Sunday, July 21, 2019

Close Examination ...

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." - Acts 17:11 
A Cubic Zirconia or a beautifully cut diamond... which would you prefer? Given the stone was free for the taking I am sure most people would choose the real thing. From a distance you might be fooled, but under close examination, there is always a difference. Our world is full of knock-offs and fakes that catch the eye and skillfully mimic the original. To know the difference you need a close examination.
In the days of Paul, there were many traveling orators; some brought truth and some deception. As a result some people became very cautious as they listened to visiting speakers. Some were of far more "noble character" than others and carefully compared Paul's teachings with Scripture. These were men and women who wanted the real thing, so they made time daily for a close examination. 
In the same way today, there are charlatans who mimic true preachers of the Word. They look slick and they are enticing. Their words are smooth as they smile their way into your heart but, are they giving you the truth of the Word? Which would you prefer... a Word from God or a word from man? To know the difference we need to be in the Word daily for a close examination.

Think About This: “Sadie,” a Labrador retriever belonging to the Charles Thurber family in Terra Linda, California, was ordained as a minister of faith by the Hilltop House Church in San Rafael. The dog’s name and $15 were submitted by the Better Business Bureau of San Francisco through a newspaper ad. By return mail Sadie received her “Certificate of Ordination.”

Anyone can be ordained...
but only those called of God will have a word from God.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

God always makes a way...

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened." - Acts 16:25-26
I often marvel at the way some roads have been cut through rock. As one travels along, many roads have been cut through entire mountains. As our country was settled and access from one city to the next was needed, nothing ever got in the way of progress. Engineers always made a way.
When Paul and Silas were on the missionary trail, God had an agenda for them to fulfill. On occasion they were slowed down or "tied up" for the moment. While the Lord had good reason for such moments, moving on to the next city was necessary. Nothing ever got in the Lord's way of spiritual progress. God always makes a way.
Are you "tied up" right now, when you know there are great tasks ahead to accomplish? Is it possible that there is an immediate purpose of which needs to be attended? Be about the Lord's business where you are, and allow God to open the doors for future work in His time and way. Nothing ever gets in the Lord's way of spiritual progress. He always makes a way.

Think about this: "God can never be outmanoeuvred, taken by surprise, or caught at a disadvantage. He is a God who knows no crisis. Before an emergency arises, God in his providence has made adequately and perfectly timed provision to meet it."
                                                                                   - J. Oswald Sanders

Friday, July 19, 2019

Our Divine GPS ...

"Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." - Acts 16:6-10 
I recently used a Google map for directions and learned a new meaning for the word "lost". The stories are unending about wild and woolly experiences brought on by internet map usage. Using such maps is like using our own heart for spiritual guidance. The chances of our arriving at the wrong place are most often guaranteed. If we want to find the right road to take in life we need to use our Divine GPS.
Paul and his team were passionate about reaching their world for Christ. They were truly "on a mission" that drove them forward with great energy. They were careful though, to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. If He said "no" to one direction they considered other ways until He said "yes". When they followed the Lord's leading, people came to Christ. They were wise and therefore blessed when they faithfully followed the directions of their Divine GPS.
Are you using a flawed "map-quest" today by following your heart? Where will your passion or drive lead you in the decisions of life? The Lord will lead you in His way, and His way is always best. Be wise and therefore blessed by following the directions of your Divine GPS.

Think about this: At a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bobby Richardson, former New York Yankee second baseman, offered a prayer that is a classic in brevity and poignancy: “Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”

Thursday, July 18, 2019

No sacrifice too great...

"... men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ." - Acts 15:26
From year to year we read about those who have risked their lives for the sake of others. This summer the raging fires of the southwest led a number of firefighters to even lose their lives for the welfare of many local families. For these public servants, there was no sacrifice too great when lives were in danger.
From the very early days of the church there were those who risked their lives for the sake of others. They faced persecution, loss of possessions, comforts, family and friends. All this was willingly laid down for the spiritual welfare of lost souls. For these faithful servants, there was no sacrifice too great when lives were in danger.
When you look around today, what do you see my friend? Are there not hundreds of men, women and children who are living outside the saving grace of the Lord Jesus? Consider the words of Romans 10:14: "But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" Will you be the one who will sacrifice everything for sake of those who are in danger? Are you ready to risk your life for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Think about this: "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him."
                                                                              - C. T. Studd

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Just as your are ...

