Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Thoughts lead to character...

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." - Philippians 4:8
When our boys were children we had all kinds of toys to entertain and challenge their abilities. One such toy was called "Domino Rally". After a lengthy domino creation was built, the last step was to knock the first domino down and watch the rest follow. Life is like falling dominoes. Tyrone Edwards put it this way... "Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny."
When Paul wrote to the Philippians he directed them into a life of humility, joy, gentleness and contentment. While all this comes from a close walk with the Lord, it begins in our thought life and from there the spiritual dominoes will fall. When thoughts are right, your actions and lifestyle will be right.
What are you thinking today? What preoccupies your mind? Only you can choose what you think about. If you want to live a Godly life, start with your thoughts and the rest will fall into place.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Practice...

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained." - Philippians 3:13-16
Our family Doctor has his own medical practice. I often wonder what it is that he practices. He updates his expertise quite regularly through various workshops and seminars, then I receive the benefits. Over time I have also concluded that aside from the newest upcoming procedures, he takes what he has already learned and puts it into practice.
Paul was driven to grow in Christ. He wasn't satisfied to stay where he was spiritually. He pressed and strained toward greater goals for the Lord. But while he pursued new ground for Jesus, he was careful to live up to what he had already learned. Paul always put his gains into practice.
Are you living up to what you've learned today? Or are you occasionally preoccupied with new stuff and slip back from the basics? Don't ever lose sight of what you've already learned and be sure to put it into practice.

Monday, May 21, 2018

No room for complaints...

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" - Philippians 2:14-15 
Whenever I plan to make a major purchase of electronics, appliances or a car, I spend hours reading product reviews. They are some help, but the complaints are often beyond belief. Given the opportunity, people will complain about the silliest things and expend incredible time and effort in the process. It's such a joy to meet someone who doesn't complain.
Paul wrote about the humility and sacrifice of our Savior in this chapter. He pointed us to Jesus as our example for selfless living. This kind of lifestyle will always produce people who face life without complaining and arguing. As a result our lives shine like stars in the world, with quality, purity, and contentment. People will listen to our witness because they see our consistent joy.
No one likes to be around complainers. Arguments turn people away. But we have been sent into the world to bring the light and joy of the Gospel. The next time you want to complain, consider the Lord's selfless sacrifice for us and find reason to rejoice. To win people to Christ, you often have to woo them first.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Will it be finished?

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:4-6 
I occasionally see unfinished buildings in my travels. They are such a depressing picture of failed plans. When the first hole was dug and the foundation was poured there was such excitement and expectation. But now the question plagues the builder... will it ever be finished?
Paul was full of expectation as he prayed and worked for the Lord. He had great confidence that his labor would never be in vain. He knew that the Lord's work would certainly come to completion in those he had led to Christ. It is God alone who saves, sanctifies, and sustains us until the end. And God always finishes what he starts!
Are there times when you feel spiritually depleted and wonder if the Lord has given up on you? Did you begin your walk with God with great excitement, only to arrive at a place of confusion and doubt? Stop for a moment and remember... You are God's work and He always finishes what he starts! 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Help is always near...

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." - Psalm 46:1 
I left the house the other day without my cell phone. I immediately returned to retrieve the little "necessity". Most of us have grown attached to these little guys for a variety of reasons. We feel like the officers on Star Trek, who were always in touch with the Starship through their communicators. When we have our trusty cell phone by our side, we know that help is always near.
While we are centuries away from the writing of this Psalm, we are still in need of a refuge, strength and help in trouble. The modern development of cell phones may be a great comfort when traveling, but it will never compare to the presence of God. He is far more than a resource who provides or delegates, HE is our refuge, strength and help himself. When we walk with the Lord, we know that help is always near.
Are you feeling alone today? Are there overwhelming fears that fill your heart? Do you feel like your communicator is out of range with no signal bars on the screen? Then I recommend that you "Be still and know that He is God" and gain a fresh sense that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

Friday, May 18, 2018

The "Fifth Wheel"...

"Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith." - 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
I have a very nice office chair. It rolls on five wheels and moves whenever and wherever I desire. Recently one of the wheels broke into a million pieces. For a while I replaced it with a tennis ball... but that didn't do the job. The whole chair lost its value and effectiveness because one wheel was gone. I needed five wheels, not just four.
Ministry is a lot like that chair. We can be well prepared with all the training and skill available, but without the fifth wheel of prayer, we won't roll. Paul was a premier missionary with a stellar record of conversions and successful church plants. He was thoroughly studied in the Scriptures and could stand toe to toe with any philosopher of his day. Yet, to keep rolling, he needed "fifth wheel" people who would pray for his ministry.
Your pastors and missionaries have been called of God, academically prepared, and chock full of experience. But they will never roll for God on a tennis ball. They need the fifth wheel of prayer. My friend, you can be, and need to be that wheel. "Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored".

Thursday, May 17, 2018

God's Lighthouses...

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Check the registry...

