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

Friday, October 11, 2019

A very serious matter...

"Therefore do not be partners with them." - Ephesians 5:7
A number of years ago I had a friend who went into business with an unbeliever. They were partners. Over time the decisions of the unbeliever led the business into a federal investigation and brought the business to the brink of bankruptcy. My friend almost lost his house, car and family security. Partnership is a very serious matter.
When Paul wrote about immorality and greed he expected a complete break from such a lifestyle. He pointed to the empty life and final outcome of those who remain in this path. Furthermore, he gave clear counsel for believers to separate from those who live in this way. Because Paul knew that partnership was a very serious matter.
It has been said that believers are to live in contact with the world, but never in contract with them. This passage is a strong support for such counsel. Choose your partners wisely my friend. Be involved with those who will lift you up and not tear you down. An immoral and greedy partner will eventually bring you into spiritual bankruptcy. Be very careful, because partnership is a very serious matter.

Think about this: "The money, the pleasures, the daily business of the world are so many traps to catch souls."
                                                                        - J. C. Ryle

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Build up...

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29
One of the more common complaints about the recent political battles is the amount of abrasive and critical attacks made from both sides of the aisle. Rather than working together in more productive and positive ways for America, the time has been largely spent tearing the opponent down. The best way to win the hearts of others is to build people up with words of grace.
Over the last two millenniums since Paul wrote these words little has changed. People are more prone to make themselves look good by making others look bad. This is just the way we are without a renewed spirit and mind in the likeness of God. In contrast, the mark of a true believer is clear: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32) This is how we build others up with lives of grace.
Take an inventory this week my friend. Jot down the nature of every conversation you participate in during the next few days. Look especially for "build up" or "tear down" content in each encounter. I have no doubt that you will be surprised at the results. We need to be intentional to "put on the new self" and "build up" others on every occasion.

Think about this: "One of the first things that happens when a man is really filled with the Spirit is not that he speaks with tongues, but that he learns to hold the one tongue he already has."
                                                              - J. Sidlow Baxter

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A smooth ride...

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." - Ephesians 4:2-3
I've been in a large boat as the engine roared with incredible force to cut through stormy waters. I have also been in a small canoe when one stroke of an oar would propel us a great distance in quiet waters. Life is much like maneuvering a ship; the more peaceful the waters, the smoother the ride. 
Paul often addressed the subject of peace to believers. One might conclude that such a concern would be unnecessary for the children of God. Yet, the instructions were given in detail to be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. The Christian community should be a place where peaceful waters prevail, always providing a smooth ride.
Are you making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace? Do you treat others with humility, gentleness, patience and love? These are the ingredients that provide and sustain peaceful waters for a smooth ride. Stormy waters are never fun... so don't make waves. Make it a smooth ride. 

Think about this: "Our Lord has many weak children in his family, many dull pupils in his school, many raw soldiers in his army, many lame sheep in his flock. Yet he bears with them all, and casts none away. Happy is that Christian who has learned to do likewise with his brethren."
                                    - J. C. Ryle

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Fulness inside...

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:14-19
Some time ago a missionary friend of mine let me take a close look at a bottle he brought home from Vietnam. The bottle was filled with wine and a coiled snake with a scorpion in its teeth. Yikes! I was more than happy to quickly return the unique conversation piece. The simple bottle took on a very distasteful aura from the fullness that was inside.
Paul prayed for the Ephesians to be "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Such filling would come from the Father's riches, being strengthened with the Spirit's power and knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.  As a result, the simple believer would take on a very tasteful aura from the fullness that was inside.
The day you came to Christ, the Spirit of God made his home in your heart. His desire has been to expel the snakes and scorpions of your past and fill you with his fullness. This process is a matter of daily growth. Will you pray Paul's prayer for yourself and other believers today? May it be the intentional effort of your life to have the very fullness of God inside?

Think about this: "God does not communicate things to us so much as he just is himself in us. We are the vessels, the containers, so that the first work after the new birth is to cultivate the habit of receptivity."
               - Norman Grubb

Monday, October 7, 2019

Who are you following?

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." - Ephesians 2:1-2 
In 1998 Christopher Nolan directed a film entitled "Following". The plot tells the story of a young man who follows strangers throughout London for inspiration to write a novel. In time he is drawn into a criminal underworld as a result of following the wrong people. Following can be beneficial or it can be detrimental; it all depends on who you follow.
Paul referred to the life left behind in the passage above as one that "followed the ways of this world". Jesus called his disciples with the call, "Follow Me". In response, twelve men left the old world behind and followed the Lord in learning and serving. Their lives were dramatically changed for the better as they found someone worth following.
The most important question to ask when you rise in the morning is: "Who will I follow today?" Will we choose to slip back into "the ways of the world", or will we follow Jesus wherever he leads? The day can be a blessing or burden; it all depends on who you follow.

Think about this: "There is a time when we must firmly choose the course we will follow, or the relentless drift of events will make the decision."
           - Herbert V. Prochnow

Sunday, October 6, 2019

More power...

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead..." - Ephesians 1:18-20
Whenever I shop for a new car I am intrigued with the reviews of consumers and experts alike that are so focused on power. I grew up in the age of muscle cars but today we are tremendously energy conscience. Yet, power is still the great desire of automobile owners. They're like Tim "The Tool-man" Taylor on "Home Improvement" who always wants "more power". The greatest disappointment comes when there is no more power.
As children of God we are blessed with an unusual phenomenon. We have "more power" than we will ever be able use in a hundred lifetimes. The greatest difficulty for believers is that we don't realize how much power we truly have in Christ. Paul prayed fervently that the Ephesian believers would know "his incomparably great power for us who believe..." For every believer, the greatest discovery comes when there is more power, and more power, and more power to live for Christ.
Have you ever given thought to the fact of God's power in your life? He has given you the power that he exerted at the resurrection of Christ. This being true, is there anything that you cannot do for Him? The answer is obviously no, but your effectiveness is linked to drawing on God's power every day for spiritual living. Just remember, "Ar, Ar, Ar"... you always have "more power".