"No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” - Acts 15:11 
Shortly after we married, Jayne and I adopted a little dog. Her name was Jenny and she was the sweetest pup anyone could ever have. We went to a rescue shelter one afternoon and looked around until we came to a litter of pups that had just arrived. One small pup... the "runt" of the litter spotted us and kept coming to us wherever we moved. We couldn't imagine what she would look like when she grew up, but she won our hearts and that day we took her home... just as she was.
Paul pleaded with the church leadership to stay on point concerning the work of salvation. No one is saved and adopted into the family of God because of what they bring to the table. The Lord takes us into his family through his grace alone. The day we come to Jesus, he saves us from a homeless and hopeless future, out of a heart of grace and love... just as we are.
Becoming a child of God is far more significant than being an adopted dog. But in a way, the simplicity of the process is similar. Have you come to Jesus, saddened by, and repentant of your sin? Have you come with nothing to offer but a heart cry for mercy? He will save you and love you with an everlasting love. You don't have to be the "Best in Show" to win the heart of God. He will take you into his family by his grace alone... just as you are!  

Think about this: "Perfection demands perfection; that is why salvation must be by grace, and why works are not sufficient."
                                                  - Donald Grey Barnhouse

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Exceeding the demands...

"When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." - Acts 14:21-22
Navy SEAL training prepares candidates for the extreme physical and mental challenges of SEAL missions. Those who are up to the challenge will be in incredible physical shape and possess the confidence, determination and skills needed to succeed in any combat environment. Training exceeds the demands.
Paul had severely suffered for his faith, only to rise up and press on for Christ. He then returned to those disciples of earlier days to strengthen and encourage them in preparation for many tribulations. He wanted them to be in incredible shape to succeed in any spiritual combat environment. His training exceeded the demands.
Are you training to be God's SEAL my friend? Have you taken seriously the challenge to be in great spiritual shape for the battle? Are you in turn training others to be confident, determined and skillful in spiritual warfare? Does your training exceed the demands?



Think about this: "The whole Bible and all past history unite to teach that battles are always won before the armies take the field. The critical moment for any army is not the day it engages the foe in actual combat; it is the day before or the month before or the year before...."                                                 — A. W. Tozer, Topical Reader

Monday, July 15, 2019

Are you prepared?

"But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe." -- Acts 14:19-20
How committed are you to the cause of Christ? Some are willing to give a day here or there, while others are ready to give their all for a whole season or year. Still others are faithful through life until they grow weary from labor and age. But, who is prepared to go the distance?
Paul set an example to follow that takes in all of the above and more. His commitment went from day to day, through a lifetime and never gave up. When he was stoned to the point of death, rather than slipping away in the night he "rose up and entered the city." Paul was always prepared to go the distance.
Has there been too much demand on your energy and time lately? Have you found little to encourage you in your efforts for Jesus? Are you tempted to retire and let someone else take over? Commitment is for every day and a lifetime, with or without the accolades of men. We are called by the Lord, from the very first day of our new life to go the distance. Are you prepared?

Think about this: "The sign of our professed love for the gospel is the measure of sacrifice we are prepared to make in order to help its progress."
                                                                                - Ralph P. Martin

Sunday, July 14, 2019

For Freedom ...

"Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." -- Acts 13:38-39
Laws are written because men are sinful. Society would be chaotic without legal guidelines and the nature of man reinforces this everyday as laws are broken. Mankind is bound to laws by chains of sin and true freedom is out of reach. Where can one turn to be free?
The message of Paul alerts us to the great fact of freedom in Christ. As we are forgiven, we are set free from the power of sin to live for God. Our new found freedom is given so we might live as we should, not as we want. There is no law that could ever set us free in this way.
What are you doing with your freedom in Christ my friend? Are you living as you want, or are you living as you should? Do you yearn for God's will and way in your life, or have you returned to bondage of sin? Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." 

Think about this: "Freedom does not mean I am able to do whatever I want to do. That's the worst kind of bondage. Freedom means I have been set free to become all that God wants me to be, to achieve all that God wants me to achieve, to enjoy all that God wants me to enjoy."
- Warren W. Wiersbe

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Make the time...

"In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." - Acts 13:1-3
With the advent of cell phones the question "when will it be convenient to call?" has become more significant than ever. When will we be best prepared to receive a call from someone? The real issue is when will we have the time to listen and respond? But for some special people in our lives we are always willing to "make the time'.
The prophets and teachers of Acts 13 had gathered together to worship the Lord. Even in a busy ministry schedule they slowed down and stepped aside to worship and fast. It was in this setting that the Holy Spirit extended a fresh and challenging call to Barnabas and Saul. They heard his call and responded because they had "made the time".
When will it be convenient for you to take a call from the Lord? Is there time in your daily and weekly schedule when you simply stop the busyness to worship? In those quiet moments you are saying to the Lord "Speak, for your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:10) God always has a fresh and challenging word for you if you will "make the time". 

Think about this: "To stand by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and to give oneself again to God, what more could a man ask?  Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth.  I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him."   


