Sunday, March 31, 2013

"And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them." - Luke 4:38-39
People desire good health for a number of reasons. They yearn for renewed strength to travel, play sports or make more money. There is also the undying hunger for "eternal youth" without any real goal. Some people make every effort to prolong the "looks" of youthfulness even when age has taken its debilitating toll. But, what good is health without a plan to use it well.
Peter's mother-in-law didn't hesitate to put her healing to good use for others. When the Lord touched her and lifted her up she immediately began to serve. Her renewed strength was a blessing and she knew just how to show her gratitude. She served the Lord and those who joined Him in ministry. She had new-found health and had a plan to use it well.       
Well my friend, are you praying for healing and new strength for the days ahead? Should the Lord bless you, what will you do with what He gives? Give it some thought; when you finally have a new lease on life with health and vigor, what's your plan?


"For many Christians a full heart is the only apologetic for the truthfulness of Christianity and the belief that Christ is risen. A subjective feeling of hope and joy as expressed in a full heart, however, is not sufficient testimony. Many explanations can account for full hearts, but only one can adequately account for an empty tomb and the resurrection appearances. Ground your faith in the objectivity of history, and your heart will be both sure and full."
- R. C. Sproul, The Face of God

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth... When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath." - Luke 4:22, 28
I grew up in the New York metropolitan area and have been a New York Yankee fan since the days of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. This is not very unique since there are more Yankee fans than anyone could number. There is one characteristic about New York fans that proves to be a tough nut to swallow; when the team wins they're loved and when they lose it's the wrath of Khan!
From the very beginning of His ministry the Lord experienced a similar contrast. When His words were gracious, the crowds loved it and when He spoke convicting truth they were filled with wrath. Such people are still with us today; those who are happy to feel good about themselves but never guilty before God.
When you speak to others about Christ my friend, never hesitate to give the bad news and good news. While many people only want to hear comforting words, without the whole truth hearts will never experience conviction. And without conviction there won't be repentance toward God and faith in Jesus. The Lord always told the whole story and so should we.

Friday, March 29, 2013

"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.
From day to day you and I are led by the Holy Spirit into the fire of trials. We are led by Divine design to prepare us 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.

Do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)
This inscription placed by the hands of the Master over the Feast of Love might well be made the watchword of our whole Christian life. The Lord's Supper is a sort of microcosm, or miniature, of the believer's life. Over every moment, every word and every action we may well inscribe, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19).
After good Archbishop Darbly had been murdered by the Paris Communists, they found upon the walls of his dungeon the sketch of a rude cross, with these four words marking its extreme dimensions: height, depth, length, breadth. To his devout spirit the cross seemed to measure the love of God and the grace of Christ in its height and depth and length and breadth.
The arms of that cross are wide enough to cover every need and every experience of our daily lives. Its foundations are deeper than our deepest sorrows, and our loftiest heights of rapture can never reach above its heavenly altitude. It is God's measure not only of His love, but of our lives.
The medieval saints used to erect, in the center of the market square of every town, a simple cross, so that it came to be known as the Market Cross; and it may still be seen in many of the older towns of Europe. The simple and beautiful idea was that the cross should dominate all the business of earthly life, and that all transactions, interests and concerns should be under the shadow of the cross.
"Under the shadow of the cross"—how much this phrase suggests of sweetness, sacredness and practical consecration. Perhaps you are wearing a cross around your neck. Does the heart that throbs beneath it beat true to its holy meaning? Are the words that come from that throat, whose necklace is clasped by the symbol of His gentleness and suffering, in keeping with the cross you have to wear? Are the habiliments of your person and the habits of your life suggestive of Him whose only marks of honor were the thorn cuts, the spear gash and the blood of agony on Calvary?

Let us contemplate the cross in its practical relation to our actual Christian life.

