Saturday, July 31, 2010

Questions About What Christ Can do for us

Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, "Where is that man?"  Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, "He is a good man.  Others replied, "No, he deceives the people." -John 7:11, 12

Notice in this passage of Scripture that once the feast began, the people were watching for Jesus and they were asking question such as, “Where is that man?"  That question is still being asked.  When there is tragedy and problems people often ask, "Where is the Lord in all of this?"  We have the answer: The Lord is here with us all along.  He has never abandoned us and He never will.  Through our darkest hour the Lord is right here with us as He promised.

People will also talk about Christ; who He is and what He has done.  Verse 12 shows the people having a dispute about it.  Those questions are still being asked and those same statements are still being made.  Sometimes even unbelievers will make statements such as, “He is a good man.”  I have talked to many people who will tell you that they believe that Jesus was a good man, a good teacher, and a prophet, but they will not receive Him as personal Savior.  Jesus was all those things, but He was also the Son of God – our hope of salvation.

Notice also that some were saying that He was deceiving people (V 12).  Jesus isn’t the one who deceives; that’s the work of the devil and of lying prophets.  This is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so that we may have spiritual discernment to recognize what is truth and what is falsehood.  The devil has a way of wrapping lies and falsehoods in all sorts of stylish and attractive packages.  It’s like the apple I had the other day.  From the outside it looked pretty good, but when I bit into it I realized it was mushy, tasteless, and had no substance.  My dog didn’t even want it.  I know because my son tossed one of those apples out into the backyard and my dog sampled it and would not eat it (smart dog).

The false teachings of the world are recognizable to discerning followers of Christ because they lack substance, they stray from the truth, they are born of human will, and they are not in agreement with the Word of God.  All we see in Jesus Christ is ultimate and living truth.  That’s why Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4 that what He would provide would be like living water that satisfies the deepest longings of the soul – Jesus can meet our need for salvation. 

Anytime we get to thinking that we don’t need Jesus we need to think again.  We not only need Him, but we are absolutely lost without Him; lost to wander our way through life, groundless and without hope.  Jesus Christ is our hope and He is our anchor.  In Him we have life and in Him we have salvation.    

Friday, July 30, 2010

Trust in the Lord and be Thankful

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  -Proverbs 3:5, 6

Everyone has problems and troubles to varying degrees.  Don’t think that any one of us has a monopoly on life’s troubles – we don’t.  Countless people all around us are facing difficulties of all sorts.  I read this past week that here in America the fastest growing segment of the population facing homelessness are children.  Spend a morning at Bristol Faith In Action, The Haven of Rest, the Salvation Army, or Second Harvest Food Bank, and you’ll find people who are trying to get by on the most basic of necessities.  When I think of those ministries and the good work they do I am reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 25:35, 36 when He said, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 

I have a roof over my head and in all probability I will go to bed tonight having eaten supper, and having these places me in a better position than an overwhelming number of the world’s population.  We are to always stop and count our blessings because we know that it could just as easily be one of us who is afflicted, homeless, and in need of food and shelter.  I have met a great number of people and there is one concrete and absolute certainty about life: none of us are exempt from trials and problems.  What will we do when the troubles come?  What will be our response when the trials of life come our way?  How will we stand when we are the ones facing some new crisis?  There is one answer; we will stand by faith in God and by His power.

Apart from the presence of the Lord in our lives we would be left to handle the difficulties of life on our own strength and power.  Through faith in Jesus Christ we not only find the strength to rise up and move forward, but we do so in spiritual victory.  Those trials which would otherwise have defeated us now are moved aside by the power of the Holy Spirit.  You see, faith in Christ empowers us not to simply get by, but rather to walk forward in the abundant life which the Lord promised (John 10:10).  In Jesus we cease from surviving life to living life to its fullest.

In a world full of struggling and defeated people, we can shine the light of Christ.  The troubled soul can find hope through trusting in the Lord and relying on Him.  This as opposed to relying on ourselves, which is a sure recipe for disaster.

Look to the Lord and trust in Him.  Christ will give guidance, hope, and victory. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who is This Man Called Jesus?

But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.  No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world."  For even his own brothers did not believe in him. -John 7:2-5

Imagine being entrusted with a sum of money, say $100.00, and then having the responsibility of buying food for your family.  What might happen, however, if you spent the money on candy, Twinkies, cookies, potato chips, and cokes?  The one who entrusted you with the money would not be pleased – to say the least.  As followers of Christ we have been given a sacred charge: tell others about Jesus Christ.  We tell because countless people still don’t know who He is.

The seventh chapter of John shows that people were talking about the Lord: who He was, why He had come, and what they thought of Him.  People have been posing these questions since the coming of the Lord, and it is only by faith that we find satisfactory answers.  People are still wondering about who Jesus is and what He can do for them.  Christ does what He has always done: He saves people from their sins.  Jesus Christ is the hope of salvation, new life, and life eternal.  Jesus Christ is the way of salvation.  

Jesus’ brothers tried to get Him to attend the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, but they wanted Him to go because they were looking at the situation from a human standpoint.  They thought it would be good publicity and advertisement for His cause – get out get out there and shake some hands and meet some well-connected people, right?  Jesus told them that His time had not yet come, but for them anytime was right because they were looking at this through a human perspective and not a spiritual perspective (V 6).  If we are not careful we too can get caught up in the human perspective of the Christian faith.   

