Saturday, September 22, 2018

Learning from the past...

"Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did." -- 1 Corinthians 10:6
It has been said that the only thing we learn from history is... that we don't learn anything from history. Could this be true? Is it possible that some people never learn from the past? While in high school drivers education I remember being shown pictures of auto collisions caused by careless drivers. That same year one of my classmates died from the same kind of careless driving. Some lessons from the past are never learned.
As Paul wrote to believers who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, he was confident that they could learn from history. While the unbeliever is lost in their sin-bound condition, every believer has the freedom and power to learn from the past, avoid evil and live rightly. Examples are recorded in the pages of Scripture as lessons to keep us from careless living. Lessons from the past are given to be learned.
Do you regularly read the Scriptures from Old Testament through the New Testament? Have you considered the positive lessons to follow as well as the examples of evil to avoid? Don't be like my friend who ignored tragic examples of the past. "... if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (verse12)

Friday, September 21, 2018

No limitations...

"He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac." -- Psalm 105:7-9
Have you noticed the limitations of your warranty for that appliance you just purchased? The time limit may be a year or less with restrictions in various states. A lifetime warranty is most often reserved for a few special items and most often limited to the original buyer. Forever commitments are constantly swallowed up by unending limitations.
As the Psalmist walks the reader through the historic working of God, the covenant the Lord made with Abraham stands out without limitations. When God makes a promise, he will keep his word "for a thousand generations". This is the nature of God and can be seen throughout all the pages of Scripture. We can depend on God's commitments because they swallow up unending limitations.
If you will take time to journey through the Old Testament you will come face to face with the God of all faithfulness. Look closely my friend and be encouraged in the Lord's remembering his covenant forever. As you consider this great fact be assured that the Lord will never fail to fulfill his promises to you. His commitments to his children will always swallow up every limitation.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Win as many as possible...

"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible... I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." -- 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22
They call us at dinner on a daily basis. They send us brochures in duplicates. They come knocking at our doors on a regular basis. Who are these nefarious schemers that seek our attention with such determination? They are sales people! They strive to win us over to buy their product or service and they won't take no for an answer. They will do whatever is necessary to win as many as possible.
While you will readily relate to the above experiences, do you believe that there might be a greater reason for which to win people? Don't you think that a heavenly home is more valuable than new siding for your earthly one? Sales people are seeking the big paycheck, but Paul was seeking the big blessing of souls saved. He was willing to do whatever was necessary to win as many as possible. 
Are you afraid of offending people with your witness for Christ? Paul said earlier in chapter one, verse eighteen, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." A soul is worth far more than a paycheck, so never give up. Do whatever is necessary to win as many as possible!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Known by God...

"Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God." -- 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
The world is full of scholars and experts in their various fields. They know that they know, and know how to inform others about that knowledge. There are very few who have the capacity to exercise their knowledge graciously to benefit others. These are those who are moved with love and compassion to use their knowledge to build up, not criticize and tear down. Such individuals are often well known by the world.
In the church there are also those who are scholars and experts in Biblical matters. They know the right and wrong as well as all the implications of both. But it takes a special love from God to exercise such knowledge with care and understanding. These brethren care little about what they know, but care very much about how they love. Such individuals are always well known by God.
Which one are you my friend? Do you know that you know, or do you know that you might love with such knowledge? As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:15 "...speaking the truth in love... we will in all things grow up". When we love God and his church with all that we know, we will always be known by Him with love.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What really matters?

"What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." -- 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I have lived through the years that moved from "Laugh-In" to "Saturday Night Live". These years were filled with the hopes of a four day work week and tons of fun on the other three days. The bumper sticker said it all with these words: "He that dies with the most toys wins". In the light of this present world passing away, when will we ever get serious about what really matters?
Since Paul had been very clear about marital commitments in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, I am sure that his comments here were about the balance of life in light of eternity. He counseled the believers to deal with "the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them." Rather than laughing away our grief and finding ways to be entertained with new gadgets, Paul reminds us "that the time is short". When will we ever get serious about what really matters?
When was the last time you took inventory of your life my friend? On what do you spend your time and money? Are you of the misguided persuasion that you will always have tomorrow to live for God? Have you been duped by the world to "eat, drink and be merry" and "you only live once, so get all the gusto you can"? One thing is true; you do only live once, but only what is done for Christ will last. When will you ever get serious about what really matters?

Monday, September 17, 2018

We're not our own!

