Thursday, December 31, 2009

"For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds." - Psalm 149:4-5
Do you carry pictures of your family to show the entire world? Some people carry around a ton of pictures in their wallets. They have pictures of wives, husbands, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews and nieces. When you see the size of some guy's wallets you understand why they sit lopsided all the time. People carry pictures of those they deeply love and that fill their hearts with joy. With this thought in mind, someone once said that God carries your picture in his wallet. What an honor!
It's a wonderful thing to know that God loves you. But have you ever thought that he "delights" in you? Do you remember when Satan came before God in the book of Job? One of the first things God said was, "Have you considered my servant Job...?"  It's a very humbling thought, but God brags about his children. He delights in them and crowns them with salvation. What an honor!
 Tomorrow will bring a new year with hopes of better days ahead. But, whether they be better or worse, one truth will remain the same; you are loved and God will carry you through it all. How do I know this you ask? Because he delights in you and he carries your picture in his wallet!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

““Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." - Revelation 22:12-14

The year my son and I began to follow the San Francisco 49ers they lost their season opener to the Philadelphia Eagles with a score of 40-8. We both wondered if this was a team worth following. That same year the 49ers went to the Super Bowl and steamrolled over the San Diego Chargers 49-26, becoming the first team to win a record five Super Bowls. You see the beginning doesn't always determine the final outcome.
As we open our Bibles and begin with the first three chapters of Genesis, we find Adam and Eve prohibited from eating of the tree of life and escorted through the Garden gates. Their sin brought about the fall of all mankind and eternal separation from God. History tells the sad tale of continued rebellion and godless living throughout the ages. Would there be any hope for ever returning to the Garden and the tree of life? The last page of our Bibles gives a resounding YES!.  "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." You see the beginning doesn't always determine the final outcome.
Did this past year start with a cascade of failures? Do you feel that there will be nothing "new" about the New Year? Well, you can end this year successfully by coming to the Lord for a new beginning. Jesus is one beginning that will always determine the final outcome because...  He is the "Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God... I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." - Revelation 21:3;22-23
"Home is where the heart is". We all know that a house in nothing more than wood, brick and mortar. But, a house becomes a home through the love of family. Church buildings are made of the same materials as houses, only bigger and more ornate. Whether the temple of old or the churches down the block, they are nothing but buildings without the glory of God's presence. Church is where the Lord is.
If there is no house of worship in heaven since the Lord is the temple, what about that building we meet in from Sunday to Sunday? The church building, as the temple, was never meant to be anything other than a place where the people of God gathered to commune with and worship the Lord of Glory. Until we get to heaven, God has blessed places where his people can assemble together to meet with Him. When we become caught up in the beauty of the building and all its trimmings, we end up with nothing more than a building. Church is where the Lord is.
Do you look for the Lord when you attend church on Sundays? Are you listening for his voice to speak to you heart? When you leave church to enter the week ahead, do people notice that you have been with Jesus?  Church is where the Lord is.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." - Revelation 20:14-15
"Say it ain't so Joe... say it ain't so!" There are circumstances in life that are just too horrible to think about. So, what do we do? We will find some way to put them out of our minds, or we'll rework the facts so they don't sound so bad. Better yet, we just deny their reality.
The fact of eternal condemnation is one of those horrible truths that many people want to deny. We are so happy to embrace the promise of eternal life for the believer, but heaven forbid that anyone who rejects Christ suffer the pains of an eternal hell. Setting apart all the arguments of why this makes sense theologically, may we just accept the written Word of God as true? "If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." 
Is your name written in the book of life? It is if you have trusted Jesus Christ alone as your only means of Salvation. Are the names of your family, friends and neighbors in the book? If so, you have reason to rejoice, if not there's a word from Jude 23 for you... "...snatch others from the fire and save them".

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) "  - Revelation 19:6-8
I arrived at church quite early that day. A feeling of excitement and expectation filled my heart. Family and friends came in with pleasant greetings and were seated by well dressed ushers. Time quickly passed and I found myself at the front of the church looking down the aisle at the most radiant and stunning bride I had ever seen. It was my wedding day and I was overwhelmed with joy.
The day is coming when we, the church will be the bride in the greatest wedding of the ages. We will come to that day after millenniums of waiting. Centuries filled with God's people patiently waiting will have come and gone. All the hopes of years gone by will finally be realized. It will be our wedding day and we will be overwhelmed with joy.
Are you weighed down with the pressure and stress of living? Do you wonder if life is just about preparing and never arriving? Does it seem that we have been waiting for Jesus forever? Be assured my friend that the wedding day is on God's calendar and will take place on time. So live and serve in hope and great expectation. Our wedding day is coming... and we will be overwhelmed with joy.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes" - Revelation 18:4-5
What is it that allures us to pursue the pleasures and treasures of the World? We believe that we are mature adults, but we are often drawn into dangerous paths just like a child is tempted by a lollypop in the hands of an abductor. Just when we think it's all good, the tentacles of materialism wrap around us, leading us farther away from God and further into sin. It is for good reason that the Scriptures warn us... "Come out of her, my people..."
John wrote earlier in 1 John 2:15, "Do not love the world or anything in the world." Some believers look upon these words as light and archaic words of counsel. But the day is coming when the "world" and all its wealth will come to an abrupt end, along with those who have used and abused the "bodies and souls of men" (vs. 13) Why would anyone trade the eternal treasures of heaven for the pleasures of sin for season? It is for good reason that the Scriptures warn us... "Come out of her, my people..."
The New Years Eve parties are coming this next week. Where will you be? New enticements will come your way in the months ahead, how will you choose? Will your New Year's resolutions include more time seeking God's kingdom and less time in pursuing worldly trinkets? Recognize the world for what it is and for heaven's sake...  "Come out of her, my people..."

