Sunday, November 17, 2019

"But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises." - Hebrews 8:6
Over the years Sears has made the practice of categorizing their products as "Good, Better and Best". The practice has caught on and a vast number of retailers are now doing the same thing. The consumer is left with a choice that will be affordable and work for them. Sadly, many people must settle for the "Good" or "Better" because they simply cannot afford the "Best". Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could have the "Best"?
In spiritual matters though, everyone can have the "Best" or "superior" product. In comparison to the old covenant of works and all other religious expressions, the ministry of Jesus is "superior". The new covenant is founded on "Better" promises and therefore, He will be our God and we will be his people by faith and the Lord will forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more. Now, that is the "Best" offer to all who will receive.
Why try to work your way to heaven? Why follow religious teachings that always fall short of changing your heart? Give up the "Good" and "Better" and accept the "Best" as you trust Jesus and all His promises. Remember, "Whoever believes" (John 3:16) can have the "Best"!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

"God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." - Hebrews 6:18-20
Our family has lived near the ocean for many generations. We have lived through, and survived, some of the most historic hurricanes that Long Island and New England have ever experienced. So, we know that when storms are brewing, many ships are taken out into deep waters and anchored. This prevents damage from the dock and others ships. The anchor protects from drifting and provides safety in the storm.
In like manner, believers have an anchor for the hurricanes of life. Their anchor is a hope that protects from drifting and provides safety in the storm. This hope is founded on the Lord who never lies and it gives an assurance for our soul that is firm and secure. The old gospel song says it this way, "I've anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest".
Why are you tossed every which way in the storms of life? Do you not have an anchor of hope in the Lord? When the winds start to howl, drop anchor my friend and find rest for your soul in Jesus.

THE HAVEN OF REST
Henry L. Gilmour

My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea, so burdened with sin, and distress, till I heard a sweet voice saying, “Make me your choice!” And I entered the 
Haven of Rest.

I yielded myself to His tender embrace, and faith taking hold of the Word, my fetters fell off, and I anchored my soul—The “Haven of Rest” is my Lord.

The song of my soul, since the Lord made me whole, has been the old story so blest of Jesus, who’ll save whosoever will have a home in the Haven of Rest!

O come to the Savior—He patiently waits to save by His power divine; Come, anchor your soul in the Haven of Rest, and say, “My Beloved is mine.”

Chorus: I’ve anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest; I’ll sail the wide seas no more; the tempest may sweep o’er the wild, stormy deep —  
In Jesus I’m safe ever more.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house." - Hebrews 3:1-2 
Over the years I have performed more weddings than I can count. Every time I review the ceremony, I see that timeless word "faithfulness". The phrase is "and thereto I solemnly pledge to you, my faithfulness." Later in the ceremony, rings will be exchanged with the words "This ring I give you, as a sign and pledge of my constant faith and abiding love". And yet, the number of divorces every year continues to stagger the mind. When will we fix our thoughts on Jesus, who taught us the meaning of "faithfulness"?
Faithfulness to marriage, to family, to our employers and to God's calling in our lives is as important today as it was for Jesus and Moses. We are so comforted when we think about God's faithfulness to us in times of need, but how faithful are we to our promises? True faithfulness will come from hearts that are focused on Jesus and are full of faith.
Being faithful may be difficult at times, but if we begin everyday fixing our thoughts on Jesus, determined to live by faith, faithfulness will follow. Consider the words of David in Psalm 15:1-2 and 4, "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart ...who keeps his oath even when it hurts" Be faithful my friend, even when it hurts.

Monday, November 11, 2019

"For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." - Hebrews 2:17-18
My wife had a physical condition some years ago that required medical attention. Of all the Doctors we visited, our family physician was the most understanding. Why? His understanding came, not from his training, but from his experience. This doctor suffered from the same condition as my wife. Because he also suffered, he was able to help.
The wonders of our Savior's incarnation are more than the mind can conceive. But, one aspect that is most comforting is the fact that our Lord suffered when he was tempted, and is able to help those who are tempted. His mercy comes from who he is and what he has experienced.
We should never find ourselves saying, "No one understands". The song writer was right on point when he wrote, "No One Understands Like Jesus". The next time you are struggling with the temptations of life remember, you have a friend who suffered more than you, and he is able to help you through it all.

