Wednesday, July 18, 2018

His easy yoke...

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Don't be afraid...

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

What do you see?

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Main Thing...

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Forgive and Forget...

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Be Honest!

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

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Just Do It!

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Where is your heart?

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Happiness that runs deep...

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

Patience is better...

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

Sunday, July 8, 2018

God's Power...

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

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Fishers of Men...

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

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Hand of God...

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

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Read AND Follow....

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Promises fulfilled...

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A little sin...

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

Godly Counsel...

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

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Nothing else will satisfy...

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