Thursday, January 31, 2013

"As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him." -- Matthew 20:29-34
Occasionally, when I am shopping with my sweet wife, she will disappear into some aisle like a ninja. I wind up walking from one end of the store to the other looking for my lost mate. When I finally see her at a distance, I never seem to speak loud enough to get  her attention and she disappears again... and the search goes on. Sometimes you just have to speak a little louder.
Along with all the teachings our Lord gave about prayer, we find a perfect example on this occasion. Two blind men would not give up, nor would they tone it down. They wanted to see and Jesus was able to do the job. They shouted and the crowd was irritated, but the Lord had compassion. He honors those who pray without ceasing and give it all they have. Sometimes you just have to speak a little louder.
Do answers seem to be at a distance, but slightly out of reach? Do you wonder if your prayer life is what is should be? Pray, and don't give up. Pray, and open you your heart to the full. Keep on asking, seeking and knocking; for the Lord will have compassion when the world would have you give up. Sometimes you just have to speak a little louder.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last." - Matthew 20:15-16
Some years ago I entered a fast food restaurant with my family and thought that I was at the back of a line. When the next register was open I began to move up when I heard the loudest outcry that I ever experienced in a public place. "Hey, that's not FAIR!!" Apparently I had failed to notice this person lingering in the back and didn't realize that they were waiting to be served. I quickly stepped aside because I would never want to be "unfair".
What exactly is "fair" in this life? And on what basis do we believe that everything should be "fair"? The account that Jesus relates in this passage clearly reveals the freedom that God has to deal with his servants as he chooses. He is generous beyond belief and yet there are those who will always complain that the Good Lord is somehow "unfair". The Lord's call is to be faithful and his promise is to provide for our needs. While "the last will be first, and the first last" may seem "unfair", in everything the Lord is always generous.
Who knows our needs better than the Lord who created us and shows us his care? The Scripture says it best in Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Be careful when you accuse the Lord of not being "fair" my friend. He loves you and pours out his grace every day with divine generosity.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." -- Matthew 19:29-30
During these difficult days of economic tailspin, stories of greed are rampant. We read about officers of large companies that continue to receive rather large annual salaries.  In addition, they receive huge bonuses at year end, even though the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. When we ask if they have made great sacrifices and were worthy of such exorbitant remuneration, we are told, "No, but it's in the contract". Will these "first" of today still be "first" in eternity?
Jesus spoke the above words after a provoking exchange with a young man of great wealth who was unwilling to give it up to follow Jesus. The disciples were in question about the life that sacrifices all for the Lord. Does God ultimately honor those who honor him? Jesus made it clear that when we give up temporal pleasures for the kingdom, eternal pleasures will be ours in abundance. The "last" of today will be the "first" in eternity.
God is all about the bigger picture, are you? Wisdom should lead us to focus on eternity and willingly sacrifice for the kingdom of God. The wealth of today will soon be gone, or certainly be left behind as we move on to our eternal future. Though you may be considered "last" in this life, when you follow Jesus with all your heart, you will be "first" in heaven.

Monday, January 28, 2013

“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."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray." - Matthew 18:12-13 
I love books. Everyone knows this and it has become legendary. Over the years I have accumulated over 4,000 bound books from the early days of having only 5. But after gathering such a large number, I still languish over the absence of one volume ("The Rare Art of Christian Contentment" by Jeremiah Burroughs).  I lent this book to a fellow Pastor in the 70's and it has never been seen again. When it comes to books, each one is a valued treasure.
Jesus loves people. Everyone knows this and it has become legendary. Over the centuries He has accumulated more sheep in His fold than anyone could possible count. But after gathering such a large number, He still languishes over that one that has gone astray. When it comes to His children, each one is a valued treasure.
Well my friend, are you encouraged by the fact that the Lord values you in a most personal and unique manner?  We should be encouraged and motivated in the same way toward others. When we hear the words "Love them like Jesus", what do we think? While we love all God's people together, let us pray for His love to embrace them one by one. Because, when it comes to our Christian family, each one is a valued treasure.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"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
As the presidential inauguration took place earlier this week, people traveled from miles around to participate and observe. There were a vast number of speakers and the program was peppered with inspiring moments. While the entire event was quite an experience, only one person was the ultimate focus... the newly elected president. People from all around the world listened 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, January 25, 2013