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." -- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
From our previous church family, we had one young man serving in Iraq as a Ranger Officer and two other young men at sea in naval vessels. As many of us have experienced, these young men were bought and paid for as military property. As a result, they were to honor their country in every way possible. Until they were discharged, they were not their own.
While we might resist the thought, as believers, we have also been bought and paid for as God's property. The price was higher than we could possibly comprehend. We were purchased by the blood of Jesus and sealed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The only thing left for us to do is honor God with our body. Now and forever, we are not our own.
Why do we think that we are free to live any way that we choose? We come to Christ and receive his marvelous gift of salvation, but we refuse to wear the uniform of the day? Those that try to live this way in the military are most often tried as deserters. While military personnel have personal freedoms, they always live within certain perimeters. So it is with us: Christian liberty should always be lived within the perimeters of being a temple of the Holy Spirit, owned by God. Be sure to honor Him today my friend!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Most Wonderful Creator...

"How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." -- Psalm 104:24
A friend of ours recently returned from a trip to Europe. In his travels he had the opportunity visit the Louvre. He saw the wonderful artistic and creative works of men long gone. Such displays are exciting to view and marvel over, and the earth is full of such achievements. Yet, while we might compare them one to another, they can never be compared to works of the Lord.
As the Psalmist moves through the display of all creation, he speaks of that which can be seen by everyone in the world. There's no need to travel far to view God's wise and diverse works. While men's works may be beautiful, they are lifeless. When the Lord creates, he produces the miracle of life that looks to him for daily sustenance which he faithfully supplies. Nothing compares to our Creator and Sustainer.
You are a wonderful work of God my friend. As Paul spoke in Acts 17:28 "For in him we live and move and have our being". So, are you as wise as the Lions who "seek their food from God" (verse 21)? Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:11 to pray "Give us today our daily bread". May we daily rejoice and rest in our wonderful Creator and Sustainer, who is wise in all that he does?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Simple...

"Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. " -- 1 Corinthians 5:6-7
I had knee surgery this last a few years ago. A certain part of my knee joint that had been healthy and valuable tore away and became hard as a rock. The good old "stuff" became bad old "stuff" and brought pain with the promise of future damage. Since the "stuff" wouldn't change for the better, it had to be removed. It's just that simple.
The Doctor made it clear that bad days were ahead if I didn't have the surgery, and Paul said the same thing for a church that wouldn't remove bad "stuff" from the fellowship. The church is full of sinners saved by grace, being changed everyday to be more like Christ. As believers, we may not be perfect, but if we love Jesus we are fighting "the sin that so easily entangles" (Hebrews 12:1) everyday. Those who stop fighting and become hardened in sin need to repent or be removed from the fellowship for the sake of spiritual health. It's just that simple.
Do you find yourself overlooking unrepentant brethren in your church because you don't want to judge? Paul gave clear counsel in verses 12 and 13, "Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."". Don't be that brother or sister hardened in sin and don't allow such fellow believers to damage the "body". Sometimes surgery is necessary. It's just that simple.

Friday, September 14, 2018

More Caught...

"Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." -- 1 Corinthians 4:15-17
I will always remember the man who led me to Christ and his Christian testimony. It has dramatically marked my life and my spiritual devotion. I watched his conduct and listened carefully to his witness and counsel because he was my spiritual father. I am thankful that he was consistent in his walk with Christ.
Paul noted that believers have many teachers that come along after the new birth, but only one spiritual parent. He always encouraged those who came to Christ through his witness to follow his example. Such was a bold word of counsel and quite demanding for Paul. Since children learn from their parent's lifestyle, a consistent walk is critical.
Have you ever led someone to Christ? If so, have you proved to be a faithful example for them to follow? Has your lifestyle been one of consistent study in the Word, dedicated times in prayer and passionate witnessing of your faith? Remember that other eyes are watching and as someone once said, "More is caught than taught"!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

His Compassion...

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” – Psalm 103:13-14
As a parent I had to remember the ages of my sons when they were younger. I would often expect more of them than their age allotted. When I stepped back and reflected, I backed off and just let them be the kids that they were. Being a good father demands compassion for your children.
We are all a creation of the Lord. The record is clear, the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)  Our Creator and Redeemer is the perfect Father who always remembers that his children are dust and yet shows the compassion we need.
Before you give up the fight and conclude that all is lost, remember that you have a compassionate heavenly Father. He knows your limitations and failures, yet he’s ready to show you undeserved mercy. You have a Father who has forgiven all your sins and redeemed your life from the pit. So praise his Name and press on my friend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Do your part...

