Wednesday, August 15, 2018

God's Mercy...

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." -- Romans 2:1
Over the years I have met a vast number of people who claim one major reason for not attending church. They believe that there are too many hypocrites in the church. The sad truth is; there are and always have been hypocrites in the church. As a matter of fact, our world is full of hypocrites. These are people who criticize others for doing the same things that they do. We are all hypocrites to some degree and we need God's mercy.
Paul addressed the "unchurched" and the "churched" in chapter one and two. In the above verse he speaks to those who think themselves to be without fault. But, he reminds them that God judges us all according to truth and every man needs the Lord's kindness that leads to repentance. Before we pass judgment on others, we ought to look in the mirror and seek God's mercy.
Our human nature will always be prone to see others as sinners and ourselves as righteous. But, let's be honest and take a closer look. We're all in the same boat and we need God's patient forgiveness. The next time you criticize someone, look in the mirror and take inventory. Don't judge hypocrites because you may be one. Be grateful for the riches of God's kindness and seek his mercy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Extraordinary Power...

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." -- Romans 1:16
Over 450,000 tons of granite was removed from Mount Rushmore while carving the four presidents. The process was quite dangerous since ninety per cent of the mountain was carved out using dynamite. With the power of this explosive, four sixty foot sculptures were carved out of solid rock. Dynamite is an extraordinary power to behold.
The word used to name Alfred Nobel's invention is derived from the Greek word found in this passage for power. The choice was quite appropriate, since such explosive power is needed to break the chains of sin and set the soul free. When there seems to be no hope, and the grip of sin is rock solid, the dynamite of the gospel is an extraordinary power to behold.
Salvation from the penalty, power and presence of sin is impossible with man. If you feel that religion has failed you and you are completely disconnected from God, try the Gospel. It is simply defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, "...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" For all who believe, the gospel is an extraordinary power to behold.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Heed His Counsel...

"But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices." -- Psalm 81:11-12
I remember the day I bought my first motorcycle. The guy who owned the dealership gave me wise counsel for riding. His last words were, "The day you become so sure of yourself that you lose all caution, sell the bike". That day came, and I didn't sell the bike. Instead I went to the hospital with broken bones. Turning your back on wise counsel can be painful.
The Lord gave commands and counsel for the welfare of his people. Yet, they made a choice time and again to ignore him. Over time, after Israel refused to submit to him, the Lord "gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices." As a result, the pages of the Old Testament record seasons of great oppression, hardship and national devastation. Turning your back on wise counsel can be very painful.
Do you ever find yourself thinking that you have a better idea than God? Have you questioned his commands and counsel, thinking that they were archaic and irrelevant for today? God's Word is timeless and is best received by submissive hearts. Those who do not listen will have a hard road to travel. Turning your back on wise counsel can be very painful.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Name...

"Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake." -- Psalm 79:9
There was a time when people were highly driven by their "family name". Children were told to live up to the family name and were expected to honor it on the sports field or battle field. Family members were considered responsible for their heritage and were instructed to never bring it disgrace. The name was everything.
The psalmist cried out for help and deliverance. What was his greatest concern? Was he focused on his personal safety and future? Or was his city and nation the key to his prayer? His request was centered on the most significant issue... "the glory of your name". Even his cry for forgiveness was made for the sake of God's name. The name was everything.
May we remember whose children we are and whose name we have inherited? May we live up to his name and honor it in all that we do? In our goals and prayers, may they all be for the glory of his name. The day is coming when all God's servants "will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads". (Revelation 22:4) The name is everything.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

He leads...

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." -- Matthew 28:20
On April 18, 1942, four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle led a retaliation raid on Tokyo, Japan. General Henry Arnold, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Corps, directed Doolittle to only train pilots for the mission, believing that he was far too valuable to lose in battle. Doolittle chose not only to train the men, but also fly with them. He led the mission to its completion.
As much as those pilots were inspired and encouraged by the presence of their leader in 1942, so should every soldier of Christ be today. In an older Bible translation we find Jesus referred to as the "captain" of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). The word in the Greek language is archēgós, which means pioneer leader. Our Lord not only trains us for spiritual battle, he also leads the way, for he is "with us always, to the very end of the age". Jesus leads the mission to its completion.
Do you often feel like you're all alone in the battle of life? Are you pressed on every side with no one to whom you can turn? Well my friend, you have a leader who is with you and is leading the way. He is the "captain" of your salvation and as you face the challenges of every mission, remember to fix your "eyes on Jesus, the author (archēgós) and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). He leads the mission to its completion.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Responsibility...

