Monday, November 30, 2009

Living Sacrifices for Christ

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

-Galatians 2:20

Paul the Apostle said that he had been crucified with Christ, yet he was still living. At the time this was written if someone had checked Paul’s vital signs he would have been declared alive. He had become in Christ a living sacrifice. What exactly had been nailed to the cross? It was self, self-will, lust, ungodliness, and anything else that is contrary to the will of God. Until those things are put to death they will continue to hound us and try to throw us out of the will of God. If a man allows himself to get closer and closer to something he knows is against God’s will it becomes like a rope pulling him in and to his eventual undoing. At any time he can claim the power of God and the lure of the sin will be broken. Once that hold is broken he can keep moving away from it. The one who struggles with some sin will do well to avoid that sin at all costs. Do not go near it, do not walk past it, and do not even think about giving into it. Proverbs 4:14, 15 give the following instruction; “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.” That is incredibly sound advice and Godly instruction.

Paul said that he had been crucified and he lived, but it wasn’t him doing the living; it was Christ living in him. Followers of Christ are not to live as the world lives. Our lives are based and rooted in Christ. We have abandoned self in favor of God’s will. We have abandoned the pursuit of that which is unrighteous in favor of what is righteous. Spiritual blessings and victory comes as a result of this attitude.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rejoice in the Lord - Always

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

-Philippians 4:4

The peace of God surpasses our ability to comprehend it. It’s a little like rocket science; we know it exists, but most of us can’t grasp how it functions. The peace of God is so powerful a force in our lives that it is often beyond human explanation or comprehension. Many spiritual areas of life function in like manner. By faith we believe on the Lord and by faith we receive the peace that He has to offer us. We should not question it, but rather we should receive it gladly. True peace in the Lord is a gift from God that is given as a result of our relationship with Christ. A recipient of a good gift ought not to question the gift, but rather receive it in the spirit that it is given. So it is with the peace that comes from the Lord.

Paul the Apostle admonished the church to rejoice. This is something that many of us have forgotten how to do. We spend so much time focusing on problems that we forget to rejoice in the Lord. We can easily become discouraged and downhearted, but during those difficult moments is when we must rejoice. Paul told the believers to rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice, and then rejoice some more. Don’t stop rejoicing just because some hard times have come. Those times are all the more reason to rejoice – for we have the Lord on our side. He is with us and He will not leave us alone and stranded.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Casting Out Into Deeper Waters

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."

-Luke 5:4, 5

After spending some time teaching and ministering to the people, the Lord Jesus said to Simon (later to be called Peter), “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets…” I don’t know a great deal about fishing, but that certainly sounds like good advice. You haven’t caught much at the present depth, so the next step is to go deeper. Hopefully, the application to life in this verse is apparent. When we find that at the present depth we are not catching much in terms of fulfillment, happiness, and joy, then the next step we should try is going deeper. The problem is that people often seek to go deeper into the wrong direction. They launch into something which the Lord never intended for them to do. It could involve all sorts behaviors which are contrary to the Godly life to which we have been called in Christ Jesus. For the follower of Christ, the invitation is to cast out deeper into a relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Peter confessed to the Lord that they had fished all night, but had caught nothing. However, they would follow the Word of the Lord and let down their nets. Do you see what’s going on here? Following the confession of disappointment is the obedience to the Lord’s Word. Failure to do what the Lord has told us to do is a guarantee that the net remains empty. Faith involves taking heed to what the Lord has instructed. Rather than wallow in despair over an empty net, we become proactive – we are obedient to the Lord’s command and we cast the net out into deeper water.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hearing God’s Voice

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

-I Samuel 3:10

The prophet Samuel of the Old Testament had the unique distinction of being a young boy when he first heard clearly the voice of God calling him into His service. Something else which we see in Samuel’s life is what can happen when a child is completely dedicated to God. Perhaps you are familiar with the account of what took place; a woman named Hannah had no children, and as she prayed, she promised the Lord that if she had a son, then she would devote that son to God. Later, when Samuel was born, she made good on her promise and brought him to the temple and gave him back to God. Can you imagine the devotion behind this sacrificial act? I wonder how many of us could have done that. Hannah’s faith in God motivated her to decisive action and she was blessed because of her faith.

Samuel then grew up in the temple and became a great spiritual leader among the Israelites. He was faithful to God throughout his life. Never was there a time when he walked away from what God had told him to do, even when doing so was unpopular. Even though he was disappointed in the people at times he remained a servant of God among them. We do well to stop and take a good look at the devotion and leadership qualities of a godly man like Samuel.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being Thankful for What God has Done

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful...
-Hebrews 12:28

On this day of Thanksgiving, consider how easy it is to be frustrated over what we don’t have rather than thankful for what we do have. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ will produce in us thankful and grateful hearts regardless of what is going on in our lives. And as a result we are thankful – for what we have, as opposed to being upset over what we do not have. What follows is this; if we are thankful for what God has given us, then we will be thankful for what He has done. Because of Jesus, God didn’t condemn us, but rather He has redeemed us. God did not cast us away, but instead He drew us unto Himself. The Lord has not destroyed us – and believe me, He could have, but rather He has forgiven us through Christ. And God even took matters a step further; He has not only forgiven us, but He has adopted us as His very own children. Can an adopted child share in the inheritance with those who were begotten? The answer is, absolutely. Romans 8:17 says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Because of what Jesus did for us upon the cross of Calvary we are heirs to a fortune; a fortune greater and of more value that anything we could ever find in the world.