Some years ago my father was having a conversation at a family reunion with a relative who I had not seen in many years – since I was a child in fact.  The man asked what I had been doing and Dad told him that I was the pastor of a church.  The man replied, “Oh well; I guess a person could make a pretty good living doing that.”  That is a human way of looking at the call to preach.  It’s not about choosing a career that might be profitable, but rather it's following the call of God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, this was the same attitude that Jesus’ own brothers had at that time.  They had not come to accept that Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior of the world.  

Resist the temptation to examine Jesus Christ from a worldly perspective.  Christ came into the world to save sinners from their sins; that's you, me, and everyone else.  We all stand in need of the salvation Christ offers.  No matter who you are or what you have done, Christ stands ready to forgive, empower, and set your feet on a right path. 

New life, joy, peace, and hope are waiting.  Open your heart and receive Christ today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Look to Jesus

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  -John 1:29 

I was watching TV the other night and during a commercial an advertisement came on asking me if I needed help and advice.  If so I was invited to call an 800 number that I might talk with one of their trained psychics.  This person would then tell me my future, give me advice, and help solve my problems.  None of that would be free, of course, but would no doubt be billed to my credit card.  I seem to recall a quote about a fool and his money being soon parted.  Yes, that certainly applies here.  I daily need advice, help and my problems solved, but I didn’t call the psychic hotline; wasn’t tempted and didn’t consider it for a moment.  I choose instead to look to Jesus Christ.

When John the Baptist saw Jesus walking by, he recognized the Lord as being the Lamb of God – the Savior of the world, and John identified Jesus accordingly.  John knew the truth when he saw it, and when he saw the Lord he knew beyond all doubt that the Messiah had come into the world.  We too can make that same association; we can by faith know that Jesus Christ is the true way and that He is our hope of salvation.  We need not look to the false hopes of those who claim to have the answers, but rather we can look to Jesus, for in Him is our hope realized.    

What is our hope?  We desire to be happy, have peace of mind, find fulfillment, figure out how to navigate our way through life, love and be loved, make a positive difference in the world, and when it’s all over make our way into heaven.  Jesus Christ guarantees all of those, and when we look to Him our hope for true life is actualized.  Countless people are searching for something real; something solid and anchored that will not give way as the storms of life howl around us.  Look to Jesus, for He is the One who can anchor our lives with stability and hope. 

Do you need direction?  Look to Jesus.  Do you need forgiveness?  Look to Jesus.  Does life seem too difficult to bear?  Look to Jesus.  Are you at the end of your rope?  Look to Jesus.  Are you trying to make sense of life and all its troubles?  Look to Jesus. 

When we look to Christ we are never disappointed and we are never let down.  You’ve got questions; Christ has answers.  Look to Jesus and trust in Him today.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heard a Good Sermon Lately?

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.  –I Corinthians 2:4, 5 

A youth minister friend of mine was telling about a youth Sunday his church observed a number of years ago.  On that particular Sunday one of the young people from the church volunteered to preach the message.  Apparently, the young man was so nervous that his sermon lasted about five minutes.  No doubt some people enjoyed getting out of church so early that day.  However, most people who attend church expect to hear a message from God’s Word; typically, that takes a little longer than five minutes.  A few months ago I had to cut short an evening worship service to go home and check on my wife, Andrea, who was recovering from cancer surgery.  After the service I jokingly asked one of our church members if he thought that anyone would be upset over my abbreviated message.  “Keep it up and they’ll probably give you a raise.” He said.

That sermon length discussion is tricky, isn’t it?  Too long, not long enough – a great deal of this depends upon the makeup and tradition of a particular congregation.  However, lets us not underestimate the power of preaching.  Proclaiming the Word of God accomplishes some powerful and God honoring purposes.  Preaching imparts the truths of God’s Word, explains the Scripture, shares the gospel, challenges the hearers to deeper faith, strengthens the believers, and invites sinners to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.    

Where has your mind been lately during the Sunday morning sermon?  Have you been paying attention to the message the Lord has placed upon the preacher’s heart?  Within that message will be a special blessing reserved just for you.  Perhaps you have gotten out of the practice of going to worship altogether.  In either case, the time for opening your heart and receiving the truths of God’s Word is now.  Do not delay another day. 

The troubled soul can find comfort in making worship a priority.  Seek out a Bible believing church where the truths of God’s Word are proclaimed, where the people love one another, are concerned about lost souls, and Jesus Christ is exalted.  Begin daily seeking God in prayer and listening for His voice. 

There are blessings waiting through seeking Christ today.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Onward Advancement of the Gospel

Now I want I want you yo know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. –Philippians 1:12-14 

I have never been to Alaska or Northern Canada, but one could travel there and in certain parts of those regions see huge and awesome glaciers.  These glaciers can form between mountains and on mountain sides, and they grow larger over time from the accumulation of snow and ice.  Something I have read about these incredible natural formations is that they are always moving forward.  You may not be able to see it, but they move slowly over time.  What moves these glaciers forward is their weight and power; a power and force that cannot be stopped.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is also a force that advances.  The gospel is ever moving forward, sometimes quickly, but at others times slower to the point that people might wonder if it’s moving at all.  However, the gospel is always moving forward and always advancing regardless of whether or not people can see its progress.  As followers of Christ we are a vital part of the advancement of the gospel.  The gospel of Jesus Christ touches peoples’ lives, changes them for the better, always makes a positive difference, and is ever moving forward. 