                                                                      -- Jim Elliot in The Journals of Jim Elliot

Friday, July 12, 2019

What do you expect?

"When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished." - Acts 12:12-16
There are some people who hear the weatherman announcing rain, and choose to leave for work without their umbrella. Why are they so quick to reject the news? Why not take the update seriously and prepare for the storm? The answer is simple... they have little faith in the report.
The disciples were gathered together in prayer, but did they believe that God would answer? At first blush I am sure they would claim a great confidence in the Lord. But, when Peter came to knock, they were overwhelmed with shock. They had little faith in the Lord.
When you pray for rain, do you bring your umbrella? When you ask the Lord to intervene and provide for your needs, do you expect great things? Or are you surprised when He suddenly does the impossible? When you pray, are looking for real answers, or do you have little faith?

Think about this: "Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand."                                                                                                   - Augustine

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Are you really?

"...The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." - Acts 11:26
I attended a college in Tennessee during the seventies and worked full time to pay the freight. When I spent time with fellow workers from the area I was often tagged a "New Yorker". I spoke a little different than they did and I had an urban lifestyle that reflected where I was raised. It was simple; I was called a "New Yorker" because I was!
There are three occasions in the New Testament that believers are called "Christians"; in the above passage, Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. The term was originally a derogatory tag. But it was a term that expressed one truth about the believers... they were "Christ Ones". Their speech was different and their lifestyle reflected the One they followed. It was simple; they were called "Christians" because they were!
Today people are called "Christians" for the most unwarranted reasons. To many, it is nothing more than an empty religious tag, but, what about you? If you are called a "Christian" or "Christ One", is it true? Is your speech different and does your lifestyle reflect the One you follow? Are you called a "Christian" because you are?

Think about this: "Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion—it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ."
                    - Billy Graham

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Here comes the Judge...

"And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."" -- Acts 10:42-43
The news is regularly filled with unfolding court cases. We learn the details of one legal battle after another, with judicial decisions that are often quite controversial. We have recently been saddened by the decisions made by the highest judges in the land. Yet, could there be a higher and more righteous judge to whom we will be accountable?
There is one and only who has been appointed to be judge of the living and the dead. Jesus Christ was foretold of by the prophets and belief in him alone will bring forgiveness of sins. He is more than a prophet, more than a teacher and more than a great religious leader. He is the one to whom all mankind is accountable.
This message has been the same since the early church to this very day; it needs no improvement or addition. Peter preached this truth with powerful results and we are still commanded to preach Christ, crucified, risen and coming again. The only way to prepare for eternity and our standing before the Lord is trust in him today, before it's too late.

Think about this: "It is no inconsiderable security that we shall stand before no other tribunal than that of our Redeemer."
                                                                                     - John Calvin

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Were they changed?

"The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends...  Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people... “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." - Acts 10:24, 27, 47
Holidays come and go, and with them the gatherings of family and friends. There are many times through the year when you will invite people to your home to celebrate holidays, birthdays, graduations and even sporting events. At the end of each occasion everyone will leave, well fed and filled with fond memories. But, have they been changed?
Cornelius was a man with great social prestige. I'm sure that he had many occasions to entertain family and friends.  Yet, this gathering was different than any other before. People didn't gather to eat, drink and be merry. They came together in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord had commanded Peter to tell them. (Verse 33) At the end of the night no one wanted to leave, because... they had been changed.
This is the question: Is your home open for others to gather to hear the good news of Jesus? Do you make plans through the year to invited family and friends to hear a missionary, see a Gospel movie or have a Bible Study? Cornelius wasn't even converted yet, and he filled his house to evangelize. When was the last time someone left your home having been changed?

Think about this: Men may not read the gospel in seal-skin, or the gospel in morocco, or the gospel in cloth covers; but they can't get away from the gospel in shoe leather.
                                                                    - Donald Grey Barnhouse

Monday, July 8, 2019

A Barnabas ...

"When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus." - Acts 9:26-27
I well remember the first year or two after Bible College. I was seeking the Lord's direction for ministry and looking for any opportunity to preach. My pastor was a kind and gracious man who took me to ministerial fellowships and introduced me to fellow pastors. As a result, I was invited to preach at different churches and one eventually called me as their pastor. My pastor, George Bogan, (who later became my father-in-law) was a true "Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36) to me. Everyone needs a Barnabas.
Paul shook his world for Jesus. He had the courage and tenacity that very few men have. He traveled throughout his world three times with the gospel message and debated with the wisest men of the day. He wrote volumes of deep doctrinal truth that even Peter found hard to understand. (2 Peter 3:15-16) Yet, Paul needed an encourager to come alongside and introduce him to the disciples in Jerusalem. Paul needed a Barnabas.
Be wise my friend, and don't try to go it alone. We all need someone who will be an encourager on the road of life. At the same time, there is someone that the Lord has brought into your life that needs you to be their encourager. Will you answer that call? Just remember... Everyone needs a Barnabas.