Friday, December 25, 2009

"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." - Proverbs 31: 10-12
Today is a day of giving. The gifts around the tree speak of love for one another, yet there are other gifts that far outshine anything purchased and wrapped in sparkling paper. The greatest gift that I ever received was a personal relationship with my Lord Jesus, and that's what Christmas is really all about. My life is rich beyond belief because of the love of God and... the love of my amazing wife. I rise and call her blessed.
I look around this morning and see a beautiful home so well decorated for the season. I smell the incredible odors of great food being prepared for a Christmas feast. Then I see the faces of our two sons and daughter that beam with joy and laughter. And as I consider this and so much more, there is no question...I lack nothing of value because, after Jesus, my greatest gift is a wife of noble character named Jayne. On this Christmas morn, with a heart overflowing with love and gratitude, I rise and call her blessed. 
You see, Christmas is all about God's love for people and because of that love our marriages and families are richer than anything the world could offer. Christmas is about relationships and their great value. You may not have a wife or husband today, but look around and see those who love you and be filled with joy and thanksgiving. Be blessed with the Love of Jesus and the love of others this Christmas morn.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled." - Revelation 17:17
Sacred and secular... We live within a world system that has systematically separated God from man. Michelangelo's iconic image of God giving life to Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is by hand touching hand. Our humanistic society is no longer in touch with God and has neatly placed him in a far off box called "sacred".  Did God simply touch Adam and leave the scene? Does God come into our schedules at Christmas, only to receive a fond farewell at New Years? Is God really involved in the whole of history, or just the sacred part?
In the end of days we are told that kings will relinquish their powers to another because God put it into their hearts. The events we read about in the book of Revelation are the final accomplishing of God's purpose in HIS world. In the eyes of God there is no such dichotomy as sacred and secular, because it's all His Story!
As you celebrate Christmas and soon enter a new year, remember that God is at work in both. He has entered time and space to redeem mankind and he raises and lowers kings and nations to achieve his purposes. Trust him as Savior and rest in him as Sovereign. It's all His Story! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” - Revelation 16:15 (NIV)
I was sitting in my office when the phone rang. The voice on the other end was shaken as the message was given "A plane has just crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City". Within a very short time, 2,973 people who woke up that morning would never again wake up in this life. The suddenness and the horror of that day will never be forgotten and it has changed our daily lives in many ways. It makes you think of what some believe Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto stated after the attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." But...are we really awake?
Jesus is coming again, and this time he will bring judgment that is true and just. He spoke of his second coming in Matthew 24:42 with similar words, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." Yet, when he comes most people will be as much surprised as those on September 11, 2001 because they won't be watching. Because of wrong priorities and pursuits their spiritual condition will be embarrassing... they will be unprepared and asleep. 
How is your spiritual life today? Do you know Christ as your Savior? If you do, are you living a life that will be pleasing to him when he returns? Can you say without reservation that you are waiting for his return with expectation? Remember the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 6: "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief...  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled."  Jesus is coming... so stay awake my friends!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

“They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” - Revelation  15:3-4

There is George Frideric Handel's oratorio "Messiah", composed in 1741 and then there is "The Young Messiah" originally entitled "Messiah XXI", produced and arranged by Frank McNamara in 1999. They present one great message through two different types of music. The underlying basis for the oratorio remained the same over 258 years. Time changes the way we express ourselves musically, but time will never change the One who is "the same yesterday and today and forever". (Hebrews 13:8)
One song was sung; the song of Moses and the Lamb. The truth of God's great and marvelous deeds was proclaimed thousands of years ago and will be thousands of years from now. God never changes, and for that reason all the nations will eventually come and worship before him. Time, with all its changes and all the differences of generations will come together in one song of praise. Does it matter what musical arrangement is chosen? One tune or the other, we will eternally worship and praise the One who is "the same yesterday and today and forever.
Let's not become so caught up in our musical differences of likes and dislikes that we miss out on the glorious worship and praise of the One who is "the same yesterday and today and forever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth." - Revelation 14:1-3 (NIV)

Christmas is a time of wonderful songs of joy. Just about every Christmas movie comes with Christmas songs. Some communities celebrate Christmas with concerts and special performances of Handel's Messiah. I see people in our Christmas services that come only once a year, but they sing the Christmas hymns with great gusto. In the words of Josiah G. Holland, "There's a song in the air!"
Yet, there's a song that runs deeper than "a song in the air". The Lord has placed a new song in the heart of those who follow him. David wrote in Psalm 40:3..." He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.". When Paul and Silas were found chained in prison they "were praying and singing hymns to God" (Acts 16:25). You see, God gives new songs to all who have been redeemed throughout the ages. For those who love the Lord..."There's a song in the heart!"
Does Christmas bring you songs of joy that have been hidden away since last year? Or, do you have a song in your heart every day of the year? The last words of Holland's song read, "And we greet in his cradle our Savior and King!" When Jesus becomes YOUR Savior and King there's more than a song in the air... "There's a song in your heart"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world." - Revelation 13:8 (NIV)
Oil and water don't mix. They never have mixed and they never will mix. You can freeze them or you can boil them, but they will never mix. They are both liquids and seem to show similar qualities from a distance, but they are just different. Seals and otters need water to live, but when they swim out into spilled oil, they eventually die.
In the end, when the days of tribulation come upon the earth, the great distinction between believers and unbelievers will be seen. Believers have new hearts that worship God alone, and their names are written in the book of the Lamb. Unbelievers have no heart for God and their names are not written in God's book, so they will gladly worship the anti-Christ. When it comes down to worship and eternal destiny, believers and unbelievers don't mix. They never have mixed and they never will mix.
An old phrase comes to mind on this subject. "Be in the world, but not of the world, be in contact with the world, but not in contract with the world". While we strive with all diligence to lead unbelievers to Jesus, remember the stark difference. At the end of the day, unbelievers will worship anything and anyone before they will worship God. In contrast, we who are believers only worship our Lord. Don't be confused... believers and unbelievers don't mix.    

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." - Revelation 12:10-11 (NIV)
"And now, the rest of the story" So were the closing words of Paul Harvey, in radio broadcasts that spanned over seventy years. His commentaries covered everything from news to human interest stories. At every broadcast the listener would intently follow the story line, waiting with anticipation for "the rest o the story".
In today's passage we have one of the Bible's great revelations. While spiritual battles are fought furiously throughout the ages, one encouraging truth overshadows all of them. The accuser of our brothers has been hurled down. In other words, Satan looses and Jesus wins. As the words say in one of Ron Kenoly's songs; "Jesus is the winner man". Now, "that's the rest of the story"!
Today may bring highly discouraging moments and you may feel defeated. Stay true to the blood of the Lamb and to your testimony of faith and you will overcome. The battle may seem overwhelming and your strength may wane, but don't give up. Just remember, "Jesus is the winner man". That's the life changing, all inspiring and everlasting "rest of the story".