"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.   In Luke 16:31 Jesus speaks of Abraham responding to the rich man in hades, “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”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel." - Matthew 15:29-31
During the years of attending Bible College I ministered with a number of other students doing open air preaching and witnessing. We would often set up our equipment in the worst part of the city and   talk with drunks, prostitutes and addicts. When they would actually stop to talk, their stories would break our hearts. Yet, while we would be sharing the gospel with these outcasts, well dressed church people would drive past us in expensive cars to attend a large well-known church just around the corner. They drove by quickly, because they had no heart for the broken.
Our Lord never preached in a large, finely decorated church. He never traveled to speak at large conferences where very important people attended. He was never called upon to be an after dinner speaker for the rich and famous. Jesus spent more days than not with the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and societies outcasts. He never moved by quickly to better neighborhoods because he had a heart for the broken.
My life was marked forever by those broken lives that I met on the back streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a result I have always been concerned for the broken and downtrodden of our world. Jesus said we would always have the poor with us and there are far more hurting people than well-to-do. How about you my brother or sister? Do you share the Lord's compassion for the outcasts? Do you love them like Jesus? Or do you slip by quickly and quietly because you still don't have a heart for the broken?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

“'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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"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"!

Monday, January 21, 2013

"And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." -- Matthew 13:58
No matter how skilled and well trained a physician may be, if the patient has no faith is him, there can be little accomplished. Without faith the patient will fail to cooperate with the doctor's directions. The resources for healing may be abundant, but when doubt prevails we will remain as sick as ever. You've got to believe.
The need for faith in spiritual matters is even more significant. While the Lord alone brings about the miraculous, he looks for believers. He is the abundant resource of all that we need for spiritual and tangible needs. But are we people of faith or doubt? As we read in James 1:6-7, "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord" You've got to believe.
How much is the Lord doing in your life today? Are you seeing a powerful work of spiritual growth and dramatic provision day by day? Or are you doubtful that God will do anything in your life? The writer of Hebrews noted the sad outcome of those who lacked faith in 4:2, "...but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith." He is still a God of the miraculous, but to experience his power, you've got to believe.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn." - Matthew 13:29-30
Down through the years people have made interesting choices of segregation. Many families have chosen to send their children to parochial or church schools, segregating them from the secular educational system. Other folks live in their own communities, totally segregated from the world, such as the Amish. But, whatever avenue is followed, the world and all its secular ways is still ever present. You can't run from the wind.
In this parable, Jesus makes it clear that in His time, and only in His time, will the weeds of the world be removed. He intends for the wheat to grow together with the weeds. While the parable doesn't give us a wide array of reasons for this integration, the Lord leaves segregation for the harvest. The thought provoking concept is this: grow where the Lord plants you, and stop running from the wind.
The great oak grows strong against the pressure of a mighty wind. Believers can also grow strong against the secular winds of unbelief. Integration forces us to stand firm in the faith and give a reason for the hope that is within. It's your choice to make a difference my friend. Grow where the Lord has planted you and stop running from the wind.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” - Matthew 13:23

As you browse through any book store you may find such titles as "Three Steps to Success " or " Four Keys to a Better You". Such books suggest a guaranteed accomplishment if the right moves are made. But, we will find that life is less predictable. Some people are more fruitful than others and the same steps will often produce varied results. Wisdom suggests to do our very best and find joy in the results.
When we read about the seed that was sown on good soil, it is a relief to find differing outcomes. No matter how "good" the soil may be and how carefully it is nurtured, the yield may be a hundredfold, or sixty or thirty. The soil is what it is, and there is no five step secret that will produce a hundredfold. Do your very best and find joy in the results.
Are you driven toward goals achieved by others my friend? Do you feel as if you've failed when you don't have a "big win"? Have you been brainwashed into believing that "second place" is "first loser"? Why not serve the Lord by doing your very best and rejoice in the results?  

