Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased." - Luke 8:43-44
I have lost count of how many times I spent oodles of money for over-the-counter cures, only to finally visit our family Doctor for true relief. How much easier would life be if we were to turn to the right source of care at the outset of our troubles? 
While the dear woman in our passage was quite sincere in her earlier pursuits for healing, this last ditch effort worked. I am sure that in reflection, she wished that she had come to the Lord Jesus many years earlier.
Where do you turn when troubles overwhelm you my friend? Do you spend years and piles of money seeking help from those who have little to offer? Why not save time and effort by turning to the Lord first?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned." - Luke 8:36-37
Christmas is centered on the greatest miracle of all time; the day that God became man. The entrance of the Prince of Peace as the Lamb of God; born to bring healing to our sin-sick souls. And yet, as the wonderful news is told each year, "all the people of the surrounding country" subtly replace the miracle infant with a material increase. 
The people of Gerasenes were afraid and greatly troubled over the loss of a herd of swine, ignoring the presence of a healing Savior. The miracle of a restored demoniac was of little concern compared to the loss of monetary abundance. Material values were of greater importance than eternal values and little has changed over time. The miracle of Christmas has been pushed aside only to be replaced with the the mirage of covetousness.
Be careful my friend as you approach the miraculous season of Christmas. Be awed at the significance of Jesus' birth and share His healing touch with others. Bring the Lord into the center of every celebration and push aside the materialism that minimizes the miraculous.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed." - Luke 7:6-7
Michaele and Tareq Salahi casually slipped into the White House state dinner on November 24, 2009 without a formal invitation and had a great time. Their attorney said, "They just went to party". People today are so flippant toward position and authority that they have no qualms about "crashing" a presidential dinner. Respect has left the building.
The man was a rough and powerful Roman Centurion. He was revered and obeyed at many levels. But, when it came to Jesus, he considered himself undeserving of the Lord's presence. How interesting that a man of worldly authority approached the Lord with humility and honor and yet, so many of God's people come before the Lord of All Creation "just to party". Respect has left the building.
Yesterday was the Lord's Day. When you walked into the morning worship service how did people approach the Lord? While they had every reason to celebrate and rejoice, did they come with a humble and worshipful attitude? Remember that we are all "undeserving" of standing before the Lord of Glory my friend. As you prepare to worship next Sunday, set the example by coming in reverence and ... Respect will return to the building.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back..." - Luke 6:32-35

Christmas cards! People send them out every year. They have a list of friends and family, but that list often gets smaller as the years pass. One reason a name might be deleted is failure to respond in like manner. If a certain friend fails to send a Christmas card this year, they won't get one next year. The simple fact is... if you don't get, you WON'T give.
I don't work for a greeting card company, nor am I endorsing the perpetual sending of Christmas cards. But, we often find ourselves dealing with others in the same way as we do with our card list. Jesus cuts to the heart when he says "Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them". You see, it's all about motive. If you love in the Name of Jesus and for sake of his love, you will do it forever and expect absolutely nothing in return. Nothing... no love, no gifts, no gratitude, no kindness... but you will still love. The simple fact is... if you don't get, you WILL give.
Take inventory today my friend. Who have you cut out of your circle of love and kindness because you just didn't GET what you thought you should? Even "sinners" give when they get something in return. But you and I are different, because we are children of a merciful Savior who, "While we were STILL sinners... died for us". (Romans 5:8) The simple fact is... if you don't get, you STILL give.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles" - Luke 6:12-13
Yesterday was "Black Friday". There were a vast number of people who stayed up all Thursday night, either shopping at stores that opened at midnight or waiting at the doors for 4 or 5 a.m. store opening. There are many good reasons to stay up all night, but trying to get a great deal on a flat screen TV shouldn't be one of them. It's just not a wise investment of time.
While you may differ with my opinion, the Lord has provided us with a thought provoking "all-niter". Important decisions require much thought and preparation and part of the preparation should always include serious prayer. Since Jesus was about to select twelve men who would eventually turn the world upside down, He prayed all night. The Lord invested His time wisely.
How do you make significant decisions my friend? Do you spend hours or days weighing the issues and considering all the angles? Is prayer a significant part of your process? When the pressure is on, take whatever time is necessary and seek the Lord for direction. You might be in prayer all night, but you will find this to be a wiser investment with bigger dividends than getting a great deal on a flat screen TV.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break." - Luke 5:4-6
Some years ago I knew a young man who couldn't seem to hold a job for long. Shortly after beginning a new job, he would tell his boss ways to improve his business. For some unknown reason, his employers didn't appreciate his ideas very much. We rarely take advice from those who are inexperienced in our field of expertise. We certainly know better...
The day Jesus told Peter how to fish was one of those moments for the experienced fisherman. How could Jesus know anything about fishing since he had been a carpenter and now a teacher? Peter agreed, out of respect, but with a slightly disagreeable attitude. To his surprise and wonder, the catch was overwhelming. Jesus certainly knew better!
How many times has the Lord prodded you to do something other than what you planned? How often have you resisted, believing that you knew better? Were there moments when you tried and failed too many times, and you were completely void of any faith? Make a note for yourself... Jesus always knows what will work and what he asks of you is always right. Jesus certainly knows better!  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry." - Luke 4:1-2