Think about this"He climbs highest who helps another up."  - Zig Ziglar

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Suffer or success?

"For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."" -- Acts 9:16
Suffer or success... Here we find two opposite poles  Many people are willing to give all they have to succeed, but not many are willing to suffer. They want great gain without any pain. But, what kind of gain will they have?
Paul was chosen of the Lord to suffer for the sake of his name. It was all about the cause of Christ. Today there are many who believe that Christians should be successful and prosperous. Yet, if they have to suffer for the Lord's name, they back off. They want great gain without any pain; even if the gain is the cause of Christ.
As we serve the Lord, let us remember his words in John 15:20, "'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." If the cause of Christ will be our gain, there will be pain. But, oh what a gain it will be!

Think about this: "There are no gains without pains."   - J. C. Ryle

Saturday, July 6, 2019

How are you led?

"And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” ... And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing." -- Acts 8:29, 39
Some people are led toward making money. Others are driven toward success at any cost. Still others are all about living the "good life". In a very real sense, everyone is led by something. What is it that leads you?
Philip was led by the Holy Spirit. He willingly dropped everything to go where the Lord wanted him. When he had accomplished his task, he was off again, led by the Spirit elsewhere. As a result of going where he was led, Philip had the privilege to share the good news of Jesus with someone who was ready to believe. All this happened because he was at the right place at the right time.
That is the key to being led correctly my friend. When the Lord is the one leading you, it will be certain that you will be at the right place at the right time. Make the right choice every day; look for the Spirit of God to lead you step by step and you will be surprised how he will use you.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Right hearts ...

"But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God." - Acts 8:20-21
We hear it all the time; "Everyone has their price!" There seems to be a general sense that everything in life can be purchased. People have been known to buy freedom from justice, positions of power, as well as academic recognition. Some even believe that the good things of God are for sale. The truth is, God's blessings are reserved for those whose hearts are right with Him.
Centuries have come and gone, but very little has changed in the misunderstanding about the things of God. As much as Simon believed that the gift of God could be purchased, there are those today that give large sums of money to the church with ulterior motives in mind. They are persuaded that God will bring success to their business, and eventually they will have a special place reserved in heaven. But, they tend to forget, God's blessings are reserved for those whose hearts are right with Him.
Have you been convinced that God can be bought my friend? When you are ill do you seek His healing work by doing good works or giving large gifts? Such thinking is not far from the ways of Simon the magician. God freely cares for His children out of love and grace. These are gifts that can never be bought. Remember, God's blessings are reserved for those whose hearts are right with Him.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Great gain ...

"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria... Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." - Acts 8:1, 4
On two occasions, our family has moved to new church ministries. Both times the change has been quite a shock to our lifestyle. Yet, each change brought spiritual challenge and significant growth. When the Lord is in the change, it can be of great value. Change for the sake of change can be a real pain, but... change for God's sake will bring great gain.
The intriguing truth of this passage is found in this fact; Acts 1:8 begins to unfold in Acts 8:1. Persecution brought change in lifestyle and led to many believers moving to new and unfamiliar regions. Yet, wherever they went, they preached the Word and people came to Christ. While the change was frightening and very unsettling, it was for God's sake and... it brought great gain.
Great persecution may not be breaking out in your life, but events may be occurring that are bringing unexpected change. Since God is always in control, you can be sure that this change has divine purpose. Will you pray for the Lord's wisdom to get the most spiritual value out this change? Remember, when God is in the change, there will be great gain!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Tragedy to Triumph

“Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord" - Acts 7:30-31
D. L. Moody was a powerful and productive american evangelist of the nineteenth century. From his conversion in 1855 throughout the 1860s Moody grew to be quite the Christian worker and preacher. But on Sunday, October 8, 1871 he concluded his evening sermon in Chicago and shortly afterward a fire broke out, burning on until Tuesday afternoon, consuming much of what Moody had built. In the months that followed the young preacher came to realize that he needed to stop moving forward on his own, but first wait on the Lord for for His direction. Tragedy became triumph in Moody's life.
Moses had launched out on his own and murdered a man in the process. He was forced to flee for his life and spend the next forty years on the far side of the desert, shepherding flocks. At a ripe old age of eighty one would think that his usefulness was ended. All his youthful dreams and fervency were long gone with the passing years. But, the lesson was clear, until we breathe our last, God is not finished with us. In the hands of God, the greatest tragedy can become a triumph.
Have you had a few fires or dry desert years my friend? Are you dreams and personal aspirations all gone up in smoke? Well, come alone to the wilderness bush and find the divine fire of new dreams and aspirations. Take time and listen for the voice of God and let him turn your tragedies into triumphs!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Rescued ...

