Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." - Luke 10:20
Have you ever noticed when a NASCAR race is won the driver is given the greatest attention? The car may be a superior vehicle with a well built engine. The tires may be the finest make available and the pit crew highly skilled. But at the end of the day, it's simply the name of the driver that really matters.  
In a way, our spiritual life is very much the same. We might have a super gifted life with ministry skills galore. Our accomplishments may fill a list a mile long, but the real issue is who and whose we are. The famous and not so famous still face the same question: Is your name written in heaven?
Be careful not to put so much importance on your accomplishments my friend. The most important day in your life was when you became a child of the King. And the next most important day will be when you shall see Him face to face because your name is written in heaven. Sometimes life is just that simple.

Friday, March 30, 2012

"When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice." -- John 10:4
Do you remember some trip or special occasion when you were somewhere unfamiliar? The most secure moments were when you heard familiar voices. You found great assurance when you were surrounded by your traveling companions. Being all alone can be frightening.
Life is a journey into the unknown. We need someone who will go ahead and lead the way. We need someone who calls us His own and calls us by name. We need a voice that will set us at ease and calm our fears. That someone is Jesus.
When moments press in and bring unfounded fear, where do you turn? To whom do you look when you feel lost and unsettled? Turn your eyes upon Jesus my friend, and listen to His voice as He speaks softly from His Word. As He leads the way, He calls you by name and reminds you that you're His. Follow Him and fear not.

John W. Peterson, 1954

Some day life's journey will be o're.
And I shall reach that distant shore;
I'll sing while ent'ring heaven's door,
"Jesus led me all the way."

Jesus led me all the way,
Led me step by step each day;
I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burdens down,
"Jesus led me all the way."

If God should let me there review
The winding paths of earth I knew,
It would be proven clear and true -
"Jesus led me all the way."

Jesus led me all the way,
Led me step by step each day;
I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burdens down,
"Jesus led me all the way."

And hither to my Lord hath led,
Today He guides each step I tread;
And soon in heav'n it will be said,
"Jesus led me all the way."

Jesus led me all the way,
Led me step by step each day;
I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burdens down,
"Jesus led me all the way."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." -- John 9:4
Every morning, Monday through Friday, parkways across this land are jam packed with people headed to work. Then, as evening approaches, those same people make their way back home after a a busy day. While time passes and progress leads to great change, the work day remains much the same. The majority of people work "as long as it is day".
Some have called it the "Puritan Work Ethic", but the idea of working hard was embraced by our Lord long before there were Puritan Divines. He came to do all the work given by the Father in heaven while it was day. He led a focused life of productive effort accomplishing the tasks assigned. The Lord knew that night was coming "when no one can work."
How diligent are you in the work of the Lord? Have you a clear sense of his purpose for your life? Time flies for everyone of us and the night is coming. Will you be able to say that you made the most of the "day" you were given to accomplish the task assigned to you by the Lord? Work hard my friend, because "today" is the only promise you have.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." - John 8:56
Some years ago I received a pair of binoculars as a birthday gift. As a result I no longer needed to pay a fee to use the ones at the park and seaside. It is always a joy to have a closer look at God's creation and these simple optical aids make that possible. 
When we consider the great patriarchs of the Older Testament, we often wonder what they understood about God's future plan. Were they only aware of a few details that needed to be connected over time? Or were they given spiritual optical aids to see the future more clearly? This passage tells us that they knew a great deal about the future and it brought them reason to rejoice.
Through faithful study of the Scriptures you too can have a view of the future my friend. God has provided spiritual optical aid through a vast number of prophetic writings. Why is it important that we read them you might ask? Consider the joy that Abraham had when he saw the future coming of Messiah. This joy can also be yours when you envision His second coming and Kingdom reign.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." -- John 8:34-36
Over the years I've ministered to people who have suffered from substance abuse. For a very long time they believe that they are not addicted. They would say, "It's just one drink, now and then". I grew up with family members that would have "just one drink, now and then." The truth was they were slaves to alcohol.
It doesn't matter how you package it, when you're addicted, you're a slave. We are sinners by nature and by action, and "everyone who sins is a slave to sin". You can deceive yourself by saying, "It's just one sin, now and then", but you're addicted. Freedom will only come to those who admit their condition and turn to the Son of God to set them free.
Will you stop and be true to yourself my friend? "... A slave has no permanent place in the family of God, but a son belongs to it forever." Sin must be admitted before freedom and a place in the family can be granted. Do you want to continue in life as a slave, or do you want to be "free indeed"?