The question for us today is, are we truly thankful for what God has done? Let us make sure that we are ever thankful to God for the great works He has brought about in our lives, and that come what may, we will give Him all the praise and all the glory.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carefully Examining Our Lives

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

-II Corinthians 13:5

The Bible teaches that we need to very often take stock of our lives; that is, examine ourselves carefully, and if we find anything there that is not of God, then we are to remove it from us. This kind of self-examination aides us and keeps us in the faith, and from straying away from God. We are called by God to be ever moving forward towards what the Lord has called us to do; we are not to stop growing, learning, and going forward with Christ, but rather we are called to grow in all aspects of the faith in ever increasing measure. Is it possible that someone could be out of the faith and not realize it? I will say that it is possible for someone to have drifted way out of God’s will and not realize it. The reason being, that it happened so slowly that the person was hardly aware of it. Sin and ungodliness crept into the person’s life slowly, subtly, and the person didn’t realize it until he or she was far gone. By stopping and taking stock of our lives we can seek with God’s help to determine where we are in our walk with God. It behooves us to take a hard look at such areas of our lives as attitude, outlook, and personal conduct. Is my attitude towards others and life in general all that it should be? Is my attitude one which brings honor and glory to God? If not, what must I do to correct my attitude? Negative, hateful, and judgmental attitudes will always hinder our forward progress in the faith, but a positive attitude does the opposite.

Is my overall outlook on life one which enriches my faith or detracts from it? Am I surviving life or am I living life to its fullest?

Are our lives being lived in a manner that bring honor to God, or is He being dishonored in any way? Is there some secret sin which is hindering our walk with the Lord? If so, it must be confessed and abandoned.

The trials of life, along with the challenges and temptations we face, all put our faith daily to the test. Without this frequent self-examination, we may find ourselves failing those tests. When the trials come, will we stand firm, or will we fall apart? Through a daily walk with Christ we can stand firm in our faith even during those times when we might otherwise have fallen apart. God is faithful, and He will empower us and give us the victory.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trust in the Lord - Always

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.

-Philippians 3:1, 2

The high call of God in Christ Jesus is to rejoice in the Lord, and to do so in any and all circumstances and regardless of what is going on around us. Having hard times? Rejoice in the Lord. Going through some trial? Rejoice in the Lord. Are you feeling run down, discouraged, and fearful? The answer is to rejoice in the Lord. We rejoice because we know in all certainty whose hands our lives are in. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow. The Lord is in control, and He is still on His throne.

We also have the warning against those who were trying to take away the spiritual freedom of the believers. These were the ones trying to take the believers back into the yoke of the law and all its practices and observances. They were going about teaching that to be a Christian one needed to not only trust Christ, but also observe the law – perfectly. This was causing terrible confusion within the body of Christ. The implications are staggering for the believer who would get drawn into such convoluted thinking. Such a person would be trying to live under grace and the law, and that is not possible. We are under one or the other. The follower of Jesus is indeed under grace. That is why Christ came; that we might have the fullness of God’s grace in us.

Paul the Apostle was a firm believer in the truth that Christ Jesus would indeed supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). And Paul furthermore knew that having Christ was everything – the most important part of our lives. When we come to this realization, then we are on our way to walking daily in spiritual power and victory.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Church’s View of Children: applying Jesus' attitudes

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." -Mark 10:14

The church of today should take a hard look at the manner in which we minister to children. Like Jesus, are we glad to have them with us, or are we bothered by the noise and clamor that often follows them? A congregation that seeks to be relevant will strive to make their church a place where children are always welcome.

Looking out across the congregation on Sunday morning, if I see mothers holding infants in their arms, it is truly a wonderful sight. During the sermon if I hear a baby crying I am not bothered in the least. In fact, it is music to my ears. The presence of children in the worship time is a sign of life, and where there is life the potential for growth is present.

A dear lady once told me the following story. Some years earlier she was attending a church in another community. One Sunday evening a young mother came into the worship service bringing her four small children ranging in ages from around five on down to an infant. During the sermon the children became restless and would not sit still. The baby in the mother’s arms began to cry and would not stop. The pastor finally leaned over the pulpit and asked the mother if she would please try to keep her children quiet. The young mother sat for a moment, and then gathering her children around her she rose from her seat and led them down the aisle and out the back door of the church. She was never seen nor heard from again.

This sad story illustrates the missed opportunities of failing to reach out to the children in our midst. If I accomplish nothing else as a pastor, my prayer is that I will bestow a blessing upon the children with whom I come into contact, including my own.

Jesus said that when we welcome a child into our lives it is as if we had welcomed Him. The Lord instructed the disciples not to hinder the little children, but to let them come unto Him.

Are our churches, homes, and hearts places where these, the least of our brethren, are welcome? If not, then let us take definitive steps to open up to them. Learning to see children as the sacred and valuable persons they are can enrich our lives in some incredible ways. If we can learn to have child-like faith and laugh as often as a child does, then truly we will be happier people for it.

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Who is the Greatest?

And he said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 18:3, 4

When the disciples got into an argument about who was the greatest, Jesus had a child stand before them. Jesus said in Matthew 18:1-4 that if they wanted to be great in God’s kingdom then they must start by humbling themselves just like this child. The Bible says in Mark 5:41, 42 that when asked to heal the daughter of Jarius the synagogue ruler, Jesus did not hesitate to do so. When the Lord found out that the girl had died, He immediately went to the home and with a word brought her back from the dead. The Lord did indeed love the little children and demonstrated that love in tangible ways. Jesus modeled patience and compassion toward all children with whom he came into contact. Reflecting back over the years, the most regrettable moments for me are those in which I was annoyed with one of our children. Most parents, if we are honest, will admit that we have lost our tempers with our children and said things in a moment of frustration that we later wished we had never uttered. Whoever said that words couldn’t hurt us was not dealing with reality. Cruel and unkind utterances can sting as painfully as a physical injury.

Our children need all the love and affection we can shower upon them. We affirm our love for them by reminding them that we love them and by also demonstrating it to them. We make time for them, attend programs at school in which they are involved, show up at the little league games and cheer for them, and celebrate their birthdays as sacred and special days. Our children are God’s gifts to us, and no matter how tough things get as they approach adulthood, resolve to be ever grateful that they are a part of our lives. Devoted parents will frequently reaffirm that their children are persons of tremendous worth and unlimited potential.