Think about this: "God is not waiting to show us strong in his behalf, but himself strong in our behalf. That makes a lot of difference. He is not out to demonstrate what we can do but what he can do."
                                              - Vance Havner

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Key to success...

 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." - Galatians 6:14
Graduations have come and gone this year. Diplomas have been awarded and these highly educated and well prepared young people are looking for career opportunities. Their expectations are running high since they have been well trained. But, does having a diploma really make a person successful?
Paul brought everything in life down to the main thing - the cross of Christ. It's the cross that puts an end to our sinful past and opens the door for a bright future. It's the cross that breaks the chains of sinful habits and sets us free to live for Christ. It's the cross of Christ that makes it possible to live a successful life.
As someone has best said it, "Keep the main thing the main thing". Never leave this basic truth behind and never lose its power to change you day by day. Having that diploma is good, but starting each day at the foot of the cross is the real key to success. 


Think about this: "The cross is the center of the world's history. The incarnation of Christ and the crucifixion of our Lord are the pivot round which all the events of the ages revolve."
                                                      - Alexander MacLaren

Friday, October 4, 2019

Serving others...

"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." - Galatians 5:13-15
One of the interesting results of the Alcoholic Anonymous program is the support given to others after sobriety is achieved. Recovering alcoholics know that they need each other to make the journey in life. For years they were bound to a lifestyle from which they are now free. They use this new found freedom to serve others.
Paul spoke to the Galatians about a new life in Christ that set them free from the law and sin. They were now a transformed people who were called upon to love others as themselves. Any other lifestyle would be devastating. This expectation was a timeless truth found as early as the giving of the law. God knew the need for his people to lovingly serve one another. 
All too often my friend, the church of Jesus Christ is guilty of shooting its own wounded soldiers. We give way to selfish agendas and critical attitudes. As we cut each other apart we lose the battle and the blessing. We have been set free from such ways. Use your freedom to love your brothers unconditionally and help them up. Be a brother or sister who lovingly serves others today.

Think about this: "Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as if you do. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."
                     - C. S. Lewis

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Eternal purposes...

"You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus." - Galatians 4:13-14
It was due to family illness that I found myself back home on Long Island, preaching at a small church in Dix Hills in 1977. Those circumstances, difficult as they were, brought me together with a loving church family that invited me to be their pastor. I will always treasure those God appointed years as a great blessing. Troubling times are God's ways of achieving eternal purposes.
As Paul traveled far and wide with the gospel message, he reached some people and not others. God's plan was often clarified with such leading as in the Macedonian call, recorded in Acts 16:10. On other occasions Paul and his team were led by the prevailing winds of providential circumstances. For the Galatians, his ministry to them came about as a result of "a bodily ailment". Troubling times were God's ways of achieving eternal purposes.
Are you struggling through a series of hard times my friend? Is life full of illness, financial setbacks, or family trauma? Do you find yourself dealing with people and places that you never expected? Well, look for Divine connections or unique opportunities to be a blessing and share the Lord. Remember... troubling times are God's ways of achieving eternal purposes.

Think about this: "Christian people are generally at their best when they are in the furnace of affliction and being persecuted and tried."        - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

He's Never late ...

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." - Galatians 4:4-5
The words from Alice in Wonderland often come to mind in this busy world we live in: "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date." Too many people, on too many occasions are late for very important dates. As a result, we tend to lower our expectations and even believe that the Lord will be late for our very important needs. But God... is never late!
Paul noted that Jesus came to be our Savior at just the right time. He didn't come too early, or too late. God had a time table that ticked away with exact precision and when the time had fully come, God sent his Son. To this very day God is following his time table and will bring life and blessing to each one of his children on time. Our God... is never late!
Trusting the Lord involves the patience that lives within God's time table. We need to wait on Him with utmost confidence that he will accomplish his will and our best in his time. Solomon said it in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." Wait on the Lord my friend, for he is never late for a very important date!

Think about this: "God dwells in eternity, but time dwells in God. He has already lived all our tomorrows as he has lived all our yesterdays."
              - A. W. Tozer

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Are you on the bus?

"Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" - Galatians 3:3
The story is told of a traveler with a heavy backpack. Along his journey he was given a free bus ride, but he wouldn't take off his pack. When encouraged to do so he replied, "You've been kind enough to give me a ride, I couldn't expect you to carry the weight of my pack as well"... foolish logic, right? The principle is simple; if you're on the Bus, you're all on the Bus or you're not on the Bus at all.
Along the away, Paul grows quite impatient with the believers to whom he was writing. They began their walk with God in faith. The Spirit of God transformed their lives and secured their place in God's family. Yet, they were now misguided to believe that human effort was their resource for spiritual security and growth. Paul reminded them that the child of God begins, continues and ends his journey by faith alone. If you're on the Bus, you're all on the bus or you're not on the Bus at all.
My friend, your greatest frustration in the Christian life will be failure to walk by faith. When you lean on your own strength and human effort, rather than the Spirit of God, the way will be hard. Paul wrote in verse 14, "He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." If we begin by faith with the promised Spirit providing our greatest need, you can be sure He will provide for the rest of the journey. If you're on the Bus, you're all on the Bus or you're not on the Bus at all.

Think about this: "No more, my God, I boast no more Of all the duties I have done: I quit the hopes I held before, To trust the merits of thy Son."
                                                                   - Isaac Watts