Friday, January 18, 2013

"He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."" -- Matthew 12:48-50
I have a friend in Pennsylvania. He is a brother in the Lord and as much a brother in life as any family member. When we are together we share the events of life, our visits to doctors and other family members. Most of all we share the things of the Lord as he talks about the ministry of his church and I talk about ours. I have other such brothers and sisters in the Lord and our relationship runs far deeper than most parents and siblings. While the latter may be related by "blood", the former are related by "His Blood".
Jesus loved his earthly family without question. As he hung on the cross his thoughts included his mother Mary as he entrusted her care to his disciple John. But apart from this 'family" the Lord highly valued his spiritual family even more. Why? The earthly family is just that; earthly. The family of God is both now and eternal. Our elder brother is Jesus (Hebrews 2:11) and as we love him, so should we love one another.
It's only right to care for your earthly family and spend quality time with them. But, never allow earthly ties to reduce your commitment to those who are your brothers and sisters in "His Blood". Being the family of God is a great privilege and an eternal one. How will you encourage and show love to your spiritual family this week?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope." - Matthew 12:19-21
Political debates can be interesting to watch. Many people enjoy listening for the zingers that will cut the opponent to the core. The media will often emphasize the most sharp and abrasive comments and give winning points for them. While very few points are ever given for kind words. But, what kind of people are we most drawn to...abrasive or affirming?
Within the religious community of Jesus' time there were many voices that spoke with sharp and cutting legalism. They had little or no concern for the struggles and sorrows of their fellow travelers. They spoke words that cut to the core, making it clear that it was their way or the highway. Then, along came Jesus...a kind and gracious Savior who spoke gentle words that brought healing to the soul. As a result, the multitudes avoided the abrasive leaders and embraced the affirming Lord.
Proverbs 15:4 tells us that "A gentle tongue is a tree of life". To whom are you most drawn my friend... those who are abrasive or those who are affirming? And how do you admonish and counsel others with the Word of God? Are you a hot wind with a cutting edge, or a breath of fresh air, gentle and gracious? Consider this...abrasive words hurt, but affirming words heal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -- Matthew 11:28-30
There is nothing I enjoy more than ministry. Preaching is an incredible blessing and fulfillment. The only weariness that comes is a physical exhaustion after a long day or week of service. Within my heart I am rested and at peace. Sleep comes easy and joy comes in the morning. I have found rest in Jesus at the same time I have taken his yoke.
The above comment is my testimony of finding rest in serving the Lord. Jesus offers to all who will come, rest from their worries, guilt, discouragement, bitterness, heartaches and anxieties. He brings peace and purpose that satisfies to everyone who will follow him. The rest Jesus offers isn't cessation from work; it's a new labor of love that fulfills the soul and brings joy to the life. What a privilege to be   partners with the Lord as we wear his easy yoke.
Are you following the Lord in your daily life? Have you taken on his yoke, learned from him and found rest for your soul? The invitation has been given and now it's up to you. Rest is not illusive and unattainable; it's a genuine offer to all who will come to Jesus. The promise is his and the privilege is ours... will you come to Jesus today? 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." -- Matthew 10:29-30
One of the world's best-known and most abundant small birds is the "House Sparrow". It lives in towns and on farms worldwide, having accompanied Europeans from its original home in Eurasia and northern Africa. Introduced into North America in 1852, it spread across the continent within a century. A little bird, beyond counting, blessed with God's caring.
Jesus spoke of dangerous times of opposition and persecution for the Christian. But there is never a time that the Lord isn't with every believer, just as he is with the sparrow. The time never comes that Jesus doesn't care. We may feel as if we are one among so many, but the Lord watches over every one of his children. He values those who are His.
Do you feel that you are so very small in the works of the kingdom? Or, that your struggles are not to be compared to the needs of others? Remember that a high price was paid and you are greatly valued by your Lord. You may be one among the countless billions, but you are one assured of countless blessings. "So don't be afraid." 