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Welcoming the Children

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. -Matthew 19:13-15

“No children please.” I stared at the invitation to the party that had arrived in the mail. The gathering was intended to bring young couples together for fellowship and a time of encouragement. Refreshments would be served along with a period of spiritual devotions. But the warning on the invitation came through loud and clear: don’t bring the kids.

In defense of those who put on events such as this and others that we have been invited to over the years, I concede that there will be instances where bringing the children along would not be conducive to what the organizers of the gathering hope to accomplish. Parents very much need to be ministered to and spiritually fed without simultaneously having to tend to the needs of their little ones. The result will be improved effectiveness in relating to their children’s needs.

However, the words on the invitation would not leave my thoughts. “No children please.” On numerous occasions the younger families of our congregation have met periodically in someone’s home for a potluck supper. Rarely was there a program or structured activities. The gathering was simply a time in which everyone came together and enjoyed one another’s company. After the meal the men would assemble in one room to discuss sports, and the women gathered in the kitchen and talked about whatever it is that women discuss as a group (I’m still out of the loop on this one), and the kids gathered in the backyard to throw a ball around or play some other games. Children were never excluded from these events. The intention was to encourage families and build relationships, and the kids were certainly meant to be involved.

The reality is that many people in the world do not want to be around children. Some of them are actually parents themselves. They find children to be messy, loud, bothersome, and irritating. Some couples have opted not to bring children into the world for all of these reasons and more. Children are expensive and time consuming. They can wear on your nerves and bring a perfectly sane person to the breaking point. Being a parent is a lifetime commitment. As parents we will always be connected in some way to our children. This truth is reinforced each time I pick up the phone to call my parents for their advice on some problem. At 48 years of age I still very much need and want them to be a part of my life.

I confess that I once had serious reservations about the wisdom of bringing children into the world. Once God gave them to us and they were constantly underfoot, making messes, and asking me for money, I would sometimes reflect on how much easier life would have been without them. But after 22 years into this adventure of being a parent I cannot imagine life without them. All three are unique, with differing personalities, strengths, and talents. Has it been easy? Of course not, but I have every reason to believe my sons are going to grow up to be fine, outstanding men who will accomplish great things.

here is something else to consider in regard to peoples’ feelings towards kids: the Lord Jesus truly loved them. He had a special place in His heart for them, and He was not averse to taking a child in His arms and gently embracing him or her and offering a prayer of blessing. We teach the little ones to sing, “Jesus loves the little children,” and truer words were never spoken. The Lord did not mind being in the presence of children. Let us also make sure that our homes and churches are places where "these the least of our brethren" are always welcome. May we reach out to the children and love them in Jesus' name.

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rejecting the Way of the Pharisee

But the Pharisees and and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disicples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." -Luke 5:30, 31

Unfortunately, as it was in Jesus’ day, there will always be scribes and Pharisees who are resentful and displeased that we are having such a good time. They have chosen to stand outside being critical instead of joining us as we recline around the table with Christ.

The Pharisees in question had in fact been having a little party of their own. It was not a joyful get-together like the ones that Jesus frequently attended, but rather it was a solemn and somber event. Anyone attending had to be a member, and membership requirements were stringent and harsh. Their party excluded the common person. Over time the Pharisees had developed a religious system so rigid and exclusive that most people came to believe that they could never be worthy of being a part of it. Plain old folks lived under the mistaken belief that God was way too high and holy to care about them, and even if He did know who they were, they did not stand a chance of living up to His expectations. So they labored under the false assumption that God was unapproachable.

Of course, the Pharisees were not about to tell people any different. They liked their elite little club and were contented with being very selective as to who was allowed to join. They didn’t take kindly to Jesus coming along and rocking the boat by preaching that God loved everyone right where they were. Furthermore, the Pharisees in no way cared for Jesus teaching such things as love and devotion being more important than ritual. They believed ritual and tradition proved one’s loyalty to God. The Almighty loved only those who could prove their value in His kingdom – or so they thought.

Jesus of Nazareth was challenging all of this and taking His message, His good news, to common and ordinary people. And the people were listening. The result was an increasing hostility towards Jesus from the Pharisees.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ time remind me of many people that I have met over the years. They have somehow come to view Christianity as an exclusive club and the church something to own and occupy.

During a conversation once with another minister, he shared with me what he was told by a member of a congregation that he had been called to pastor. The church member sat him down and gave him the following advice: “Pastor, don’t grow us, but don’t kill us either.” Sadly, this is the unspoken but prevailing attitude of many congregations. It explains why so many churches are in decline and failing to reach their communities for Christ. Like the Pharisees, they are extremely reluctant to let outsiders into their party, and they are unwilling to join the one where Jesus is present.

They have forgotten that the church is not made of brick and mortar, but it is composed of people who have been redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ. In Christ we discover the true meaning of the abundant life. It is not a life of grief and sorrow, but one of joy and abiding hope. People will see it in our eyes, they will hear it in our voices, and they will notice it in our attitudes. Like Jesus, let us reach out to others in His name.

(From "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Commitment to Become More Positive

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? -Matthew 7:3

Keep in mind that not everyone who is enjoying life is only pretending to do so. Countless people actually are having a grand time as they pursue a happier life. It is not artificial; they are truly glad to be here and are taking advantage of the occasion to join in on the celebration. How do they do it? What motivates them to keep on dancing even when they might not feel like it? Being optimistic and positive requires tremendous energy. Anyone can be negative and cynical. No effort whatsoever is required. Hatred, envy, bitterness, jealousy, meanness, and rudeness can be accomplished effortlessly by almost anyone at any time. Most people of this description are sad, lonely, and miserable. By hurting others and driving away people who might have helped them, they continually hone their skills at negativity.