Friday, December 18, 2009

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." - Proverbs 30:5 (NIV) 
The Christmas story that tells of the Magi is filled with intrigue. In the midst of a beautiful moment of joyful worship a warning is sent to lead the wise men safely home. Shortly afterward, Joseph is directed to flee to Egypt for the protection of the young child. The atmosphere of tranquil peace with family and friends was so quickly upset by approaching danger. At a moment like that, just the right word from the Lord was a welcomed shield from the coming storm. Every word of God is flawless.
In the Christmas story God spoke through Angels and dreams, but today he speaks to us through the precious words of Scripture. He gives us counsel, comfort and correction as needed. He always has just the right word for every situation. The storms will come, even to the child of God; we are not exempt from the dangers life. But, those who take refuge in the Lord will always find his word to be the perfect shield for safety. Every word of God is flawless.
Your life may not be as filled with the same intrigue as those days in Bethlehem, but you will still need a shield for the battles ahead. Every challenge will be unique and will require insight from someone who is far wiser than the Magi. Let the Lord be your refuge today because... Every word of God is flawless.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds...Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit." - Psalm 147:3, 5
I have served the Lord in the pastorate for thirty-two years. Over those years I have visited people with all kinds of injuries and illnesses. I have seen some in the greatest pain a body can experience, but the one condition that seems to overshadow them all is the broken heart. I have looked into the eyes of those who lost a young son, or a wife, or a husband, or a parent at an unexpected age. The brokenness lasts longer and the wound runs deeper than any bodily hurt. The heart is tender.
There are never enough words or the right words to comfort the broken heart. There are never enough books to read or counselors to see to heal the wound. There is only one Physician who can reach down into the depths of your soul to restore. He is the one whose understanding has no limit. Only the Lord knows how to heal the hurting heart, because... His heart is tender too.
Others will weep with you and try their best to comfort you when your heart is hurting, but the Lord is touched and moved with compassion with your pain. From years of experience I can say without a doubt; He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Go to the Lord with your brokenness because... His heart is tender for you.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign." - Revelation 11:15-17 
Another date to fear has surfaced: 2012. Theories are running rampant as to what will happen to the world on December 21, 2012. The real heartbeat of fear is rooted in man's limited view of God's plan. Many see this world as their only source of hope. If the kingdom of this world should end: what then? The words of the prophet say this world will end, but he also says that another world is coming. A world where evil will be judged and destroyed and God's people, small and great, will be rewarded. There is reason to hope.
The angel told Mary that her child would "reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:33) This part of the Christmas announcement is so often passed over. This world with all its bells and whistles is going to be replaced with the kingdom of God and Christ shall reign forever. Christmas is a date, which we should never fear. This day is the birthday of a King who will, one day soon, take his great power and begin to reign. This is reason to hope.
Christmas may not bring all the joy and celebration to you that others experience. It may be a day that you fear because you feel empty and unsure of the year that will follow. You may feel that this world has let you down in many ways. Well, Christmas can be a joyful day if you will fall before the King of Kings, open your heart and invite him into your life. The future kingdom will become a "present" kingdom when he reigns in you. This is reason to hope.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” - Revelation 10:5-7 (NIV) 
Every year in late November the Christmas countdown begins. The decorations and songs are seen and heard even earlier. Christmas is coming and everyone is gearing up for the big day. We know Christmas is coming, and we know the exact day it will be celebrated. The first Christmas came in the same way, as God knew he was coming and knew the exact day he would arrive... and he wasn't late!
Jesus is coming again, first to judge the world and then to reign on the throne of David. This coming was announced to his prophets in the very same way as it was for his first coming. That day is coming just like the first Christmas came and with it God's long expected work will be accomplished and age old questions will finally be answered.
Are you gearing up for the Second Coming in the same way you prepare for Christmas? Are you excited and filled with great expectation? Are you telling the story of Christ in the clouds as often as you tell the story of Christ in the manger? Do you live as if you had a Second Coming countdown? No one on earth knows the time, but God has the date set on his calendar... and he won't be late!

Monday, December 14, 2009

"They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads." - Revelation 9:4
Over the years we all collect official documents. We have birth certificates, diplomas, marriage certificates, military discharges and some may have property deeds. If you take a careful look at these documents you will see something that makes them official. Yes, you will find a seal that verifies their authenticity for all legal purposes. Therefore, you will protect and preserve them above all other papers because... without the seal, there is no deal.
God set apart a number of people during this time of great judgment that were his alone. They were given a seal to verify their identity and protect them from the horrors of those days. Just as the Lord will protect those who are sealed during the tribulation, he will protect those who are sealed today from the horrors of coming judgment. Consider the great truth that Paul recorded for us in Ephesians 1:13-14, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."
If you place your faith in Jesus Christ alone, as your only means of salvation, you will be born again and sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. As a result, God will protect you and preserve you until you come safely home to him and receive a guaranteed inheritance. But remember, this is promised only to those who are sealed because... without the seal, there is no deal.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake." - Revelation 8:3-5
Have you ever stopped praying for something because too much time had passed? How much time is too much time? A godly man of the nineteenth century named George Mueller decided to pray for the salvation of five close friends. Four came to Christ during his life, but after fifty-two years, Mueller died without the last one being converted. Mueller never gave up praying and a few months after he died, the last friend trusted Christ. Never forget that prayer is timeless.
Do you pray for God's Kingdom to come? Jesus taught us to pray for this and yet, after centuries of God's people praying, there is no earthly kingdom. Don't be discouraged, because John saw your prayers and the prayers of the ages offered up before the throne. The sweet incense of prayer is an important part of the coming of God's Kingdom on earth. Never forget that prayer is timeless.
The birth of Christ came after centuries of God's people praying for the coming of their Messiah. Jesus is coming again to bring final justice and eternal righteousness in answer to the prayers of his people. Don't give up praying and looking above for the coming of Christ. Never forget that prayer is timeless.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." - Proverbs 29:25
Christmas stories are virtually beyond number. Some are funny, some are romantic and some are nostalgic. Most are pleasant tales that warm the heart and stir the emotions. One of my favorite stories is the true event of the Magi that came from the east to worship the Lord Jesus. It wasn't funny, romantic or nostalgic, it was just thought provoking and inspiring. The story tells of men who trusted the Lord and were kept safe.
Solomon wrote the words of this passage, as the wisest man in the world. Centuries later other wise men traveled from the east and again proved the proverb true. These men were not impressed with King Herod, nor did they fear him. They had followed the Star and trusted the Lord to guide their way. As a result, being warned in a dream, the Lord kept them safe from a very jealous and dangerous King.     
Are you like those in the Magi story that were troubled when the King was troubled? Are you afraid of men and their power... afraid of what men may do to harm you? Or are you a truly wise person who trusts in the Lord and are kept safe? You see, not only do wise men still seek him... wise men still trust him!