“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household." - Acts 7:9-10
Martin Luther was a man of great conviction and courage. As a result, he found himself hiding in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. During this stay at Wartburg, which he referred to as "my Patmos", Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German and produced a wide array of theological writings. As God was with him, in time he was rescued from his afflictions and returned to Wittenberg.
The story seems to be the same throughout the ages. Those who serve the Lord may suffer persecution in many ways, but God is with them. As we think about Joseph we must realize that he spent thirteen years in servitude and prison. The time was sufficient to embitter the best of us, but Joseph only grew stronger and more effective for His God. In the end, God rescued him and blessed him abundantly.
Are you in the Wartburg Castles or Egyptian dungeons of life my friend? In such dark hours find a way to carry on with great purpose for your Lord. Seek to be a blessing by blooming where you are, and in time... the Lord will rescue you out of your afflictions too.

Monday, July 1, 2019

MVPs ...

"So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”... So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. - Acts 6:2-4, 7
As every football season concludes MVPs (Most Valuable Player) are recognized and honored. What about those players who were not so valuable? Would any game be won without them? Where would the quarterback be without an offensive line to protect him? Who would run with the ball if there were no wide receivers or running backs? And how would the ball get through the uprights without a kicker? The simple truth is... every player is a MVP.
The disciples were not better than others, nor were they too good to wait on tables. They had been assigned a certain task for the growth of the church. They needed others, who were spiritual and wise to carry out other tasks. It wasn't a matter of who was more valuable; it was a matter of each team member doing his or her part to grow the church. The simple truth was... every player was a MVP.
What task has God assigned for you to do in building his church? Do you feel less important than the next person as you labor for the Lord? Do you think the pastor, elders, deacons or teachers are more valuable than you? Maybe you are one of those mentioned but someone has more responsibility than you. Keep this in mind; God has strategically assigned each one of us to achieve his purpose. That makes YOU quite important in the growth of His church, so remember... every player is a MVP.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Get in the game!

"The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ." - Acts 5:41-42
Summer is here, and with it comes the national pastime… baseball. Week in and week out, every team will play hard with dreams of being the world champion. Since only one team will win that coveted trophy, the rest will finish the season disappointed, but determined to play again next year, with renewed focus on the big prize. They are passionate about the competition and willing to suffer the pain and even the losses to play. They want to be in the game.
The apostles were persecuted for their faith and threatened. They suffered the humiliation with joy and pressed on with passion. They were determined to reach others with the good news at any cost. They would continue to experience setbacks of opposition, but they would never stop speaking for Jesus. They wanted to be in the game.
Are you passionate about your faith? Are you determined to tell others the good news about Jesus? Paul said there is a prize to press toward... "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14) Don't sit on the sideline; make a choice today... get in the game!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Godliness is expected...

"And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things." -- Acts 5:11
Over time the church of Jesus Christ has become a comfortable place to gather. It is seen by many believers as a club to join, with varied benefits for members. Accountability for spiritual conduct and wholesome living isn't part of the package. We live in a day of Christian liberty gone amuck. There is no fear of God or his displeasure.
The early church began on sure footing. There was spiritual power and great life changes. God was working miracles in every corner. Then along came two believers that took accountability and Godly living lightly. They chose to be deceptive, having no thought of God or his church. The story is sobering to say the least and a healthy fear spread throughout the whole church.
Do you take church and Godly living seriously my friend? Are you aware that accountability before the Lord is of great importance? The Lord is not in the habit of overlooking unrepentant and unconfessed sin. The healthy church is a place where Godliness is expected and reverence for the Lord is required.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Beauty out of ashes ...

"Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness"  - Acts 4:27-29 
When my father retired, he had no health insurance and my mother had a major stroke that left her partially paralyzed. At the time, I needed to set aside my academic pursuits and help my parents through a very discouraging process. But, as a result of my being with them during those days, I began ministering in our church with a lovely young lady, who eventually became my wife. From our marriage, came two fine young men who are both serving the Lord. God always has a way of bringing beauty out of ashes.
The events of our Lord's crucifixion  were devastating if left by themselves. The hours that followed the Lord's death were frightening and distressful for the disciples. But, in this passage we see a new boldness that found courage in the Sovereign work of God. As a result of Calvary, came the resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. God always has a way of bringing beauty out of ashes.
Are you in the midst of ashes today? Have the events of life left you discouraged and confused? Remember, the path of the cross was followed by resurrection, Pentecost and the power to serve.  David said it right in Psalm 30:5, "... weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."  Pray for courage and walk in faith, believing that... God always has a way of bringing beauty out of ashes.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

God grows the flower...