- A.B. Simpson, The Cross of Christ

Thursday, March 28, 2013

“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.
As you continue into the New Year, 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?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 
" - Luke 2:51
"But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 
" - Matthew 3:15
Every sports team has one head coach and many players. Quite often the best coaches are those who were once players themselves. They are good leaders because they were good followers. A true "servant-leader" understands the value of both qualities in the game of life. Obedience is the prerequisite to oversight.
Jesus is our Lord and Master, yet at one time He was an obedient son and cooperative baptism candidate. He set the example for all "servant-leaders" as mentioned in Hebrews 5:8, "Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered." Obedience is the prerequisite to oversight.
Do you have the qualities to lead others my friend? God may have called and gifted you, but the lessons learned through submission to others are character building. And just as significantly, our continued surrender to the Lordship of Christ is imperative. Obedience is always the prerequisite to oversight.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." - Luke 2:16-18 
There never seems to be a lack of gossip sheets in the grocery store. The competition is centered on getting the dirt out as fast as possible, whether it's right or wrong. The practice is a timeless drive called "getting the scoop". This fervor is also supported by the idea that "people need to know". Well, the real scoop is; people need to know the truth.
The shepherds were given the scoop about Messiah's birth. First they traveled to Bethlehem to see the Child with their own eyes and then spread the story. These "wise shepherds" got the details straight before they spread the news. As a result, "all who heard it were amazed" since the scoop was life changing truth.
Are you quick to spread the news about the latest event? Do you have a craving to be the first to share the story? Have you ever been as excited about telling others about the Lord? There is no greater scoop than to tell someone who has never heard about Jesus the wonderful story of salvation. People need to know the truth!

Monday, March 25, 2013

"because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high" - Luke 1:78
We move into spring with a number of expectations, some of which may have spiritual focus. We may intend to attend church more regularly, become more involved in some outreach ministry or offer to serve in the upcoming Vacation Bible School. But, are these hopes similar to those of last fall or the beginning of the new year? Our walk with God is filled with many good intentions but failed efforts. How does the Lord put up with our dropping the ball again and again? Because of His tender mercy, the sun rises every morning.
The Hope of Israel and ours is found in the fulfilled promise of Malachi 4:2, "But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall." For those who know, love and fear the Lord there is a tender mercy to allow us new beginnings every day. As little orphan Annie put it, "the sun will come out tomorrow", and when the "sun" is Messiah Jesus there will always be "healing in His wings".
Be encouraged my friend to enter the spring with fresh hope. When the Lord holds you in His eternal grip, He does so with tender mercy. And you can face every day with the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-23, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior'" - Luke 1:46–47
History serves us well, as long as we keep personalities in perspective. Great men and women of the past may be portrayed as heroes and heroins. They may have performed significant feats that qualify them as such, but the fact remains that they were just as human and frail as the next person. As David reminds us in Psalm 103:14, "For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust". No pedestal of fame can change this fact.
Biblical history serves us well too. We will find a pantheon of spiritual giants as we skim through the Scriptures. They include those who were strong leaders, bold heralds of truth and skilled builders of God's kingdom. Among these personalities is the woman that gave birth to Jesus. Her name was Mary and she was blessed with great privilege. But her own words testify of a basic truth: she needed a Savior, and God met the need. Even Mary believed what David wrote in Psalm 14:3, "...there is none who is good, not even one." No pedestal of fame can change this fact.
If we learn anything from history, we understand that all people are sinners, in need of a Savior. If Mary, the mother of Jesus, rejoiced in God her Savior, everyone has the same need. No one is so heroic, strong, bold or skilled that they are not equally dust, without true goodness and God in this world. (Ephesians 2:12). There is no pedestal of fame high enough to lift you above the need for a Savior.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"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."

Friday, March 22, 2013

"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).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” - Mark 16:6-7 
Job said, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." (Job 42:5) The occasions that I have been told something and forgotten the information is legendary. As well, I am always amazed how often we announce events at our church that are never heard. As my Dad would often say, "some things go in one ear, and out the other." 
The day that Jesus rose from the dead was an amazing morning. To the disciples though, it was an unexpected event, but how could that be, since they were told time and again by our Lord? He had taught so much and the most important truth was his promised resurrection. While the followers of Jesus could have lived from Friday to Sunday with great expectations, they were saddened with overwhelming hopelessness. What Jesus had said about rising again, went in one ear, and out the other.
Jesus is coming again. There is no doubt in my mind, because he said he would. If we have heard and read this, do we live in expectation? Or do we live with a hopeless Friday to Sunday outlook? Jesus will meet us in the air, just as we've been told. How then shall we live? May this great truth go in one ear... and change our lives.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." - Mark 15:37-38
On November 17, 1558, Mary Tudor died. That moment brought the end of a bloody reign of persecution which caused the death of some 300 protestants. The passing of this volatile queen opened the door for a new queen and the English Protestant Church. The curtain was finally torn.
Such was the day of our Lord's crucifixion. As He breathed His last, the days of legalism and ritualism were ended. A new day of grace and mercy had arrived for all who would embrace the finished work of Jesus. All who were religiously weary and burdened would find spiritual rest for their souls. The curtain was finally torn.
Why labor for that which has already been purchased my friend? Why carry the load of religious trappings and stained glass rituals when the door to spiritual freedom has been opened? Take the hand of the One who breathed His last for you and walk into the light. The curtain has been torn and it's a new day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified." - Mark 15:15