"When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”" -- Matthew 27:24-25 

Not too long ago a decision was handed down concerning a rape case in New York City. After a woman was raped repeatedly in the view of two NYC transit employees, the judge ruled that they had no obligation to do anything to help her other than to signal their superiors that police were needed at the station. The case is reminiscent of the Kitty Genovese murder in 1964, when a number of neighbors watched the stabbing without responding with help. When is someone expected to be responsible?
Social responsibility may be open to discussion, but spiritual responsibility is another matter entirely. When each person stands before God after they breathe their last, one question will be asked. "What have you done, in response to my Son?" Pilate wanted to be innocent of the blood of Jesus, but was that possible? Since "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23) and only "the blood of Jesus... purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) "...how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3) Eventually, every individual person will be held responsible.
Have you found ways to "pass the buck"? Is the concept of personal responsibility archaic and  irrelevant to you? Are you aware that you have already made a decision about Jesus Christ, and you are responsible? John said it in 1 John 5:12, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." What have you done, in response to the Son? The truth is; no one is innocent and everyone is responsible.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Fear or Faith?

"After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly."  -- Matthew 26:73-75
The stories of prisoners of war can be most distressful. The mistreatment and humiliation can be overwhelming for the strongest soldier. As time passes some are unable to hold on and they eventually betray their allegiance to home and country. Fear can be an overpowering influence.
Peter was filled with fear. The events of the previous hours included a determined promise that now concluded in devastating failure. The will to prevail gave way to a humiliating betrayal. Peter crumbled under the pressure of opposition and the threat of death. "I don't know the man!"... Fear can be an overpowering influence.
In the battle for spiritual victory, you will face overwhelming opposition. There will be moments when the pressure will be unbearable. Fear will fill your heart and tempt you to deny the Lord in one way another. But remember the words of an older and wiser Peter in 1 Peter 5:9, 11 "standing firm in the faith" the Lord will "make you strong, firm and steadfast." Faith can be an overpowering influence.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Taught or caught?

"But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes. Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow."  -- Psalm 78:56-57
Why are we troubled when a younger generation shows little or no loyalty to anything? Why are we stunned when they speak out against their country and burn her flag? As Yogi Berra put it, "It's Deja Vu, all over again". You don't have to look too far into the past to find our generation burning flags, draft cards and marching with animosity toward our country. The phrase is too true that says, "More is caught than taught".
From generation to generation, the Lord was tested and rebellion ruled the day in the history of Israel. While statutes were given to be handed down to the next generation, the lifestyle of rebellion was louder than words. "Hearts were not loyal to God... spirits were not faithful to him." (vs. 8) The children were "as unreliable as a faulty bow." 
Before you put the total blame on wayward youth for their rebellious ways toward the Lord, look within. Where have they gotten their ideas and from whom have they learned such disloyalty? Be careful my friend, little eyes are watching. After you have faithfully taught the truth, be certain to live and speak it faithfully. After all, "More is caught than taught".

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Do you have a Reservation?

Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." -- Matthew 25:11-13
I stood in the foyer of a hotel some years ago and watched as a fellow traveler became quite animated when he was told that there was no reservation and no room for him. He was absolutely sure that he had a reservation, but the hotel had no record of such and they had no rooms available. No matter how sure he was, the record was clear... his name was not found.
"At midnight the cry came out: 'Here's the bridegroom'" The midnight cry is coming and we have no way of knowing when. The door will be open for all those who have reservations. But when it shuts, those left outside will be without hope. No matter how sincerely we believe that we have reservations, if we don't have the oil of salvation in the lamp of our souls, all we will hear are the words, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you". If we don't know the bridegroom (Jesus) in this life, our name won't be found in the reservation book.
For some, the midnight cry is expected with great anticipation. What about you? Have you trusted Jesus Christ as the only means for your salvation? If you have done so, you have been filled and sealed with the Holy Spirit and your lamp is ready for the wedding banquet.  Don't wait until the last moment to come knocking at the shut door. Make sure that your name is found in the reservation book.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Are you ready?

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." -- Matthew 24:42-44
We used to live in a neighborhood that had a fair amount of criminal activity. From the time we moved there I took definite defensive steps to be prepared in the event of a robbery. Twenty crime free years passed without incident, but I was no less expectant at the end than I was at the beginning. I didn't live in fear, I just remained ready.
The Lord chose this very picture to illustrate his imminent return. He will return for his church and after seven years of tribulation, he will return to bring judgment on unbelievers and reign on his throne, as detailed in this chapter and the next. Whether the wait is for the catching up of his church or his return to reign, careless living would be most unwise. It's best to be expectant and remain ready.
As believers, we await the Lord's coming in the clouds; the rapture of the church (Acts 1:11/1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). For us, the judgment seat of Christ is coming (2 Corinthian 5:10). This day will show the quality of our work for Christ (1 Corinthians 3:13). Are you ready for such a moment?  If you don't know Christ as your Savior, this chapter speaks a sure warning to you. The day will come when one will be left to live and serve in the kingdom, and another will be taken into eternal judgment where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth". Are you ready for that day?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Don't lose HIS focus...