While in college I worked at a foundry that manufactured fire hydrants. The plant had three huge furnaces that melted down metal to be recast. Tons of steel would come into the yard by train and eventually be dropped into the fire. The furnaces would roar with heat as the purged molten steel would be poured into carefully prepared molds. The end product can be found on street corners throughout the country, prepared by fire to deal with fire.
Jesus was led into the fire of trials intentionally by the Holy Spirit. The trials were part of a process, preparing the Son of God for Gethsemane and finally the Cross. The desert experience of Satan's temptations did not come as a sudden surprise. These moments were planned by God to achieve his purpose and ultimate glory. Jesus was prepared by fire to deal with fire.
Over time you will be led by the Holy Spirit into the fire of trials my friend. You will be led by Divine design to be prepare for greater and more demanding moments ahead. Don't run from them; face them with the Word of God and the power of Christ, and be... prepared by fire to deal with fire. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”  - Luke 3:10-14

When I was growing up, our family planted numerous trees around the house. One of those trees was a Mimosa tree. The promise of its unique beauty kept us in expectation, but after three leafless seasons, we concluded it was dead and dug it up. We were then shocked to find life in the roots, yet no fruit of leaves on the branches. How could there be root, but no fruit?
The Christian life is very much like a tree. When we're planted and rooted in Jesus, there is fair expectation of fruit. As John prepared the way for our Lord, he preached, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." (vs. 8)  When asked what he meant by fruit, John gave practical and individual instructions. If someone has come to Christ in repentance and faith, they become new creations, like newly planted trees in the God's garden. When there's spiritual root, there should be spiritual fruit.
In a season when fruit baskets are plentiful, what fruit will be seen in your life? If you are spiritually rooted, Jeremiah 17:8 says you will never fail to bear fruit. Yet, what will that fruit be? With each new day ask , “What should I do then?” I have root, what should be my fruit?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" -- "Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid." - Luke 2:7/23:53

"Be the proud owner of ..." These words are heard and read in various ads from cars to computers. The most important part of the equation is ownership. We are driven by the need to be proud owners. The best commentary on this subject is the bumper sticker that reads: "He who dies with the most toys wins". It's ok to own, but never ok to be owned by what you own.
Jesus said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” His comment was vividly seen in his birth and in his burial. He was placed in a borrowed manger at birth and a borrowed tomb in death. Jesus came as a steward, not an owner. He used this world for one purpose... eternal values. That's where his heart was focused.
What are your goals for the Christmas season and the year to come? Will you be driven by ownership or be led by stewardship? Will you own more of this world, or will you use it to "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:20)? The choice is yours but ... "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