It is said that comedian Milton Berle had his mother sit in the front row when he performed. She would laugh loudly and heartily when a joke fell flat and usually the audience followed. In this scenario each person would respond to the actions of others in complete contradiction to their own feelings. The influence of the majority has often led to wrong decisions that were regretted later. It takes courage to swim against the current.
Pilate was a significant political leader in his time. He was entrusted with serious and demanding responsibilities. Yet, in his leadership role, he was torn between what he knew was right and what he knew was politically correct. He fought hard, but eventually caved into the cries of the crowd. Filled with fear and political pressure, attempting to avoid further conflict, Pilate lost his courage to swim against the current.
Are you willing to stand alone with Jesus? Or does the crowd play a large part in your choices and conduct? Who do you strive to please from day to day? Are you led by God or by man? The day that you accepted Jesus as your only means of salvation, you stood apart from the crowd. As a follower of Christ today, will you be courageous enough to live the right way and swim against the current?

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept." - Mark 14:72
Emotions greatly differ. Some people rejoice at weddings and others cry, some weep at funerals and others grow quiet, some rejoice at the moment of salvation and others shed tears. No matter how we show emotions, there are moments in life when our souls are touched to the core. The heart that cares is always moved in times of joy or pain and sorrow. The question is: Do we care?
Peter was quite confident that he would never betray his Lord. He followed Jesus to the courtyard and watched as the trial began. He was recognized and in fear he denied the Lord three times, just as Jesus predicted. Peter's emotions were moved at his failure and he wept because he cared.
Does betrayal of the Lord move your heart and emotions? Are you deeply saddened when you sin? Take a closer look at Peter today and then consider your own heart. Have you become so familiar with the process of sin and forgiveness that you no longer feel sorrow when you fail the Lord? We grieve the heart of God whenever we sin (Ephesians 4:30)... Do we care?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'" - Mark 14:35-36
A young person desires to become a doctor. The path of education and internship is more than grueling. Another individual plans to become a Navy Seal. The training is more than overwhelming. Then there is an athlete that has an eye on an Olympic Gold medal. The preparation absolutely consumes their life. Great goals demand great sacrifices.
Our Lord saw the incredible cup of suffering that was ahead, and He prayed for possible deliverance. But as always, Jesus was fully committed to the will of the Father. He knew the value of our souls and our need for deliverance from sin. He went to the cross with his eyes wide open and heart surrendered. A great goal demanded a great sacrifice.
What has the Lord called you to accomplish my friend? Where has he placed you in His vineyard to labor? Is the work too demanding, or have the years been too discouraging? Have you come to the place where you have experienced your own "Gethsemane"? After you have poured out your heart, may you join the Lord in the words of surrender... "Yet, not what I will, but what you will." Why should you willingly yield? Because, great goals demand great sacrifices.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same." - Mark 14:30-31
There was a time that a man's "word" was his bond. As devotional writer Oswald Chambers once wrote, "It is better to run the risk of being considered indecisive, better to be uncertain and not promise, than to promise and not fulfill." Words are good, but action is where real devotion comes alive.
Peter and all the other disciples spoke with great determination, but when the pressure came, where were they? Jesus knew the heart of everyone, as we read in John 2:25 that He... "needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man." Words of faith take conviction, but steps of faith take courage.
In time the disciples came to know both conviction and courage as they fulfilled the great commission. Do you speak too quickly and make commitments without counting the cost my friend? Remember that at best, we all have feet of clay so, "... be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." (Ephesians 6:10) In His strength alone will words become action.

Friday, March 15, 2013

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” - Mark 13:32–37
During my college years I worked for a security company. My responsibilities included traveling to all our locations every night to be certain our guards were doing their jobs. I lost count of how many times I found guards asleep at their desks, in their cars or somewhere in the building. I never kept the same schedule, so they never knew when I would arrive. I learned that it takes real effort to stay alert.
Jesus taught a great deal concerning his second coming, but he never pinpointed a set time. He simply left his disciples and all believers with a word of council: Be on guard! Be alert! Watch! He intended for us to stay on top of our game as we waited for his return. He doesn't want sleepers; he wants his followers showing real effort to stay alert.
You can study prophecy for years and still live like the Lord's return will be sometime in the next millennium. The Lord calls us to be spiritually on point. What are you doing to redeem the time for the Lord today? When the Lord returns will he find you showing real effort to stay alert? 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time." - Mark 13:21-23 
Henry Ford had no idea what the auto industry would become. From a simple form of transportation, to cars that cost far more than most homes. And along with the wide array of models to choose from comes the legendary "salesmen". As the industry has gone out of control, so has the sales floor. While you might occasionally find an honest salesperson, the truth is this: buyer beware, because deception rules the day.
Deception is in the wind and Jesus told us ahead of time. Being deceived over the price of a car is small potatoes compared to being led astray spiritually. Every town is peppered with car lots and churches. Anyone can find a car or a religion, but will it be the right one? While, you might be able to unload your "lemon" before you suffer too much loss, your loss will be eternal if you buy into a false religion. Buyer beware, because deception rules the day.
Jesus made it very clear in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." and again in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." While the Model T Ford has "come a long way baby", Jesus is still the same "yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) Deception may rule the day, but it doesn't have to rule your heart my friend. Be on your guard and trust in Jesus, because He alone is the real deal!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?" - Mark 12:24 (NIV)