Those enjoying life have made a commitment not to surrender to this gloomy condition. Make the promise to yourself that you will sincerely try, with God’s help, to rise above the negativism that exists all around us. Those trapped in this state are missing out on what could be a wonderful party.

Be careful not to resent a cheerful person that you know or meet. Such folks are, in Jesus’ definition, salt and light in the world. They are salt, enhancing our lives, and light, illuminating an otherwise dull day.

As a seminary student, a fine Christian man I’ll call Paul came into my life. When first we met, his enthusiasm for life and ministry, and his friendliness towards everyone, were overwhelming. Regrettably, I refused to believe that anyone could ever be that happy and joyful. In my spiritual immaturity I convinced myself that it was all an act. I went on to tell myself that Paul was probably not really a nice man, but that he was actually a snobby sort who would walk over the top of me rather than speak to me. I have since prayed that God would forgive me for my unfair judgment and assessment of this man. My impressions about him were proven totally false. It was as though the Lord was out to show me just how mistaken I was.

One day I was on my way to class when I heard someone calling my name from the other end of the hallway. I looked up and saw that it was Paul. He hurried up to me with a grin on his face and an outstretched hand. “Brother Dan,” he said, shaking my hand furiously. “I saw you and wanted to say hello. How are you doing? What about your wife? Is she getting along all right? Man, it’s good to see you – you are looking great!” I could only stand there gaping and nodding my head as Paul shook my hand and barraged me with compliments and well wishes for my family and me. Finally he released my hand, thumped me on the shoulder good-naturedly, bade me farewell, and was off to class. I could only stand there wondering what in the world brought that on.

But it didn’t stop there. Every time Paul saw me he would go out of his way to be nice to me. He always had a pleasant word of encouragement, a friendly smile, and a warm handshake. This scenario was repeated many times until something began to dawn on me; Paul wasn’t pretending. He was honestly concerned about my family and how things were going in my life. I had to face the realization that I had terribly misjudged this good man. When it came to decent and Christ-like people, Paul was the real deal. In the end Paul and I became good friends. He was a reliable source of encouragement during our years of study together.

Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to have a Paul in your life. He and those like him are lighthouses in the storms that we must frequently navigate. They make up a portion of the population about whom this book is written. They are at the party and are ever looking for others to join in with them. Be sure not to give up on joining the ranks of those who have decided to come on board and be a part of the celebration. It is to our benefit to build into our lives as many people like Paul as possible. We can draw from their good nature and positive attitudes, and we will be encouraged by their friendliness and good will.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Responding to the Pessimists

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” -Matthew 15:1, 2

It is a sad fact of life that if you are having a good time and truly enjoying yourself then sooner or later someone is going to resent you for it. Happy and positive people can be a little hard to take by those whose outlook is not as bright. Countless people stand in awe of those who have the energy to be upbeat and optimistic in the face of all of life’s frustrations. They probably won’t be willing to admit it, but there is something irritating about these cheerful folks. How is it that they are so chipper all the time? Don’t they ever become sad or discouraged? The answer is obvious; of course they do. A conscious decision was made not to live under their circumstances, but instead to rise above them.

Many people are highly skilled at putting on a happy face when on the inside they are dying. No one is more surprised than we to find out that the smile was false – a performance put on the for the benefit of a watching world.

Edwin Arlington Robinson described it masterfully in his classic poem “Richard Cory.” Everyone thought that Richard Cory was a man to be envied. He had unlimited wealth, he was handsome, wore the finest clothes, and was outgoing and friendly to everyone at all times. The men admired him and the ladies practically swooned when he spoke to them on the street. What no one realized was that Mr. Cory was a deeply troubled man. He battled inner demons that no one could see or even knew existed. In some unknown and private battle everything came crashing down around him. No one saw it coming. The townspeople were stunned when the news reached them:

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

The great poet Mr. Robinson was not just talking about one person, but he was referring to those who have long given the false impression that all was well in their world. What a shock to discover that it was contrived, a feigned happiness displayed for an unsuspecting public. To enjoy life, we must somehow come to the place where we are genuinely glad to be among the living as a viable and active participant. Pretending to be happy can only be carried on for so long. Eventually the pretense will be revealed and the consequences can be disastrous.

If this describes you, then do not delay in getting help. Talk to someone: a trusted friend, a trained counselor, your clergyperson, or your family doctor. Take whatever steps necessary to start enjoying life again.

A key to maintaining personal well-being is to build into our lives a network of support. Involvement in a local church, civic group, volunteer work, or just by meeting some friends once a week for coffee serve as examples of how to connect with other people. Reaching out to others and connecting with them in the name of the Lord can bring us tremendous fulfillment.

The spiritual aspect of finding inner peace should also be considered. Daily prayer and Bible study are vital to finding the strength to face all the difficulties of life.

Joining the party involves rising up and meeting the challenge head on. Get up, get going, get busy, get involved, and get happy. A smile and friendly disposition need not be an act. Happiness is there for the one who truly desires it and is willing to do whatever it takes to find it. Once you start enjoying life again you will no longer have to pretend. You can do so honestly and freely with a countenance that expresses the gladness that is in your heart. Don’t ever give up on seeking after happiness and joy.

(From "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Realizing That Positive Change Takes Time

...if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. -Matthew 17:20

Recognize that effecting needed changes can take time. But also realize the time to make those changes is now. Putting off trying to take steps to being a happier and better person can be a fatal mistake. A grave error occurs when we believe that we can wait until later to start living the abundant life in Christ, that perhaps when the kids are older or maybe when we’ve retired, we will begin to enjoy life. Jesus reminded us in John 10:10 that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. The Lord continually demonstrated this by taking the time to delight in the company of those around Him. The invitation is from the Lord Himself. He invites us to begin immediately taking an active role in living. No matter what we may have been through, the offer still stands.