NO ONE UNDERSTANDS LIKE JESUS
No one understands like Jesus.
 He’s a friend beyond compare;
 Meet Him at the throne of mercy;
 He is waiting for you there.

No one understands like Jesus;
 Ev’ry woe He sees and feels;
 Tenderly He whispers comfort,
 And the broken heart He heals.

No one understands like Jesus
 When the foes of life assail;
 You should never be discouraged;
 Jesus cares and will not fail!

No one understands like Jesus
 When you falter on the way;
 Tho’ you fail Him, sadly fail Him,
 He will pardon you today.

CHORUS:
 No one understands like Jesus
 When the days are dark and grim;
 No one is so near, so dear as Jesus–
 Cast your ev’ry care on Him!

Words and music by John W. Peterson.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

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

Friday, November 8, 2019

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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

"For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain."- Titus 1:10-11
A number of years ago a friend took a trip to New York City. While she was there a street vendor sold her a wireless phone for the house. When she returned home and opened the box, she found a number of rocks nicely wrapped in Styrofoam. She had been deceived and sold a box of rocks. She was led astray.
There are those in the church community that are selling boxes of rocks today. They are religious charlatans. They talk well and are winsome in their appearance, but they are deceivers at heart. The outside looks good, but their teachings will ruin whole households. They do all this for the sake of monetary profit. Those who are not careful will be led astray.
Time and again we are reminded in the New Testament to be spiritually discerning. We are counseled to tag those who teach error and rebuke them. We may be encouraged to be tolerant in many ways, but when it comes to the gospel message, we should only accept sound doctrine. "Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (vs. 9) and you won't be led astray.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

"Do your best to come to me quickly,  for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." - 2 Timothy 4:9-11
How sad to see marriages deteriorate because the husband or wife has become too caught up in their career. Their love for each other has been replaced by an overwhelming love for the job. The preoccupation can also be something or someone else, but whatever the reason, the relationship is deserted... for the love of another.
Demas was committed to the Lord and Paul as they labored together in the ministry. Then he fell in love with the world and left it all behind. What a sad legacy to be recorded in the Scriptures for all time. It seemed that over the long haul the world wooed Demas from his first love. He deserted Paul and the mission... for the love of another.
Where is your devotion today my friend? Are you as committed to the Lord and his call as you were in the beginning? Does the ministry of the Word still have your wholehearted devotion? Or have you been wooed away by another pursuit and deserted His greater purpose for your life... for the love of another?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:14-17 
I remember the first Boy Scout knife I owned. It was more than cool; it had a knife blade, fork, spoon, and can opener. It was all a guy ever needed for the emergencies of life. Today I own a wide selection of knives that include a number of "Leatherman" products. A "Leatherman" is more than cool; it has multiple knife blades, a saw, scissors, multiple screwdrivers, a file and still more than I can list. It is all that a guy will ever need for the emergencies of life.
When Paul rounded out his counsel to young Timothy, he directed him to his spiritual "Leatherman". He reminded Timothy to continue to use it with confidence. He reviewed the many qualities of the tool and explained how useful they are in daily life. When all was said, Timothy was assured that the Bible was all a guy will ever need for the emergencies of life.
Take a moment to look at your spiritual "Leatherman"... isn't it more than cool? Do you have it sharpened in your heart and ready for use? Do you use this spiritual tool that God has blessed you with day by day? The Lord didn't give us His Word to set on the shelf. When he gave us the Bible, he gave us all we will ever need for the emergencies of life.

Monday, November 4, 2019

"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." - 2 Timothy 2:1-2
During the Olympics we find a wide variety of competitive races. Most involve one athlete who will carry the whole race by themselves.  But the "relay" race depends on the involvement of many. At certain points in the race the next athlete picks up the cause until they pass it on to the next team member. The relay race is all about "passing the baton".
When Paul taught, mentored and wrote Timothy he was passing on the great truths of the gospel. He expected Timothy to do the same by entrusting these truths to reliable believers who would also pass them on to others. Gospel truths are not to be hoarded and kept as eternal trophies. They are intended to change our lives and be passed on to a new generation. We are expected to "pass the baton".
Every believer has great gospel truths to pass on to others. The theme of the "Great Commission" is the heartbeat of this passage. We are to "make disciples", who will "make disciples", who will "make disciples". Who are you mentoring today? Do you have someone to whom you are "passing the baton?"