Can the gospel of Christ be stopped or slowed down?  It certainly cannot.  Might someone be able to stop an earthquake, a tidal wave, a hurricane, a tornado, or a glacier?  The answer is no.  The gospel of Jesus Christ moves onward, it progresses, and through faith in Christ we are empowered to be a part of it.
Paul the Apostle rejoiced that even though he was a prisoner and in chains, the gospel continued to be spread and to grow.  He understood that the gospel would go forward by the power of God and not by human design.  In fact, Paul put his faith into action by letting the difficult circumstances he was facing work to further his witness for Jesus.  Like Paul, we too can seek the Lord’s help is using whatever situations we are facing to be stronger and more effective witnesses for Christ.

The troubled soul can find comfort in knowing that we are of tremendous value to God in the furtherance of the gospel, and that can happen no matter the trials or hardships we face.  Take heart, and know that you are useful and valuable to the Lord.  Let us resolve to be a part of the blessed work of the gospel, which is sharing the love of Christ with a lost and hurting world.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Someone is Praying for you Today

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  –Philippians 1:7, 8 

Everyone needs some time off from their jobs, right?  Imagine that you didn’t have any vacation time planned for a while, or you had used up what you did have.  One day, however, you simply did not feel like going to work.  What would happen if you called your boss and said that you weren’t coming in today.  “Why not?” he asks. “Are you sick?”   “No,” you reply, “I just don’t feel like working today.”  Do you suppose your boss would understand?  You know the answer; probably not.  We know that if we take such an attitude that we will not have a job for long.

The book of Philippians demonstrates that Paul the Apostle was committed to the work of the gospel.  He would serve the Lord, preach the Word, and minister to the people whether he felt like it or not.  So great was his love for God and his love for the church that nothing would deter him.  He loved the church with a sacrificial kind of love.  He and the church had numerous shared burdens and victories.  Sharing such experiences together strengthens the bond that exists between us through Jesus Christ.    

The believers were in his heart and on his mind.  “I have you in my heart,” he said (v 7).  As he went about proclaiming the truth of the gospel, he thought continually about those dear believers who were constantly praying for him and supporting him.  In Christ we can stand together and support one another as we share in the gospel ministry, but also through the trails of life.  In a world full of lies, falsehoods, and half-truths, the gospel is genuine truth.  Jesus Christ is the solid rock to whom we can cling during the storms of life.  As followers of Christ we love the Lord and serve one another regardless of the circumstances of our lives.    

Shall we serve the Lord only when the circumstances of life are going well?  Not at all; we serve the Lord, do the work of the ministry, and reach out to a lost and hurting world whatever the problems and situations we are facing.  God is faithful and will empower us to deeper levels of faith as we persevere and follow His will. 

Are you feeling discouraged today?  Remember that God has a plan and He will not abandon us – ever.  Someone somewhere loves you and is praying for you today.  Why is that?  Because just as Paul said of the believers in Philippians, they have you in their hearts.   

Be encouraged, and be of good cheer and solid faith.  You are loved and a vital part of the Kingdom of God.  Move forward in faith and claim God’s promises today.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Praying for Movement of God's Spirit

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.  -James 5:13

The Scripture says that we can ask God regarding whatever situations we are facing.  If we need revival then it could be argued that we are in trouble spiritually, and the Scripture says that when we are in trouble that we should pray about whatever the problem may be. I cannot count the times that I have spoken with people who were in some form of trouble.  The first line of defense, the first response, is to pray.  Seek the Lord by praying specifically for a great, mighty, and powerful movement of the Holy Spirit upon us.  What are some signs of revival?

-Jesus Christ is glorified and the Word is proclaimed.

-Our fellowship is increased. 

-Souls are saved and added to the kingdom.

-People turn their hearts back to God.

-There is a marked increase of people coming to church.

-The brethren take attitudes of humility, compassion, and forgiveness.

-We become increasingly concerned about lost souls.

-We see the Spirit of God moving upon the church in a fresh and powerful way.

-Worship is viewed as divine privilege and not something we feel we have to do.

-The church is energized, demonic forces are overcome, and people are delivered from the chains that bind them.
Join with me in praying that the power of God would fall upon us and that the Lord would have the increase and the glory.  Let us pray, pray, and pray some more.  Pray that souls will be saved and lives will be touched by the power of God.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Praying for God's Will and for Personal Renewal

This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. -Matthew 6:9, 10

When we read the Lord’s Prayer we see that Jesus instructed us to pray that the will of God be done here on earth.  That means here in our lives.  Are we truly praying for God’s will to be done?  It is always God’s will that we witness, live godly lives, and honor the Lord Jesus in all aspects of life.  When we begin to take seriously the will of God in our lives then the power of God begins to move in us and among us.  We stop focusing on self and we begin to focus upon Christ.  That which once hindered us in our walk with the Lord is removed by the power of the Holy Sspirit.  We aren’t the ones who remove it, for we lack the power.  The Holy Spirit has the power to remove anything that hinders us in our walk with Christ.
When we all unite our hearts and pray for the will of God to be done, for personal renewal, and for revival in the church, the Lord will honor those prayers and will do great, mighty, and miraculous works among us. 

