Sunday, January 20, 2019

Running from the wind...

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

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Just do your best...

"As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” - Matthew 13:23
As you browse through any book store you may find such titles as "Three Steps to Success " or " Four Keys to a Better You". Such books suggest a guaranteed accomplishment if the right moves are made. But, we will find that life is less predictable. Some people are more fruitful than others and the same steps will often produce varied results. Wisdom suggests to do our very best and find joy in the results.
When we read about the seed that was sown on good soil, it is a relief to find differing outcomes. No matter how "good" the soil may be and how carefully it is nurtured, the yield may be a hundredfold, or sixty or thirty. The soil is what it is, and there is no five step secret that will produce a hundredfold. Do your very best and find joy in the results.
Are you driven toward goals achieved by others my friend? Do you feel as if you've failed when you don't have a "big win"? Have you been brainwashed into believing that "second place" is "first loser"? Why not serve the Lord by doing your very best and rejoice in the results?  

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Family of God...

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

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Abrasive or Affirming?

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Restful Service ...

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

You are worth more ...

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

HIS gain and glory ...

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

Sunday, January 13, 2019

What do you see?

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

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Admit your need ...

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

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Main Thing ...

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

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Serve or sit?

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Just Do It!

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Where's Your Treasure?

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

Monday, January 7, 2019

Our Divine Level ...

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

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Padlocks of Love ...

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

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Happiness...

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

Friday, January 4, 2019

Fishers of men ...

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

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Hand of God ...

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Following Directions...

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Promises ...

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