Monday, January 14, 2013

"And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean  spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these... and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him." - Matthew 10:1-2, 4
Have you ever wondered who your favorite actor or actress truly is in real life? Acting is just that, acting. A good actor can convince the world that they are wonderful or horrifically evil, all in the same year in two different films. They exercise God given abilities and use them for their own gain and glory.
Jesus had a variety of reasons for choosing a man who would later betray Him. But focusing on Judas Iscariot proves to be an interesting study. Here is an individual that was blessed with the incredible privilege of being called by Jesus and equipped with divine power. To the world, Judas appeared to be a true disciple of the Lord and he performed the part quite well. But, he chose to exercise God given abilities for his own gain and glory.
The lesson is sobering my friend. You may have heard the call of God in your life, and been blessed with great skills to serve His church. But without God's saving grace that gives you a new heart, you will only be an actor or actress. You will be exercising your God given abilities for your own gain and glory.
Take care to heed the words of 2 Peter 1:10, "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure..." Be the real deal and be true to the Lord who saved you by exercising your God given abilities for HIS gain and glory.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." -- Matthew 9:36
Crowds may mean little to you, but wherever I go there are crowds. We live in the metropolitan region of New York City. People are in abundance and they are everywhere. The interesting question is this: what goes through the mind when we are surrounded by crowds? Do we see them as a burden, or do we see their burdens?
Jesus was never impersonal or uncaring about the multitudes that followed him. He saw their emptiness and their need for someone to care. He saw their broken and storm ravaged lives and he was moved with compassion. Their need for the Shepherd touched him to the core. To Jesus, they were never a burden; he just saw their burdens with eyes of love.
Are you upset and irritated when you are surrounded by too many people at the mall, on the road or in the grocery store? What do you see with your "born again" transformed eyes? Do you see them as Jesus sees them? Do you see that ... "People need the Lord"?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." - Matthew 9:11-12 
Some years ago, a member of our congregation suddenly slipped into eternity. His death was a shock to the family and friends because he claimed to be in good health. But an autopsy revealed that this dear brother was far from healthy. It was clear that he should have seen a physician months, or even years earlier, but he refused to admit his need.
This is the same situation for those who are soul-sick. Many people hear the Word of God preached or read the pages of Scripture and conclude that they are perfectly well. They ignore the warning signs of sin-sickness and boast of spiritual health. The opportunities for soul healing come and go, but they only get sicker. The sobering truth is this: there is no help for those who refuse to admit their need.
Are you on a path of spiritual decline my friend? Have you denied your condition with some flippant comment such as, "I'm fine"? Do you wonder why the Lord seems so far away and your life seems so empty? Well, our Lord is certainly the "Great Physician" of the soul, but only to those who are willing to admit their need.

Friday, January 11, 2013

"Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”" -- Matthew 8:21-22
Life can become so busy that we lose sight of our priorities. I've been so busy preparing for a trip that I forgot to fill the gas tank. I had a family in our church years ago so preoccupied after church that they left without their daughter. There are some matters that should hold our interest above all else. We need to keep the main thing, the main thing.
Jesus may seem to be quite cruel at this point in his response to this disciple. But, he knew far more about this man than words can express. He knew the heart of the matter and there was something in the picture that was keeping this disciple from the goal. We may have excuses galore that explain why we need to put off spiritual callings. Yet, the Lord knows when we have just lost sight of our priorities.
Have you proposed reasons for putting off the spiritual disciplines and demands of today for another time? Has the Lord called you to a task that you are procrastinating over? Don't lose sight of the goal my friend, and keep the main thing, the main thing!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him." - Matthew 8:15
During the summer months in downtown Bloomfield, NJ, every Wednesday evening is Classic Car night. Many of these treasures have been rescued and restored to be shown on such occasions. These vehicles could easily serve as very dependable forms of transportation, but they sit on the sidelines as showpieces.
Peter's mother was one of a great many who received the Lord's healing touch. Once she was restored she could have written a book and told her story, or visited from one town to the next rehearsing the experience of divine healing. Or she could have just kicked back and enjoyed the special gift that she had received. Instead, she made the greater choice to serve the Lord with her new found health, rather than sit on the sidelines as a showpiece.
 How about you my friend? Have you received answers to prayers for restored health, wealth or strength? Has the Lord rescued and restored your life to such a degree that others marvel at how He has blessed you? Well, what are you going to do with all those blessings? How are you using your new found renewal? Will you follow in the path of a simple New Testament woman and rise up to serve the Lord? or will you just sit on the sidelines and be a showpiece?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." -- Matthew 7:24-25
People spend millions of dollars every year attending instructional conferences, workshops and reading numerous handbooks. Their purpose is improvement of skills or life in general. Sadly, there are many whose skills or lives never change. The reason is simple: they fail to put their learning into practice.
Many Christians suffer from the same experience. They study the Scriptures and read any number of books on spiritual growth. They attend conferences and listen to speakers galore but see little to no change in their spiritual lives. The endless cycle only discourages the average believer as they crumble in the midst of every storm that comes their way. The missing element is always the same: they fail to put their learning into practice.
If you hope to have a strong life, built on the rock, practice is required. You can't just know it my friend, you need to do it. We learn how to pray by praying, we learn how to serve by serving, we learn how to trust by trusting, we learn how to love by loving and we learn how to forgive by forgiving. As always, we can only learn by doing. Some years ago NIKE made the point well in their commercial: "Just Do It".