"By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." - Acts 3:16
My wife loves to plant flowers in the spring. She makes plans and arranges everything in her garden to look a certain way. She plants, fertilizes and faithfully waters the little guys. After a while our house looks like "Better Homes and Gardens". While Jayne does a lot of work and learns better gardening skills every year, the truth remains... God grows the flower.
When Peter spoke to the man crippled from birth, he jumped to his feet and walked. People came from all around to see the miracle. Did Peter call attention to himself or the Lord as the healer? Peter was given the privilege to plant seeds of faith in the Lord's garden, but... God grows the flower.
As you venture into the Lord's garden today, keep in mind that you are serving with the Master. You will be given opportunities to plant seeds of truth and faith, and people will be greatly blessed. Some lives may be dramatically changed and blossom in beautiful ways, but after you've diligently labored, remember... God grows the flower.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Devotion...

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles." - Acts 2:42-43
I owned an ant farm when I was a kid. It was a great study of true devotion to a cause. These little guys were all about building tunnels and feeding the family. They never gave up, no matter how many times the "farm" fell over and destroyed their good work. The words of Solomon were on point when he wrote in Proverbs 6:6, "Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise."
The early believers were "devoted" to spiritual disciplines and God blessed with great power. The word for "devoted" speaks of endurance or steadfast faithfulness. No matter what happened to deter the people of God, they pressed on day by day with tenacious determination, just like the ant. Persecution came in waves, but perseverance brought divine wonders.
Stay the course my friend. With "devotion" to the cause of Christ will come awesome results. Such steadfastness will require an endurance that only God can provide, but He is able  "... to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us." (Ephesians 3:20) When your tunnels cave in, just build new ones and press on with renewed devotion.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cut to the heart...

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”" - Acts 2:36-37 
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”" - Acts 2:36-37 
I recently cut my finger. Yes, I wasn't being careful and with a slip of the hand a very well sharpened knife sliced right into the little digit. I always make sure that my knives are sharp as razors and when they are properly used they are great tools. But this time, with a misguided flex of muscle, the blade literally "cut to the bone".
When Peter spoke the Word of God in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, people responded. They were moved to conviction and knew a decision was needed. When the Scriptures are used with God empowered precision, they are "... living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword..." (Hebrews 4:12) With a well guided flex of the Spirit, the Word will literally "cut to the heart".
Paul counseled Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 to do his best to rightly handle the Word of truth. Are you doing your best in the study of the Bible? Are you skilled in using it to bring truth to bear in your life and in the lives of others? Remember my friend, the Word of God is a sharp tool of spiritual value, intended to "cut to the heart". 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Glorify God...

"both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians — we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." - Acts 2:11
I have a Subaru Outback. It can serve as a luggage carrier, shelter from rain and snow, mini concert hall and small conference center. But at the end of the day, this mighty motor driven vehicle has one foremost purpose in life: transportation. It gets me from point A to point B, and it does this admirably.
God bestowed spiritual gifts in a similar way. While the giftedness of believers may differ in many ways and be used to accomplish many goals, God has given them to expand His kingdom. They may be desired and nurtured for various reasons, but after all is said and done, these supernatural abilities have one foremost purpose: to glorify God by proclaiming his mighty works.
Once again my friend it's not about us, it's all about HIM. The lesson is clear; identify your spiritual giftedness, regularly exercise your gifts and seek the one foremost goal: glorify God by proclaiming his mighty works.
  

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Be "Pray-pared"...

"They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." - Acts 1:14
The first phrase I learned as a Scout was "Be Prepared". According to the Scout handbook, the idea is: "Be prepared for life - to live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best." Big moments in life come without warning and it's too late to prepare. So, the best plan of action is to always "Be Prepared".
One of those big moments was coming for the disciples. They had been through so much over the previous months, but they still needed to get ready. They were instructed to wait for power from on high and they did just that. But, how did they wait? They joined together constantly in prayer. What were they praying for and why did they pray constantly? Above all other considerations, they joined together in prayer to "Be Prepared".
Is your prayer life just a matter of asking for the needs of the moment? Do you just "put out fires" through prayer? Or do you spend time seeking spiritual wisdom and strength "to live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best."? The best plan of action is to "Be Pray-pared".

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The necessary element ...