Friday, December 11, 2009

"I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah" - Psalm 143:5-6
What was your very favorite Christmas? You might say, "This one". But Christmas time brings memories of all kinds. Hopefully many of those memories are pleasant thoughts of joyful times. Above all the seasonal and family celebrations, do you reflect on the works of the Lord and what his hands have done? Christmas is really a time to consider one special night in Bethlehem, a long, long time ago. Christmas is a time to remember.
When you put your tree up this year remember the one who created all the trees of the world and came to hang on one, just for you. When you place the beautiful colored balls on your tree, remember the one who so loved this round ball called earth that he came to save people of every color. When you string the lights all around, remember the one who came to bring light to your life. When you place the gifts below the tree, remember the one who is the most "indescribable gift". Christmas is a time to remember.
Maybe this Christmas will be your favorite. It can be if you take time to spread out your hands to Jesus, and consider what his hands have done... they were pierced for you. Slow down, stop, and look for Jesus in every celebration of this glorious season. Christmas is a time to remember.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” - Revelation 7:14-17
The wars fought by our military over the last forty years have been questioned and protested against in so many ways. Our soldiers fought with courage and loyalty for their homeland and were often greeted with sneers and distain by those they fought to protect. One might be justified in asking if the cause was worth the sacrifice. This will never be the case for the Christian soldier. God honors those who honor him.
As we look at this passage carefully, we see more than the words "well done". The Lord promises a future of glory, honor, provision, peace and healing for his faithful army. The question will never be asked if the cause was worth the sacrifice. God honors those who honor him.
Be true to the Savior's cause today. The way may be rough and the rewards few. But remember that this world is not the land of promise. When the battles are done and the wars are behind us, we will be met, not with sneers and distain, but with love and gratitude. God honors those who honor him.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed." - Revelation 6:9-11
This morning, in the "News Room" of Voice of the Martyrs we read about persecution of fellow believers in China, Somalia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Columbia and India. The stories range from churches being closed to pastors being murdered in the presence of their families. According to one source, more than 200 million Christians in over 60 nations face persecution each day and between 150,000 and 165,000 are martyred each year. The question echoes across the years: How long, Sovereign Lord?
Christianity began at the cross with the death of our Savior. From that day on, believers have given their lives for "the word of God and the testimony they had maintained." But the day is coming when persecution will end and white robes will be given to the faithful. As we "wait a little longer", don't give up your faith or compromise the Word of God.
As you consider this passage today, please "Remember those in prison..." (Hebrews 13:3). Pray for your persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. And cherish the freedom you have to worship your Lord, live your faith and share the good news. Honor your Lord and his martyrs... Be bold for Jesus today!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain,and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” - Revelation 5:9-10
Presidential elections come and go, often with high expectations of a new day ahead. New CEOs arrive on the scene with hope for the future. Great leaders continue to rise and fall as time marches onward. Yet, the question still remains; is there someone who has what it takes to open the doors of the future and bring in a whole new world?
A new song was sung in heaven about a great leader who has already started to change the world. He has gathered people from every tribe, language, people and nation to be in his kingdom. He is worthy to lead because he paid the highest price so others would be worthy to serve and lead as well. Who is this leader you ask? He is the Lamb of God that takes away our sins... He is King Jesus.
Why look to men who are unworthy to open the scrolls of the future? Why expect men to change your world for the better? There is only one leader who is worthy of our confidence to give us hope for the future. Jesus said from the very beginning, "Follow Me". So, keep your eyes on Jesus, because he alone will truly "ROCK YOUR WORLD!"

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” - Revelation 4:8
I took a CPR course about 15 years ago. If you're in that kind of trouble today, don't look to me, because I don't remember enough to put in thimble. As time passed I failed to take refresher courses, so I lost the knowledge and skill. If we expect to be proficient in what we do, we need refresher courses. In the same way, if we expect to be spiritually effective we need refresher courses as well.
John saw the throne room of heaven, where the nature of God was spoken of repeatedly day and night. Have you ever wondered why? I believe it’s because all creation turns on this fact... “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” We must never forget this truth. It should run through our minds like blood through our hearts. It keeps before us the purity, power and presence of our God.
The more we are refreshed in our knowledge of God, the more we will depend on him. The more often we reflect on his nature, the more fully we will worship and honor him. The more that we think about who God is, the more we will be like him. We are only as spiritually moved as we are spiritually minded. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies." - Psalm 141:3-4
Over the years, I have watched seven friends who were church pastors drawn into devastating evil. They were forced to leave the pastorate because they ate the delicacies of sin. They were men who opened the Scriptures every week and taught the principles of integrity with conviction. I knew these men, and I believed they were godly men, so how do such men fail? Maybe they weren't praying defensively.
David was a man after God's own heart, yet he still prayed defensively. He knew where to turn for strength, for at any moment... he could be drawn into evil. When he prayed defensively he experienced victory. But even David eventually failed. Perhaps he forgot to pray defensively.
The Lord taught us a simple pattern of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount which included: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13) Let's begin each day acknowledging our weakness and acquiring His strength in defensive prayer. Remember, the best offense is a good defense.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." - Psalm 139:13-16
"Your time is up! Please put your pencils down." Oh how I hated to hear those words when I had more to write on a timed exam. There are many of us that believe there will always be more time to finish the work. We often have great ideas about how to do it, write it or say it... but later. Yet, there comes a time for all of us when we have to put our pencils down and our great ideas remain unrealized.
Our God-created lives are timed experiences. The Lord created us with profound purpose as he carefully knit us together in the womb. In the process he ordained all the days of our lives and wrote them in his book. The days and years will slip away until suddenly, without warning... "Your time is up! Please put your pencils down."
Do you understand and appreciate your God-given potential for this life? Are you aware that you have only so many days to accomplish his purpose? He won't call you home too early or too late, but your time is approaching. Yesterday is spent and tomorrow may never come; so today is all you have to live for God's glory. Make the very best of today for Jesus' sake, before "Your time is up!"

