. From week to week certain people will carry unfounded stories and exaggerated details that will fire up the congregation. The purpose is quite different than political tales, but nonetheless great damage is done. If the tale bearer would hold their tongue and others would refuse to listen, peace would prevail. It's best not to feed the fire.
The counsel is timeless and significant my friend. Think before you speak, and if you must speak, tell the Lord first in prayer. If someone tries to get your ear with all kinds of gossip, encourage them to drop the subject and pray for those they are talking about. Remember; it's best not to feed the fire.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The MOST dependable Builder...

"Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." -- Psalm 127:1
My wife and I used to watch the HGTV program "Holmes on Homes". The stories of poor construction and careless contractors were repeated weekly. In response, Mike Holmes would come in with a team of skilled builders to save the day. The conclusion was always the same; every project should be done by a reputable and dependable builder.
Jesus spoke of our spiritual houses in Matthew 7:24-27 and the Psalmist called our attention to the best builder. We can hammer and saw away every day, but unless the LORD builds our spiritual house, all our work is in vain. We will have leaky pipes, rotten floors and faulty electric. The conclusion is simple; every spiritual building should have THE reputable and dependable Builder.
The process is just as basic as the program "Holmes on Homes". When we are ready to build, we need to seek the only One who knows how to build spiritual homes. Don't try to be the "Tool-man" and end up with a mess on your hands. Take your need to the Lord and ask for HIS plans. Read his Word and you will find the building details laid out with precision. Before you build, take note my friend; you need a reputable and dependable Builder... you need the LORD.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

No Middle Ground ...

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned." -- John 5:28-29
We go through school and receive grades according to our academic performance. The more we study, the better our grade. Then comes that frightful day when we take the road test for our driver's license. We don't get a better grade if we study more. We don't get an "A", "B" or "C" license; we either pass or fail by our actions. It's one way or the other, there's no middle ground.
Eternity is one of those tests that one either passes or fails. It's all a matter of choice in this life. If we choose life in Jesus and are changed into righteous people, we will pass into eternal life. On the other hand, should we choose to embrace evil throughout life, we will fail into eternal condemnation. It's one way or the other, there's no middle ground.
There are many people who expect their eternal destiny to be determined on a graded scale. You may figure that enough good works will bring a good grade and a well deserved place in heaven.  But the simple truth is, we pass or fail by our action of choice. Jesus is the only way, there's no middle ground. How will you choose?

Monday, November 5, 2018

Stay the Course ...

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." -- John 4:34-35 
Having lived in old houses all our married life has given our family an appreciation for the ongoing work that is needed. The list of jobs is never-ending and it keeps you going from one spare moment to the next. At times you might think the work is finished, but then you open your eyes and there is much more to be done. Some responsibilities take a lifetime and more.
Jesus was focused on a pressing task and all other pursuits came afterward. He was totally committed to finish the task assigned by the Father. At the same time he points out the ever present harvest of souls standing before us, if we will only open our eyes. The responsibility of reaching the lost and helpless multitude with the gospel is never truly finished. The task will take a lifetime, only to be passed on to the next generation.
Open your eyes my friend, and what do you see? Is it your neighbor, friend, fellow worker, classmate or family member? Do you see the crowds on your way to work or while you're shopping? How many of them are lost and helpless, in need of the Savior? The harvest will take a lifetime, and must be passed on to the next generation. Stay the course and never give up!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Light changes everything...

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." -- John 3:19
Studies tell us that one of the simplest steps of crime prevention is the flood light. As a result of that knowledge we have a number of flood lights installed around our home. I also have more flashlights than can be counted for the same reason. Light changes everything.
Criminals will always run from the light to hide their actions. Darkness hides evil from correction just as it hides vermin and insects from extermination. There are those who live in the dark purposely, so they can continue in their immoral or illegal ways. Other people choose the light of Jesus because they want to change their evil ways. Light changes everything.
Have you chosen to live in the dark, hiding your lifestyle from the light of the Lord? The verdict tells us why some make this choice, but it also tells us that Light has come to provide a way out. Will you make that choice? Remember, Light changes everything.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

More amazing over time...

"... Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” -- John 2:9-10
You shop for a new car. The salesman treats you like a long lost brother and after your purchase you're lost again. The car you buy is absolutely amazing for a while, then time passes and it's not so amazing anymore. That's how life is: things seem to get less amazing every day. Is there anything that gets more amazing over time?
Our Lord's first miracle tells us so much about his future ministry in our lives. When we first come to the Lord it is so amazing. The sense of peace and joy is overwhelming and we wonder if the feelings will last. But as time passes the peace and joy only grows stronger and deeper. Far from the way of our world, when the Lord does his work, it only gets more amazing over time.
It was best said in Isaiah 55:2, "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare." Choose wisely my friend and look to the Lord for his provision. When he blesses, it only gets more amazing over time. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Share your joy!

"Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus." -- John 1:40-42
I wanted to tell the world the day I was engaged. I also wanted to tell the world the two days that my sons were born. We all have exciting life changing moments that motivate us to tell the good news to as many people as possible. Why do we make such an effort to spread the news? It's because we want everyone to share in our joy. 
When Andrew found the Lord and spent time with him, the very first thing he did was tell his brother. He was excited about finding the long awaited Messiah and he wanted everyone to know. He was overjoyed with his discovery and couldn't keep it to himself. He wanted everyone to share his joy.
Since you came to the knowledge of the Lord how has your life changed? Has the Lord blessed you in tremendous ways? Who have you told about these wonderful things? Why not be an Andrew today and share your joy with everyone?

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Surrounded by the Almighty...

"Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore." -- Psalm 125:1-2
After our recent move, we are now surrounded by the mountains of Pennsylvania. Our days are quite pleasant, being surrounded by the hillsides, protected from wild coastal winds. In addition, we are often blessed with the splendor of beautiful rainbows and unparalleled valley sunsets. These mountains are the same for us as they were for the first settlers; they have never been shaken.
With such a picture the Psalmist likens the care and protection of the Lord. For the Lord surrounds his people like an unshaken mountain. The storms may come with ferocity and power, but the children of God are well protected in the "cleft of the rock" (Exodus 33:22). We are held in the palm of his great providential hands. And to put it simply, you're in good hands with the Almighty.
On any given day, you may feel threatened by the unknown and uncontrollable. Anxiety may press upon you like a heart attack, but all you have to do is stop, and take a look. Lift up your eyes to the hills and remember, from whence comes your help? It comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, who surrounds you as the mountains surround Jerusalem... both now and forevermore!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The hospitable spirit ...

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Don't be an Accesory ...

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

Monday, October 29, 2018

"Always", not "sometimes"...

"Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble." -- Proverbs 25:19
I learned to depend on faithful legs and feet when I was very young. They came in handy the day I came across a snake while playing near my school. And on the evening I was chased by a German shepherd while delivering newspapers. Yet, over the years they have failed me, when I suffered a broken ankle or a recent knee surgery. I have learned that faithfulness means "always", not "sometimes".
In the early days of Solomon's reign he learned that he could never rely on the unfaithful. As he wrote, he likened such people to a bad tooth or a lame foot in times of trouble. They made life difficult at best and hindered progress in numerous ways. There are only two ways to serve a cause; faithfully or unfaithfully, there is no middle ground. Faithfulness means "always", not "sometimes".
Are we not incredibly grateful for a Savior who is consistently faithful? When we seek the Lord's help in times of need, is he not dependable without fail? Then why do we find it so hard to be faithful to Him? Before you speak with strength of conviction my friend, consider the faithfulness of God in contrast to yours. How do you fair in times of trouble? Do you always finish the job and keep your word even when it hurts? (Psalm 15:4) Remember; faithfulness means "always", not "sometimes".

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Rest in HIM...

"My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." -- Psalm 121:2-4
Some people have fear of anesthesia during surgery. Others fear the unknown and fail to sleep soundly. Still others need to be in constant control of everything to prevent failure. As a result, these are people who rarely find rest or any degree of peace, because anxiety rules every hour. If only someone greater would watch over them day and night.
The Psalmist was a very different person than those mentioned above. He knew someone greater, who would never let his foot slip. This someone watched over him day and night, never sleeping or closing his eyes. The writer knew that his help came from the Maker of heaven and earth, and caring for his life was small potatoes compared to creating the universe.
Are you at rest today my friend? Can you peacefully accept the anesthesia and sleep as the surgeon does his work? Do you easily find sleep in the night hours, waking refreshed in the morning? If not, you need to find help; and the only guaranteed help is found in the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will always be awake while you rest in HIM.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Love produced obedience...

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

Friday, October 26, 2018

Love is needed ...