Sunday, November 3, 2019

"May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus." - 2 Timothy 1:16-18 
There are those of whom we can ask help if it's convenient and there are those who will drop everything to help. It's even rarer to find a person who will go out of their comfort zone to search for someone to help. Such a person truly refreshes the soul.
Onesiphorus was just such a person to Paul. He searched hard for Paul until he found him and then helped him in many ways. At a time of great discouragement, this Christian Brother came along side when he was needed the most. His effort far exceeded a kind word and it brought him into the most uncomfortable settings, but as a result, he refreshed Paul's soul.
Are you waiting for the opportunity to help someone to come knocking at your door? Are you available only when it's convenient? Why not be an Onesiphorus today and search for someone who needs help? Why not make the time today and... Refresh someone's soul?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." - 1 Timothy 6:17-19 
In response to the question "How much money is enough?" John D. Rockefeller answered "Just a little bit more". This is the aim of many who are in pursuit of wealth. They are all about the acquisition, not so much the usage. Such a goal in life becomes an end in and of itself and everything else becomes secondary. Their whole life centers on "Just a little bit more".
The command of Paul was focused on the usage of wealth for the blessing of others. His counsel was to hope in God, do good, be generous and share. Such a life seeks to be a blessing, and when asked "How much blessing is enough?" will answer "Just a little bit more."
Has God provided for your needs? Have you acquired any amount of wealth over the years? What do you do with your monetary blessings? Are you hoarding your pennies for the days ahead or are you being a blessing to those in need? May each day be a new opportunity for blessing others "Just a little bit more".

Friday, November 1, 2019

"Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity." -  1 Timothy 5:1-2
Of all those who have darkened my office door for counseling, the problem of broken relationships has been most common. People just can't seem to get along with each other. Whether they be family members, co-workers or fellow believers at church, healthy relationships can be hard to maintain. Relational harmony begins with the way we treat one another.
The elder statesman gave wise counsel to the younger pastor when he emphasized proper treatment of age and gender. Paul knew that true community depends on mutual respect, honor and purity. It's not always "what" we say as much as it is "how" we say it. Words can heal or hurt, and as Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:24, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."  Relational harmony begins with the way we treat one another.
How do you speak to those who are older than you? For that matter how do you speak to your peers and those who are younger? The choice of words, tone of voice and body language can be a "make or break" in your relationships. Be wise and think before you speak because... Relational harmony begins with the way we treat one another.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

"Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth." - 1 Timothy 3:14-15 
Rules, rules, rules... growing up was so hard to do, with all the rules. "Don't run with scissors", "No cookies before dinner", "Wash behind your ears", "Call if you're going to be late" and the so the rules went on forever. What a relief to leave home so we could leave the rules behind. But then we found new rules at college, in the military or at the work place. Why so many rules? ... They keep us on course.
Paul was concerned and burdened for "God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth". He knew that certain rules of conduct were necessary for the health and effectiveness of God's household. Paul wasn't into legalism; he just wanted the church to be a spiritually strong foundation of the truth. Why so many rules? ... They keep us on course.
There is no home, business, school or army that can run smoothly or be "all that it can be" without rules. You may run from rules or fight against rules, but they are there for a purpose. Your church and its leadership are bound by the rules of Scripture to be a strong foundation of the truth. Don't fight it or keep asking "Why so many rules?"... They keep us on course!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." - 1 Timothy 2:1-2
Some historic trivia allege that President James Buchanan was so disliked by some that his picture was stamped on the bottom of hotel chamber pots. Criticism for our presidents has been a national pass time for generations. But when did disrespect for the presidential office ever bring change to the nation? Though we may disagree with our leaders, we must choose to tear them down with criticism or lift them up in prayer.
Paul lived at a time when the Caesars ruled the world as gods. They demanded worship, but their moral and social depravity was legendary. Yet, Paul called for prayer and thanksgiving for "kings and all those in authority" without exception. While others tore the Caesars down with criticism, Paul chose to lift them up in prayer. 
We can listen to any number of political commentators today that find unending fault with our national and local leadership. The more we listen to them the more unsettled we become and nothing is changed. Yet, there is a choice for change... you can spend quality time tearing your leaders down with criticism or you can lift them up in prayer.
____________________________________