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth  of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." -- Matthew 23:23-24
The story is told about a coastal life saving station that saved a great many lives every year. As time passed the station became famous and efforts were made to buy better equipment and build a bigger building. The volunteers continued to give much time and energy to improve the looks and quality of the station. It eventually became more beautiful than any other station with more volunteers than ever. With all the activity focused on the station itself, one thing ceased to happen; saving lives. They lost their focus.
Within this passage we read strong words of rebuke from Jesus. He was greatly displeased with the leaders of Israel at that time. They were determined to follow the very fine details of the law with tremendous diligence. They were caught up in the technicalities of the law to such a degree that they forgot the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness. They lost their focus.
It's easy for us to become so obsessive about small microscopic issues that we forget the greater matters and why we are called of God. Some believers are determined to do church the right way and make it look and sound better than any other. In the process they lose sight of the reason the church exists: to save souls. Please be careful my friend, in your drive to do the very best for Jesus, that you don't lose HIS focus... "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them..." (Matthew 9:36)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Always learning?

"Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise... Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge." -- Proverbs 19:20, 27
What's the difference between a good Doctor and a great Doctor... or a good mechanic and a great mechanic? One who is well trained in their field will be good. But one who continues to train throughout their career will be great. The difference is this: one has learned and the other is always learning.
This principle was understood by Solomon as he emphasized the need to listen and accept instruction to be wise. At the same time, those who stop listening to instruction will stray. The humble lifelong learner will be wise indeed, because they not only have learned, but are always learning.
Never believe that you finally know the Bible and all its teaching. There is always more to learn and much more to master. The difference between a good disciple and a great disciple is this: one has learned and the other is always learning. Which will you choose to be?

Friday, August 3, 2018

Faith and Hope...

"Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds." -- Psalm 77:10-12 
Nostalgia can be a mixed bag of memories. The good old days may bring pleasant thoughts for reflection. Then again, if the "good old" days were really that good, we might feel discouraged about the present "not so good" days. The best memories are those that restore faith and hope.
Such was the case for the psalmist.  As he said earlier, "When I was in distress, I sought the Lord". In the midst of discouraging circumstances, he took time to remember God's faithfulness and miracles of long ago. He knew that a God who never changes would be as quick to perform "mighty deeds" today as yesterday. This kind of reflection restored his faith and hope.
Nostalgia is a very good medicine when we remember the deeds of the Lord. Jeremiah said it best in Lamentations 3:23, "Great is your faithfulness". Since we have a Savior who is the "same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), we have every reason to be daily restored in faith and hope. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

God Alone...

"No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another." -- Psalm 75:6-7
Stars come and go without public elections or political power struggles. Our Solar System is just one member of a vast Milky Way galaxy with 200 to 400 billion stars. But how many galaxies are there in the entire Universe? A recent German supercomputer simulation put that number at 500 billion. Who determines the size or placement of one star or another?  God alone is in control.
The Psalmist says in Psalm 147:4, "He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name." and we are told in Isaiah 40:26, "He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." Since God rules every corner of the universe, why should we find it hard to believe that he rules in the affairs of men? Just when men have deceived themselves into believing that they control their world, this truth knocks at the door, "But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another". God alone is in control.
John the Baptist said in John 3:27, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." Be wise my friend and look to the Lord for your promotion in life. Be assured as well, that though your world may seem to be in complete disarray, there is order in the universe. Trust in this great truth: God alone is in control.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Clear Direction...

"Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." -- Matthew 22:29
 Have you ever been lost in a city? You stop and ask someone for directions and they give you a rather nebulous response. A few blocks later you have to stop again. This time you have an interchange with two or three bystanders and the discussion becomes even more confusing. Oh for a map! (Quite often more dependable than any GPS)
The Scriptures are God's map for life. We can sit around and discuss many ideas about spiritual matters, but if we don't use the map, we will get lost. A good map not only shows the right roads to take, but also has the power to provide us the distance and time our trip will take. God's Word gives clear direction and his power brings possibilities into reality. 
Be careful when theological discussions move toward perplexity. The study of the Scriptures will always give insight and the power of God will always give confidence for the future. Don't stay lost in a labyrinth of spiritual confusion. Study the Scriptures and find the clear direction and power you need for the journey.