Friday, December 4, 2009

"These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." - Revelation 3:7-8
I graduated from the Word of Life Bible Institute in 1972. Our class verse was Revelation 3:8, because we believed the Lord had set before us an open door of ministry. Thirty-seven years have passed since we graduated and the door still remains open. The times have changed but the spiritual need of people remains the same and every morning brings new doors of opportunity.
Jesus opens a door of opportunity and ministry for every believer. When we are young, we may feel unprepared and overwhelmed with new opportunities. When we are older, we may feel worn down and outdated. But be encouraged, even when you have "little strength"... "no one can shut" the door that Jesus opens.
As you face a new day and a coming new year, are you looking for the open door that Jesus has placed before you? Keep his word, stay true to his name and walk through that door. Go make a difference for Jesus today!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first... I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first." - Revelation 2:4-5, 19 (NIV) 
In the film "The Patriot" an underlying theme contrasts the patriotic passions of a father and son. Age and experience had dampened the father's passion, while youth and idealism fired the son's. At the same time a phrase from the past is mentioned numerous times; "Stay the Course". As the story develops, the father comes to put his guilt, fears and reservations aside for a new vision and renewed patriotic passion. In the end, he was determined to "Stay the Course".
 As Jesus addressed the early churches, he found a similar contrast. One church had, through time and experience lost her first love, while another church, through love and faith did more than she did in the beginning. For the one church, time had taken its toll. For the other church, time had stoked the fire. Jesus commended the second church for staying the course.
Has recent experiences dampened your spiritual passion? Has time eaten away at your vision and drive for the kingdom of God? Are you doing more for the Lord today than when you first began? Remember, and return to your first love and... "Stay the Course"!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen. Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." - Revelation 1:6-7
My Dad worked hard for a living. He left in the morning at seven and didn't get back home until six. I looked forward to his arrival most days, but not always. When I was on course with school work and life in general, it was a joy to see his face. Then there were those days when I was haunted with my mother's words... "Just wait until your father gets home!" Oh, did I hope he would be late, but I knew that he was coming.
As the clock ticks away the hours and the calendar turns from months to years, we wonder when Jesus will come again. He is definitely coming, and he won't be late. Will it be a time of rejoicing for you or a time of mourning?  Those who have been freed from their sins are filled with anticipation, but those who have rejected the Savior are hoping he will be late.
Jesus is coming again, but not yet. His love still calls out to free you from your sins by his blood. You can enter his family today with great joy, anticipating his return. Why wait until it's too late?  Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands". - Psalm 138:6-8 (NIV)
We adopted our dog from an animal rescue shelter some years ago. The shelter had an experience at the time that touched my heart. They told of driving down a dirt road one rainy afternoon. Suddenly they spotted a mud covered domesticated rabbit, floundering in a gully on the roadside. They stopped, rescued the little fellow and brought him back to the shelter. In no time the sadly abandoned rabbit became a happy part of the shelter family. When this poor animal was at the end of his rope, someone reached down and preserved his life.
Have you ever found yourself floundering in the mud on the roadside? Have you felt hopelessly stuck in the midst of trouble? Well, know this... Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly. He will preserve your life and fulfill his purpose for you, because his love endures forever. Children of faith are the work of God's hands and he will never abandon them like so many people abandon their pets.
An important word in this passage is "Though". Be assured that God is never so high that he won't reach down to rescue and there is no trouble so great from which God can't deliver. The rains will come and the mud will be slippery, but... your love, O Lord, endures forever.

Monday, November 30, 2009

"He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble."  - Proverbs 28:13-14
For years I had a paper weight on my desk in the shape of a submarine. It even had the appearance of water on the deck. This little treasure was made during my early school years in art class. We were given clay to form into something of our choosing. I learned that while the clay was soft and pliable in my hands I was able to form it into something of beauty and purpose.
Being soft and pliable is the key to molding clay and it's the key to molding hearts. How does one stay soft and pliable? Solomon writes about confession of sin and reverence to our Lord. If we are quick to renounce our sins and careful to fear the Lord, we will always be soft and pliable in his hands. He will be free to form us into something of beauty and purpose.
Will you place yourself in the hands of your Creator today and allow him the freedom to mold your heart? Will you allow him to form you into the likeness of his Son? (Romans 8:29) Remember to be soft and pliable because...  "he who hardens his heart falls into trouble".

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”... Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”.... The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”" - John 21:15, 16, 17 (NIV)
 A young man told his sweetheart, "I love you so much that I'd climb the highest mountain for you, I'd swim the largest ocean for you, I'd walk around the world for you... and by the way, I'll be over to see you tonight if it doesn't rain." Songs, cards and letters are written everyday proclaiming an undying love to someone. And in no time at all those same relationships break apart for the lack of true love. True love is the necessary element.
Jesus took Peter aside to restore him to fellowship and service after a most painful denial. Many things could have been said, but Jesus focused on the most important factor, "do you truly love me" The words meant, do you love me selflessly and sacrificially? To rightly serve the Lord, one must love him first, more than anything.
Are you preparing to serve the Lord today? Will you be busy in some ministry this week? Before you begin, ask yourself the BIG question. Do you truly love the Lord today, more than anything? Your love for him is the necessary element.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."  - John 20:19-20 (NIV)
During my teen years our church youth went on a summer retreat in Canada. A family in the church had a cabin right on the water in the Thousand Islands region. The scenery was beautiful, the surroundings were serene and the weather was perfect. It was just the place to spend time with the Lord. We came back home rejoicing from our "mountaintop" experience.
Retreats are great, but are they always necessary for a serious encounter with Jesus? The disciples were gathered together, locked up in a house, afraid for their very lives. There were no gentle breezes blowing, no soothing sounds of a lake and no warm rays of the sun to bask under. The atmosphere was far from being a "mountaintop" setting. But then, Jesus came and stood among them and they were overjoyed.
Jesus will meet us anywhere, anytime in any setting. We just need to take the time to patiently seek his face and the "mountaintop" will come to us. May our joy never be determined by the beauty of the creation, but may it overflow from the beauty of the Creator.  "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." - John 19:28-30 (NIV)
Whenever I drive past an unfinished building that appears to be abandoned I feel sad. Someone had dreams of a new venture that failed. The economy, unexpected events or just poor planning led to an unfinished project. The hopes someone had were gone and all they left behind was a deteriorating signpost that read "failure".
Thankfully, God knows no such concept as "failure". What he begins, he finishes. Jesus went the cross on purpose and only when he "finished" the work of redemption did he give up his spirit. In the words of a builder, the work of Christ was a "turn-key" job. When you trust Christ for your salvation and eternal life, he just hands you the key. The project is complete; all you have to do is take residence.
 Just as God started and finished the work of redemption for us, he is working today to make us more like Jesus. May we be encouraged that God never fails at what he starts..."he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion" - Philippians 1:6  