We can also seek the power of God to help us to pray, Romans 8:26 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  Often times we do not know how to pray or what the pray for.  During those times the Holy Spirit will step in and help us and empower us to pray.  And we will pray in strength, power, and victory.  We will pray in unity and harmony as individuals and as the body of Christ.  Have you ever felt so burdened and so overwhelmed that you simply did not where to begin with your prayers?  That is so common as to say that it happens to most believers at one time or another.  During those times when we don’t know what to pray for or how to do it, the Holy Spirit will empower us to pray.  But we must be willing to allow Him to do that.  This is surrender to the Lord and a confession that we need help praying.  God always honors this the faithful and sincere heart who longs to pray in spiritual power.

The troubled soul can find comfort through praying and seeking the will of God.  The Lord had a perfect will and plan for your life.  Do not give up and do not cease from following Christ and His leading.  We are always blessed for doing so.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Praying for Spiritual Revival

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

Anytime there has been a movement of God’s Spirit it came as a result of prayer.  The people humbled themselves, prayed, sought the face of God, sought a right relationship with God, repented of any sin that was present, and the result was the Spirit of God fell upon the people. Consider the following attitudes toward prayer:

Pray in humility. (II Chronicles 7:14)  The essence of this verse is that if the people will first humble themselves and pray that God will pour out His blessings upon them.  I once heard it said that God has a storehouse of blessings that constantly go unclaimed; the reason being that people do not ask God for them.  I heard on the news about a war torn and famine stricken country in Africa where the people are starving.  Countries are sending all kinds of relief in the form of food, supplies, and medicine, but it remains sitting in storehouses with little way of getting it to the people.  How like that is the situation with God’s blessing.  The Lord is ready and willing to pour out His blessings, open up the storehouses and bless us, but we must first be willing to receive it.  Until we do that we miss out.  What keeps people from humbling themselves before God?  Pride, apathy, and being comfortable where we are; these keep often keep us from humbling ourselves before the Lord.  

Pray for those we would rather not pray for.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 to pray for our enemies and bless those who persecute us.  When we begin to pray for those who have hurt us, wronged us, or even persecuted us, we will find that the Lord will fill our hearts with His love.  The love of Jesus drives from us hatred, bitterness, and an unforgiving spirit.  This in turns frees the power of God to function in us.  When we pray and seek the Lord and pray as Jesus said we should then we are empowered to walk in spiritual victory.  We too have to daily face all kinds of frustrations.  The difference comes in how we handle them.  The Scripture teaches that we are to function under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We go at the problems of life differently than the world does.  How might the world handle conflict?  Hatred, cursing, lose control, and give full vent to anger, or ever plot violence and revenge.  All of those responses are contrary and opposite to what Jesus taught. 

Pray for a movement of God's Spirit upon believers, churches, and across our nation.  A troubled soul can find comfort in seeking the Lord and praying for a deeper and closer walk with Him.  Do not despair and do not give up.  The Lord can and will send a great revival.  Pray in faith that it will happen soon. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Carving Away What Doesn’t Look Like Jesus

But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.  –I John 2:5 (KJV) 

Many years ago I heard a story about a woodcarver who specialized in life-size carvings of American Indians.  One day as he was working, a man stopped by to observe the carver’s handiwork.  After a few minutes the man asked the carver his secret to crafting such detailed and beautiful carvings of Indians.  The woodcarver thought a moment and said, “Well, I just go out into the woods, find a suitable log, brings it back to my shop, and carve away anything that doesn’t look like an Indian.”

Followers of Jesus Christ are called to be growing in our relationship with Him.  As we grow there is a refining process going on all of the time.  The Scripture says that as we keep the Word of the Lord that the love of God is being perfected in us.  This perfecting process in which we become more and more like Jesus, is the evidence that we are truly His followers and that His love is functioning in us.  Through a day-by-day walk with the Lord we are ever being shaped, molded, and crafted into the image of Christ.  A wonderful progression is constantly going on in His faithful followers; The Holy Spirit is ever trimming away anything that doesn’t resemble Christ.  Like the woodcarver in the story, the Lord takes us as we are, with all of our flaws, faults, weaknesses, and hang-ups, brings us into a relationship with Him, and then carves away whatever doesn’t look like Jesus Christ. 

This trimming and refining process involves getting rid of hateful attitudes, an unforgiving spirit, grudges, and desires that run contrary to God’s will for our lives.  As those negative attributes are trimmed away, the love of Christ fills the space left behind.  By faith we then move forward in our walk with Christ and His love is then perfected in us.  People will see it in our attitudes, our outlook, and our love for those around us.  We will also see it in ourselves as we begin to view life from the standpoint of vibrant faith in Jesus.    

Don’t allow hateful and bitter attitudes to rob you of the work the Lord can and will do in your life.  His love can be perfected in you, me, and any who sincerely desire to walk in the fullness of Christ.  We are then empowered to walk in victory, and to overcome that which would otherwise hold us back. 

Walk forward with Jesus, and by faith become more like Him.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finishing the Work the Lord has Begun in us

Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."  -Luke 9:62 

Jesus had some strong words about finishing the work that the Lord has begun in us.  As followers of Christ we are called to work toward completing what God has begun.  The call of Christ in our lives will involve moving forward in the strength and power the Lord has given.  Be faithful, work hard, don’t stop, keep serving the Lord, and do all these with glad and thankful hearts.  When will our work as Christians be complete?  Our work is done when we see the Lord Jesus face to face.  Until then we worship, work, witness, labor, and do the ministry to which the Lord has called us.