A CALL TO PRAYER

Knowing that intercessory prayer is our mightiest weapon and the supreme call for all Christians today, I pleadingly urge our people everywhere to pray. Believing that prayer is the greatest contribution that our people can make in this critical hour, I humbly urge that we take time to pray—to really pray. Let there be prayer at sunup, at noonday, at sundown, at midnight—all through the day. Let us all pray for our children, our youth, our aged, our pastors, our homes. Let us pray for our churches. Let us pray for ourselves, that we may not lose the word ‘concern’ out of our Christian vocabulary. Let us pray for our nation. Let us pray for those who have never known Jesus Christ and redeeming love, for moral forces everywhere, for our national leaders. Let prayer be our passion. Let prayer be our practice.

                                                                                      - Robert E. Lee

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." - 1 Timothy 1:15-17 
We live in a world that focuses on self-image to a fault. You can subscribe to such magazines as "Self", "All You", "Ego" or "Me" and learn how to be the center of your universe. In this world there is no place for "sinners" or people in need of mercy. In an age of "me, me, me", there is no place for someone else to be the King eternal... the only God.
Paul was more productive in his lifetime than any CEO could ever hope. He was a highly successful leader, writer and motivator. But when Paul looked in the mirror he only saw the worst of sinners who received mercy. It could be that God chose to use this man because he had a realistic view of himself and his Lord. In humility, Paul worshiped and served the King eternal..the only God.
Have you figured out what hinders your spiritual growth the most? As you begin each day, do you freshly establish this fact: There is a God... and you're NOT him? Are you willing to face each day recognizing that you are a sinner, saved by grace and living under the merciful care of the Lord? God uses humble people who depend on him. Believers grow to unbelievable heights when they worship and serve the King eternal... the only God. 
________________________________

A VERSE TO PONDER

 "For this is what the high and lofty One says— 
he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 
“I live in a high and holy place, 
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, 
to revive the spirit of the lowly 
and to revive the heart of the contrite."

Isaiah 57:15

Monday, October 28, 2019

"Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith." - 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
I once had a very nice office chair. It rolled on five wheels and moved whenever and wherever I desired. Over time one of the wheels broke into a million pieces. For a while I replaced it with a tennis ball... but that didn't do the job. The whole chair lost its value and effectiveness because one wheel was gone. I needed five wheels, not just four.
Ministry is a lot like that chair. We can be well prepared with all the training and skill available, but without the fifth wheel of prayer, we won't roll. Paul was a premier missionary with a stellar record of conversions and successful church plants. He was thoroughly studied in the Scriptures and could stand toe to toe with any philosopher of his day. Yet, to keep rolling, he needed "fifth wheel" people who would pray for his ministry.
Your pastors and missionaries have been called of God, academically prepared, and chock full of experience. But they will never roll for God on a tennis ball. They need the fifth wheel of prayer. My friend, you can be, and need to be that wheel. "Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored".

Sunday, October 27, 2019

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." - 2 Thessalonians 2:15 
We collect lighthouses. We visit them while on vacation and regularly add to our collection of miniatures and pictures. Lighthouses remind us of being a light in the darkness and a guide to wayward. They are those great stone edifices that stand firm in the storms and send forth the light that saves from a watery grave. God also places lighthouses on the shores of this world to save souls from eternal damnation.
Paul writes of coming days of increasing evil and tribulation. He assures believers of their deliverance from this time, but until those days arrive he calls us to stand firm and hold to the teachings passed down to us. The winds of time may bring change, but the truth remains the same: Those who refuse to love the truth will perish, and those believe the truth will live eternally. As we spread the light of this truth, we are God's lighthouses.
There is no lighthouse of worth that doesn't stand firm in the midst of the storm. The lighthouse serves the mariner with the same purpose today as it did hundreds of years ago: it gives light to show the way to safety. Stand firm my friend, hold to the teachings passed down to you and be the lighthouse that God called you to be.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