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

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Freely recieved... Freely give

"One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." - Proverbs 11:24-25
Occasionally a well pump needs to be primed. In rural areas these are hand pumps and they often require water to get water. By pouring water into the pump and cranking, you will be rewarded with fresh water in abundance. This sounds easy enough, but when you are parched and you have to give up the only water you have in hand for the promise of more than enough, holding back is a great temptation.
Solomon knew that generosity is like a fresh spring of living water in every situation. Others are blessed and our own soul is refreshed when we are generous. In turn, when we freely give, we find that we freely receive. Jesus notes in Matthew 10:8 that all we have has been freely given, "Freely you have received...". And simply put, since all that we have is from God's grace, holding back should never be a temptation.
Take a moment and make an inventory list of all your God-given blessings. Never mind what anyone else may have, just focus on your blessings in life. Now ask the Lord how you can be a generous blessing to others. Don't be tempted to hold back... "Freely you have received, freely give". (Matthew 10:8)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Taking our place ...

"Your sons will take the place of your fathers; you will make them princes throughout the land." - Psalm 45:16
Over the years I have had the privilege to see my two sons achieve advanced theological degrees. They have both gone on to serve the Lord in various church ministries. When the race is run there is no greater joy and fulfillment than to see your children take your place in the spiritual race. 
This Psalm is a Messianic Psalm and it gives great light to the coming kingdom of Christ. This wedding Psalm points to the marriage of the Lamb and the expected blessings that will follow. As the day will come when the sons of God will be princes in the land, so today, those who are faithful children of God are the future hope of their parents. Sons will take the place of fathers.
Only the Lord can make children of God who will be princes in the land. But we are given the privilege to come alongside and raise them in spiritual nurture and admonition. Don't live your life for yourself or for today alone. Give your children the very best quality time my friend, for they are destined to take your place in the race.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

E.G.R. People...

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

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Heart Improvments?

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

Friday, May 11, 2018

Nurture and care...

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Our glory and joy...

"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy." - 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
Years ago our church had a Cherub Choir that occasionally sang during the worship service. The group was made up of children from first through sixth grade. Our attendance would bump up with parents, grandparents and extended family members. Relatives would come out of the woodwork to see, hear and encourage their young ones. Children are a glory and joy.
Paul was a busy missionary who also wrote volumes of Scripture and planted churches throughout his world. Yet, his greatest thrill was to lead a person to Christ and nurture them in the faith. He found this to be the very foundation of his ministry. Paul loved people in the Name of Jesus and cared for believers as a mother and father would. To Paul, spiritual children were his glory and joy.
Where do you look for true satisfaction in life? What brings you the greatest sense of fulfillment? When was the last time you led someone to Christ and nurtured them in their faith? My friend, this will bring you the thrill of a lifetime and it will last a lifetime. Love people like Jesus, lead them to the foot of the cross, encourage them in their walk with God and they will be your glory and joy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Motivation...

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Thirsty?

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." - Psalm 42:1
No matter where we go today, people are equipped with water bottles. You will see insulated, flip tops, mega size or just plain bottles. No one wants to run the risk of being thirsty. People are consumed with quenching their physical thirst, but how concerned are they about their soul thirst?
David wrote from a place where physical thirst was a regular issue, but he was far more concerned about his soul thirst. The deepest yearning of his life was a thirst for God. Far above all other desires was his craving for a fresh encounter with his Lord. Every other need in his life paled in the shadow of his pursuit of God. Is it any wonder that David was known as "a man after God's own heart"? (1 Samuel 13:14/Acts 13:22)
Above all other liquids, water is the true thirst quencher and what the body really needs. In the same way, above all other resources, God is the true thirst quencher of the soul and who we really need. Take time today, and everyday to quench the thirst of your soul. The Lord promised in John 7:37, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." Drink my friend, drink!!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Success...

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." - Galatians 6:14
It is graduation time again. The work has been completed and the diplomas will be awarded. The future is wide open for these new graduates and opportunities are great. Many will begin lifelong careers on the basis of their academic achievement. As someone humorously put it, "I came to college when I couldn't even spell 'graduate' and now I are one". But, does having a diploma really make a person successful?
Paul brought everything in life down to the main thing - the cross of Christ. It's the cross that puts an end to our sinful past and opens the door for a bright future. It's the cross that breaks the chains of sinful habits and sets us free to live for Christ. It's the cross of Christ that makes it possible to live a successful life.
As someone has best said it, "Keep the main thing the main thing". Never leave this basic truth behind and never lose its power to change you day by day. Having that diploma is good, but starting each day at the foot of the cross is the real key to success.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Serving others...

