Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fluff never satisfies ...

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Beware of the "masquerade" ...

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

Monday, October 15, 2018

Whose Fame?

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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The GIFT of LIFE....

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

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The gift that keeps on giving ....

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

Friday, October 12, 2018

Selfless giving...

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

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The right choice ...

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Remembered forever ...

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Someone to help ...

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

Monday, October 8, 2018

TODAY!!

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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Fear ...

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

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Guarantee ...

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

Friday, October 5, 2018

To Show God's Glory ....

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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A greater power...

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Living Letters...

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Lingering Victory ...

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

Monday, October 1, 2018

So much for so few...

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