"With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." -  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
It's that time of the year when people begin shopping for Christmas gifts. As usual, there will be various gifts that need to be returned for exchange. They will be returned for another size, color or style. Some may even be returned because they just aren't needed. Gifts are best when they meet personal desires and needs.
Prayers are much the same as gifts. There are those prayers that seem to be an unending list of unspecified thoughts repeated with very little personal content. Paul prayed in view of his prophetic insight for the Thessalonians. He touched their spiritual needs and spoke about "every act prompted by your faith". His prayers were always personal and spiritually focused for the greatest growth and God's glory.
May I encourage you today to look carefully at this prayer and all of Paul's prayers for the churches? Learn from these prayers how to pray personally, powerfully and precisely. Move your requests for spiritual growth and success to the forefront and focus on each person's desires and needs. Check the registry before you pray.

PAUL'S PRAYERS: Romans 15:5-7; 16:25-27; 1 Cor. 1:4-7; Eph. 1:15-20; 3:14-21; Phil. 1:8-10; Col. 1:9-12; 1 Thess. 3:11-13; 2 Thess.1:11-12; 2:16-17; Philemon 4-6.

Friday, October 25, 2019

"And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone." - 1 Thessalonians 5:14
As every snow flake is different, so each one of God's children is different. We are different in many ways and our spiritual journeys differ in both speed and level of maturity. A lesson I had to learn early in my ministry was this: everyone is at a different place in their walk with God and I need to be attentive to this fact. I need to be sensitive to their diversity and be kind.
Paul urged the Thessalonians to warn, encourage, help and be patient. Some brothers were idle, some were timid, some were weak and some just needed patience. I recently heard someone use the term "E.G.R. people" (Extra Grace Required people) for those who had special spiritual needs. Showing the love of Jesus is needed by everyone, but especially by "E.G.R. people". Be sensitive to their diversity and be kind.
Who are the believers that live in your circle of ministry? Are they all up to speed spiritually? Or do you find many of them are still struggling in their stability and growth? Be a good brother or sister and be patient and kind to your "E.G.R. people.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

"Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more... And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more." - 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 10
We live in a world that's all about improvement. Improve your looks, your job, your education, your car, or your house. We're never satisfied with the status quo. As in the Dickens classic, Oliver Twist, we are always asking, "Please, sir, I want some more".
What about our spiritual lives? Paul mentioned the phrase "more and more" twice in this chapter. He instructed these believers to "live in order to please God" more and more and "love all the brothers" more and more. In both cases he noted a current lifestyle of Godliness, but he didn't want them to settle for just enough. He wanted to see spiritual improvement, "more and more".
Have you become satisfied with your spiritual life, while being driven for more worldly gain? What efforts are you making to improve your walk with God and your love for the brethren? The next time you want bigger and better or you're planning some home improvements, ask yourself, when was the last time you did some "heart improvements"?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

"So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them." - 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3
Some time ago twin babies were found abandoned outside a fire station in Shawnee, Oklahoma. A note attached read, "Take care of my babies. I'm poor and can't do it." Over a period of twelve months, 570 other children have been abandoned in the state. Such stories are sad and quite troubling when children are born into the world and left alone without care.
There is another type of birth when someone is born again into a spiritual life. Paul knew that such children needed care and protective love. With this concern, "when he could stand it no longer", he sent Timothy to provide the proper spiritual nurture. Paul never led someone to Christ and abandoned them, alone without care.
Have you lead someone to the Lord recently? Do you have plans to care for their spiritual needs as new babes in Christ? Will you make the time to follow up their "new birth" with spiritual mentoring and discipling? Or, do you know someone who has recently been born again and abandoned? Allow God to use you as spiritual parent and give them the nurture and care that they need.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy." - 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
Years ago our church was blessed with a Cherub Choir that would often sing during the worship service. The group was made up of children from first through sixth grade. Our attendance was usually bumped up with parents, grandparents and extended family members. Relatives would come out of the woodwork to see, hear and encourage their young ones. Children are a glory and joy.
Paul was a busy missionary who also wrote volumes of Scripture and planted churches throughout his world. Yet, his greatest thrill was to lead a person to Christ and nurture them in the faith. He found this to be the very foundation of his ministry. Paul loved people in the Name of Jesus and cared for believers as a mother and father would. To Paul, spiritual children were his glory and joy.
Where do you look for true satisfaction in life? What brings you the greatest sense of fulfillment? When was the last time you led someone to Christ and nurtured them in their faith? My friend, this will bring you the thrill of a lifetime and it will last a lifetime. Love people like Jesus, lead them to the foot of the cross, encourage them in their walk with God and they will be your glory and joy.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Motivation...