My Bible software of choice is Logos. While I have other computer programs for Bible study and sermon preparation, I find this resource to be the best. After using Logos for over twelve years I have only scratched the surface of its potential. Yet, while having a variety of font sizes, screen options, search formats and study guides, the real power is still in the Scriptures themselves.
Jesus spoke to those who should have known the Scriptures well, but they were too caught up in their traditions and arguments over minutiae. They had slipped into error and furthermore, they were oblivious to the power of God. As they drifted from truth, they also misunderstood the purpose and provision of God for the future. Hope was dashed due to lack of study and faith. They had little to offer those in need since they didn't know the Scriptures or the power of God.
Are you aware of all that you possess in the Word of God my friend? Do you realize that the power of God can change your life and provide every need for now and all eternity? Do you study the Word to learn all that it has to offer? Do you trust the Lord for his capacity to do the impossible? Imagine, even without a computer, you can know the Scriptures and the power of God.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard." - Mark 12:2
Maryhill Winery opened in 2001, but it wasn't long before it became the 15th largest winery in a state seemingly overflowing with successful wineries. Craig and Vicki Leuthold established this family business with the goal of creating a quality and beautiful destination winery. But, this would never have happened if there had been no fruit.
Why should the Lord's expectations be any different? He planted his people in a land of unbelief and idolatry. They were supposed to make a difference by influencing others with a thriving faith in the living God. By such a lifestyle they should have been very productive, but sad to say... no fruit.
Has the Lord's expectations changed for us? Hmmm... well, lets read John 15:8, "This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." Let's not just be "busy" in ministry from year to year my friend. God placed us in His vineyard for His eternal purpose and glory... to bear much fruit.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs." - Mark 11:13
At the beginning of every baseball game both teams look like winners. Their uniforms are clean and pressed and their cleats are crisp and sharp to grip the field for a stellar game. From all appearances the game should produce amazing scores for both teams. But quite often the outcome will be disastrous for one or the other competitor. Looks never guarantee fruit.
While the reader might find the encounter of Jesus with the fig tree a puzzle, the illustrated point is quite clear. As with the leaf bearing fruitless tree, so were God's people of that day. From a distance they looked real good, but up close there was only emptiness. Spiritual looks never guarantees spiritual fruit.
You might be well prepared for your next ministry assignment my friend. But, it doesn't always matter how you dress or how you look. What really matters is a life of spiritual fruit. Don't just be satisfied with the pinstripes on your uniform or green leaves on your limbs... it's all about the hits and the fruit. Be productive for Jesus!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” - Mark 10:47-48 
I often marvel at those who are facing situations that require the help of a specialist. I ask them if they have contacted the right person for an appointment and I am told that they called and left a message. Many weeks may pass by with no return call, so they give up.  When you really want help... you've got to keep asking.
Blind Bartimaeus was weary of being blind and wanted relief. He heard that Jesus was passing by and cried out for help. The crowds rebuked him, but he was determined and wouldn't give up. When there appeared to be no answer, he "cried out all the more". This poor beggar recognized that he had to keep asking.
Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:7 to keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. His reasoning had nothing to do with his being too busy or unable to hear. He wants us to exercise faith and determination in our asking. The issue comes to this: everyone needs help, but not everyone wants help. Those who really want help from the Lord will keep on asking.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” -- Mark 10:33-36
Have you ever listened to a discussion between two children? Quite often you will hear two conversations about very different topics and neither child has any idea what the other is talking about. We can understand this phenomena occurring with children, but when it takes place with adults it is quite revealing. Someone isn't paying attention.
Jesus spoke of a series of dramatic events that would fall into place in a short time. These moments would be painful, challenging and life changing for everyone. Yet, in the very midst of this revelation James and John were focused on their own selfish desires. As a result, they totally missed the Lord's message. They weren't paying attention.
Do you ever come away from your devotions, Bible study or worship having missed the Lord's message my friend? Is it possible that He was speaking quite clearly, but you were preoccupied with your own selfish desires? In the spiritual school of life, great truths are only heard by those who pay close attention.