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  - John 8:12
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. I know some people who 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!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Thus the people were divided because of Jesus." -- John 7:43
People are divided for many reasons. Some hold different political views, others have different ethnic backgrounds and still others differ on social issues. There are those who will even fight for their favorite ball team. Still, none of the above can divide the entire human race.
Our verse for thought is factual and profoundly timeless. While no small passing issue can divide everyone for all time, Jesus does. He is the eternal watershed that divides all mankind. This is clearly stated in John 3:18, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned". There it is; Jesus is the Mason-Dixon Line of history. There are those who believe and those who don't believe. The entire human race is divided because of Jesus.
What about you my friend? You have chosen or will choose to believe or not to believe and your eternal future lies in the balance. This is not a minor issue that you can ignore until it goes away. Every day you check the date on a calendar that is broken at the coming of Christ; B.C. and A.D. As time, so people, some are without Christ and some are with Christ... which are you?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” - John 7:37-38
"Poland Spring", "Crystal Spring", "Saratoga Spring" and "Spring of Life" are just a few names for drinking water companies. The names elicit thoughts of fresh, rushing, mountain springs of cool refreshing water. The thought of such waterways almost quenches the thirst by the very idea. We are never moved in the same way with stagnant water from a city reservoir. Our thirst is best quenched by living water.
In truth, we are all aware that many water bottles are processed far from any mountain spring. But, we still raise the bottle to our lips with hopes that we have a small slice of the great outdoors. In contrast the Lord offers all who believe the real deal for their souls. He invites those who are thirsty to come and drink of living waters. He doesn't quench the thirst of the soul with old stagnant water. He promises fresh water, and He offers us water that will flow deep and wide like a river.
Does your soul feel dry and parched my friend? Have you tried the bottles of man-made water that have that stagnant taste that never satisfies? Well, come to Jesus and experience the wonderful outpouring of His Holy Spirit within your heart. Your thirst will be more than quenched with living water that flows deep and wide like a river.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority." -- John 7:17
Have you ever gotten lost? Was it due to someone giving you wrong directions? Or was your GPS miscalculating? Well, no matter how sincere we may be, wrong directions will get us lost every time. While this maxim may always be true, when we genuinely desire the Lord's direction, we will always find His way.
Jesus spoke to those that questioned his teaching. He revealed this truth; that when you're willing to do God's will you will know His leading. His path will open before you like a wide open country road. Those who might worry about missing the way as they seek the Lord's leading should take this to heart and move forward with utmost confidence.
Are you seeking the will of God in your daily walk? Is His leading first and foremost in your mind? But, do you fear that you might lose your way my friend? Have no fear; God will never lead astray those who have a willing heart to do His will. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." - Psalm 32:8