Jesus Christ leads us to a level of understanding that transcends what is before us and brings us to a conclusion that comes by faith. Looking beyond the circumstances before us, we begin to focus upon Christ and His power. Matthew 17:20 says that Jesus referred to this as the sort of faith that can move mountains. He also pointed out that the faith needed to move mountains sometimes comes in a small package. Jesus said that faith the size of a mustard seed can give us the power to move aside those obstacles that stand in the way of achieving what God has in store for us.

The disciples seemed to sometimes forget that they were in the presence of the Son of God. They had seen Him make blind eyes see and lame legs walk. Why would they think that feeding five thousand people would be impossible for the Lord? We too struggle when faced with what appears to be an unattainable situation. If we are not careful we begin to panic and see things in an extremely negative way. We start to imagine worst-case scenarios about what might or might not happen. This kind of thinking is detrimental to our happiness and peace of mind.

Why burden ourselves fretting over things that may never happen? When our focus is on the Lord we will be witnesses to Him doing things in our lives that exceed our greatest expectations. By faith we give to Christ what we have, even just a few loaves and fishes, and He can take it and do the impossible.

Imagine how our fears can be turned to joy when we begin to realize that in Christ somehow everything is going to be all right. The Lord is with us and all who earnestly seek Him will go away filled. Why can we not count ourselves as being among those who sat down and feasted with Jesus? Why not stop worrying about what we don’t have and start being thankful for what the Lord has given us? The Lord has done great things in the past; why would we believe the present crisis would be any different?

Stop worrying; take a break from anxiety and cares, even if it’s only for a short while. Spend some time in fellowship with Jesus. Start enjoying life again.

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright, 2009)

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Issue of Personal Responsibility

God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. -I Corinthians 1:9

The question is how can I encourage others to daily fellowship with Christ when I am embittered, irritable, rude, and hateful? Any attempt at leading others to Christ will be hindered if this describes my condition. The responsibility of getting up and joining the party rests completely with me. If I choose to sit back and remain in a sullen and bitter mind-set, then I have no one to blame but myself. With God’s help, a decision must be made to rise up and start enjoying life. Having done that, we can then begin to reap the benefits of the happiness and joy which follows such an effort.

Contemplating this leads to an inevitable conclusion. There is one person in the world who is responsible for your happiness: you. We can choose to avoid the party and blame others or our circumstances for our unhappy states, but ultimately we must claim responsibility for our feelings. No one will force us to come to the party. Once the invitation is sent, a positive response is required.

No matter how difficult life has been and no matter how many times failure has occurred, remember that positive change is possible. Have you been inattentive to the needs of your spouse? Then start today by being more open and willing to communicate in a patient and loving manner. Have you been a poor example for your children? Then make a commitment that from this day forward you will begin to be the kind of mother or father that your children can emulate. Have you been a halfhearted and undisciplined employee at your job? Make a promise that from now on you will be a model of efficiency and dedication at your place of business. Are you typically grouchy, irritable, and hard to be around? Make a conscious decision to be kinder and more considerate of others. The examples of improving negative behavior are endless. Once these positive steps are taken, you will find that the blessings that result from them are uplifting and energizing. Start living again. Come to the party and join in.

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life, " by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Enjoying the Fellowship

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. -Matthew 14:15-18

During His earthly ministry Jesus demonstrated for us the value of sitting down to a good meal and enjoying the company of other people. The Bible says that followers of Christ continued this tradition and made a practice of coming together just as they had seen modeled by Jesus. Acts 2:46 is a reminder that, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” The early church recognized the importance of taking time from the daily routine of life to take pleasure in one another’s company. Those gatherings were joyful events long remembered by all present. In the midst of the stressful lives most of us live it is imperative that we make time to pause from the pressures we face and unwind for a little while. Most congregations realize this and structure into their ministries opportunities for fellowship.

Jesus did not intend for His followers to function in isolation. He established the church so that we might have the resources to accomplish our mission of taking the gospel to others. All that we do as part of the church should have a definite aim: leading people to faith in Jesus Christ. Hand in hand with this mission is the aspect of encouraging those around us toward a deeper walk with Christ. As we let the light of Christ shine forth from our lives, others will be inspired to that level of commitment. Once attained, however, they won’t want to stop there. They, along with us, will desire a closer connection with the one whom we call Savior and Lord.

Let us never isolate ourselves from those who most need to hear the message of Christ's love. They are all around us. Resolve to reach out to others in Jesus' name.

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Learning to Demonstrate the Servant’s Attitude

The greatest among you will be your servant, -Matthew 23:11

Being a servant to those we come in contact with can be simply offering a kind word to the person who waits on us at the bank or grocery store. Offer this person a warm smile and tell her that she is doing a great job. Take note of the nametag she is wearing and speak to her by name. She may be having a hectic day, having problems with her boss, or she might even be going through a painful divorce. If she is like most people she is probably experiencing something in her life that is causing her pain. What a difference a patient and kind person can make in her daily routine. Before you walk away, give her the hope that she will have a wonderful day. In a world full of rude, hateful, and mean-spirited people, you will shine like a light in the darkness. You could be the one person who makes a positive difference in her day and possibly restores her faith in the belief that not all people are insensitive and intolerable. You will leave this encounter with the knowledge that you have improved someone’s day, and you will receive a double blessing for doing so.

In all these things, those whom we serve will see the love of Jesus Christ flowing from us, and all those involved will be blessed in some way. How energizing to make a conscious decision to be different from everyone else, to be concerned rather than indifferent, to be pleasant instead of hateful, and to be gentle as opposed to cruel.

Who in your life can you practice being a servant to today? Consider how blessed this person will be through your kindness. The servant of Christ might take an elderly person to the grocery store or pick up her medication for her from the pharmacy.