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out..." - John 18:1-4 (NIV)
 It was a morning not unlike this morning. Some were still sleeping and others were having breakfast, preparing to attend church. They were at peace on an island that God blessed with beauty and tranquility. Then, at 7:51 the peace was broken and in a very short time 2,350 souls would enter eternity. War had come to Pearl Harbor and the world would never be the same again.
Spiritual warfare will often come to us in the same way. We are in the olive grove with the Lord and all is calm. And then the enemy comes with a detachment of soldiers. We are surprised, but Jesus is not, because he always knows what is going to happen and is prepared. Peace may be shaken, but the protective care of Jesus is always fulfilled:  “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (vs. 9) 
We can never hide from spiritual battles; they will even come to us in the olive grove. But unlike Pearl Harbor, we have a Savior who stands between us and defeat. He tasted death for us, that we might have everlasting victory. Put your battles in the hands of Jesus and your world will never be the same again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever... Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever." - Psalm 136:1-3, 26 (NIV)
Once upon a time when I was much younger, I coached my son's soccer team. Our team wasn't the best team in the league, but we got better as the season progressed. The reason we got better is due to practice. We drilled and drilled and drilled. The boys wanted to scrimmage all the time, but because practicing the basics improves one's game, we drilled.
There are certain basics in the spiritual life and the only way we will ever improve on them is through practice. Psalm 136 is a spiritual drill to improve the ability of thanksgiving. God's love endures through every event of life; therefore every day should be filled with thanksgiving to the Lord. The more often we give thanks, the stronger our attitude of gratitude grows.
Drills are rarely fun, but they will eventually make good players. Take a lesson from this Psalm and make a list of the Lord's blessings and provisions in your life. After every item repeat such words as His love endures forever and give thanks. Include this in your daily devotional time and you will begin to see a great improvement in your ability of thanksgiving. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion." - Psalm 134 (NIV)
For most people night is a time to rest after a busy day. Everything goes on hold at night while we renew our energy for new challenges ahead. For some though, night is their time to work while others sleep. Whatever the schedule, days are broken up into work, leisure and sleep. When then, do we give praise to our Lord, morning, noon or night?
The psalmist called for God to be worshipped and praised twenty-four hours a day. In his heart praise was never to be put on hold for any reason. Heaven is no different, as we read in Revelation 4:8, "Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Why do we set aside only certain times to give praise and thanks? Is He not worthy of constant praise?
Our church family gathers together every year at this time for a "Praise Service" to give thanks to the Lord for His blessings. The event is always a joy and most encouraging. But why wait for such a service or wait for Sunday morning? Take time through every morning, afternoon, and night to give praise to your Lord and May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, bless you!!   

Monday, November 23, 2009

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." - John 17:20-23 (NIV)
In the film "Backdraft" you hear this phrase periodically, "You go, we go". The thought behind it is simple. Firefighters serve as one man, committed to die for one another if necessary. Such camaraderie is quite rare in most circles of life. The "one man" scenario seems to be reserved for firefighters, policemen and certain military units. Rarely does one find such a spirit of "one man" devotion in the church.
Should we seek this kind of oneness in the church today? Is it really important enough to make it happen? Jesus places supreme importance on the spirit of oneness in the fact that he prays for unity. He also identifies Christian unity as the great apologetic as he prayed, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me". The Lord's Prayer is really, that we would be one as He and the Father are one. This is a lifetime commitment and a life-changing one as well.
Are you "one" with your brothers and sisters in Christ today? Does the world see a very unique camaraderie within your church? Are you willing to say, in the most pressing moments, "You go, we go"? Jesus prayed that we would.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." - John 16:21-22 (NIV)
Two days ago we celebrated my oldest son Jeremy's twenty-sixth birthday. We had a great meal, talked, laughed and just had a joyful time together as a family. Twenty-six years ago it was a little different, as I sat with my dear wife during her twelve-plus hours of labor. The delivery itself was quite painful and seriously complicated for both Jayne and the little guy. And here he is today, not so little, still quite complicated, but a joy to behold.
The disciples were about to enter into a seriously complicated time of pain. Grief would overwhelm them and fear would haunt them. Questions and doubt would rob them of sleep and prevent them from experiencing any peace or joy. But Jesus promised that they would see him again, the grief would be gone and then they would rejoice.
Our lives are often filled with great sorrow and we wonder where or when we will find relief. Jesus promised in John fourteen that in him, we would have peace to carry us through the storms of life. But one day, Jesus will come from heaven for us, as he came from the tomb to meet the disciples. When that day comes, there will be no more sorrow "and no one will take away your joy". Perhaps TODAY!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." - John 15:9-12
"Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me!" So the words begin in the familiar Sunday school song written by Anna B. Warner. Yes Jesus loves us, and in that love our joy may be complete. Yet love is a living entity and it needs to be nurtured to stay strong and not grow stagnant.
Love in the marriage, family or any relationship is only as strong as it is nurtured. We give of ourselves to others, thus showing them our love. We invest in their lives every day, not just on holidays and special occasions. As a result, we experience a lasting joy that runs deep within our hearts. Jesus gives such a love and rightfully asks of us to return the same.
To remain in the love of Jesus, one needs to obey his commands, which include loving each other as he loves us. This is the way to nurture a love relationship with the Lord. Yes, Jesus loves us, that we might love him and others to the Father's glory. And in such nurtured love, our joy may be complete.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27 (NIV)
I don't do roller coasters. I rode one once and almost had a heart attack. The ride up is sweet and the view is often quite gorgeous, but then comes the drop. Some people like my sons think it's such a rush, but I think I'm going to die. Life is very much like a roller coaster. There are those peaceful moments that lift us up to the sky and fill our hearts with great joy. Then the bottom falls out from underneath and we're troubled and afraid. The amusement park ride may be a rush, but real life can be a fright.
Jesus speaks about a peace that is very different than what the world offers. He doesn't promise to flatten the road ahead or fill our lives with all ups and no downs. He does promise to give us a peace that doesn't slip away when the bottom falls out. The promise was made to his disciples just before their ride with him moved into an incredible downward flight. There was no rush there; it was life at its most alarming moment, but in Jesus they were promised peace.
Do you have peace today? There is a peace for anyone who rests in the all-powerful grip of the Lord. The bottom may fall, but Jesus has a tight hold on you so, "Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." - John 13:15-17
Every generation strives to rise above the previous one with greater achievements and lifestyles. When I was younger, we talked about a future 32-hour workweek with oodles of time for fun. Some futuristic thinkers saw life with robotic servants. We looked for better, brighter and of course, easier days ahead.
The same phenomenon exists in the Christian life. My church life, my devotional life or my ministry life needs to be better, brighter and of course, easier than my predecessors. Yet, our Lord brings us back to the basics. He sets a timeless example of what ministry is, and always should be about. We are servants, and we are called to serve in the same way that our Master served. Not better, brighter or easier; just the same.
 What is your goal today? Are you looking to be served, or are you seeking to serve others, just like Jesus? The example is before you, and "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them".