How do we complete the work the Lord has begun in us?  What enables us to stand firm and hang in there over the long haul?   The answer is found in the wonderful grace of God functioning in us.  Philippians 1:2 says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  That grace, freely given through Jesus Christ our Lord, is intended to inspire us to keep moving forward in the blessed power of the Holy Spirit.  God’s grace reminds us that even though we are not perfect, God isn’t finished with us yet.  He is ever molding, perfecting, and shaping us to be more like Christ – in all areas and aspects of our lives.   

By the power of God’s grace we will be able to do that which He has called us to do, which is the work of the gospel.  We witness for Christ, live godly lives, reach out to others, feed the poor, minister to the captive and oppressed, visit the sick, and encourage one another to deeper faith.  God’s grace will sustain us when we feel that we cannot go on.  We will have the peace of Christ in us, we will have thankful hearts, and we can pray in the power of the Holy Spirit in communion with the Lord as friend to friend.  No problem, no obstacle, and no weakness will stop those who are fully committed to the Lord.  As Jesus promised, the mountains, no matter how large and imposing, can be removed by His power working in us (Matthew 17:20). 

Whatever difficulty you are facing, no matter how large, take heart; the Lord will empower you to finish the good work He has begun in you.  The troubled soul can find comfort and encouragement in remembering that God is always faithful, and as He has promised He will ever be faithful. 
Rise up today and move forward in God’s grace and power.  The Lord is with us! 

Monday, July 19, 2010

The True Source of Peace

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.   –I Timothy 6:10
I have noticed for a long time that when I am watching the news and the story turns to issues related to the economy, that the footage is often from the US mint.  You know what I’m talking about; the reporter is narrating about the shape of the economy and all the while we are seeing images of money being printed, cut, and bundled into stacks.  Do you suppose people are watching this and thinking, “Wow, but I’d love to have a few stacks of those $100.00 bills?”  I confess that my mind has wandered to such thoughts on numerous occasions.  Countless people could no doubt use some extra funds to get caught up on their bills and outstanding debts.  So, when we see all that footage of those stacks of cash it’s kind of like showing pictures of food to a hungry man.

The Scripture reminds us that money is by no means the solution to life’s problems.  In fact, money has created terrible heartache and problems in peoples’ lives.  People often think that if they just had more money they would be happy.  However, they find out that money is by no means the answer to their problems.  Some of the wealthiest people in the world have also been the unhappiest.  In fact, I have known personally numerous people who had at their disposal tremendous wealth, but their outlook on life was anything but positive.  The old saying about money not being able to buy happiness may sound cliché, but it is certainly true. 

True peace comes not from wealth, but from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  When Christ is at the center of our lives we come to a blessed realization: God will provide for all of our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).  Regardless of our station in life we can live in the wonderful blessings of God.  He will be with us to love, guide, empower, and give that blessed peace that passes all understanding.  We will be reminded from day to day that our peace and joy comes not in the accumulation of wealth and possessions, but rather from having Jesus Christ in our hearts. 

Be thankful today and rely upon the Lord.  He knows we have needs, and He will provide.  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Our Partnership in the Gospel

I thank my God every time I remember you.  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… -Philippians 1:3-5 

The book of Philippians speaks of our partnership in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are, in fact, as followers of Christ, partners in the gospel ministry.  This is why individual Christians and congregations should strive to never be at odds with each other.  If we are partners then we share some common characteristics of those who work and labor together for a common cause.  Partners work, labor, strive, sew, and reap a harvest together.  We cannot accomplish any of these results if we are at odds and refusing to work together.

Here we see why unity within the church is so vitally important.  As believers we are in this together – the ministry of sharing Jesus Christ with a lost world.  Consider that marriage is a partnership.  Both husband and wife must work cooperatively together in order for their relationship to thrive.  When people are in business together they have a partnership and must work alongside one another in unity in order for their business to be successful.  The church is not a business and should not try to function like one, but the principles of partnership remain the same.  Within the church there must be: 
  • Cooperation
  • Agreement
  • Unity
  • Shared goals
  • Clear vision
  • Strategies for reaching goals and making the vision a reality.
We as followers of Christ can accomplish so much more together than we can alone.  We are better able to share Jesus with more people when we commit to pray for and support one another.  When we encourage one another we are strengthened, unified, and more able to forgive one another and continue to bear with each other in love as commanded in Scripture (Ephesians 4:2).  God is always faithful, and when we are faithful we are empowered to accomplish that which the Lord has called us to do.  Christ will help us to carry through to completion the good work He has begun in us.
Pray for one another, stand firm in God’s call upon our lives, love one another, and seek first Jesus Christ that He will be at the center of our lives and all that we do.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Faithfulness and the Power of God in us

He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years...He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done.  -II Kings 15:33, 34

Jotham of the Old Testament became mighty because he trusted the Lord and was faithful to Him.  The key to King Jotham’s success rested in God.  He didn’t become mighty because of his own strength, wisdom, or his own leadership qualities – even though he possessed those.  He became mighty because he got his heart right with God.  Here is the key to a life well lived and a life that honors God: establish your life in God.  We can build our lives upon the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, and when we make that commitment we can then move forward to accomplish all that God intends for us to do.  We will not be contended with just sort of drifting along and getting by.  But rather we will rise to new levels of faith and service to the Lord.