Monday, November 21, 2011

"... to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” - Luke 1:77-79
The holiday season is coming quickly, but it won't bring joy and celebration for everyone. The lights and decorations may shine brightly, but there are many hearts that are empty and broken. Parties, gifts, songs and laughter will fill the schedule, but will there be sunshine and joy for the coming months?  The reality of life overwhelms.
A small but brilliant ray of hope is found in the song of Zechariah. We have a God filled with "tender mercy" who brings "the rising sun from heaven to shine". When we know the Christ of Christmas as Savior and friend, we can have sunshine in the darkest times. The reality of light will overwhelm. 
My dear friend, please don't allow these hard bitter days to get the best of you. Remember the One who loves you with a heart of "tender mercy". Jeremiah the prophet once said ... Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  (Lamentations 3:22-24)  You can know peace and joy in and out of season because... The reality of love overwhelms.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"And Mary said, 'Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.'" - Luke 1:38
When I was young, every guy in the neighborhood played sandlot baseball. I wasn't very good at the game, but I played every weekend. The reason I got to play was because I showed up early and played anywhere they put me. Someone has said that success is 10% skill and 90% showing up. That may be an over-simplification but it does emphasize the real issue of effective ministry. Those are most used who "show up" when needed.
Mary was a true and successful servant of the Lord. She showed up when called and was willing to serve in any way the Lord asked. No matter how embarrassing or demanding, the simple response to God's direction was, "let it be to me according to your word." Most believers would find greater joy and fulfillment if they would just be willing to show up and play wherever the coach put them.
How about you my friend? Are you serving in the way the Lord has called you? Or have you complicated matters by inserting your plans over and above God's will? Why not take the simple path of happiness and success by starting every day with the prayer, "let it be to me according to your word."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years ... But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John' ...' 'Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.'” - Luke 1:6,7, 13, 25
Does it pay to live righteously? Are the godly always blessed with good things? Are their prayers always answered quickly with abundant and joyful results? Is God's timing always the best? Such questions occasionally haunt even the most faithful believer. 
As we look at the experience of Zechariah and Elizabeth today we see a very relieved couple. Their "reproach" and "prayer" has finally been addressed. But for years they had been faithful to the Lord with an empty nest. In their day being barren was seen as a really bad thing. Was God displeased with them or did He have a very different plan?
Blessed are those who wait on the Lord my friend. And as you wait, be faithful. Be assured that your prayers are heard and your heartache is felt by the very "God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). May you find rest in the fact that He makes all things beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11) ... "And you will have joy and gladness" (Luke 1:14).

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." - Malachi 3:10
Billy Graham, in his sermon “Partners with God,” said: “One of the greatest sins in America today is the fact that we are robbing God of that which rightfully belongs to Him. When we don’t tithe, we shirk a just debt. Actually we are not giving when we give God one-tenth, for it belongs to Him already (Lev. 27:30). This is a debt we owe. Not until we have given a tenth do we actually begin making an offering to the Lord!”
As the Lord invited Judah to test Him, others in our time have found His offer to be genuine and timeless. Consider the following testimonies: R. G. LeTourneau the inventor of earth moving machines reached a point of tithing 90% of his income.  ”I shovel out the money, and God shovels it back to me, but God has a bigger shovel.” Henry P. Crowell, couldn’t go to school because of tuberculosis. He became a business man and for forty years gave 60 to 70% of his income to God. He bought the run-down Quaker Mill at Ravanna, Ohio and made Quaker Oats a household name. William Colgate gave 10% of his first dollar in soap sales to God.  He kept increasing his tithe until he gave 50% to the Lord.
While amazing stories are abundant, what is your story my friend? Have you ever considered that you owe the Lord your very life? Don't you believe that He is worthy of your very best? What better time than Thanksgiving to accept His offer and put it to a test? 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts." Malachi 1:8
For thirty-four years I have observed people bringing "stuff" to the church. They think they are doing a good deed by donating to the Lord's work. While the spirit of giving may have been sincere, the "stuff" has been less than stellar. I have seen donations from yard sales, flea markets, spring cleaning and just plain "nobody wants it anymore". So, the next stop is the church; maybe their trash will be God's treasure.
Were the sacrifices and donations of Malachi's day God's treasure? The flow of the first chapter state an emphatic "no". The Lord raises a significant question, "Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?" In other words, would you honor an earthly dignitary with such "stuff" and expect to be well received? Would such "stuff" truly please your Governor, President or King?
Be wise my friend and give to the Lord gifts and donations of which He is worthy. The Lord has blessed you with all that you have, and eternity too. He deserves your very best in all that you give Him. The Lord always and only deserves your treasure... never your trash.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." -- James 3:17-18
I have attended more board meetings than I can count. There have been church boards, associational boards, library boards and consultation boards. Each board has had a different personality and focus. And, time and again there would be some dear soul that believed they were wiser than any other. Their wisdom was to be accepted or there would be tension and stress beyond belief. Wisdom it might have been, but it wasn't from heaven.
The beauty of God given wisdom is the way it is expressed. Godly wisdom is given in a merciful, considerate and submissive manner. There is no partiality and peaceful results are sincerely sought. Wisdom of the natural man seeks praise and honor for the great insight that has been offered. If their counsel is rejected or altered, trouble comes and peace goes out the window. Only heavenly wisdom can raise a harvest of righteousness.
Before you enter the next meeting my friend, seek the wisdom that comes from heaven. You will know it comes from God when you are more concerned about others and a peaceful conclusion than your own ideas. The difference between a peacemaker and a peace-breaker depends on the kind of wisdom you choose.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." - James 2:8-10 
Our church is often visited by homeless men and women. They will stop into the church to get warm and have a bite to eat during our Sunday fellowship hour. I am thankful when I see some of our church family talk with them and invite them in for a meal. But it saddens me when I see other believers avoid them at any cost. How can we love one another and not love the homeless?
James called us to a deeper level of compassion when he challenged our "Love Capacity". It's easy to love those who love us back and those who are lovable. Such are the people we choose to show that extra interest and care. But, if we are going to be consistent in our obedience to the second greatest commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39), we must take time to love the Herbs of our world.
Today you will meet someone. They will not win your attention or your desire to show compassion. They may offend you by their conduct and attire. How will you choose to treat them, my friend? Will you avoid them in the name of inconvenience or will "Love them like Jesus"?