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted… the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel… Do not forsake your friend… As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” - Proverbs 6, 9, 10, 17 (NIV)

People come into our lives like the tides of the sea. They come in at high tide and are gone with the outgoing. There are some people though, that stay with us through the seasons of life until the very last leaf has fallen. Down through the years, I have had a good number of acquaintances, but only a few friends.
If there were a book written on  "Friendship for Dummies", the first chapter would be entitled, "To Have a Friend, You Must Be A Friend". Solomon speaks of being a friend that gives loving correction that can be trusted. He speaks of giving earnest counsel that refreshes the heart of a friend. He encourages faithfulness to a friend in their troubles and trials. As a result, a person is better equipped and "sharper" for the challenges of life when they have such a friend.
Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) How good it is to have such a friend as Jesus. His friendship is more valuable than gold. But consider this, we are friends with Jesus because he befriended us first. Remember, "to have a friend, you must be a friend".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

“Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool - arise, O Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.” - Psalm 132:7-9
I grew up on eastern Long Island, long before the rest of the world moved there. When we first moved to the area, our family attended a vast number of churches until we found the right one. I remember a wide variety of worship, ministers and people. But, what I remember best is the church where we settled; because it was there that I met Jesus.
Why is it so important to find the "right" church? What is it that makes a church "right"? I believe the psalmist answers these questions quite well. A right church is one where God dwells, His might is seen and He is worshipped. A right church is where the leadership serves the Lord with integrity and righteousness. A right church is where people sing to the Lord with joy in their hearts. A right church is where people come to meet Jesus at the footstool of the Cross.
Have you found the "right" church yet? Maybe you haven't found "church" yet. Take the time this week to find a church where God is worshipped, leaders are spiritual and people are joyful... find a church where you will meet Jesus.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." - John 12:23-26 (NIV)
I am not a gardener nor the son of one. Although as a young boy, I sold flower seeds in the spring to earn prizes from the Scout magazine. The seeds were neatly packed in envelopes with pictures of beautiful flowers. In each small envelope, were found seeds that produced flowers, but only if they were planted. Seeds on the shelf are nothing more than that.
So it is with life. Jesus didn't come to just live a good life. He came to intentionally die that we might eternally live. In turn he calls us to serve by following his example. Like seeds, Jesus wants us to plant ourselves in this life and not remain on the shelf. Yes, when we are planted in his service, our own agendas and selfish plans die, but the beauty of his grace and glory blossoms.
Will you step out of your little envelope, and be planted? Will you be used of the Lord to "produce many seeds"? In whose life will you plant yourself today? Seeds left on the shelf never produce anything.     

Sunday, November 15, 2009

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died...  When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” - John 11:21,32 (NIV)

I recently read a book entitled, "The Collected 'WHAT IF?' - Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been". It's a long title, but a much longer book of thought provoking content. "If" is a small word with a big "might of been." Historians may question the movements of the past, but is it right for believers to question the movements of the Lord? Would life have been better "if" God had only intervened?
Martha and Mary suffered tremendous grief, not to mention the illness and death of poor Lazarus. God was fully aware of the heartache and pain, but had plans for both grace and glory. The Lord purposed this death to bring the grace of resurrection and "God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it" (verse 4). "If" Jesus had been there, this plan would not have unfolded and history would have lost a true story of timeless consolation.
Has the painful events of your life caused you to say, "Lord, if you had been here"? My friend, never doubt the one who has promised to never leave you. Never doubt that your Lord is at work in ways beyond your understanding. There are no "ifs" in the plans of God. From one man's death Jesus sent the message across the ages... “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (verse 25)  His question still stands... "Do you believe this?”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"... He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." - John 10:3-4 (NIV)
If it's not bad enough that we have been reduced to mere numbers by most companies that we deal with, others can never get our names right. I get mail every day, addressed to Mr. Jimmie Sant, Mr. Sant Van, Mr. Van J. Sant and other mind-boggling mistakes. Does anyone, other my dear wife and children, really know my name?
Well, there is someone who not only knows my name, but also cares for me in a very personal way. He knows when I lay down to sleep and when I wake. He greets me in the morning, having already been there to prepare the way. "He" is Jesus, the Good Shepherd. I'm not a number to him, because I am one of his sheep, and there is no greater encouragement in life.
If Jesus is not your Shepherd today, He is calling you by name, to a brand new life. If Jesus is your Shepherd today, he is calling you by name, into a whole new day. He has gone ahead of you and simply asks that you follow him. He has laid down his life for you so "you may have life, and have it to the full" (verse 10). Jesus is calling... just listen to his voice and follow HIM.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning." - Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)
I think that over half of my life has been spent waiting. I have waited for people to arrive for appointments, dinners, church services, weddings and yes, even funerals. I would like to believe that my patience has increased exponentially, but sad to say, I still grow weary of the lateness of others. I know they will eventually arrive, so with hopeful anticipation... I wait.
The psalmist, in the midst of great troubles, waited for the Lord to redeem Israel. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and months turned into years. But, he waited for the Lord "more than watchmen wait for the morning". He knew that "with the Lord is unfailing love" (verse 7) therefore in hope... he waited.
How long have you waited my friend? Have your trials, pains, hardships and struggles been overwhelming? It has been said that God is never late. His Word and the experiences of His people testify to this fact. Be sure of this; the morning will come. Every night leads into morning, therefore in hope... wait for the Lord.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." - John 9:39-41 (NIV)