Friday, March 8, 2013

"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." - Mark 10:15
Statistics tell us that conversions to Christ are fewer in number during the latter years of life. One might think that the older a person is, the wiser they would become and therefore more prone to believe. But, too often age brings pride and self-sufficiency. On the other hand, children generally know nothing of either deficiency.
Yes, I speak of pride and self-sufficiency as deficiencies. Anything that inhibits an individual from receiving the kingdom of God is most definitely a deficiency. All too often, the more that we know, the greater our arrogance. The more we achieve, the greater our independence. Jesus came right to the point... keep it simple like a child, or you'll never get the picture of faith.
When was the last time you turned down the helping hand of someone my friend? Do you wonder why you did that? Was it really because you didn't want to impose? Or was it a deeper issue of personal pride and self-sufficiency? Accepting the helping hand of the Lord and embracing his grace demands nothing more and nothing less than a child-like faith.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest." - Mark 9:33-34
I've been told that at certain business luncheons the biggest moment is who gets to pay the check. The decision is made by who has had their American Express Gold card the longest. The earlier the year the most successful the person. It's all about being ahead of the rest of the crowd by being first.
Who is the greatest? While the argument was quite heated, it couldn't be answered by credit card memberships. Furthermore, when the disciples were asked to admit the subject of their discussion, they were rather quiet. Why not tell Jesus what was on their mind? Could it be that they already knew that to be first, one had to be servant of all?
We live in an upside down world my friend. Our Lord, Creator and Redeemer has made certain things quite clear. The way of worldly success is quite upside down. If you want to get ahead of the rest of the crowd, you can only get there by being the very last, and servant of all. Take a lesson from the one who... "did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"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.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"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!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

“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.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak." - Mark 7:37
In the 21st century, people are still intrigued enough by illusionists to pay good money to see their shows. The awe factor seems to be alive and well as audiences watch the varied escapades of a Chris Angel, David Blaine or David Copperfield. It is a sad fact that while so many are amazed by an illusion, they are ho-hum when it comes to the truly miraculous.
When the Lord traveled throughout town and country, he performed many miracles. People were overwhelmed by the power of God present in His ministry. They sought the Lord Jesus from miles around; some for healing and others to simply sit under His teaching and observe His mighty works. For these followers, there was a genuine astonishment beyond measure as they experienced the truly miraculous.
How about it my friend? After you believe that you've seen it all, have you lost the ability to be astonished beyond measure? Is there little or no room for the awe factor when it comes to the mighty power of God? Have you lost the very sense of expectation? And as a result, do you rarely ask the "impossible" from our Lord? Remember, there was a day that "the wall fell down" (Joshua 6:20), "the sun stood still" (Joshua 10:13) and "the iron did swim" (2 Kings 6:6 KJV). The Lord does all things well, so expect the truly miraculous and be astonished beyond measure!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

"And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’" - Mark 7:6-7
Isn't it ironic that many people criticize those who are devoted to the company for which they work? They use a derogatory term for such a person by calling them a "company man". There doesn't seem to be any employee loyalty any more. They are very few who have an undivided heart for their employer.
As we read the passage above, we understand that loyalty and devotion has been a rare commodity for generations. Most people are simply focused on themselves and have no real devotion to anyone, including the Lord.  They honor Him with their lips and surface obedience to get all they can out of Him. They are very few who have an undivided heart for the Lord.
Which will it be my friend... lips or heart? Will you wear the cross or proudly display your "fish" bumper sticker, but spend most of your time on personal pursuits? Do you ridicule those who you consider to be "fanatics" for Jesus? Maybe it's time to leave the crowd behind and become one of the very few who have an undivided heart for the Lord.

Friday, March 1, 2013

 "When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened." - Mark 6:47-52

Spring is coming soon. Just a month ago I had my snow blower all revved up, getting ready for another storm. Soon the flowers will be blooming, the trees will be budding and the grass will be growing. I'll be so caught up with getting the lawn mower ready to cut the grass that I'll be oblivious to the miracles around me. Spring is amazing, and if I'm not careful I'll miss the beauty and wonder of it because my familiarity and busyness has 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. He's performing miracles moment by moment and if you're not careful, you're going to miss it. As spring arrives take time to watch as the flowers bloom. Slow down and feel the breeze across your face. Take note as the grass sprouts 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.