Thursday, March 22, 2012

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ -- Matthew 18:32-33 
What's the difference between a silk flower and a real one? A lot! Depth and texture are hard to reproduce, but some have come close. Yet, the distinct floral fragrance is just not going to happen. The real deal has a God given scent that most people find quite pleasant. Silk flowers may look nice, but you'll never get out, what hasn't been put in by God.
In the same way, forgiveness is a Christian fragrance. Paul gave instructions to the believers in Ephesus to, "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:2) God loved us so much that he forgave us for a lifetime of sin. When we face the offense of another, shouldn't we have mercy as the Lord has had on us? This is one significant difference between a religious person and a true believer. The believer has been forgiven in love and exudes a fragrance of loving forgiveness toward others.
Are you a forgiving person? Just as you can't find fragrance in a silk flower, you'll never have a fragrance of forgiveness if you're just religious. But, if you're the real deal, you have been given a scent of loving forgiveness as the Lord forgave you, "while you were still a sinner". (Romans 5:8) If you refuse to forgive, one of two facts are true. You have never been born again as a forgiven child of God, or you are living in sin. Be a flower from God every day my friend and "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?''... Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" - Matthew 18:1, 4
"Fortune 500", "Success", "Smart Money", "Fortune", "Upscale", "The Prosper Magazine" and "Fast Company" are a number of periodicals that regularly highlight business success. If these weren't enough to boil the pot, you will find any number of articles in Christian periodicals that emphasize the pursuit of "Christian Success". The question continues to haunt us ... "Who is the greatest?" 
"We've come a long way Baby" from the teachings of Jesus. Today, rather than teaching the multitudes on a hillside or from a fishing boat, we need a Crystal Cathedral. Instead of washing the feet of our friends we sit together and sip our Lattes in the church Jacuzzi. But Jesus lifted up a child and pointed to child-like humility and simplicity as the true path to kingdom success. We need to get back to the basics.
What are your priorities my friend? Are you so driven by the pursuit of worldly success that you're of little heavenly good? Do you even remember the days of child-like faith that changed your life? Where have the joys and satisfaction gone that came from simple Bible study, prayer and serving others? Let's find greatness in being a child again and get back to the basics.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child." - Luke 9:37-38
Vacations are great, but eventually they end. Work awaits and the daily routine demands our attention. Even in retirement the demands of daily life call upon us when we return from trips to see grandchildren and other enjoyable diversions. Special occasions and getaways are important for good health and emotional well-being, but real life is what we are all about.
In the same way, we need to have spiritual retreats and special times with our Lord. Such occasions may be a week away at a Christian camp or Sunday celebration at church. Then again, it could be the simple but refreshing devotional time alone with the Lord every morning. But when we "come down from the mountain" the daily routine demands our attention and ministry to others is waiting. The truth is, times with Lord fill us up so we can be ready to tackle real life for Jesus.
Do you often wish that your mountain top experiences could be the norm my friend? If they were, who would bring the Lord's blessings to those in need? Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that the Lord "comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction". Be sure to take special times of refreshment with the Lord, but "come down from the mountain" ready to tackle real life for Jesus.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it." - Mark 9:32
How often were we told by our teachers not to be afraid to ask questions? How many questions did we ask? There are so many reasons why we don't ask questions when we are in doubt. Sometimes we are too proud, sometimes too embarrassed and sometimes too afraid. But whenever we fail to ask, we fail to learn.
The disciples were walking with the Lord Jesus day by day. He taught them great truths that changed their lives and his wisdom was beyond measure. What a wonderful opportunity to ask the Lord about everything they ever wondered about. Yet, they were afraid to ask about the Lord's death and resurrection. The result was tremendous sadness and frustration during the days of his Crucifixion and resurrection. I often wonder if they would have been better prepared by having asked questions. Whenever we fail to ask, we fail to learn.
The Lord has opened a door of opportunity for us in the words of Matthew 7:7, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" and James added in James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." Be confident to ask, and you will grow in your understanding. Be willing to ask, and you will be certain to learn.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"And Jesus said to him, 'If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.' Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" - Mark 9:23-24
When my vehicle is in need of repair I take it to the auto shop. I walk in, tell my tale of woe, hand them the keys and sit down in the waiting room. Usually, in a short time the car is back to normal and I'm on the road again. I take my auto needs to those in whom I have confidence because I believe they can fix the problem.
For this father belief in the ability of Jesus was his first hurdle. The Lord dealt with the issue as quickly as the words were spoken. "All things are possible for one who believes." The response was one of great wisdom, "I believe, help my unbelief". In the face of struggles and storms we can always come to Jesus. But we need to have confidence that He can fix the problem.
Are you in the waiting room, resting in the power and abilities of Jesus my friend? Have you placed your life with all its hardships in his capable hands? When doubt raises its ugly head remember to "TRUST in the Lord with ALL YOUR HEART, and do not lean on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). Join this father in prayer with the simple request, "I believe; help my unbelief".