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -- Matthew 6:21
 My parents bought their first and only house in 1961. They chose to have a house built for them in a new housing development. During the months that followed they visited the hole in the ground, the foundation, the shell and the latter days of completion. There were times that they spent more time inspecting the process than anything else. Through the coming years they also spent an abundance of time on upkeep and improvement of their house. Their heart was in that house.
Jesus taught us a great principle as he spoke the above words in their context. Choose your treasure wisely, for your choice will rule your life. The house I mentioned above was sold in 1973 and my parents never looked back. All the hours, days, weeks and years of effort were past with little to show for the future. Houses and other tangible things are temporal at best. They carry no eternal value, but provide a means to better serve God's Kingdom work. The question is... will you serve a thing, or the King? Only one can have your heart.
Choose your treasure wisely my friend. That choice will most definitely rule your time, talents and toil. But, what will it bring you in the end? The idea has been well worded this way: "Only one life twill soon be passed, Only what’s done for Christ will last."

Monday, January 7, 2013

"You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:48
I level everything in our house. We have a wide variety of levels to do the job right, even a small pocket level if I'm on the run. The principle is simple... you move the object or adjust one side or the other until the little bubble falls in the very center. If you want something straight, you never go by eye; you need a level.
Jesus gives thorough counsel on the depth and demand of Biblical living. He knows that many people will make a concerted effort and be satisfied if they are just a little better than the next person. So, He provides a divine reference point for Biblical living... our Heavenly Father. If you want to live Biblically you can't do it by eye, you need a Level.
When you stop and take inventory my friend, how does your Biblical living appear? Do you pat yourself on the back because you're doing way better than that Deacon or the Preacher? Jesus never said be perfect (or "mature" or "complete") like your friend or Christian leader. We don't ever need to go by eye when we have our heavenly Father as our Level. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ... But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" -- Matthew 5:21-22, 44 
We are surrounded with the age of anger and rage. Everywhere we turn we see people venting their anger on one another. The condition is so prevalent that "anger management" has become a regular prescription for the condition. While there is such a program to help diffuse anger, is there any way to reverse the attitude?
From two of the Lord's lessons we find a word of rebuke and a word of instruction. He allows no room for believers to nurture and express anger and he calls for an opposite response. The answer to reverse anger and rage is quite simple: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you". 
As a believer, have you found complete victory over your anger and rage my friend? If not, why does this attitude visit you so frequently? It could be that you have left an open door for such feelings to enter. Why not take care and lock the door with the padlocks of love and prayer? 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Blessed..." -- Matthew 5:3-11
"Happiness is a Choice" is a title for at least two contemporary books; one secular and the other evangelical. The underlying premise is caught in the title, as the eternal pursuit for happiness is ultimately an individual choice. Many people seek happiness by choosing possessions, positions, or achievements as the source. But such happiness is fragile at best and quickly slips away at the slightest change of circumstance. Can anyone find a happiness that runs deep and forever?
Jesus began the "Sermon on the Mount" with the above word repeated nine times. The word can be fairly translated "happy", but in a much deeper sense than we usually understand. As you follow his teaching you come to realize that this word, or experience, is a fruit of spiritual growth. In the sincere choice and consistent pursuit of qualities such as humility, righteousness, mercy, purity, and peacemaking you will find happiness. Yes, happiness is a choice, but more significantly, it is a result.
We spend our lives in the pursuit of the intangible. We want to be happy, but when we arrive, we are most often disappointed. Has this been your experience altogether too often? Take a good close look at the Lord's teaching and finally realize, my friend that happiness comes from a chosen lifestyle. Happiness was never meant to be an end in and of it. Happiness that runs deep and forever is a result... of Godly living.