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

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Clean House...

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Are you ready?

"And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming." -- 1 John 2:28
When I was in elementary school my Mom would have quite a time getting me to do my homework. She would set me down at a desk and give me time to finish the job, but when she would return, there was no progress. I had day-dreamed and wasted time, and the work wasn't completed. No matter how bad I felt, it never changed the fact that I just wasn't ready.
Procrastination is a very real problem and spiritual procrastination is an even greater one. If the believer puts off walking in the truth and growing in grace until another time, the day will come when there is no more time. Jesus will return and we will have nothing for which to be confident. No matter how bad we may feel, it will never change the fact that we just weren't ready.
John wrote this letter to believers. He knew that they fight a spiritual battle with sins that easily get the better of them. But if we confess our sins moment by moment and walk in the Spirit, there will always be confidence at the Lord's return. Don't procrastinate, "continue in him" my friend and you'll always be ready.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Life preservers ...

"If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life." -- Psalm 119:92-93
A few years ago our family went Kayaking for the very first time. The rules were numerous and we were required to wear life-jackets. These vests were not the most comfortable while paddling but they were necessary to keep us from the danger of drowning. In troubled waters, to have a life preserver is a delight.
Our spiritual lives are also surrounded by dangerous waters. The waves of life can be treacherous and endanger our spiritual welfare. Therefore we need special spiritual life-jackets to keep us from perishing. The Psalmist knew just the right vest to wear when he wrote "I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life".  In the troubled waters of spiritual storms, to have the life preserver of God's Word is a delight.
Are you dressed for success? Maybe I should ask, are you dressed for survival? The wind and waves of life's storms can be overwhelming. Without a well-fitting life-jacket one is always in danger. Are you fully dressed in the Word of God today my friend? In troubled waters, having the right life preserver is definitely a delight.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The "good" in affliction...

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word... It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees... I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me." -- Psalm 119:67, 71, 75
I was raised near the ocean. Every summer found me swimming and body surfing in the waves. The ocean was fun and I never had any fears. Then one summer came when all the fun was swallowed up in one frightful event. I almost drowned in an undertow and I forever learned to respect and revere the ocean. This was good.
Life can bring home some really great life-changing lessons. But we might note that these lessons are not just coincidences. The Lord faithfully afflicts his children with beneficial purpose. The hard moments in life are ultimately intended to lead us to a place of respect and reverence for the Lord and his Word. This is good. 
When you are afflicted, how do you react? Do you look for the lessons that will draw you closer to the Lord and his Word? Or do you moan, groan and complain? When we remember that "...in faithfulness" the Lord afflicts us, we will say with the Psalmist... This is good.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Fire Snatchers...

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

Saturday, October 20, 2018

First responder?

"Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If  you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" -- Proverbs 24:11-12
A few years ago, in New York City, a man was stabbed while saving a woman from an attacker. He lay dying in a pool of his own blood for more than an hour while several people walked past without calling for help. A surveillance video showed that some passers-by paused to gawk at Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax and yet kept on walking. Many readers were horrified at the story, but how many would have done likewise?
The Scriptures call us to social responsibility. We might choose to steer clear of the inconvenient and excuse ourselves with such words as "... we knew nothing about this". But, however we settle our minds about the situation; the Lord knows and weighs our hearts. The story of the "Good Samaritan" in Luke 10:25-37 is in direct contrast to the above account. At the conclusion of his teaching Jesus simply stated, "Go and do likewise".
As a child of the King and recipient of his wondrous grace, how socially compassionate are you? Every day brings new opportunities to impact your community for Christ. When that broken life comes into your path, how will you respond? Will you do likewise as those who passed by? Or will you do likewise as the Good Samaritan? How will you make a difference for Jesus today?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Don't be afraid...

"The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" -- Psalm 118:6
No matter how old I get, I will always remember that afternoon in Macy's Department store. I was around six years old and my Dad and I were shopping for a Christmas gift for my Mom. I wandered away and was suddenly, frightfully lost. Then, just as quickly, a big strong hand reached down and took hold of mine and I was safe again. I was no longer afraid, because my Dad was with me.
Our journey through life will often leave us in the midst of unfamiliar and frightening surroundings. There may be enemies like David faced, or it may just be an unknown set of circumstances. But no matter where we turn, the fear is overwhelming. Then, at just the right moment, a big strong hand reaches down and takes ours and we're safe again. We are no longer afraid, because our Lord is with us.
What are you frightened of today my friend? Have you turned the corner, only to find yourself feeling frightfully lost? Are the circumstances too overwhelming to handle? Take a word of encouragement from David and don't be afraid. The Lord is with you... what can man do to you?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Exam time...