"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Thessalonians 1:3
Years ago my father worked for a nationwide retailer that gave its employees a vested interest in the company. The more they sold, the more shares they would be awarded. As they succeeded, the business succeeded, and as the business succeeded, so did they. This company learned that success comes from a healthy motivation.
Paul greatly appreciated the work, labor and endurance seen in the Thessalonians. He noted that they were a motivated group of believers who were driven by a much deeper commitment than most. Their faith empowered them to work hard, their love encouraged them to labor diligently and their hope invigorated them to endure to the end. Three spiritual qualities kept them motivated in the most difficult hour.
Faith, love and hope; every believer has these qualities, but not often drawn upon for motivation. From time to time, we will face the giants, but every day we will have to deal with the little foxes that pester us in our spiritual walk. The work, labor and endurance will be difficult at times, but trust in the Lord with all your heart, love the Lord with all your heart and hope in the Lord with all your heart and you will be sufficiently motivated for the greatest success.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

People ...

"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." - Colossians 4:5-6 
It has been well said that one minute after death no one will say, "I wish I had spent more time at the office!" Or, "I wish I had put more time in home improvement!" When the tally sheet is opened for evaluation, I believe the greatest regret will be that more time wasn't spent with people.
While it is true that "you can't take it with you", it's also true that you can certainly "send it ahead" by making the best use of your time with people. Be wise with your use of time my friend and embrace every moment to be a blessing to others. Give them love, mercy, and grace, but above all... Give them Jesus!   

Think about this: "Jesus... wants us to see that the neighbor next door or the people sitting next to us on a plane or in a classroom are not interruptions to our schedule. They are there by divine appointment. Jesus wants us to see their needs, their loneliness, their longings, and he wants to give us the courage to reach out to them."
         - Rebecca Manley Pippert

Saturday, October 19, 2019

What to wear...

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." - Colossians 3:12 
They say that clothes make the man. That may or may not be true, but clothes often tell a lot about the person. An immoral person will dress promiscuously, and a moral person will dress modestly. Most often the outer appearance is a reflection of the inner attitude.
Throughout this chapter Paul emphasizes the believer's daily choice of dress. He is focused on the spiritual clothing, not the material. When we have put on a "new self" (vs. 10), our heart changes and our outer appearance takes on a whole new look. When we are God's chosen people, we dress accordingly.
You are a child of the King my friend. The kingdom attire isn't expensive suits and gowns; the clothing of the court is "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience". Before you spend time in your clothes closet thinking about what you will wear today, spend time in your prayer closet putting on the clothes that reflect a new heart.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Filled...

"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority." -Colossians 2:8-10 
Self help books and new life-changing programs are beyond number. The issue comes down to this;  people feel inadequate to face the challenges of life. Sadly, even believers find themselves in this deceptive rut. The lingering value of previous conferences quickly slips away as a new approach enters stage left. If the child of God would look within, they would have no need to look elsewhere.
The problem stated above is far from new. Paul found it necessary to give warning and counsel to the believers of his day. There have always been charlatans and profiteers that would take captive poor souls who were insecure. Human traditions have always been attractive for the moment. But in time, every tradition and philosophy loses it's luster and inadequacy returns with a vengeance. There is only one timeless answer that never fails the child of God. Look within, for you have been filled in HIM.
Where is your adequacy, security and sufficiency my friend? Do you feel as if the ground on which you stand constantly slips away? Is there a sense of hollowness in your philosophy of life? Well, take a moment and gaze upon your Savior. In Him the fulness of deity dwells and you have have been filled in Him, and He is all you need!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Basics...