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”"  -- Matthew 17:5
When a presidential inauguration comes about, people travel from miles around to participate and observe. There are a vast number of speakers and the program is filled with inspiring moments. While the entire event is quite an experience, only one person is the ultimate focus... the newly elected president. People from all around the world listen to him.
Peter, James and John were overwhelmed with the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus and they were greatly inspired. Peter suggested they have three booths erected for each important personality. But the heavenly Father responded with clarity... "This is my Son... Listen to Him". Many people make the same mistake today as they see various Bible characters as equally inspiring, yet only one person should be the ultimate focus. Jesus alone is the Son of God, so listen to him!
There may be many books on your shelf today, but only one book has the message of life. There may be many people that bless your life, but only one person is the way, truth and life. At the end of the day my friend, choose to be a person of one book and one person. Heed the voice of your heavenly Father, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Friday, March 16, 2012

"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? " - Luke 9:24-25
Someone recently questioned the pursuit of high political office due to the lower salary package. They couldn't understand why someone who could be paid mega bucks would settle for less. One answer is reasonably clear; fame. Many people will give up almost everything in life to be famous.
Jesus gave us another principle to live by when He spoke the words "whoever would save his life will lose it". He offers a new and abundant life to those who are willing to step aside and allow Him to be the "Famous" One. Consider the lyrics of two songs. In the Broadway song "Fame" we hear, "Remember my name, FAME, I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna learn to how to fly, FAME, I feel it coming together, People will see me and cry, FAME, I'm gonna make it to heaven, Light up the sky like a flame, FAME". In contrast, we hear the words of "The Famous One" by Chris Tomlin, "You are the Lord, The Famous One, Famous One, Great is your name in all the earth, The heavens declare You're glorious, glorious, Great is Your Name beyond the earth." The truth is this; it's all about HIM and when we live for the Lord's fame, we gain everything.
What profit is there in being famous my friend? In a generation or so, no one will ever remember you lived on the earth. But, when you live for Jesus, the glory of eternity is yours and your place in heaven is secure. The original question is a good one, why would anyone seek to gain world-wide fame at the cost of their own soul?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly." -- Mark 8:22-25
I broke my ankle in a motorcycle accident a number of years ago. The damage was far more extensive than expected and the recovery took a lot longer than usual. But, as the Doctor promised, time and rest brought healing. Such is the case with the human body, for we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:1). A good physician considers all the differing needs of his patient and has a plan.
When the Lord performs surgery on us he considers every need we have from top to bottom. Sometimes, as with this blind man, the personal need may require a very different approach than past occasions. The Lord is concerned with our body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). As the Great Physician, the Lord takes each of us into his care with individual attention and he has a plan.
Too often, we grow impatient with the Lord's work in our lives. We expected healing, improvement or change to come in our way. Then the Lord gives us a thorough "scan" and chooses a different way to proceed. Will you trust the Great Physician for what he does best my friend? Will you wait for his unique and individual care to bring you his blessing? Remember, he has a plan... and his plan is always PERFECT!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” - Mark 8:2-3
Many years ago my mother suffered a stroke and was hospitalized for some time. The church family was greatly concerned for our family and prayed for us faithfully. There were some dear folks though that were very practical in their concern and invited my father and me over for supper more than once. Their compassion was in the details of life.
Jesus spent three days with four thousand people and at the end of the "conference" He was quite aware of their needs. The Lord had concern for the crowd as He so often did, but more than this He considered the practical outcome of their long trip home. Jesus' compassion was in the details of life.
Do you find yourself wondering if the Lord ever considers all the little things that weigh upon you my friend? Yes, you know that He is aware of your big needs, such as a new job, restored health, reconciled family or financial provision. But, is He concerned about a sandwich for today's lunch? I believe that He is just as focused on the practical needs of every day as the bigger picture. His compassion is also in the details of life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"But he turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.'" - Matthew 16:23
I flew out to Lackland Air Force base in June of 1969 for military basic training. The experience was quite an education. I discovered that one major goal of the training was to break each enlistee from thinking as individuals. It was necessary for us to think as a team in ready response to our leadership. We needed to set our minds on the things of the Air Force and not on our own things.
It seems odd that Peter would be rebuked so strongly by Jesus. But Peter, like all of us, was drawn by his human nature to see things in a very different way than the Lord. The Biblical record of Isaiah 55:8 spoke of this difference in the following way; "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord." Jesus rightly corrected Peter and clearly pointed to the source of such divergent thinking in the words, "Get behind me, Satan!"
Is it true that you have a better idea than the Lord my friend? Do you believe that your experience and wisdom puts you on equal ground with Jesus? Stop and consider the first few words of rebuke that the Lord spoke in Job 38:4, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." God alone reigns and knows best, therefore we would be wise to set our minds His things, not ours.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”" -- Matthew 16:4
The world is full of skeptics who will never really believe. I remember hearing Apologist Josh McDowell tell of an encounter with a college student after one of his lectures. After a lengthy defense of the faith, the student still had questions. McDowell finally asked, "If I were to answer every one your questions about the claims of Christ, would you be willing to believe?" The young man said without hesitancy, "No, it would demand to great a change in my lifestyle". "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign".
The Pharisees and Sadducees were always looking for a sign from heaven. Hundreds of years have passed and people are still looking for such signs. While the greatest sign known to man has been shown in the resurrection of Jesus, they still look and doubt. Abraham said in Luke 16:31, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign".
The truth is; people just don't want to believe. Are you someone who has a legion of questions that keep you from Christ? If all your questions are answered are you willing to believe? Don't look for any other sign than the sign of Jonah. The evidence is clear, "...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) Stop seeking for some other sign. Seek the Lord and you will be surprised with joy, for he said in Jeremiah 29:13-14, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you”