"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." - Galatians 5:13-15
One of the interesting results of the Alcoholic Anonymous program is the support given to others after sobriety is achieved. Recovering alcoholics know that they need each other to make the journey in life. For years they were bound to a lifestyle from which they are now free. They use this new found freedom to serve others.
Paul spoke to the Galatians about a new life in Christ that set them free from the law and sin. They were now a transformed people who were called upon to love others as themselves. Any other lifestyle would be devastating. This expectation was a timeless truth found as early as the giving of the law. God knew the need for his people to lovingly serve one another. 
All too often my friend, the church of Jesus Christ is guilty of shooting its own wounded soldiers. We give way to selfish agendas and critical attitudes. As we cut each other apart we lose the battle and the blessing. We have been set free from such ways. Use your freedom to love your brothers unconditionally and help them up. Be a brother or sister who lovingly serves others today.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

In His Time...

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." - Galatians 4:4-5
The words from Alice in Wonderland often come to mind in this busy world we live in: "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date." Too many people, on too many occasions are late for very important dates. As a result, we tend to lower our expectations and even believe that the Lord will be late for our very important needs. But God... is never late!
Paul noted that Jesus came to be our Savior at just the right time. He didn't come too early, or too late. God had a time table that ticked away with exact precision and when the time had fully come, God sent his Son. To this very day God is following his time table and will bring life and blessing to each one of his children on time. Our God... is never late!
Trusting the Lord involves the patience that lives within God's time table. We need to wait on Him with utmost confidence that he will accomplish his will and our best in his time. Solomon said it in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." Wait on the Lord my friend, for he is never late for a very important date!

Friday, May 4, 2018

On the Bus?

"Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" - Galatians 3:3
The story is told of a traveler with a heavy backpack. Along his journey he was given a ride, but he wouldn't take off his pack. When encouraged to do so he replied, "You've been kind enough to give me a ride, I couldn't expect you to carry the weight of my pack as well"... foolish logic, right? The principle is simple; if you're on the Bus, you're all on the Bus or you're not on the Bus at all.
Along the away, Paul grows quite impatient with the believers to whom he was writing. They began their walk with God in faith. The Spirit of God transformed their lives and secured their place in God's family. Yet, they were now misguided to believe that human effort was their resource for spiritual security and growth. Paul reminded them that the child of God begins, continues and ends his journey by faith alone. If you're on the Bus, you're all on the bus or you're not on the Bus at all.
My friend, your greatest frustration in the Christian life will be failure to walk by faith. When you lean on your own strength and human effort, rather than the Spirit of God, the way will be hard. Paul wrote in verse 14, "He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." If we begin by faith with the promised Spirit providing our greatest need, you can be sure He will provide for the rest of the journey. If you're on the Bus, you're all on the Bus or you're not on the Bus at all.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Examples are imitated...

"When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray." - Galatians 2:11-13
It has been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. There were times that I wanted to be just like my father and there have been times that my sons have wanted to be like me. From time to time, we are all influenced enough to imitate someone. But do we ever consider that we too are influencing others to the point of imitation? If we are imitated, are we leading others astray or into truth?
Paul was led to rebuke Peter to his face for hypocrisy. Peter's conduct was confusing and inconsistent with Biblical truth. While his personal practice was disturbing enough, the fact that others followed his lead was even worse. Peter's fear of men led him into error, followed by other Jews, and finally Barnabas. By imitating Peter, many were being led astray.
It doesn't really matter who we are, other people imitate us. There will always be someone who looks up to you and is influenced by your life. When you walk with the Lord and live a godly life, this can be a good thing. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Be a consistent and godly example to imitate my friend, for as you follow Christ, you will lead others into all truth.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

You can't serve both...

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." - Galatians 1:10
The Sunday that I was being considered for the role as pastor at my first church, a young believer asked this question: "Do you serve God, or man?" The Next year Bob Dylan wrote the song "Gotta Serve Somebody". The issue is thought provoking and life directing. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters"
Paul faced quite a dilemma with the churches in Galatia. The believers had initially trusted in the finished work of Christ for their salvation, but now there were false teachers that sought their allegiance. These teachers were winsome and convincing, teaching a works salvation. They were seeking the approval of their own circle of peers and were determined to increase their followers. Paul sought the approval of the Lord alone and was simply saying, "No one can serve two masters"
There is no safer path than the one that follows the Lord alone. Do you seek the Lord's approval in every decision you make? Is His will the most important thing in your life? Serve the Lord and you will never go astray. Remember, "No one can serve two masters"

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Be a Hero!

"Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes." - Psalm 41: 1-2
As children, we read the stories of heroes; those who came to the rescue of the downtrodden and abused. They would arrive just in time to deliver from the most terrible treatment and become the heroes of the day. TV programs followed suit for some years with weekly adventures of individuals who could be contacted when no one else would help. While we love to read about heroes, is it possible that we could be someone's hero someday?
David wrote about heroes when he said, "Blessed is he who has regard for the weak". Even the Lord is interested in those who, in his name, will reach out to help those in need. Jesus put it in these words, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matthew 5:7) Yes, if you are willing to hear and follow the Lord's call, you too can be a hero.
Has the Lord put someone in your circle of life that is weak and in need? Is there some little way that you can show them mercy and kindness? God honors those who have regard for the weak. Mercy is a key that often opens the door of the soul to the gospel. Be someone's hero today.