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
It’s now football season. These days take me back to when I played “Pop Warner” football. I didn’t have a very stellar beginning, as I was assigned the position of offensive tackle and I always wanted to run the ball. I was constantly struggling to accept my task and trust that the coach knew best.
Church ministry needs servants who will be faithful to their “assigned task”. Each one is important and is needed for overall success. Yet, as each worker does his or her task, God alone makes the church grow. Wisdom tells us to accept our task and trust the Lord to do his part.
While it may be hard for you to accept your place in ministry, remember that the Lord knows best. In divine wisdom God assigns your role and faithfully fulfills his. When you do your part you will be most blessed and the ministry will be most successful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

No more secrets...

“However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
Secret societies and fraternal organizations have existed for ages. People are drawn to them because they promise the knowledge of secrets that only members can know. We all seem to be interested in knowing secrets of the hidden past and the unknown future. But the only secrets worth knowing are those that can change our lives for the good.
From ancient times, God prepared to help his people with unheard and unknown blessings. In a real sense they are secret blessings that begin with salvation by grace. With this gift comes the Holy Spirit who reveals even the deep things of God to all his children. There are no more secrets.
Why look elsewhere for spiritual wisdom my friend? There is no church or special group that will give you that certain edge to know the mind of God. Take advantage of the truth that Paul writes, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (vs.12) Walk in the Spirit and know the mind of God.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Powerful Cross...

"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." -- 1 Corinthians 1:17
Over two thousand years have passed since the above passage was written. Yet to this very day the average public is still drawn to the eloquent speaker. There are times that they will choose one personality over another because of well spoken words. Lack of experience or skill may be overlooked if the crowd can be wooed with fine words of human wisdom. Words may satisfy, but they can never save.
Salvation comes from a work, not words. The cross of Christ is the power of God to save the souls of men and women. When religious charlatans lead people astray by winsome words they have emptied the cross of Christ of its power. So, when a faithful preacher gives the message of the gospel it should be simple and focused on the power of the cross and not the proficiency of words.
Be careful who you listen to my friend. Be wise in your choice of preachers. Those who are well spoken may tickle your ears and make you feel good, but are you receiving the truth in all its power? Never sacrifice the life of the cross for the love of words.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Dependable...

"In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." -- Psalm 102:25-27
It's sad to watch age take its toll on loved ones. As the years pass their strength of body and clarity of mind slowly slip away. Ability gives way to disability. The aging process wears out everything and everyone, so what can we depend on or to whom can we turn?
It has been said there are two things that everyone must face: Taxes and death. Along with this the Psalmist tells us, while the foundations of the earth and the heavens are God's work, they too will perish. Yet, we are encouraged with the fact that the Lord remains the same and his years will never end. He is dependable.
You can be discouraged by the changes in life that rob your energy and strength. Or you can lean on someone who remains the same throughout this life into the next. Why not turn to the Lord from day to day and find strength for your journey?

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Ultimate Victory...

“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” – Proverbs 21:30-31
Genghis Khan, Ivan the Terrible, Attilla the Hun, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Ilich Lenin and Joseph Stalin are in the top ten names listed in Martin Gilman Wolcott’s book “The Evil 100”. They were men who sought to conquer their world, but time has passed them by as nothing more than stains on the pages of history. Ultimate victory lies in the hands of someone greater.
Solomon was a great king who ruled with the wisdom and power given to him by God. He knew the limits of his authority, the source of his strength and the purpose of his reign. The Lord blessed his kingdom with peace and respect from every corner of his world. All of this came to pass because Solomon acknowledged that his throne was really God’s.
Your life and small world is like Solomon’s kingdom. While you may rule in many ways, your throne is really God’s. The best plan for any kingdom is the Lord’s plan and the ultimate victory rests in Him. If you plan to conquer your world today, make sure that you conquer for and by the Lord… this alone will pass the test of time.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Love and Hate..

“Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 97:10
I own a double edged knife. It has two very sharp edges and cuts smoothly on both sides. When necessary this cutting tool can pierce through leather, canvas or wood with little resistance. Though having such a blade is of great value while hiking or camping, it does require extra effort in sharpening. To be efficient, both sides must be equally sharp.
Our spiritual walk is like a two edged knife. We are called upon to love the Lord on one side and hate evil on the other. Some believers go through life with only one side sharpened and have trouble piercing the darkness. To be true to our calling, extra effort is needed for the sharpening of both sides. We are only as efficient as we love the Lord AND hate evil. Both sides must be equally sharp.
Do you love the Lord? Well of course you do, but do you hate evil? Loving the Lord is always out in front as our Christian testimony, but have we nurtured a genuine hatred for the “… sin that so easily entangles”? (Hebrews 12:1) Be a double edged knife today my friend, and pierce the darkness for the Lord.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Be wise about good...

"Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil." -- Romans 16:19
The pursuit of knowledge can be quite profitable. This fall classes will be filled with students seeking an education in preparation for a career. While these studies can be good, there are some college experiences that would be best avoided. Some students will graduate wise in what is good, but others will not be so wise.
Paul was very well educated. His writings and testimony reveal great insight and understanding in many areas. But he saw the need to be discerning in our pursuit of knowledge. With only so much time and too much to learn, Paul directs us to be "wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil"
Knowing all about evil will never improve our ability to deal with temptation. Being wise about what is good will deepen our walk with God and strengthen our resolve against sin. Choose your reading and media carefully my friend. Someone wisely said, "You are what you read.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Acceptance...

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" -- Romans 15:7
Being accepted onto a college campus as a freshman can be quite a challenge. It all begins with someone who is willing to welcome you. An upper classman that remembers receiving a kind welcome themselves always helps. Acceptance leads to acceptance.
Paul knew what it was like to be suspect as a new believer. To be accepted by Jesus was a great blessing after he had persecuted so many believers. This gracious reception by the Lord marked Paul's ministry forever. Acceptance led to acceptance.
In the Christian family we all stand on level ground. Jesus forgave each of us and lovingly receives us into his fold. If our Lord is so accepting of us, how can we not be accepting of one another? Acceptance should lead to acceptance.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Build Up!

"Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand... Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." -- Romans 14:4, 19
Where I grew up there were occasions when neighborhood pranks would take a bad turn. One such prank was the use of Coke poured on someone's car. Over night the chemicals in the soft drink would eat into the paint finish. The soda would taste sweet but have the power to damage.
The process of judging someone with a critical attitude is very much like Coke on a car. It may seem sweet to the taste to talk about others and put them down, but over time this practice will damage. It eats away at relationships as well as the heart of the one who criticizes.
Do you find it easy to find fault with your brother or sister in Jesus? Is it your expectation that they follow the Lord in the same way as you? Remember, we are all the Lord's servants, unique and accountable to him. Rather than pour acid on others, learn to accept them without passing judgment. Build up, don't tear down.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Wake up!

"And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." -- Romans 13:11
Have you ever been awakened by the alarm clock, wondering about the time? Did you find yourself so groggy that you weren't sure what day it was? Thankfully, after a few moments and a splash of cold water on your face, you were awake and ready to take on the world. That's a good thing, because the day wouldn't go so well if you walked around in a state of slumber. The blessings of life will pass you by when you're asleep.
Our spiritual lives are no different. While we have been made alive in Jesus, we're not always awake. If we were, Paul would have no reason to write this admonition. If we walk through life in a state of slumber we won't understand the present time or live in readiness for the Lord's return. Spiritual blessings will pass you by when you're asleep.
Occasionally you will read about someone who has been in a very long coma. When they waken they are shocked and saddened at how much time has passed since they slipped into the deep sleep. Don't be a coma Christian my friend. Wake up from your slumber and live your life to the full for Christ. Get the most out of God's challenges and blessings before they pass you by.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Fervor...

"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." -- Romans 12:11
When I was growing up I played football and soccer. We always looked forward to game day. Practices were not as much fun or exciting. We were driven by our coaches to built our stamina and skill. To win on game day, we needed to maintain our fervor.
The spiritual life is no different. We all want to do the fun ministry activities. But if we don't practice by performing spiritual disciplines, we'll never build stamina. The Lord wants us to have energy and zeal in the second half of our lives. To win the race set before us by the Lord, we need to maintain our fervor.
You may be excited about preaching, witnessing and counseling those in need. But if you hope to keep your zeal over the years, you need stamina. Make quality time to pray and read the Scriptures every day. Listen to the voice of God and nurture a deeper walk with him through discipline. Get back to the basics of your spiritual life and then you will have the fervor to win.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Maker and keeper...

"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." -- Psalm 95:6-7
We occasionally purchase a new car. When we receive the keys a long process comes to an end. The designer and the assembly line workers have finished their jobs. They are all part of making the vehicle. Then it's up to us to keep the car in good road worthy condition. They were the makers and my wife and I are the keepers.
The psalmist saw things in a very different light when he considered himself and the Lord. We have one Creator and Shepherd. As Paul put it in Acts 17:28, "For in him we live and move and have our being." or as we read in the Augsburg Confession, "God... the maker and preserver of all things" The Lord is both our maker and keeper.
Do you often find yourself thinking that once you left the womb you were on your own? Yes, the Lord calls us to a great deal of accountability, but remember, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want" (Psalm 23:1)  If that is so, Why not worship and trust Him today, not only as your Maker, but your Keeper?