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”).” - Mark 7:33-34 (NIV)
Bedside manner! How often have we had doctors who were quite skilled professionally but not very gifted in the area of compassion? The best doctor we ever had was a Christian who was truly moved by our distress over the pain of our child. He was touched by our feelings.
Jesus healed the sick and infirmed. He did so, on a daily basis, but he never became compassion-challenged. In this case, Jesus was moved with a deep sigh over the hardship of the man he healed. As the Great Physician, Jesus had true bedside manner and he did everything well. Jesus was touched by their feelings.
In the words of John W. Peterson, "No one understands like Jesus; ev’ry woe He sees and feels; tenderly He whispers comfort, and the broken heart He heals." And in the thought of Hebrews 4:15, Jesus is a high priest who is able to "sympathize with our weaknesses". Never hesitate to bring your needs to Jesus... He is touched with your feelings.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way."" -- Matthew 15:32
How short our attention span is these days. If a movie is too long it gets bad reviews from the critics. If a classic book is too long it will come out in an abridged edition. If the Baccalaureate speaker is too long-winded he gets booed off the platform. We have become a people who just can't stay focused for very long. Attention takes effort.
Think about the scene before us in this passage. Great crowds came to the Lord for healing and they spent three days with him. His works and words were taken in like water by the parched tongue. One must believe that these people had homes, families and responsibilities, but they found someone who was worth spending unlimited time. They lingered and listened, weary and hungry. Their attention took effort, but was rewarded.
How much time do you spend with the Lord my friend? Do you run in and out of his presence each day with so much on your mind that you can't really concentrate? Are you in a hurry to "wrap it up" on Sunday mornings during the worship service? When was the last time you spent three days with the Lord? Maybe you could start by spending a good quality hour with him. If you make the effort to give him your attention the reward will be great.