Monday, November 14, 2011

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." - James 1:26
How often have we heard the phrase "I misspoke"? Day by day we read about a political figure that said the wrong thing at the wrong time. As the road to the White House and various other public offices continues, any hope for these treasured positions will hinge on what is said. It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.
James makes the quality of thoughtful speech a significant characteristic for the believer. We can do all the right things and teach others with great insight, but with just one wrong word we can irreparably offend someone. Many a Christian testimony has been lost over a few thoughtless words. As James said earlier in verse 19, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak". It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.
By the grace of God, there have been many thoughts that have come to mind that I refused to verbalize. I would encourage you to do the same, my friend. We may have "Freedom of Speech", but it's not freedom to offend. The treasures of friendship, peace, harmony and unity are far more valuable than words can say. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 25:11, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." and in Proverbs 17:28 "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." - Hebrews 13:15-16
The "Prosperity Gospel" has been popular for quite some time. Our generation has been quite taken with what they can get from God in riches. We come to worship and pray when we want something from God. The thought of bringing sacrifices to Him or giving generously to others is quite foreign to this self-centered theology. But what is it that truly pleases God?
We may be careful to choose a church that teaches the true gospel, but do we worship and serve in the spirit of that gospel? God is most honored in worship when we offer "a sacrifice of praise" and He is most pleased when we "do good and share with others". John put it this way in 1 John 3:16, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." The right response to the gospel is giving, not about getting.
So, what are you planning for this morning my friend? How will you worship the Lord? Will you arrive with your heart focused on Him and lifting up all that you are to praise him? Will you in turn give to others this week and share God's blessings with them as unto the Lord? For "... with such sacrifices God is pleased" 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." - Hebrews 11:15-16
The puritan pilgrims arrived on the shores of America with a longing in their hearts. The days ahead were brutal and demanded great sacrifice. Eventually, opportunities came for a return to England, but they were focused on a better future in a new land. More significantly, they were looking and preparing for a heavenly country.
Whether it is the patriarchs of the Bible, the puritan pilgrims of the seventeenth century or the new believers of 2011, the dynamics are always the same. If we are still too tied to the old ways of the world, we can always return. But, devoted believers have left the past behind for good, with no desire to return. They are focused on the future, preparing for eternity every day.
Search your heart my friend. What is your longing? Are you so deeply rooted in this world that you rarely think about heavenly things? Are you so satisfied with the present material possessions that you have no longing for a heavenly country? Remember, God's children are those who have "admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (verse 13) and their "... citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). God is never ashamed of those who are looking for the city that he has prepared for them!

