Tuesday, December 1, 2020

"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 30, 2020

"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 29, 2020

"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 28, 2020

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." - Hebrews 13:15-16
The "Prosperity Gospel" has been popular for quite some time. Our generation has been quite taken with what they can get from God in riches. We come to worship and pray when we want something from God. The thought of bringing sacrifices to Him or giving generously to others is quite foreign to this self-centered theology. But what is it that truly pleases God?
We may be careful to choose a church that teaches the true gospel, but do we worship and serve in the spirit of that gospel? God is most honored in worship when we offer "a sacrifice of praise" and He is most pleased when we "do good and share with others". John put it this way in 1 John 3:16, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." The right response to the gospel is giving, not about getting.
So, what are you planning for this coming Lord's Day? How will you worship the Lord? Will you arrive with your heart focused on Him and lifting up all that you are to praise him? Will you in turn give to others this week and share God's blessings with them as unto the Lord? For "... with such sacrifices God is pleased"  

Friday, November 27, 2020

"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." - Hebrews 12:28-29
In 1970 a group named Ocean recorded the catchy tune "Put Your Hand In The Hand". The lyrics cover Jesus stilling the water and calming the sea encouraging the listener to put their "hand in the hand of the man from Galilee". A simple song with simple thoughts about God.
The writer of Hebrews doesn't give us simple. He reminds us of the awesome fact that our God is a consuming fire. In response to this sobering truth we are counseled to offer "acceptable worship, with reverence and awe". A profound passage with profound thoughts about God.
Always be encouraged by the fact that Jesus stills the water and calms the sea my friend. He is the answer to every storm you will ever face. But also remember that your God is a consuming fire. Be sure that your life is full of acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. May every day bring consuming thoughts about a consuming God.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." - Hebrews 12:15
We occasionally have quite a bit of fruit in our house. When it first arrives it's sweet to the taste and healthy for the body. As time passes we fail to eat it all and it starts to rot. The taste has changed from good to bitter. We missed the opportunity to enjoy the sweetness.
Living with trials and struggles brings about the same process. In the midst of troubles, God avails himself to give us the sweet taste of his Grace. (Hebrews 4:16) When we choose to ignore this opportunity, we miss his grace and a bitter root grows up. We start to complain and eventually cause trouble for others. The sweetness is gone and we've started to rot and taste bad to others.
Have you missed the grace of God lately? Did you ignore the need for his grace when you were offended, tried or pressured by change? Are you now living with the results of a bitter root? Are others finding your presence to be a bad taste? Here is a word to wise, don't miss the opportunity to be sweet to the taste... "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." - Hebrews 11:24-26
Our journey through life is full of choices. Every choice we make will determine our future to one degree or another. We are most alarmed when a bad choice can never be reversed or rectified. But it is most encouraging when a good choice reaps untold benefits for years to come.
Moses made a choice early in life. He calculated the limited value of earthly wealth to be a poor choice. A far better choice was the lasting reward given to those who chose to stand with the Lord. While the temporal cost was mistreatment and loss of treasures, to follow the Lord was a good choice that reaped benefits eternally.
Today and tomorrow will call for many choices my friend. May you seek wisdom and carefully calculate what are "fleeting pleasures" in contrast to eternal treasures. Remember that bad choices are most often irreversible, while good choices reap untold benefits for years to come.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." - Hebrews 11:15-16
The puritan pilgrims arrived on the shores of America with a longing in their hearts. The days ahead were brutal and demanded great sacrifice. Eventually, opportunities came for a return to England, but they were focused on a better future in a new land. More significantly, they were looking and preparing for a heavenly country.
Whether it is the patriarchs of the Bible, the puritan pilgrims of the seventeenth century or the new believers of 2020, the dynamics are always the same. If we are still too tied to the old ways of the world, we can always return. But, devoted believers have left the past behind for good, with no desire to return. They are focused on the future, preparing for eternity every day.
Search your heart my friend. What is your longing? Are you so deeply rooted in this world that you rarely think about heavenly things? Are you so satisfied with the present material possessions that you have no longing for a heavenly country? Remember, God's children are those who have "admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (verse 13) and their "... citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). God is never ashamed of those who are looking for the city that he has prepared for them!

Monday, November 23, 2020

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25 
From one season to the next sporting competition catches the attention of more people than can be counted. They root for their teams hoping that each player will do their very best. The coaches are just as determined to motivate every player toward peak performance. Because a team is only as strong as it's weakest player, every member of the team needs to be involved to their utmost.
The church is much like a sports team. Every member is important to the success and influence of the ministry. With this issue in mind, the writer of Hebrews instructs us to root for and motivate one another toward spiritual excellence. Just as sports figures need the encouragement of fans and coaches, so do believers. When we are regularly stirred up by fellow servants we most often give our utmost for the Lord.
As you serve the Lord this week my friend, are there others who are lagging behind? Are there those who are neglecting church services and Bible studies? When was the last time you called or visited them to stir them up to love and good works? We need all God's people to be involved, and they need us to cheer them on toward success. The Lord's church needs every member to give their utmost for His glory.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