When we take such a stand we will be strengthened – in all areas of our lives and especially in those times when we don’t feel strong.  Do you ever have days like that?  Do you ever have days where you simply do not feel that you are growing in the Lord or getting stronger in the faith?  We will all face days like that.  During those times, as long as we are trusting in the Lord and being faithful to Him, then we will indeed be growing stronger in Christ - every day.  When God looked at Jotham’s life He liked what He saw.  We do well to consider that scenario: When God looks at us is He pleased with what He is seeing?  Are there areas that need improvement?  Are there some dark places that need to be brought out into the light and given over the God?  If the answer is yes then the Lord will bless us when we make those areas right with Him.  The Lord will strengthen and empower us when we move forward in an attitude of faith and humility.

As a twenty-five year old man, had Jotham looked at all he had to do and accomplish he might have become overwhelmed.  But he trusted God one step at a time, he kept his heart right with the Lord, and God blessed him in some marvelous ways.  Christ can and will do the same for us.  The Lord is calling us to be faithful –  even if others are not.  With that faithfulness comes a commitment to serve the Lord and move forward in bold faith.  

Charles Kettering said that when he was the head of General Motors that when he would have a planning meeting with his engineers he would put a table outside the door with a sign that read, “Leave slide rules here.”  The reason being that when he would ask them to solve some problem, they would begin reaching for their slide rules and saying, “It can’t be done, Boss; you can’t do it.”  As followers of Christ let’s leave outside the door anything that causes us to say, “It can’t be done; it’s impossible.” Something that looks to be impossible has never stopped God before.   

Let’s be faithful to God.  May we never forget that with God all things are possible.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Mind Set on Serving the Lord

Jotham rebuilt the Upper Gate of the temple of the LORD and did extensive work on the wall at the hill of Ophel.  He built towns in the Judean hills and forts and towers in the wooded areas.  Jotham made war on the king of the Ammonites and conquered them. -II Chronicles 27:3-5b

When we look at all that King Jotham accomplished in his 16 year reign we see that he was a tireless and hard-working king who sought to do some positive works for the Lord.  He had made up his mind that he was going to serve the Lord.  Never underestimate the power of God at work in a mind that is set on God.  A made up mind is a powerful force in a person’s life.  Jotham reconstructed an important gate of the temple, he built cities in the southern region of Judah, and he built up defensive fortresses and towers.  He also went to war against the nations that had been enemies of God’s people – and he was victorious.  All of this was because he trusted God, inclined his heart to wisdom, and set his mind on serving the Lord.  Because he took such an attitude the Lord blessed him.

Jotham could have easily taken the easy way out.  And what is that easy way?  This is the way of saying, "I will just do what seems okay, I’ll go with the flow, I’ll go with the crowd, and I will do what looks to be popular at the time."  However, he resisted that approach entirely.  When we make up our minds to serve the Lord we are empowered to rise above such a lazy and half-hearted approach to life.  Serving the Lord daily is a life-long challenge.  Going with the crowd requires little to no thought, effort, or backbone.  Anyone can drift aimlessly along, but it takes firm commitment (dare I say it takes guts?) to take a stand for Jesus Christ.  Jotham was not a man who was willing to just sort of sit around, hope for the best, and let life happen.  Instead, he took a pro-active approach to serving God.  He got up and he got busy – doing what the Lord had called him to do.  This is the attitude we can take and the Lord will use such an attitude to His glory.

There are countless people who are in the pit of sin, hopelessness, and despair.  They often desire to rise up out of that pit, but they do not know how to do so.  Those who are in the slime pit will often resent those who decide to try and climb out.  They will say, “Who do you think you are?  Do you think you’re better than us?”  Many earnestly want to climb out of the pit of sin, ungodliness, and an empty life, but they don’t know where to begin.   Jesus Christ specializes in helping people out of the pit of sin, discouragement, and immorality.  Once people open their hearts to the Lord they are amazed at His power to work miracles in their lives.  Because of Jotham’s faith in God he was able to accomplish tasks that he might not have imagined possible. 

Why is it that one of the first truths that we forget after we come to faith in Jesus is that with God all things are possible?  Is anything too hard for God?  Is there some task or challenge that God can’t handle?  The answer is, certainly not!  God is always ready to do in our lives that which appears to be impossible.  

Whatever you are facing today, remember that with God all things are possible.  Through faith in Christ the mountain can be moved, the problems can be faced, that which seems hopeless can be overcome.  Do not despair and do not give up.  God is faithful - always is and always will be.  Make up your mind to serve Him today.  Let Jesus shine forth in your life today.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Inclining our Hearts to Godly Wisdom

Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years...He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the LORD. The people, however, continued their corrupt practices. -II Chronicles 27:1, 2

Being faithful to the Lord will involve making decisions based upon what God has said and not based upon what seems right.  So often we find that what seems right goes way against what God has said in His Word.  I’ll cheat on my taxes, tell a few lies, I’ll take this even though it doesn’t belong to me.  All of those situations, even though we all know they would be wrong, might seem okay at the time.  And we might even be able to convince ourselves that it's all right – as long as no one knows and as long as I don’t get caught.  When our hearts are inclined to the wisdom of God we will be able to step back, take another look, and make the decision that being faithful to God is always the right course - all of the time and no matter what.  Proverbs 2:12 says, “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse.” 