Friday, January 4, 2013

"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him." -- Matthew 4:18-20
I will always remember Bill Scevior with tremendous gratitude. Bill led me to the Lord. He had been converted himself sometime earlier and was excited about his faith. He looked for every opportunity to tell others about Jesus. One Sunday morning in the Spring of 1964 he showed me the way to trust Christ as my personal Savior and that day I was born again. Bill was a "fisher of men".
Jesus called the disciples from every walk of life. He gave them a new purpose as they followed him. Their training wasn't focused on religious jargon or theological arguments. The Lord set them apart for a far greater goal in life. They were to reach out to people and lead them Jesus. The disciples were called to be "fishers of men".
No matter what your spiritual gift my friend, the Lord has a greater purpose for every believer. He is in the work of drawing a great catch from the deep. We are called to join him in this effort of bring others to the knowledge of him. The ocean of life is full of souls, floundering around looking for hope and we are sent out to be "fishers of men." ... When was the last time you had a catch?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River." -- Matthew 3:4-6 
I think I have heard the strangest thoughts from pastoral search committees over the years. Here are two; "We can't consider him because ... he's so skinny the wind could blow him over" or "He'll never fit because... he talks like a policeman".  Then there was the church that was quite impressed because the pastor under consideration wore a tie to the search committee meeting. Apparently God can only speak through men of proper weight, who speak eloquently and wear ties. What about the hand of God on his servant?
When we sit back and talk about those great TV preachers or make judgment calls on the latest sermon we heard, on what are we focused? The Pharisees and Sadducees were curious, but John knew that they were unwilling to accept him and were critical  of his preaching. He didn't dress like them and he wasn't eloquent like them. To these religious elite, this preacher was nothing more than a "country bumpkin".  What about the hand of God on his servant?
When God chooses you to speak for him, your dress, looks or smoothness are not the most important issues. When God chooses to speak to you through his servant, none of the above should turn you away either. Ultimately, all that really matters is the hand of God on his servant... is there a Word from the Lord?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written" -- Matthew 2:4-5
Instruction booklets are great when we actually follow their directions. I can't remember how many times I have read one of those booklets, choosing to follow my own plan, and ending up in a big mess. These booklets were not written for our reading pleasure. Directions are only as good as they are followed.
As a group of foreign dignitaries inquired concerning the birthplace of the Messiah, the answer came quickly. The Biblical Instruction Booklet was immediately opened and the answer was found. The priests and teachers were avid readers of the Scriptures. They knew right where to look for direction, but while others quickly followed, they were satisfied in just knowing. Directions are only as good as they are followed.
What have you learned from your Biblical Instruction Book my friend? Are there steps to take that you have put aside for another time? Have you shared such steps with others, so they might find their way spiritually? Don't just read the Bible this year... don't just know the Bible... determine to follow its leading as well. Remember, directions are only as good as they are followed!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."" -- Matthew 1:22-23
Promises, Promises... how often are we given promises that never come to pass? Promises made by our parents, promises made by our friends, promises made by our employers and promises made at the wedding altar are often broken. Over time we become quite cynical about promises and we accept them with a grain of salt. Is there anyone who still fulfills their promises?
The birth of Jesus is the most amazing fulfilled promise in the world. The promise was made time and again, over thousands of years, with considerable detail. God never forgot, and as Paul put it in Galatians 4:4, "... when the time had fully come, God sent his Son". The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, among many other things, tell us that... the Lord always fulfills his promises.
Do you think the Lord has forgotten his promises lately? Have you become cynical and doubtful of his keeping his word? Just remember the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." The Lord is never late and he never fails to fulfill his promises.