The possibilities for serving others are endless. A key to overcoming sadness and gloom is to do something nice for someone else. Why not start today? Serving others in Jesus’ name is the equivalent of serving Christ Himself. The guests are waiting to be served. Happiness is waiting.

Joy is found in serving Christ.

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Learning to Come Out Even

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. -Matthew 20:26

I recall when I was a seminary student my wife and I became friends with a wonderful couple who were originally from the Deep South. On several occasions they invited us into their home and treated us to some delicious southern-style cooking. After the meal they would serve some sort of rich cake topped off with liberal helpings of chocolate or strawberry ice cream. Early on they quickly introduced us to the dessert ritual of “coming out even.” Our friends, as they enjoyed their own dessert, would watch to see how we were progressing with ours. When it became evident that we might end up with a few bites of cake, but no ice cream, they would remedy this undesirable situation by hurriedly fetching the container and scoop out some more into our bowls. This was done that we might “come out even.” The same thing would happen if we had some ice cream left but no more cake. Our hosts would inquire if we were coming out even and then deposit into our bowls another helping. For our friends it was important that we finish these things evenly. Of course, taken to its logical conclusion one could eat cake and ice cream indefinitely. But that’s a nice thought, isn’t it? All the dessert you could want, served by kind people who are eager to keep it coming.

Maintaining a healthy balance between allowing others to serve us and being servants is vital to happiness and spiritual well being. Gratification is found in both scenarios, but we must be careful to “come out even” in these areas. What motivated our friends to keep our bowls full and make sure that we had plenty to eat? Our friends were motivated by the pure joy of serving others.

The ultimate expression of our devotion to the Lord Jesus is to serve Him. We accomplish this by becoming servants to those around us. Remarkable blessings are discovered when we take this concept with us throughout our daily lives.

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Serving the Guests

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. - Matthew 8:14, 15

It is one thing to be at the party, but it is another matter entirely to be the one doing the serving. We usually do not think of servants as being a part of the celebration since they are there to serve us. Consider that without them there could be no party. Someone has to do the serving. Jesus taught us a new perspective on being servants. Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law saw herself as an integral part of the party in that she had the privilege of serving Jesus and the disciples. We have reason to believe that this woman, whose name is left a secret of the ages, genuinely enjoyed being a servant to others.

The one who desires to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will seek to follow the Lord’s example of being a servant to everyone. Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law may well have been an individual who truly enjoyed waiting on others. For her, putting together a meal for Jesus and the disciples was not drudgery or a burden. Rather, she was practicing something she honestly loved to do. Jesus and the disciples, as they reclined at the table that day, most certainly enjoyed the meal; they laughed, told humorous stories, and relaxed in one another’s company.

Why are people so serious all the time? Why the long faces? Lighten up. Relax. Stop being so critical and judgmental. There are guests to be served. Bring them some dessert and offer them an extra scoop of ice cream. Pat them on the back as you place the plate before them. Give them a warm smile and assure them that if they have room there is plenty more where that came from. Remind them that there is fresh coffee brewing and it will be ready momentarily. Ask how they would like it, black, or maybe with some cream and sugar? Your guests will love you for it and will view you in an altogether new light, which is that of humble servant.

When we see ourselves as servants of Christ we quickly discover that those we are serving become more important to us. Jesus never once thought of those He ate with or ministered to as being unworthy of Him. Christ was much too concerned with human need to turn away anyone who desired fellowship with Him. Just as Jesus loved others and showed God's love in countless ways, let us follow His example and reach out to those around us with the love of Christ.

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, copyright 2009)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do Not Reject the Lord's Invitation

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" -Matthew 9:10, 11

The religious leaders posed the question to the disciples as to why Jesus would be willing to participate in a meal with people of such low reputation. Jesus informed them that folks who are well do not need a physician’s treatment. This is only given to those who are sick. Then Jesus, ever ready to apply the Word of God to make His point, challenged them to consider the meaning of Hosea 6:6. This verse says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus was letting them know that showing love and compassion for others is greater than all the observances of organized religion.

Matthew and his friends discovered that attending a party with Jesus could go on long after the tables have been cleared and the guests have gone home. The party with Christ can take place in our hearts if we will resolve to daily sit down with Jesus and spend time communing with Him.

Whoever we are, whatever our station in life, and regardless of our age, we find out that with Jesus Christ it is not too late to join the party.

Have you responded positively to Christ’s invitation to rise up from what seems to be insurmountable odds? Is there a desire to begin living life to its fullest? Matthew took the first and most crucial step in that he answered the call to follow Jesus.

The first step is often the most difficult. It may seem on the scale of climbing the Matterhorn. Consider that all steps that follow will not come unless the first is completed.

Take that first step. Resolve, like Matthew, to leave behind an unfulfilling and hollow existence. Be careful not to emulate the religious leaders who rejected Christ’s invitation, one that would have resulted in a happier life. Ask yourself, “What is one thing God can help me do today that will bring some happiness into my life?” Do not attempt to scale the mountain just yet. Just take that first step. It may involve simply getting out of bed, going for a walk, or trying to smile when you feel like frowning. The first step can be the beginning of an entirely new outlook on life. It is a viewpoint that envisions a brighter day.

The invitation stands.

The Lord said, “Follow me.”

(From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, Copyright 2009)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Answering the Call

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. -Matthew 9:9

Something amazing had happened in Matthew’s life. He had stood at the edge of a precipice of opportunity that would come only once, and he did what few have had the courage to do: he jumped. He somehow recognized that here was a chance to walk alongside the hope of the ages, the one on whom the salvation of all people would rest. Having taken this plunge, Matthew’s life was forever changed. As Frost wrote, he had chosen the road less traveled and it made all the difference.