"Then he adds:  "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." - Hebrews 10:17
There is true forgetfulness and there is a forgetfulness of convenience. At my age there is no convenience about my forgetfulness. There are some things that I truly desire to forget and there are those matters that I can't afford to forget. One thing is for sure, there are some things we need to remember and some that we need to forget.
As we think about our own memory issues, consider this: God chooses to forget and therefore he does. An omniscient creator who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and knows our every thought before we think them (Psalm 139:2) can willingly forget. But what is it that he chooses to forget? The true joy is in this: God never forgets us (Hebrews 13:5), but he forgets our sins. God has chosen to completely clear his memory of the sins of the repentant sinner.
In this Thanksgiving season, may we remember the many blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us. May we rejoice in the wonderful grace of Jesus poured out upon us during this last year. And in all our gratitude, may we give praise to a God who always remembers us with loving care and yet always forgets our sin and transgressions.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

"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. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

"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 & Roebuck 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"!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

"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".

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"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!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

"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!

Monday, November 16, 2020

"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 
As I occasionally review the wedding ceremony that I perform, I see that timeless word "faithfulness". The phrase is "and thereto I solemnly pledge to you, my faithfulness." Later in the ceremony, rings are 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.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

"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 dead on 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.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

"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.

Friday, November 13, 2020

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." - 1 Peter 5:8-9 
Elijah complained in 1 Kings 19:14, "I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” To this the Lord responded in verse 18 with, "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." In the face of spiritual warfare we often feel alone in the battle, but we find new courage when we are aware there are others who are fighting with us. We're strengthened by the Lord and inspired by the fellowship of suffering.
As Peter wrote to the early church under severe persecution, he charged them to resist the devil and stand firm, because there were others in the fight as well. He reminded them that they were not alone in the battle, so they would be encouraged to remain steadfast. As Elijah of old, there were others who suffered persecution but remained true to their faith. There was strength in Lord and inspiration in the fellowship of suffering.
The spiritual warfare is difficult and the pressure is great, but we are never alone in the battle. Be steadfast my friend, resist the devil and stand firm in your faith. Take time to remember, there is strength in Lord and inspiration in the fellowship of suffering.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." - 1 Peter 3:15-16
During the 90's we would occasionally watch a political talk show called "The Capital Gang". My son, who was quite young at the time, would ask why the guys kept yelling at each other. He concluded that they were angry and to a young mind, that just didn't make sense. Belief and conviction is good, but it is best communicated with gentleness and respect.
Many Christians are quick to quote the above passage up to the word "But". They are armed to the hilt and ready for battle whenever questioned about their faith. Peter called believers to always be ready with an answer for their hope, "but" with gentleness and respect. It's not just what we speak that brings truth to light, but how we speak. Belief and conviction is good, but it is best communicated with gentleness and respect.
Always be well prepared with Biblical truth in the face of error my friend. But may truth come with love. Love the lost as Jesus did. Answer their queries with the grace that has changed your life as well. Be someone with a clear and concise conviction, but communicate it with gentleness and respect.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." - 1 Peter 2:21-23
You might well remember being in prayer for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran. He was in custody for nearly three years and faced a death sentence for his faith during the last few months of his incarceration. Youcef was released from prison on September 8, 2012 as the apostasy charges were finally dropped. Freedom came because he entrusted himself to the Lord.
Persecution of any kind will bear witness to genuine faith and real discipleship. The fully surrendered Christian knows that there will be suffering for their faith. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". Jesus is our example in this matter, as he suffered without retaliation or threats. He entrusted himself to the divine provision and purpose.
My brethren, we're in a battle led by the Captain of our salvation. We will be persecuted and oppressed at every point. Some of us will suffer great loss and others will suffer humiliation, but commit your way to the Lord. As David wrote in Psalm 37:5-6, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." Stay the course my friend, and entrust yourself to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you." - 1 Peter 1:23-25
I am acutely aware that "All men are like grass". I recall recovering from prostate cancer surgery, while a close friend was recovering from the same surgery, and another ministry friend was scheduled for the same surgery within two weeks. Yet, in all of this we were secure and at rest in our imperishable life with God.
Peter wrote to fellow believers at a time when they suffered great persecution for being Christians. Their faith was severely tried, but they were encouraged by Peter to stay focused on their eternal and enduring inheritance in  heaven. Persecution and even the daily struggles of life can be more than discouraging. But when we live each day, looking for the coming of our Lord, we find our hope in him and are encouraged to press on in faith.
Being sick and emotionally unsettled can take its toll on us. But find strength and courage my friend, in the one who has given us his enduring word and everlasting life. Remember the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 

Monday, November 9, 2020

"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. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

"... but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." - Titus 2:10
I take my car down the road about eighteen miles whenever it needs repair. I also travel to the same location for a simple oil change, even though it costs a little more. Why in the world would I do such a thing you might ask? It's simple; this dealership is friendly, honest, fast and they do excellent work. They never replace anything on my car that doesn't need replacing. I am attracted to this dealership because they can be fully trusted.
The church grows when believers are genuine. Paul knew that being the real thing had to be seen in the workplace as well as the worship center. The message of Christ is exciting, joyful and hopeful; it's full of promise in every way. But if the world can't see it working in the believer's life, they will never be attracted to Christ. They need to see that God's people are genuine and can be fully trusted.
You are being watched my brother and sister in Christ. When you think your employer and fellow employees, to whom you have witnessed, have turned a deaf ear, they are watching you. They are looking for the real thing and if they find that you are genuine in your daily conduct, they will be attracted to Christ, because you can be fully trusted. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

"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.