When I grew up, Doctors would visit the home when you were sick and today, we visit them. When I was young, I was rarely interested in having such a visit. Little has changed over the years, because I would rather be healthy any day, than need to visit a medical professional. But when I'm hurting... I get my tired old bones up and off we go to get better. If I'm sick, I go to the Doc.
The real issue is not who makes the visit, but that the visit is made. When we are sick we need a physician. Going deeper though, is the question of whether we are willing to admit that we are sick. It's the same with our spirtitual sickness. Jesus sad, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin". In other words, if you will admit to your blind and sin-sick condition, there is a cure. If you're sick... go to the Doc.
You may be seperated from God because you're sick with sin. You may know the Lord and still be sick with sin. As long as "you claim you can see, your guilt remains". Jesus came as the Great Physician "so that the blind will see". If you're willing to admit to your illness, there is a cure in Jesus.  If you're sick... go to the Doc!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”" - John 8:12 (NIV)
I own more flashlights than most. I'm not afraid of the dark, but I want to see where I'm walking and be able to read my books during a power failure. I prefer battery-operated flashlights. My in-laws are sold on the "shake it to light it" type. The interesting fact is, whether the light is run by battery, shaking or even cranking ... the light finally goes out. You will eventually walk in darkness.
So it is with every man-made source of light for the soul. We live in darkness and we will die in darkness because our self-powered lights will always go out. The only hope for lasting light is to find the true "Eveready" or "Diehard" source of light, and it's not the Energizer Bunny!
The truth is, that Jesus is the light that never fails. He doesn't need shaking, cranking or new and better batteries. He alone will light the way of every soul that follows Him. You don't need to walk in darkness today. Come to Jesus and He will ... "light up your life" ...  forever!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." - John 7:37-39 (NIV)
Have you ever watched a stray dog lick stagnant water from a gutter, to quench his thirst? Did you ever think, "How sad; is there no fresh water for this thirsty animal?" Then there are such dogs as ours, who won't drink any water unless it is fresh water. Where do you go to quench your thirst?
Every soul thirsts. On the day that Jesus spoke, the Jewish community celebrated the promise of Isaiah 55:1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters..." as they brought their great feast to a joyful conclusion. Jesus invited the people to move from ceremony to reality ... "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." Where do you go to quench your thirst?
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been given the very presence of the Spirit of God. He is always fresh and ever flowing within the depths of our souls. In trusting Christ to be your Savior, your thirst can finally be quenched. In daily walking with Christ, "streams of living water will flow from within". Where will you go today to quench your thirst?

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”"  - John 6:26-27 (NIV)
Why? Why do we do what we do at any time in life? Why do we pursue an education? Why do we marry that certain someone? Why do we choose one job over another? Why do we drive one car rather than another? Why, Why, Why. The most important of all the whys should be ... Why do you seek Jesus?
Little has changed over the years since Jesus fed the five thousand. People still seek Jesus for strictly temporal reasons. Feed me, bless me, enrich me ... give me stuff, stuff and more stuff. Is this all there is my friend? The answer is not found blowing in the wind ... the answer is found in the words of Jesus ... seek the "food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."
Why will you seek Jesus today? Will you seek him for eternal life? Will you seek Him for eternal values in the hours ahead? Will you seek Him for ... HIM? Missionary Jim Elliot said it best when he wrote, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.  As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife."   - Proverbs 26:20-21 (NIV)

Ah, the cool brisk days of fall. Golden leaves are gently blowing across the yard, and the smell of fireplaces fill the air. A fire in the hearth is good. A fire in the house is bad. A fire in the heart for the Lord is good. A fire in the head with anger is bad. Be careful which fire you feed today.
Be a carrier of the gospel (good news), not gossip (bad news). When you speak to others, be a blessing, not a burden. When you speak about others, may it be kind and gracious words of honor and hope. Don't put wood on the fire of discord.
Always have a hot heart for Jesus and a cool head toward others. Stoke the fire of spiritual ferver and dampen the fire of smoldering fury. The choice is yours ... be careful which fire you feed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." - Psalm 126:1-2 (NIV)

Are you living in "a dream come true"? What is the "stuff" of which your dreams are made? Young love? A new car? A new house? A precious little baby? What are your dreams, and will they ever come true?
Stop for moment and consider ... what was life like before Jesus? What would life be like today, without the Lord? He reached down from heaven, found you in the chains of sin, broke those chains and brought you back from captivity. He brought you from languish to laughter, from remorse to rejoicing and from sorrow to singing. Is this not the "stuff" of which real dreams are made?
Our home, as every home, has known sorrow, sickness and sadness at one time or another. But out of every such occasion, "The Lord has done great things for us". As much as He brought us out of captivity in the beginning of our spiritual journey, He continues to bring us out of the captivities that darken our paths. When we walk with Jesus, "we are filled with joy" and in this ... our dreams have come true!

Friday, November 6, 2009

"You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." - John 5:39-40 (NIV)
How many Bibles do you own? How many "study" Bibles, "family" Bibles and various translations do you have around the house? How often do you read and reread your many Bibles ... daily, weekly or ... ? What do you find when you thoughtfully and prayerfully search those well worn pages? The more important query should be, who do you find within those precious pages of timeless truth?
As you enter this day, the joys, sorrows, hopes, fears, pleasures or pains of life are dancing in your head and heart. You turn to the Scriptures for a moment of counsel, comfort or courage. You find a verse or a phrase that hits the spot. You launch into the day prepared for the best and the worst.
Something is missing. Or should we say, someone is missing. As a popular devotional has been entitled, "Encounter with God", we really need an encounter with Jesus, not just a factual and inspiring word. It is Jesus that waits for you on every page to bring you fresh life for every day. "These are the Scriptures that testify about me ..." Slow down, and seek the face, voice and touch of Jesus in your Bible reading and find life for the day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her ..." -- John 4:6-7 (NIV)

Are you tired from your journey today? Are you weary of the demands of others and the pressures of life? Do you seek a place to just sit and rest, away from the din of the crowd?
Take a moment and consider the Lord as He sits by the well; hot, dry, hungry and quite worn out from travel. The disciples have gone into town for food, so the moment is now quiet and restful. Suddenly, but most providentially, a lonely soul slips into sight and "Jesus said to her ...". So begins a wonderful exchange that leads to a woman's quenched thirst and a great harvest of souls.
In your weariness, will you make time today to greet the lonely souls that God brings into your path. Will you, as our Lord, engage in just one more encounter for the sake of their unquenched thirst? Then, as suddenly as such moments come, so will your own soul be refreshed. "“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." -- John 4:34 (NIV)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:27-30 (NIV)

John's ministry was difficult at best. It all ended abruptly without any great success. But, was it really unsuccessful? Some say yes, but there is a very different view from heaven.
We who serve the King of Kings labor in the highest positions known to man. Wherever our Master chooses for us to serve is a privilege. We would be more encouraged if we would reflect on this fact, "It's not about us, it's about HIM" and it's His world, His work and His Glory. It all belongs to Him, and "a man can only receive what is given him from heaven."
May we daily "wait and listen for Him". Our greatest joy should be the sound of His voice as He directs our steps and expresses His pleasure in our spiritual progress. In all that we strive to accomplish today, may every moment be filled with one single goal ... that He becomes greater; and we become less. There is no greater success!