The Bible says that Jotham was only 25 years old when he became king, but he was a good king over God’s people the Israelites.  He started out his reign in a positive way in that he sought to be faithful to the Lord and he inclined his heart to wisdom.  Jotham set out to not make some of the same mistakes of those who were before him.  For instance, his father, Uzziah, had made a critical mistake of going into the temple of the Lord and burning incense, something that only the priests were permitted to do.  As a result the wrath of God came upon Uzziah and he was stricken with leprosy for the rest of his life (II Chronicles 26:16-21).  The Scripture says that unlike his father, Jotham did not enter into the temple of the Lord and do as he had done.  He did not want to make that same mistake.

Jotham was not able to do all that he would have hoped, for the Scripture says that even though he was a good king who did what right in the eyes of the Lord, the people still engaged in corruptible practices.  That doesn’t mean all of them; no doubt many followed the king’s example, but unfortunately some of the people still followed after idols and ungodly ways.  

As for us, we can go out into the community, knock on doors, beat the bushes, and witness to everyone in the area – and we should for Jesus commanded us to.  But will everyone in our community come to faith in Christ?  Unfortunately, no; but some will - enough to fill our churches ten times over.  It was the same in Jotham’s day; some got their hearts right with God, but some continued to practice ungodly ways.  When we incline our hearts to godly wisdom we understand that we are to be faithful and we then leave the results with God.

Where is your heart today?  Are you truly seeking a deeper walk with the Lord Jesus?  If our desire is to be His witnesses and to open our hearts to Him, then such a desire will most assuredly be granted.  Move forward in that commitment and experience the blessings of walking in Christ's power.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Be Careful Not to Surrender to Peer Pressure

Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the LORD his God. -II Chronicles 27:6

I have heard all of my life about the power of a phenomenon called peer pressure.  This is the influence of others around us in regards to a certain behavior.  Peer pressure involves doing something, even something wrong or harmful, just because everyone else is doing it.  The process works like this: Everyone else is engaging in this behavior, I don’t want to be the oddball or be thought of as being square or backward, so I will go along with it – even though I know it’s wrong.  Peer pressure is caving into something because everyone else is doing the same thing.  That process has caused problems for a lot of people, especially younger people.  The last thing you ever wanted to say to your parents when you were caught doing something you shouldn’t have been doing was, “Everyone was doing it.” You received no sympathy, right?  And what did they say?  “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?” The truth is, just because everyone else is doing something is no excuse.  God has given us minds and we are expected to use them and to think for ourselves.

How can we stand firm, stay strong, and not give into the pressure even when everyone else is doing something we know we shouldn’t?  The answer comes in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  The Lord not only forgives us of our sins, but He also empowers us to go in a right and positive direction in life.  The Lord will give us the power, the strength, and the will to resist what we know is wrong and stand firm at all times.  The closer we walk with God and the closer we get to Him the more able we become to walk forward in spiritual victory. 

The Scripture says that Jotham, who was a king over God's people the Israelites, found strength, might, and spiritual power because he trusted in God and lived an honorable life.  Jotham was able to resist the peer pressure of his day which would have lead him away from God and he chose instead to be faithful to the Lord.  By living steadfastly before God he grew strong and lead the people to accomplish great victories.

As followers of Christ we are called to also walk steadfastly before the Lord.  When we do so the Lord will empower us to resist the temptations which would throw us off track and bring spiritual defeat to our lives.  Let us never surrender to the peer pressure of the world; the pressure to believe that we are better off trusting in ourselves rather than the Lord.  The power of Christ will move us forward in vibrant faith that will positively affect every aspect of our lives.  

We are called by God to trust the Lord Jesus daily, and allow Him to increase our strength that we will be empowered to live fruitful and honorable lives before God.  In doing so we will be blessed and others will see Jesus in us.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Awesome Wonder of Creation

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  –Psalm 19:1 

I was reading how that this past Sunday a solar eclipse left people, who in parts of the world could witness it, stunned by the majesty and glory of the event.  For a brief period the sun, moon, and planet Earth were all in perfect alignment.  Another solar eclipse of this magnitude will occur in November of 2012 and will be visible from Australia and the South Pacific.  Back in the early 1990’s while living in Kentucky I witnessed an eclipse that took place briefly one afternoon.  I had read about it, but in the midst of a hectic day had forgotten that it was coming.  I had been making a pastoral visit at a hospital in Louisville and was on my way to my car.  I looked up and realized that the sky had taken on an odd sort of haze; it had grown darker, but there were few clouds in the sky.  Then I recalled that an eclipse was taking place.  I stopped by my car and watched as the sky grew dimmer, then gradually the full light of the sun returned. 

Driving home that day I was left once again contemplating the words of the Psalmist, who stated that “The heavens declare the glory of God.”  Today, as the world is still talking about the wonder of Sunday’s eclipse, I consider this truth yet again.  When we look up into the sky we see an ordering of the planets and the stars that truly causes us to glorify God for His creative power.  Trying to get my mind around the vastness of it all nearly gives me a headache.  The only way to comprehend such an expanse of sky and space is to recall that the Lord God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, placed it all there and set it in motion. 
I always find tremendous blessings in spending time alone with the Lord early in the morning, but I also have been blessed by walking outside on a clear night and looking up into the sky.  The stars and planets all shine forth in a dazzling array of light and intricate constellations.  Many a night I have identified with the humbling thoughts of the ancient Biblical writers who saw that same glory.  They too were overwhelmed at the wonder and glory of God.  This same God, the One True God, who created the universe, cares for me and you.  So great was that love that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). 