""When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”... Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”.... The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”" - John 21:15, 16, 17
A young man told his sweetheart, "I love you so much that I'd climb the highest mountain for you, I'd swim the largest ocean for you, I'd walk around the world for you... and by the way, I'll be over to see you tonight if it doesn't rain." Songs, cards and letters are written everyday proclaiming an undying love to someone. And in no time at all those same relationships break apart for the lack of true love. True love is the necessary element.
Jesus took Peter aside to restore him to fellowship and service after a most painful denial. Many things could have been said, but Jesus focused on the most important factor, "do you truly love me" The words meant, do you love me selflessly and sacrificially? To rightly serve the Lord, one must love him first, more than anything.
Are you preparing to serve the Lord today? Will you be busy in some ministry this week? Before you begin, ask yourself the BIG question. Do you truly love the Lord today, more than anything? Your love for him is the necessary element.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Encounter ...

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."  - John 20:19-20
During my teen years our church youth went on a summer retreat in Canada. A family in the church had a cabin right on the water in the Thousand Islands region. The scenery was beautiful, the surroundings were serene and the weather was perfect. It was just the place to spend time with the Lord. We came back home rejoicing from our "mountaintop" experience.
Retreats are great, but are they always necessary for a serious encounter with Jesus? The disciples were gathered together, locked up in a house, afraid for their very lives. There were no gentle breezes blowing, no soothing sounds of a lake and no warm rays of the sun to bask under. The atmosphere was far from being a "mountaintop" setting. But then, Jesus came and stood among them and they were overjoyed.
Jesus will meet us anywhere, anytime in any setting. We just need to take the time to patiently seek his face and the "mountaintop" will come to us. May our joy never be determined by the beauty of the creation, but may it overflow from the beauty of the Creator.  "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."

Thursday, June 20, 2019

God never fails ...

"Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." - John 19:28-30
Whenever I drive past an unfinished building that appears to be abandoned I feel sad. Someone had dreams of a new venture that failed. The economy, unexpected events or just poor planning led to an unfinished project. The hopes someone had were gone and all they left behind was a deteriorating signpost that read "failure".
Thankfully, God knows no such concept as "failure". What he begins, he finishes. Jesus went the cross on purpose and only when he "finished" the work of redemption did he give up his spirit. In the words of a builder, the work of Christ was a "turn-key" job. When you trust Christ for your salvation and eternal life, he just hands you the key. The project is complete; all you have to do is take residence.
Just as God started and finished the work of redemption for us, he is working today to make us more like Jesus. May we be encouraged that God never fails at what he starts..."he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion" - Philippians 1:6

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Family commitments ...

"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home." - John 19:25-27
Far too many families are lost to the pursuit of careers. Both men and women are consumed with making it big and finding success in their field of expertise. There is no sacrifice too great to achieve their goals. With such overwhelming preoccupation, family commitments fade.
Jesus went to the cross with the greatest goal in all of history. His purpose was to redeem the souls of mankind through the shedding of his blood. He became sin for sinners so they might be clothed with the righteousness of God. While this demand was tremendous, his devotion to family remained a priority. To Jesus, family commitments never faded.
How about it my friend? Where is your family in the flow of your life? Have you become so entrenched with your work and all your expectations that your family has become a distant second? Look to the cross and see the Savior; in the midst of incredible suffering, loving and caring for his mother. Be wise, and never, never, never let your family commitments fade.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Long Run ...

"... “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising." -- John 18:38-40
Life is all about choices. We choose our friends, our colleges, our spouses and our careers. Each of these choices ultimately determines the outcome of our future. Therefore, our choices are critical in more ways than one can imagine. Should we choose for the moment or the long run?
The day arrived when the people were given a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. The reasons for their choice may be more than meet the eye. Barabbas was a man of the world who followed the path of evil to fulfill his desires. Jesus brought the kingdom of God which called for a very different way of living. The crowd chose for the moment rather than the long run.
We begin our spiritual walk by choosing Jesus as Savior. But, do we choose his kingdom and lifestyle every day? Are you enticed by the way of the world that follows any path to fulfill its desires my friend? Or will you choose the path of Jesus that leads to eternal blessings? Be wise, and choose for the long run rather than the moment.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Never the same again...

"When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out..." - John 18:1-4
It was a morning not unlike this morning. Some were still sleeping and others were having breakfast, preparing to attend church. They were at peace on an island that God blessed with beauty and tranquility. Then, at 7:51 the peace was broken and in a very short time 2,350 souls would enter eternity. War had come to Pearl Harbor and the world would never be the same again.
Spiritual warfare will often come to us in the same way. We are in the olive grove with the Lord and all is calm. And then the enemy comes with a detachment of soldiers. We are surprised, but Jesus is not, because he always knows what is going to happen and is prepared. Peace may be shaken, but the protective care of Jesus is always fulfilled:  “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (vs. 9) 
We can never hide from spiritual battles; they will even come to us in the olive grove. But unlike Pearl Harbor, we have a Savior who stands between us and defeat. He tasted death for us, that we might have everlasting victory. Put your battles in the hands of Jesus and your world will never be the same again.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

You go, we go!