We are given no details as to what transpired between the time Matthew first accepted Jesus’ invitation and the celebration banquet that took place in Matthew’s home. It must have been something powerful, because the scripture says that Matthew decided to throw a party with Jesus as the guest of honor. We have every reason to believe that Jesus did not for a moment hesitate to attend the event. Matthew, the disciple and former tax collector, threw a bash unlike anything his town had witnessed in a very long time. All of Matthew’s pals were there, along with a number of people the Bible identifies as “tax collectors and sinners.” The former were Roman capitalists who collected revenues from a province or district while hoarding what they could from the taxpayers. Matthew’s peer group was composed of such swindlers, and was hated by the general public.

The religious leaders, who refused to attend, regrettably missed out on a great party. They remind me of people who think that they are right with God because they go to church and take part in religious observances. On the outside they may look spiritual, but on the inside they possess hearts in need of regeneration. They have no clue what it means to be joyful in the Lord, for they are way too busy looking down their noses at people. Such persons are hypercritical of those around them; they ignore the strengths of others, while exaggerating their weaknesses. They take themselves entirely too seriously.

How fortunate for Matthew and his friends that they had the privilege of attending a party at which Jesus Christ was present. No doubt it taught them that there is someone who can lift them above what can often be a mundane and day-to-day existence. With Jesus Christ in our lives, each day can be a celebration of life, a rising above mediocrity. Why not begin today trusting Jesus and living the abundant life that He offers? Following Him will make all the difference. (From, "The Invitation: Embracing a Happier Life," by Dan Birchfield, Copyright, 2009.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ridding Ourselves of That Which Hinders

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

-I Peter 2:1

As followers of Christ there are always some things we must lay aside in order to walk in the fullness of God’s grace. Peter lists some of them here as an example; malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. Any of those things have the potential to keep us from being the kind of people the Lord would have us to be. By the power of the Holy Spirit we put those destructive tendencies from us and we replace them with the fruit of the Spirit.

Malice is any ill will one might feel for another person. To feel malice is to not only hold ill will towards another, but it could also involve the planning of the hurt of another person. Have you ever heard the legal term, “Malice aforethought?” This refers to a pre-meditated act of harming another person. The Bible clearly says that believers are never to harbor such evil thoughts in our hearts. What are we to do with those who have wronged us? We are to lift them up to God and let Him deal with them. When we do that we are practicing what Jesus said about praying for and loving our enemies so that we may be the sons (and daughters) of our Heavenly Father.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Making Sense of a Fallen World

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

-John 9:1-3

In Jesus’ day the common thinking was that if you had something bad happen to you, then you had obviously done something to deserve it, or at least to bring it on yourself. Typically it was believed the negative things in our lives were the result of some sin we had committed. Now, I do not want for a moment to rule out what the Bible says about sin and the wages of it being death. Sin does have consequences. The person who goes against God and begins to live an ungodly life and doing ungodly things – that person will suffer the consequences of such reckless behavior. So often people act very surprised when their ungodly lifestyles finally catch up with them. No, what I am talking about are those things which happen simply as a result of the human experience. If a little child is diagnosed with leukemia or some other disease does that means that he or she did something to deserve it? Or did the parents do something for which the child is being punished? I do not believe that God works that way. Sometimes, quite often, in fact, terrible things just happen. But if we will trust God in the midst of them He will be glorified and we see His power and grace at work – in this fallen and sinful world.

Taken to its logical conclusion, this way of thinking would mean that every negative thing which takes place in our lives is the result of some sin – from a head cold to cancer. Here’s the bottom line on that, brethren; if God worked that way, I’d have been struck down long ago. So great are our failures that Almighty God would not trifle with us by giving us the flu; no, He would have utterly consumed us where we stood.

The scripture says, it is because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, His compassions never fail, great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see (Lamentations 3: 22, 23).

People have long tried to blame themselves, one another, or God for the terrible things that happen to us in life. Jesus shows us that sometimes these things just happen, and if we are faithful God will be glorified and we will see His power and grace – up close and personal.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Resisting the Wiles of the Devil

For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

-Romans 7:19

Understanding what God would have us to do is one thing, but doing it is something else altogether. We understand that certain things in life are harmful to us, yet we at times do them anyway. So often people know full well that specific habits are destructive, and yet they choose to engage in them anyway. Why is that? Jesus said that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. The Bible says in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand the way that I am; for what I should do – I don’t do. But what I hate – I end up doing." Paul the Apostle spoke of that war going inside him between the flesh and the spirit. Finally he said in Romans 7:24, 25, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The only way for overcoming the desire to do those things that go against God’s Word is in Jesus Christ. Without Him and the power He gives through the Holy Spirit, we cannot stand against the wiles of the devil.

Just knowing that something is wrong or harmful is no guarantee that people will leave it alone. When we’re kids we have learn this don’t we? We know that there is electricity in those outlets, but that doesn’t stop a curious boy from sticking a piece of metal in one. I actually knew a boy who did that once, someone else dared him to, not me, but when he did it his hands lit up and it knocked him backwards. He was shaken but otherwise all right. That’s human nature; I know it will hurt me, but I’ll do it anyway. People are the same way towards God.

Christ has called us to obedience and faithfulness, and we are blessed beyond measure when do as He has commanded.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rejecting the Idols of the World

Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves.

I am the Lord your God.

-Leviticus 19:4

In a world full of idols, people are easily distracted from the true way. For the ancient Israelites they lived in a world in which there were idols everywhere. During their years in Egypt they were surrounded by pagan idols every day. And once they entered into a covenant with the Living God they were to leave those idols behind – never to bow down to them. We are called to the same kind of commitment and devotion to God today. God has called us in Christ Jesus to walk with Him in devotion and unity. That unity involves having no other gods before us. But as it was in the days of the Israelites we too live in a world full of idolatry. Be careful what you worship, it might just be an idol. In today’s world people make idols out of all sorts of things. It can be greed, wealth, possession, lust, pornography, and drugs. Anything we place at the center of our lives can become an idol. And if we wake up one morning and that thing has utterly consumed us then guess what? It has already become an idol.