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test." -- 2 Corinthians 13:5-6
The following explanation is found on the SAT web site: "The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are a suite of tools designed to assess your academic readiness for college... measuring the skills required for success in the 21st century." Simply put, this is a test to discover your knowledge and skill for further study and success. For many, their future depends on the results.
Paul never took anything for granted. When he wrote to these believers in Corinth, he challenged them to test themselves. He may have offended some, but such a test is far more important than any SAT exam. This is the final test to discover your position with Christ. Is Jesus your Lord and Savior or not? For everyone, their future depends on the results.
When did you take that step of faith my friend? Was it a sincere confession of sin, repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as your only means of salvation? Has your life been transformed by the Spirit of God living within your heart? Don't blow it off; test yourself now, because your future depends on the results.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fluff never satisfies ...

"I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing." -- 2 Corinthians 12:11
We live in a day when a smooth talker, pretty face and a winsome smile can win the public in a heartbeat. Political offices, leadership roles and other prestigious positions will often be awarded to those who may lack the heart and skill, but look and sound good. "Fluff" sells, but it never satisfies.
I speak today for my fellow pastors who have heart and skill to feed their flocks. But Sunday in and Sunday out the congregation reminds them of how great the "super-preachers" were that week. They will often compare my dear brothers with those that tell better stories and funnier jokes in the pulpit. There are hundreds of faithful, loving and passionate pastors across this land that should be heard with open hearts and commended with grateful words. These are the men who feed your souls. "Fluff" sells, but it never satisfies.
October has been highlighted as "Pastor Appreciation" month for a number of years. For myself, my church families appreciated me every month and I was blessed beyond belief, but what about you my friend? When was the last time you told your pastor how much you appreciated his messages and his care for you and your family? Unlike the "super-preachers", your pastor prays for you in the night and prepares his sermons with you on his heart. "Fluff" sells, but it never satisfies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Beware of the "masquerade" ...

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." -- 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
It's that time of year when children and even adults "masquerade" as someone other than themselves. They dress in costumes for fun and entertainment, but there are those who regularly change their identity for evil purposes. Some wear masks to rob banks and others change names and appearances to deceive people out of money. The "masquerade" eventually leads to their condemnation.
In the spiritual life there are many who seek to lead others astray for personal gain. They talk the talk and appear to be true believers, but in fact they are simply false apostles. They preach and teach another Jesus than the Lord of the Bible. Paul wrote with great concern for his spiritual children, that they would not be deceived like Eve had been in the garden. Remember, if someone's righteousness is only a "masquerade", it will only lead to condemnation.
Costume parties may be fun for the moment, but we eventually need to take off our masks and embrace the truth. Be careful of those who are not the real deal and strive to lead you down the wrong path. Be discerning when listening to the teaching of others and settle for nothing short of the God of the Bible. Any other God is a "masquerade" and will only lead to condemnation.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Whose Fame?

"But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. "For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." -- 2 Corinthians 10:17-18
The lyrics to the Broadway song "Fame" include the following: “… I'm gonna make it to heaven, Light up the sky like a flame, Fame … I'm gonna live forever, Baby remember my name, RememberRemember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember my name” It's a catchy tune as well as a catchy concept. Many people live their whole life for "Fame".
A lot of people believe that living forever is being remembered for becoming someone famous. They commend themselves so often that they become legends in their own minds. But, Paul makes it clear that true "Fame" is only found in the Lord's approval. The lyrics of "The Famous One" written by Chris Tomlin are far more Biblical and true; “You are the Lord, The famous one, Famous one, Great is your name, In all the earth, The heavens declare, You're glorious, glorious, Great is your fame Beyond the earth” Wisdom says that we should live our whole life for God's "Fame".
Are you boasting in yourself or the Lord? Do you live for your own "Fame" or the "Fame" of God? The point is that the Lord is already the "Famous One". So, as you pursue "Fame" in your daily activities, let it be His "Fame"... not yours.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The GIFT of LIFE....

