Monday, November 18, 2019

"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." - Hebrews 9:27-28
"You only go around once", "This is a 'one time' offer", "You're only young once", and so the phrases go that tell us about onetime events. So it is with death, in this life, you only die once. There are no retakes or second chances after that moment. Since no one knows when that moment will come, it's best to be prepared.
Jesus died once to take away the sins of many, not all. The fact is, not everyone is ready for death. The most important way to "put your house in order" is to clear your sin debt. Jesus came the first time to do just that; pay for your sin. Only those who have been set free from their sins (verse 15) are truly prepared.
Yes, you only live once in this life, but there is a life to come. Are you ready? This is not a matter to put off until another day. Paul put it well in 2 Corinthians 6:2 "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." Don't wait my friend, you only die once, so be prepared. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

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

THE HAVEN OF REST
Henry L. Gilmour

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

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

Monday, November 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words and music by John W. Peterson.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

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

Friday, November 8, 2019

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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

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

Monday, November 4, 2019

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

Sunday, November 3, 2019

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

Saturday, November 2, 2019

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

Friday, November 1, 2019

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