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Then he adds:  "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." - Hebrews 10:17
There is true forgetfulness and there is a forgetfulness of convenience. At my age there is no convenience about my forgetfulness. There are some things that I truly desire to forget and there are those matters that I can't afford to forget. One thing is for sure, there are some things we need to remember and some that we need to forget.
Having thought about our own memory issues, consider this: God chooses to forget and therefore he does. An omniscient creator who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and knows our every thought before we think them (Psalm 139:2) can willingly forget. But what is it that he chooses to forget? The true joy is in this: God never forgets us (Hebrews 13:5), but he forgets our sins. God has chosen to completely clear his memory of the sins of the repentant sinner.
The thought I leave you with today is this: If the all knowing God of the universe has chosen, in Christ, to forgive and FORGET your sins... when will you forget them and move on??

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." - Hebrews 7:25-26
Lawyers are those who speak to the court on our behalf. Some are fairly dependable and some are just interested in their fee. Yet, it is recommended that we have an advocate to protect our legal interests. I have had so many requests to recommend a "good" lawyer that I've lost count. Thankfully, when it comes to the court of heaven, I can recommend an excellent lawyer to intercede with perfection.
Yes, priests are like lawyers. In the Old Testament they spoke to God on behalf of the people. Today we have one high priest who speaks on our behalf... his name is Jesus. There is no better intercessor for our souls, for he is "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners". Since he is able to "save completely", we can say that he has never lost a case. Jesus is the best lawyer that money can't buy. (He represents his clients "pro bono")
Why be represented before God by another sinner? Why try to represent yourself? We all need a high priest that "meets our need" perfectly because he is perfect. Jesus always lives to intercede for you my friend, so give your case to him. He alone is able to "save completely those who come to God through him".

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." - Hebrews 5:13-14
I watched as our sons matured, moving from milk to solid food. They quickly grew strong and agile, leaving me no other choice than to stop wrestling with them for my own safety. During those same years I watched my father relegated to a puree diet and saw his weight and strength slip away. The choice of food will always make a difference in our health and strength.
The spiritual life is no different than the physical. We need to move from spiritual milk to solid food to become strong. Furthermore, we need to train ourselves "by constant use" or feeding on solid food so we can "distinguish good from evil". The choice of spiritual food will always make a difference in our ability to know right from wrong.
We all need to grow up in spiritual teachings about righteousness. But, we also need to stay the course so we don't become weak from the lack of constant use. You may have been a Christian for many years, but remember, you still need the meat of the Word to stay strong in the faith. You are what you eat!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  - Hebrews 4:16
Over the years we have all met people who feel the need to "share breath" with us during conversations. They venture into our "comfort zone" without invitation. It's alright to sit across the table and talk, but we really get uneasy when they force their way into "my space".  Are we really willing to allow needy people to "draw near"?
Thankfully, we have a friend, a Savior, a high priest who is willing to receive us into his "comfort zone". He has invited us to "draw near" to his throne of grace to receive mercy. There is never a time when we need to hold back from "sharing breath" with our Lord. In a way, Jesus has said, "Come with confidence into 'my space' so I can help in your time of need." 
The devotional writings that have made the greatest impact on my life over the years have been written by those who have ventured into our Lord's "comfort zone". They provide the encouragement and blessing that can only come from those who have "drawn near". Now, why depend on those who have "shared breath" with the Lord when we can go with confidence into "His space" today? Draw near my friend, draw near!