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." - Colossians 1:9-10
You can dress your car to the fives with the slickest hubcaps, sport suspension, finest audio system and sharpest interior tweaking. Yet, if you don't change the oil and keep the engine in good shape, eventually all that you will have is a pretty lawn ornament. You need to take care of the basics.
When you look carefully at Paul's prayer for the Colossians, he was all about their spiritual condition. I have no doubt that he had concern for their physical and financial issues, but his priority was for their knowing the will of God and living in a manner worthy of the Lord. He always prayed about the basics.
When you attend your church prayer service my friend, what is the focus of prayer? Prayers are lifted up for broken bones, lost jobs, safe traveling, church projects or youth activities. While all these requests are important, how much time is spent on the spiritual welfare of people? When do we pray without ceasing that our church family would be filled with spiritual wisdom to bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God? Are we really praying for the basics?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Thoughts...

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." - Philippians 4:8
When our boys were children we had all kinds of toys to entertain and challenge their abilities. One such toy was called "Domino Rally". After a lengthy domino creation was built, the last step was to knock the first domino down and watch the rest follow. Life is like falling dominoes. Tyrone Edwards put it this way... "Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny."
When Paul wrote to the Philippians he directed them into a life of humility, joy, gentleness and contentment. While all this comes from a close walk with the Lord, it begins in our thought life and from there the spiritual dominoes will fall. When thoughts are right, your actions and lifestyle will be right.
What are you thinking today? What preoccupies your mind? Only you can choose what you think about. If you want to live a Godly life, start with your thoughts and the rest will fall into place.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Put it into practice...

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained." - Philippians 3:13-16
Our family Doctor has his own medical practice. I often wonder what it is that he practices. He updates his expertise quite regularly through various workshops and seminars, but what does he practice on me? Over time I have concluded that aside from the newest upcoming procedures, he takes what he has already learned and puts it into practice.
Paul was driven to grow in Christ. He wasn't satisfied to stay where he was spiritually. He pressed and strained toward greater goals for the Lord. But while he pursued new ground for Jesus, he was careful to live up to what he had already learned. Paul always put his gains into practice.
Are you living up to what you've learned today? Or are you occasionally preoccupied with new stuff and slip back from the basics? Don't ever lose sight of what you've already learned and be sure to put it into practice.

Think about this: "Practice is the soul of knowledge."
                                                    - Thomas Adams

Monday, October 14, 2019

No complaints...

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" - Philippians 2:14-15 
Whenever I plan to make a major purchase of electronics, appliances or a car, I spend hours reading product reviews. They are some help, but the complaints are often beyond belief. Given the opportunity, people will complain about the silliest things and expend incredible time and effort in the process. It's such a joy to meet someone who doesn't complain.
Paul wrote about the humility and sacrifice of our Savior in this chapter. He pointed us to Jesus as our example for selfless living. This kind of lifestyle will always produce people who face life without complaining and arguing. As a result our lives shine like stars in the world, with quality, purity, and contentment. People will listen to our witness because they see our consistent joy.
No one likes to be around complainers. Arguments turn people away. But we have been sent into the world to bring the light and joy of the Gospel. The next time you want to complain, consider the Lord's selfless sacrifice for us and find reason to rejoice. To win people to Christ, you often have to woo them first.

Think about this: "Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses."
- Alphonse Karr

Sunday, October 13, 2019

He always finishes...

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:4-6 
Throughout history, works of art have been left unfinished, for a wide variety of reasons. Some of these have, over time, become quite valuable as is, while others have little or no value. No matter the outcome, every artist begins their work with high expectations of finishing.
Paul was full of expectation as he prayed and worked for the Lord. He had great confidence that his labor would never be in vain. He knew that the Lord's work would certainly come to completion in those he had led to Christ. It is God alone who saves, sanctifies, and sustains us until the end. And God always finishes what he starts!
Are there times when you feel spiritually depleted and wonder if the Lord has given up on you? Did you begin your walk with God with great excitement, only to arrive at a place of confusion and doubt? Stop for a moment and remember... You are God's work and He always finishes what he starts! 

Think about this: "God watches and weeds us, and continues his labour upon us, till he brings us to the end of his promise."
                                                                 - Richard Sibbes