Friday, March 9, 2012

“ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” -- Matthew 15:8-9

Rules! Ah yes, families, businesses, missions and ministries have all started with heartfelt dreams and great passion. The early days were so simple and quite exciting. But as the years passed rules came into the picture. There were rules to prevent errors, rules to promote success, rules to preserve safety and rules to produce harmony. Over the years the passion was lost and the list of rules became the major goal. The heart was replaced with rules.
The Lord reminded the Pharisees of what they lost and what they had become. They lost their heartfelt desire for God and turned their attention to man-made rules. They spent so much time splitting hairs over the legalism of their teachings, that they lost sight of their love for God and his love for them. The passion was lost and their list of rules was all that was left. The heart was replaced with rules.
While the Bible certainly has rules to live by, man-made rules are a very different story. God's rules are intended to protect us from all that would draw us away from him. They are given to help us grow more in love with him and have a stronger spiritual walk. God's rules are heart strengthening, while men's rules are heartbreaking. May we always remember our first love for the Lord and never allow the rules of men to replace our hearts.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," - John 6:68
It has been said that real men never ask directions. As a real man I can attest to the truth of that statement. There seems to be a deep sense of determination within every man's heart that drives him forward, lost or not. To seek directions from a credible source would bring his very manhood into question. Therefore, the world is full of real men who are lost.
After a vast number of followers have turned back from walking with Jesus, the Lord asks the twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" To this question, Peter responds as no other real man would, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Peter was tired of being a real man who was lost. He believed that it was time to be a smart man and seek directions as he moved toward eternity.
Are you lost my friend? I mean really lost? Are you determined to find your own way without assistance from anyone else? Man or woman, are you so self assured that you don't need help on the journey toward eternity? Rather than being lost, be smart and turn to the only one who has the words of eternal life!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed 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. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” -- John 6:26-27
A recent news item mentioned opposition to McDonald's Happy Meal toys. Some people believe that children only ask for happy meals to get the toy; they don't really care about the food in the box. Just imagine someone being more concerned with a toy that breaks in no time rather than a nourishing meal. Don't work for the stuff that spoils.
Speaking of food, there were numerous people who would follow Jesus anywhere, as long as he fed them. They were all about the momentary pleasure of a full stomach. But Jesus wanted more; he asked that people follow him for eternal reasons that would nourish the soul. He didn't want anyone working for the stuff that spoils.
Why do you follow the Lord my friend? Do you want some blessing in your job or special provision for your future? Are you satisfied with the immediate, and not really interested in the eternal? Jesus counsels every person who shortchanges themselves by seeking the toys of this world. He has so much more to offer... so don't work for the stuff that spoils.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do." -- John 6:6
Have you ever asked someone a question just to hear what they would say? You already knew the answer, but you were interested in knowing the thoughts of the other person. At times such answers will reveal more than just thoughts; they might open the door to their entire belief system... or unbelief.
Jesus wanted to test the faith and vision of Philip with his question. The Lord will also press our hearts with questions that rise from our time in the Word and prayer. He has already decided what He will do and how He will do it, but He probes our hearts. This is a time for deeper faith and spiritual growth.
Don't just passively read and pray my friend. Pay close attention to the questions that rise and allow time to open your heart to the Lord. Make room for God to do greater things than you have seen before and never place limits through unbelief. Remember... they gathered twelve baskets of fragments from the five barley loaves.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd." - Luke 9:16
At the conclusion of a long season of providing food for flood devastated families in our community we had a thanksgiving supper. This supper was prepared particularly for those people who had faithfully donated time, food and facilities to make this effort possible. Thousands of upon thousands of food items had been disbursed and it was time to show our gratitude for the provision.
As the five loaves and two fish were to be distributed, Jesus said a blessing over them. It was a very simple meal indeed, but one that would satisfy a very needy and hungry crowd. While Jesus knew what He was about to do, a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing was offered. It was a public prayer that acknowledged the Giver of all provision for life and health. Such a prayer came from a trusting and grateful heart.
Is it too much to stop for a moment before every meal and say a blessing over the food my friend? Has the Lord not been faithful to provide every ounce of food to nourish your body? Is He not worthy of honor for His kindness and is He not the source of all that we have? Never hesitate; to say "grace" before a meal is a simple expression of a trusting and grateful heart. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened." -- Mark 6:51-52
For some years I worked in the field of private security. I observed all kinds of criminal activities and reached the point of absolute cynicism. One afternoon I arrested a young woman who had stolen a winter coat for her small child. For a fleeting moment I almost lost sight of a hurting and desperate mother sitting at my desk. Familiarity and busyness had almost hardened my heart. 
Imagine the disciples walking with Jesus every day, watching him perform miracles again and again. They saw such wonderful works of God and yet they missed the point and didn't understand. How could this be, you might ask? How could anyone participate in feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, having twelve baskets of food left over, and be oblivious to the miracle? Familiarity and busyness can harden the heart.
God is doing tremendous things in your life right now my friend. He's performing miracles moment by moment and if you're not careful, you're going to miss it. Stop and look at the flowers bloom today. Slow down and feel the breeze across your face. Watch the grass sprout up with new color and fresh life. Step back and watch the Spirit of God mold your life into the likeness of Jesus. Don't be so familiar and busy that you harden your heart.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief." -- Mark 6:5-6 
G. Campbell Morgan grew up in a Christian home and never questioned that the Bible was the Word of God. But in college, his faith was severely challenged by the philosophies of the day, and he began to entertain doubts. After a steady exposure to skepticism and unbelief, he wrote, "There came a moment when I was sure of nothing.”
The surrounding region was abuzz with reports of miraculous works performed by Jesus. The evidence was in and the numbers of lives touched and changed were numerous. People traveled great distances to hear the Lord and receive healing. Should there not have been a "mighty work" done where ever He traveled? Such would be true were it not for "unbelief".
Unbelief cripples the soul and hinders the mighty work of God. The Lord responds to belief and unbelief. Where there is doubt there is darkness. Where there is faith there is freedom. What is your "Faith Quotient" today my friend? Jesus said in Mark 9:23, "All things are possible for one who believes". Is your life marked by the "possibilities" of faith or the "impossibilities" of unbelief?