Monday, November 7, 2011

"He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be hanged. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." - Hebrews 1:10-12
The foundation of the Cologne Cathedral in Germany was laid in 1248 and the work continued, with some interruptions, until completion in 1880. For four years the cathedral was the tallest building in the world and today it is visited by 20,000 people every day. Travelers from all over the world come to view a man-made building that stands on a 762 year old foundation. Yet, how many come every day to worship the One who remains the same, whose years will never end?
As we begin our reading in the book of Hebrews, Jesus is presented as the eternal one, preeminent over all creation. When we choose a foundation to build upon, these words serve us well to remember the transitory nature of our world. 762 year old cathedrals, along with every other part of the earth and heavens will eventually wear out like a garment. But Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The message is clear; don't build your life on the sands of this world, but build on the eternal foundation of Christ.
Are you all about building a cathedral my friend? Why spend so much time on what will ultimately be rolled up like a robe? Keep your eyes and heart on Jesus as your cornerstone. Follow his plan as you labor and build what will last... for all eternity.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me." - Philemon 17
Partners ride the trail together, run the business together and compete in the game together. They are on the same page, with the same goal. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up." A healthy partnership is a blessing for all seasons.
Paul had a partnership with Philemon and a growing partnership with Onesimus. Being a brother and spiritual father in the Lord is a great relationship. It is more than a moment in time or phase in life. We are partners in the work of the gospel for life and strong teamwork brings a good return for our work. A healthy partnership is a blessing for all seasons.
Who are your partners in the gospel today my friend? Do you work alongside with a welcoming heart and supportive spirit? Do you draw strength from them as you provide them encouragement? Christian partners work together, even through the most difficult situations, because they are partners with the Lord. A healthy partnership is a blessing for all seasons.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone." - Titus 3:8 
Our house is wired with electricity. It's great to have all the power we need for light, cooking, repair work, entertainment and overall comfort. The power is always just a plug away, but if we don't use the power what good is it? Having the power is only as good as using the power.
Titus 3 tells us of God's saving work, in which the Holy Spirit is poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ. Every believer is empowered with the very presence of God. We have all that we need to live for God and devote ourselves to doing what is good. The power is always just a prayer away, but if we don't use his power what good is it? Having his power is only as good as using his power.
Doing what is good comes from careful and thoughtful planning. We have the power, but do we have the devotion? What are you planning to do that's good today? Remember, having his power is only as good as using his power. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

"And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them..." - Zechariah 14:20-21
Over the years religious communities have settled into a separation of the holy from the common. This practice has led to weekly worship on Sunday and godless living during the rest of the week. The church was to be sacred and the workplace secular. One was never to interfere with the other.
The day is coming though, when the Lord will have His rightful place all the time in every corner of His world. There will be holiness from the sanctuary pots to the bells of the horses. Every small place and simple activity will honor the Lord in holiness.
A separation of holy from common was never the Lord's intention my friend. Paul wrote of this in 1 Corinthians 10:31 with the words, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." We need not wait for a future day to live holy lives. In every place, at every moment and through every activity, "as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" (1 Peter 1:15)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves" - Zechariah 12:12
When people grieve they usually desire the company of others for consolation. Such comfort quite often comes from family and friends. But what happens when there is no comfort to be found? Where do you turn when those who might comfort are sorrowing themselves?
The day is coming when there will be great mourning. It will be experienced by everyone by themselves. There will be no comforters because grief will be spread far and wide. On that they will mourn for the one whom they have all pierced.
Our accountability to God is and always will be personal my friend. In the end you may grieve by yourself because you chose in this life to live away from the Lord, by yourself. Why not make the wise choice and walk with the Lord today so you won't be alone tomorrow?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

“Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? " - Zechariah 7:5
When you give a gift, extend a kindness, play the host or do a favor, for whom do you labor? This is a timeless and highly provocative question. In some ways it can also be a rather convicting query. What is the ultimate motive for the performing of your good deeds?
No matter how pure you believe your motives may be, the sinful, selfish nature tends to play havoc. The above question is asked by the Lord and addresses a far more significant issue in life. For whom do we exercise our efforts of worship and praise? As with everything else, do we struggle with our own expectations, our personal gain, our peace, our hopes, our dreams and our blessings? What about the Lord?
From ages far gone by the question lingers my friend ... this coming Sunday; will it be "all about you" or "all about the Lord"? As we read in Zechariah 8:2, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath." When we come to worship, the Lord is jealous for pure motives and uncompromising love. Take time to focus your heart before you enter.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts." - Zechariah 4:6
Remember when you were a little tyke and you couldn't get the jar of jelly open, no matter how hard you tried? Then along came the big strong hand of someone much older and bigger. One simple motion and the top would come off like a spinning wheel. Your efforts were just not enough, but someone else had more than was needed.
Our spiritual endeavors are not very different. Life comes at us with an overwhelming force. The challenges are far greater than our strength can handle. Still, we will give it all that we have, to no avail. The truth is we need someone stronger and more powerful. What a relief to know that the Lord is ready to step in and open the jar at just the right time.
Don't try it all by yourself my friend. The trials of life will press harder the more you strive. Learn the lesson of Zechariah... "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts." - Let the strong hand of your heavenly Father open the jar and lead the way through every challenge of life. He alone has strength to spare.