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." - John 17:20-23
In the film "Backdraft" you hear this phrase periodically, "You go, we go". The thought behind it is simple. Firefighters serve as one man, committed to die for one another if necessary. Such camaraderie is quite rare in most circles of life. The "one man" scenario seems to be reserved for firefighters, policemen and certain military units. Rarely does one find such a spirit of "one man" devotion in the church.
Should we seek this kind of oneness in the church today? Is it really important enough to make it happen? Jesus places supreme importance on the spirit of oneness in the fact that he prays for unity. He also identifies Christian unity as the great apologetic as he prayed, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me". The Lord's Prayer is really, that we would be one as He and the Father are one. This is a lifetime commitment and a life-changing one as well.
Are you "one" with your brothers and sisters in Christ today? Does the world see a very unique camaraderie within your church? Are you willing to say, in the most pressing moments, "You go, we go"? Jesus prayed that we would.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Perhaps TODAY!!

"A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." - John 16:21-22
A few months ago we celebrated my oldest son Jeremy's thirty-fifth birthday. We had a great meal, talked, laughed and just had a joyful time together as a family. Thirty-five years ago it was a little different, as I sat with my dear wife during her twelve-plus hours of labor. The delivery itself was quite painful and seriously complicated for both Jayne and the little guy. And here he is today, not so little, still quite complicated, but a joy to behold.
The disciples were about to enter into a seriously complicated time of pain. Grief would overwhelm them and fear would haunt them. Questions and doubt would rob them of sleep and prevent them from experiencing any peace or joy. But Jesus promised that they would see him again, the grief would be gone and then they would rejoice.
Our lives are often filled with great sorrow and we wonder where or when we will find relief. Jesus promised in John fourteen that in him, we would have peace to carry us through the storms of life. But one day, Jesus will come from heaven for us, as he came from the tomb to meet the disciples. When that day comes, there will be no more sorrow "and no one will take away your joy". Perhaps TODAY!!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Patience ...

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." -- John 16:12
Patience is a virtue. And so our walk with God must be a patient one. First of all, we too are not always ready for the deeper things of the Lord. There is often a need for growth and maturity before we can be entrusted with greater truth. Then there are things that we have no need to know until the time.
As the Holy Spirit was bestowed upon the Disciples to guide them into all truth, so He settles into our lives as believers. When we grow impatient and yearn for greater knowledge, sooner than we should, He gives us peace and the patience to wait. And, at just the right time He will gives us understanding and truth.
Don't be in such a hurry my friend. Wait on the Lord as the watchmen wait for the morning. (Psalm 130:6) The light will dawn in your heart when you are ready, just as the sun rises in the morning hours. Remember... "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day." (Proverbs 4:18)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Jesus Loves Us!

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." - John 15:9-12
"Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me!" So the words begin in the familiar Sunday school song written by Anna B. Warner. Yes Jesus loves us, and in that love our joy may be complete. Yet love is a living entity and it needs to be nurtured to stay strong and not grow stagnant.
Love in the marriage, family or any relationship is only as strong as it is nurtured. We give of ourselves to others, thus showing them our love. We invest in their lives every day, not just on holidays and special occasions. As a result, we experience a lasting joy that runs deep within our hearts. Jesus gives such a love and rightfully asks of us to return the same.
To remain in the love of Jesus, one needs to obey his commands, which include loving each other as he loves us. This is the way to nurture a love relationship with the Lord. Yes, Jesus loves us, that we might love him and others to the Father's glory. And in such nurtured love, our joy may be complete.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Don't be afraid ...

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27
I don't do roller coasters. I rode one once and almost had a heart attack. The ride up is sweet and the view is often quite gorgeous, but then comes the drop. Some people like my sons think it's such a rush, but I think I'm going to die. Life is very much like a roller coaster. There are those peaceful moments that lift us up to the sky and fill our hearts with great joy. Then the bottom falls out from underneath and we're troubled and afraid. The amusement park ride may be a rush, but real life can be a fright.
Jesus speaks about a peace that is very different than what the world offers. He doesn't promise to flatten the road ahead or fill our lives with all ups and no downs. He does promise to give us a peace that doesn't slip away when the bottom falls out. The promise was made to his disciples just before their ride with him moved into an incredible downward flight. There was no rush there; it was life at its most alarming moment, but in Jesus they were promised peace.
Do you have peace today? There is peace for anyone who rests in the all-powerful grip of the Lord. The bottom may fall, but Jesus has a tight hold on you so, "Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."