“For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 116:8-9
In the spring of 2008, Sonny Graham of Vidalia, Georgia, committed suicide. The irony of this story is the fact that Sonny had received a new lease on life with a heart transplant 12 years earlier. While everyone who survives health threats and tragic events doesn't commit suicide, what do they do with their renewed gift of life?
The Psalmist rejoices in the deliverance of the Lord and reflects on his response. He believes that he has survived that he might walk before the Lord in the land of the living. When you diligently pray and make it through death defying moments, what do you do with your renewed gift of life?
Life is a very precious gift, my friend. May you always treasure the opportunity to walk before the Lord in the land of living. Embrace every day as one more occasion to live for the Lord and rejoice in his goodness and grace. Whenever God gives you a renewed gift of life, grab it by the throat and live it to the full and to God's glory!!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The gift that keeps on giving ....

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." -- 2 Corinthians 9:8 
We collect lighthouses. One lighthouse in our collection sits on our porch with a working light that shines in the dark. It has a little solar chip that soaks in sun rays all day and then lights up all evening. The sun rays are free and abundant, providing the blessing of continuous illumination. God's sunlight is a gift that just keeps on giving.
In the same way God provides for the needs of his children in abundance. His grace abounds, so that in all things at all times, we have all that we need. The Lord blesses us this way so we will abound in every good work. In other words, the light of God's grace is free and abundant, providing continuous blessing. His grace is a gift that just keeps on giving.
Have your daily needs been recently met by God's abundant grace? Is there food in the cupboard and gas in the car? Are your bills paid up to date and a little left over? Then God's grace has provided all that you need and enabled you be a blessing to others. Remember, God's grace is a gift that just keeps on giving. So let your light shine and be a blessing to someone today!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Selfless giving...

"For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will." -- 2 Corinthians 8:3-5
Time and again catastrophes occur and financial help is desperately needed. Money is quite often raised through concerts and similar fundraisers. People are touched by the needs of others, but they still need to be motivated to give. Part of such motivation involves providing the donor with some personal benefit from their donation. Selfless giving is a rare commodity.
Paul noted a very significant quality in the churches of Macedonia. These believers were motivated to give toward the needs of others without receiving personal benefits. Why, you may ask; because they made the choice to give themselves first to the Lord. As a result of such spiritual devotion they pleaded for the privilege to share in helping others in need. When the heart is given to the Lord first, selfless giving is never rare.
Do you struggle when asked to give to the needs of ministry and compassionate care for the hurting? Are you one of those who need to be motivated? Or have you given yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord and consider it a tremendous privilege to share in the ministry of giving? Once you've given yourself to the Lord, the privilege of giving is no longer rare, it becomes an exciting opportunity.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The right choice ...

"Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle." -- Proverbs 23:4-5
In years gone by unemployment, foreclosures and shrinking investments were all part of a troubled economy. There were so many who were well set in their job, home and retirement. Suddenly they were living from hand to mouth at best and some were among the homeless. They worked hard and wore themselves out to get rich. Yet, in a moment; in a twinkling of the eye; their wealth sprouted wings and flew off like an eagle. They chose the wrong god to serve.
Solomon doesn't mention the Lord in this word of counsel, but he implores the reader to have wisdom and show restraint. But where does such wisdom come from? When someone wears themselves out to get rich they have chosen a master to serve. And Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters...You cannot serve both God and Money". Wisdom to show restraint can only be found in serving the Lord. It's a matter of choosing the right God to serve.
The disease is epidemic and you have been exposed to it at every corner of life. The condition is known as materialism and it can drive the average person insane. But, as a believer, you have the vaccine which protects you from this devastating condition. Your protection is found in your choice of the right God to serve. Serve him with all your heart and "... all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Remembered forever ...

"Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever." -- Psalm 112:4-6
It was a privilege to know Al. He was a sincere believer who attended our first church once a week, then two other churches and a church plant the rest of the week. He faithfully supported all four ministries and a Christian School with his involvement and finances. As a Christian businessman, he had an impeccable reputation in the community and was abundantly blessed in his business. Al will be remembered forever.
While many people try to mark their generation with overpowering force, there are those who really make a difference by grace and compassion. The Psalmist calls our attention to the one who has light in the darkness and is never shaken. This person has experienced the grace of God in their lives and they live every day to share that grace with others. The blessings of God flow through them and they are remembered forever.
Al Hulse was wealthy, but he lived quite frugally. He chose to invest his blessings in eternity through a variety of ministries. How are you investing your blessings today? Do you have a plan? And are you giving faithfully, that others might know the Savior? The more that we live and give for the Lord the more others will be blessed... and we will be remembered forever.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Someone to help ...