Friday, November 6, 2020

"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".

Thursday, November 5, 2020

"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, coworkers 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.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

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

Monday, November 2, 2020

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

A VERSE TO PONDER

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

Isaiah 57:15

Sunday, November 1, 2020

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

Saturday, October 31, 2020

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" - Philippians 3:8 
We don't trade or barter much in our society. Everything is cash or credit. But I well remember my younger years before I was allowed to work for a salary. If I noticed something of great interest that a friend owned I would often offer to trade something I owned for such a prize. Sometimes I would trade far more than the treasure cost. But in my eyes, it was always worth the trade.
Paul recognized a treasure when he saw one. And he realized that such a treasure was knowing, gaining and being found in Christ Jesus . This prize was of great surpassing worth and nothing in his life would compare. Nothing that Paul had could bring equal satisfaction to his soul. So, he was willing to lose everything to gain Christ, because he knew that HE was worth the trade.
What are your treasures my friend? Is there anything that you want that you would give up everything to gain? Have you reached the place in your life to realize that the greatest prize is Christ? Are you wiling to give up or "trade" whatever would hinder knowing Him better? This is a classic "no brainer" since Jesus is always worth the trade.

Friday, October 30, 2020

"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.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

"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 
During occasions of economic decline we often see numerous unfinished buildings. They are such a depressing picture of the circumstances. When the first hole was dug and the foundation was poured there was such excitement and expectation. But then the question began to plague the builder... will it ever be finished?
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! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free." - Ephesians 6:7-8 (NIV) 
Before I entered the ministry I worked in a quite a few jobs. On occasion I worked in management and  was responsible for a number of employees. Until that time I would never have believed how many people sleep on the job. With such experiences being  found, I believe that the work ethic of this country is in trouble. In such an atmosphere every believer who serves wholeheartedly can be a breath of fresh air.
Paul addressed a number of deep spiritual issues in this letter. Yet, he comes to one of the most practical and wide spread need for everyday life. While there only a few ministers, missionaries and Christian workers, the rest of believers make up a huge work force. The witness and testimony of each on is only as strong as their work ethic. If they sleep on the job, no one will listen, but if they serve wholeheartedly, they will be well received as a breath of fresh air.
Where do you work my friend? How well do you do your job? Do you go the extra mile in the Name of Jesus? Are you able to lay your day's work before the Lord as a sacrifice of praise for His glory. It doesn't matter what little benefits may come your way in this life, for the Lord will reward everyone for whatever they do. A job well done and the Lord's promised reward will always be a breath of fresh air.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

"However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." - Ephesians 5:33
When you plant a garden the possibility of colorful beauty and sweet fragrance is great. But the possibility is determined by the amount of time and effort you invest. If you walk away in early spring and only return at the end of summer, your garden will be ravaged by weeds. But if you visit daily with water, weeding, feeding and tender loving care your garden will be a show place. The simple truth is this: we reap what we sow.
Paul knew that every marriage was like a garden. If the couple says "I Do" and then goes about their daily activities living for themselves, they will drift apart and eventually be ravaged by the weeds of selfishness. But, If both husband and wife will invest love and respect then the end product will be a beautiful and fragrant relationship. The simple truth still applies: we reap what we sow.
If you are a husband, your investment is to show a Christ-like sacrificial love that protects, provides, nourishes and treasures your wife. If you are a wife, your investment is to respect your husband with Godly help, support and encouragement to build a Christ centered home together. When you each invest your part with a whole heart as unto the Lord, you will reap what you sow: a beautiful and fragrant marriage.

Monday, October 26, 2020

"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 media interviews lately is the amount of abrasive and critical attacks on one another. Rather than presenting constructive thoughts and ideas to make things better, the time is largely spent tearing others down with words of contempt. The best way to really make a difference 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 words 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 find words of grace to "build up" others on every occasion.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

"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!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

"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.

Friday, October 23, 2020

"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".

Thursday, October 22, 2020

"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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

"Tell Archippus: 'See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.'" - Colossians 4:17
"The Bridge to Nowhere" was a raised walkway built in the 1960s, intended to connect the college Library with the Student Union on the Stony Brook University campus in New York. The construction greatly missed the mark and remained an unfinished eyesore for years being demolished in 2003. Projects that are never finished are always disappointing.
Paul was always focused on finishing the work assigned by God. His testimony to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:6 was, "I have finished the race". Jesus said to his Disciples in John 4:34, “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work". When the Lord assigns a task, he expects us to finish the job.
There are times that you may grow weary in the work of the Lord, but don't give up; finish the job. Winston Churchill gave a very short speech to the students at Harrow School on October 29, 1941. His words of wisdom were: 'Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up." See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord my friend. Don't be a "Bridge to Nowhere".