This summer will mark 25 years that I have been in the ministry, and during that time I have seen many a man brought down by the idol of lust. The list of what those idols can be goes on and on. The good new is they can be resisted by heeding the Word of God; and not only resisted, but overcome. You see, it’s not enough to just resist; the Bible says we can overcome. We can be victorious. This is where God was calling His people – they were to not only resist idolatry, but they were to overcome and conquer. They would accomplish that only by putting God first – complete faithfulness. That was where God wanted them to be.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, the idols of the world can be resisted, and they can be overcome.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Christ is the Answer

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for

the forgiveness of sins.

-Matthew 26:28

I read an article once in which someone said he saw a bumper sticker which said, “Jesus is the answer.” The writer said that if Jesus is the answer, then what is the question? I immediately had some answers for that. The questions are, Lord, how will I make it through this crisis, how will I survive this illness, how will I make it through this troubled marriage, will things get better in my life, how much longer will this problem go on, how can I make it another day, Lord help me, Lord save me.

All the above are questions for which Christ has the answer. He will save, He will help, He will forgive, He will restore, and He will deliver us from the chains of sin.

The Lord will not forget the covenant. A covenant was made, and the New Covenant in Jesus Christ was sealed with His blood upon the cross. And we can know with absolute certainty that God will not forget that covenant. It will hold and it will stand on that day when we face the judgment. In Christ Jesus we are found whole, cleansed, and purified – fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Lord has offered us salvation, but we must reach out and by faith receive it. God has offered us forgiveness, a pardon for our sins, but we must receive that blessed forgiveness. Please do not refuse God’s compassion, do not refuse His grace, and do not refuse the pardon He has offered to us in Christ Jesus. Come to Him without delay, for He stands ready to forgive.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Turn From Sin and Seek the Lord

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

-II Chronicles 7:14

The Bible says that if the people have sinned, then they come back to God in repentance and with sincere hearts, that God will forgive them. The passage of time will not diminish the concern and compassion God holds for His people. Here is the reminder that no matter how far from God people stray, they can still come back. This is extremely important for us to understand. I have spoken to many people over the years who mistakenly believed that they were beyond hope. They had strayed too far and been too bad. They had ceased to believe that God could ever forgive them. That is a lie straight from the devil. God can and will forgive the sinner who calls out to Him in faith. God loves us, and if God did not love us He would not be so willing to forgive us. The Lord is concerned for us out of His abiding love for us. He will offer forgiveness and new life if we will come to Him in repentance and humility.

Don’t ever make the mistake of believing that we can make it through life completely on our own strength. We cannot. Regardless of how well things are going now or how well things have gone in the past there will come a time when we will need to call upon the Lord and seek His help.

Trying to navigate our way through life on our own and on our own strength makes no sense, but to call out to the Lord and seek Him makes perfect sense. God has provided a way for us to be delivered from the mess we sometimes make of our lives. God in His love and mercy will forgive and pardon. That, my friends, is a love which defies human reason and human understanding. That is the kind of love which brought the Lord Jesus to the cross of Calvary. This is the kind of love in which we have done nothing to earn or deserve it, but God loves us anyway. In fact, what we deserved was God’s wrath, but God’s grace was given instead. We can thank God for His grace and mercy which is freely given to all who seek Him.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Taking the Warning Seriously

But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you…

-Joshua 22:5

Here is something which the Word of God reminds us of over and over again, and that is the certainty of what God has said. God has said what He means and He meant what He said. When the Lord told the people that if they turned away and worshiped idols that destruction would come upon them, then He absolutely meant it. God also intended for that warning to be taken very seriously. Anytime a warning is issued the one giving the warning intends for the warning to be taken seriously. And what happens when the warning is not taken seriously? Someone gets hurt. The consequences of failing to heed that warning can be deadly. When the sign says, “Do not walk out onto the ice” that warning was meant to be taken seriously. I recall once when I was a young man growing up in Ohio that one winter it became unusually cold and was below zero for a number of days. Two friends of mine, in a moment of either bravery or stupidity, and I lean towards the latter, walked all the way across the Little Miami River on the ice. When they told me what they had done I informed them that I believed them both to be completely out of their minds.

Why is it that people are so willing to take those kinds of risks? The answer lies in a failure to heed the warning signs. When people get themselves in spiritual and moral trouble the exact same thing has taken place; they failed to take seriously the warnings which God has given in His Word. When God issues a warning as to what will happen when we disobey, then rest assured that what He has said will come to pass. However, when we are faithful to God, the result is life, blessing, joy, and peace. The wise and mature follower of Christ will choose to be faithful, and a wealth of spiritual blessings will follow.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wait Upon the Lord

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk,

and not faint (KJV).

-Isaiah 40:31

I have prayed many times, “Lord, I don’t claim to understand this, but I pray that somehow something good comes out of it and that you are glorified.” This is the prayer of faith during the hard times of life. Recall what Joseph said to his brothers when they came to Egypt and discovered that he had become the second in command of the entire country; “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20). While we are going through some trial it can be extremely difficult to see the bigger picture of God’s plan. Often times all we can do during such times is to trust in God and believe Him without question. We can only wonder how many of our mistakes God has turned into something positive for His kingdom and for His glory. The Lord can take situations which seem hopeless and turn them around for His glory. This is where unquestioning faith come sin. God has the power to take that which we thought was going all wrong and turn it into something good. But in order for us to receive it we must first trust God. We must believe even when we feel like giving up. We must somehow trust in God even when all seems lost.

By faith the Lord will teach us how to wait upon Him. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction, wait on the Lord. Rather than firing off an angry letter or email, wait on the Lord. Instead of allowing bitterness, hatred, and grudges, to reside in our hearts, seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and wait on the Lord.