"For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus" -- 2 Corinthians 7:5-6
"Smooth Sailing Cruises... No bumps, just bargains!" and "Smooth Sailing Success... executive and life coaching." These are just two of many internet sites built on the idea of "Smooth Sailing". Oh, if it were only true, that the many journeys of life could always be "Smooth Sailing". But, life is just not a "Smooth Sailing" experience. In real life we will be harassed at every turn with conflicts and fears, so we need someone to help.
Some believers have been led to believe that the Christian life is a guarantee of "Smooth Sailing". They are under the persuasion that the winds will always blow our way and every storm will pass us by, because we are God's children. But then we read about Paul, and all such thinking slips away fast. The great apostle Paul suffered with harassment, conflicts and fears. The storms raged in his life and ministry, "but God, who comforts the downcast", comforted him! He found someone to help.
Does life leave you battered and beat down so much that you want to sell your boat? Are you wise enough to know that "Smooth Sailing" and real life just don't mix? Storms will come your way more often than you desire, but God comforts the downcast. If he is your God... you will always have someone to help!

Monday, October 8, 2018

TODAY!!

"As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." -- 2 Corinthians 6:1-2
The fifth point in the Procrastinator's Creed states: "I firmly believe that tomorrow holds the possibility for new technologies, astounding discoveries, and a reprieve from my obligations." So, for a great many in our world, the sun will always come out "tomorrow", no matter how dire the circumstances. But, maybe not, for we only have the guarantee of TODAY.
On two counts Paul emphasizes the need for urgency. Those who have not yet accepted the Lord's favor and salvation should respond today. And those who have the opportunity to "urge" others to receive God's grace should always act quickly. While "tomorrow" may hold amazing possibilities, we only have the guarantee of TODAY.
What are you waiting for my friend? If you have chosen to put off God's amazing offer of forgiveness and new life in Jesus, don't wait another minute. And if you have received this wonderful gift, who has God brought into your life that needs to hear? Don't wait, because "tomorrow" on this earth may never come. Remember, we only have the guarantee of TODAY!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Fear ...

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." -- Psalm 111:10
It wasn't long after entering military basic training that I learned to "fear" or respect my Training Instructor. One very important aspect of military training is to honor and follow the direction of leadership. The sooner this quality is established the easier it is to understand and contribute to the military program. In this way, one finds the beginning of wisdom.
The psalmist knew the need for "fear" or reverence for the Lord. The army of God can never move with power and order if everyone is doing their own thing. As someone once said, "There is a God... and you're not him!" The church can have only one true leader and the rest of us are called upon to follow HIM. In this way we will grow in understanding and better contribute to his kingdom work. This alone is the beginning of wisdom.
Have you truly learned to "fear" or revere the Lord my friend? Do you face each day with a surrender of personal goals, seeking the leading of the Lord? Is the will of God first and foremost in your heart moment by moment? You will only understand his purpose as you follow his direction. In this way, you will experience the beginning of wisdom.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Guarantee ...

"Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." -- 2 Corinthians 5:5
I saved my pennies for quite some time and on March 16, 1979 I took the love of my life to the beach and wrote "Will you marry me?" in the sand. When she wrote "Yes", I slipped the ring on her finger and we were engaged. That ring guaranteed what would take place sixteen months later on July 19, 1980; we were married and started a new home together. For the months between, my sweetheart would look at her ring and know, without question, that a wedding was coming. She had "a deposit, guaranteeing what what is to come."
For every believer there's a day coming when the promise of a heavenly home will come true. How can we be sure of such a future? Does anyone have a personal guarantee? Rather than a tangible ring of engagement, the believer has the life changing, personal presence of the Spirit of God. The doubts and fears of the future have been replaced with assurance and courage. The Lord has made his home within our hearts to "guarantee what is to come".    
Do you have a fear of death my friend? Are you determined to avoid the passage into eternity at any cost? Why be filled with insecurities about your life after death? As any young couple looks forward to their future, so every believer has very good reason to be excited and hopeful about their heavenly home, because the Spirit of God has been given to "guarantee what is to come."

Friday, October 5, 2018

To Show God's Glory ....