Friday, March 2, 2012

"They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children." -- Matthew 14:20-21 
"All You Can Eat" Buffet Restaurants are quite a phenomenon in our country. Many of our church family come from other parts of the world where these just don't exist. Most of the world goes to bed with barely enough food to meet the need. Due to rising unemployment, there are more Americans than ever who go hungry as well. Satisfaction for these people is a real miracle.
True satisfaction is something only the Lord can give. As this event tells us, when God blesses the little, it brings satisfaction. No one really needs an "All You Can Eat" Buffet. But God knows our every need and when we place our lives in his hands he is moved with compassion (vs.14) to provide. The simple truth for all of us is; when we find satisfaction at the end of the day, it's a real miracle.
Are you so influenced by "All You Can Eat" Buffets that "satisfaction" has a new definition? When the world provides there never seems to be enough, but when the Lord provides, we will always be satisfied. While God's provision is miraculous, to be satisfied is even a greater miracle. As the song says, "Only Jesus can satisfy your soul"!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus." - Matthew 14:10-12
The 11th branch of Iran's Gilan Provincial Court upheld the apostasy conviction and execution sentencing of evangelical Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani this week. Apart from divine intervention through unknown means, Pastor Nadarkhani will surrender his life for his faith in Jesus Christ. In the event that this occurs, what should we conclude? Did God fail to protect our brother or was there a greater plan unfolding?
As our reading for today includes Matthew 10:39 "...whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" the death of John was no surprise to Jesus. So is the death of every martyr in history. What shall we conclude when the report comes of another believer's life lost to persecution? Shall we question God or shall we reconfirm our devotion to the greater plan as it unfolds?
We must pray with all diligence for our persecuted brothers and sisters (Hebrews 13:3). But as you pray my friend, commit yourself to the cause of Christ at any cost. Be encouraged by those who have paid the ultimate price for faith and stand firm on the spiritual battle field. No matter what may occur in the process, God most definitely has a greater plan that is unfolding.