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." -- 2 Corinthians 4:7
I find it interesting that whenever I buy a bouquet of flowers for my wife she is focused on the flowers and cares far less for the vase. The poor little guy just sits there unassuming, holding all the beautiful flowers together for everyone to see and appreciate. And that's the way it should be; to show God's beautiful flowers.
Paul tells us that the Lord "made his light shine in our hearts" (vs. 6). We are merely the little vases in which he shines. The world is meant to see the "all-surpassing power" from God in our "vases"... or "jars of clay". It's not about us and all that we can be; it's all about the Lord and all that can be seen of him. And that's the way it should be; to show God's bountiful power.
What do others see when you come around my friend? Are you more concerned that they see the vase that they miss the flowers you contain? Do they ever see the "all-surpassing power" from God in your life and marvel at him? Don't ever forget... we're just "jars of clay". And that's the way we should be: to show God's overwhelming glory

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A greater power...

"With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies." - Psalm 108:13
My father-in-law was part of the occupation troops that landed on the beaches of Japan after the bombs were dropped. As he reflected on those early days, he concluded that were it not for the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese would have continued fighting indefinitely. The result would have been a massive number of American lives lost in the process. But victory was gained by a greater power.
There are times when we realize that the battle will rage on indefinitely if we fight it alone. Spiritual warfare is not easy and the casualties are many. We were never expected to face the enemy alone. David said to the giant in 1 Samuel 17:45, "I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel". He knew that victory could only be gained by a greater power.
Are you fighting with all your might only to find that you're losing ground? Is sin taking you to task and leaving you wounded and worn to a frazzle? Are you just about ready to give up? You see my friend, you can't win the battle alone, but "with God we will gain the victory". On the spiritual battlefield we all need a greater power.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Living Letters...

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." -- 2 Corinthians 3:2-3
While I waited for my orthopedic doctor to come into the office I reviewed his many degrees and diplomas on the wall. Then I looked carefully at an eight by ten signed picture on the mantel. The photo was of a young football player who expressed his appreciation for the care he received from our doctor. I believed then that I was in good hands; not because of framed certificates on the wall, but because of the living letter in the photo.
As Paul said; our letters of recommendation are people changed by our ministry, not diplomas and ordination certificates. We are often more impressed by a man's academic credentials than the results of his ministry. After all is said and done, when we appear before the Lord, will he ask what degrees we have acquired? Or will he review the lives that were changed for Christ by our testimony and influence? Our ultimate credentials are the living letters of people.
Are you pursuing a degree right now, or sometime in the near future? This is a good thing if it will provide you with the tools to better care for the souls of others. But never rest in the certificates on the wall as your credibility for ministry. The call of God, a servant's heart and lives changed are your recommendations. Your single and most valuable credential will always be the living letters of people changed for Jesus.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Lingering Victory ...

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." -- 2 Corinthians 2:14
Just after finishing college I worked as a store detective for a large department store. I would walk the store aisles through the day watching for shoplifters. Numerous times a day I would step into an aisle and I would immediately know that the office manager had recently passed by. She was far out of sight, but her fragrance lingered.
Paul tells us that every believer has the privilege of being led in triumphal procession in Christ. The battle has been won and as a result we are saved. We are now sent into the world to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere we travel. As spiritual conquerors in the Lord, wherever we go, the sweet smell of victory should linger.
How do people feel after you've left the room? When you're far out of sight are they glad that you were there? Do you leave a pleasant scent of the "Lily of the Valley" (Song of Solomon 2:1) behind? Wherever you go, does the sweet smell of victory linger?

Monday, October 1, 2018

So much for so few...

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." -- 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
In January 2010, a Magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti. The weeks that followed brought tons of supplies into the country, but many reports suggested that the provisions were undistributed, being held up in warehouses. Such stories of delayed relief were most distressing and raise the question; why give so much, to relieve so few?
When we reflect on the outpouring of God's blessings in our lives, Paul gives us food for thought. God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those who in any trouble". The Lord gives blessings to us in great abundance to share, not to hoard. The beauty of this truth is that the more we give to others, the more God gives to share. After all, why should the Lord give so much, to relieve so few?
When was the last time the Lord poured out his blessing in your life? Did you seek the opportunity to be a great blessing to someone else as a result? If the doors of your life were opened, would it look like those who are called "hoarders" on TV? Or is your life like a fresh stream, ever flowing into the lives of others with God's abundant provisions? Don't let the Lord give you so much, and relieve so few!