In the vastness of the universe we might think we are insignificant, but God remembered us, and Christ came into the world to save people from sin and redeem us from the hopelessness that so often overtakes us.
The next time you look up into the night sky be sure to stop and give God the glory for the wonder of creation and the wonder of His love shown to us through Christ. 

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Looking for a Specialist?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  –Matthew 11:28, 29 

These days when we are not feeling well and we go to the doctor we may be referred to a specialist.  That is a concise approach to whatever the problem may be, for not just any doctor may be able to handle the problem.  When it comes to a major health issue, perhaps something that threatens life itself, we want the best and most qualified doctor available.  If you had a condition that required a rare and delicate procedure you would seek out the most capable specialist available; someone who specializes in that particular surgery.  Furthermore, you would probably be willing to travel a great distance to have the surgery done.  Taking such a course could mean the difference between life and death.

For those suffering from sin, discouragement, and hopelessness, there is a specialist who is available: Jesus Christ.  He is able to deliver us from the chains of despair that keep us from the abundant life that is obtainable to all.  Unfortunately, some go to some other source in search of the help they need.  Countless people turn to drugs, alcohol, and possessions to try and fill the void in their lives.  In the end they become emptier than when they began.  Those fake remedies not only create more problems, but they end up enslaving people in the process.  Jesus our Savior is the ultimate specialist who can break the power of sin’s stronghold.  Christ overcomes, snaps the chains that bind us, and frees us to walk forward in spiritual victory. 

Stop trying to overcome the stresses and trials of life on your own strength; go to the Specialist.  Cease from attempting to handle on your own power the discouragement we so often face; go to the Specialist.  Make a decision to no longer try to handle on your own the temptations and fears that are thrown at us every day; go to the Specialist.  There is no need to make an appointment, for He is always available.  There is no need to wait in line, for He is ready to help at a moment’s notice.  There is no fear of Him refusing us, for He promised that He will not turn us away (John 6:37).  The Lord is willing and ready to receive us and grant to us forgiveness and a brand new start on life.    

Why would we continue struggling with the same afflictions that have for so long held us down and kept us from finding peace and contentment?  If we were sick, we’d go to the doctor.  If the doctor couldn’t help we’d seek out a specialist.  Jesus Christ can give us new life and new hope.  Stop wandering through life and let Him into your heart. 

You will not regret letting Christ into your life.  New life is waiting.  Joy and peace are available.  Just go to the Specialist. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Taking the Time to Reach out in Love

And to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  –II Peter 1:7, 8 

On days when we don’t have something planned in advance for supper I have had to make a trip to the store and get a meal that can be quickly prepared for my family.  Often when my sons find out that I am going instead of their mother, they groan and roll their eyes: “Dad will be there all night,” they say.  “He’ll run into 20 people he knows and spend two and a half hours talking.” That’s an exaggeration, but perhaps not too far off the mark.  The truth is, I don’t always know how to take their sentiments about me and my grocery store shopping delays; are they complaints or compliments?  I’ll take them as compliments.

When I go to the store, especially the large one nearby which I won’t name because I don’t want to give them any free advertising, it’s inevitable that I will run into someone I know.  On a brisk day I might meet several, many of whom attend the church where I am pastor.  I would never think of walking by without saying hello, and usually we stop and talk for a few moments.  Even when I’m in a hurry I do not mind to stop and visit.  I view this as a wonderful blessing to be connected with so many people in the community. 

Does this ever happen to you?  Do you go to the store to pick up some groceries and you run into folks you know?  Are they sometimes people you’d rather not have to talk to?  Perhaps you are tempted to “dodge” them.  You know, duck down another isle before they see you.  Here’s some advice; forget about it.  The Lord is probably going to place this person right in your path to teach you some lessons about love, grace, compassion, and humility.  In other words, you might as well walk right up and say hi; you won’t make it out of the store without seeing the person again. 

The love of Jesus Christ, functioning in us, compels us not to avoid one another, but rather to exhort, encourage, and reach out to each other in a spirit of Christian love.  Consider that the person we are thinking of avoiding might be the one who could greatly benefit from a kind and encouraging word.  Who knows when you or I will be the one God has called to minister that day to some particular person?  When we are going about our day seeking to let the light of Jesus Christ shine from us then we will not mind taking some time from a busy schedule to say hello to someone – especially someone the Lord has deliberately placed in our path for a divine reason.    

As we walk through each day, let us be open to the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Troubled souls are everywhere.  Stop and reach out in Jesus name.  Such kindness will make it’s way back to us and will have multiplied ten-fold.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Reflection on 28 Years of Marriage

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. –Proverbs 5:18

Twenty-eight years ago today an extremely significant event took place: Andrea and I were married.  This past week I seemed to have a hard time getting my mind around that number.  Twenty-eight years is a long time, and by today’s standards we have truly beat the odds of couples staying together.  This morning I found myself reliving some of the feelings I was experiencing exactly this day all those years ago: excitement, a sense of euphoria, and some nervousness.  We were young, yes, but we had a strong conviction of the Lord’s leading in our lives and we moved forward in the confidence that as the Lord has brought us together He would also keep us together.  God has been faithful and has blessed us in countless ways.

On this day of our anniversary I also consider the words of the above Scripture.  God’s Word challenges men to rejoice in the wife the Lord gave to them in their youth.  I was a young man then; I still am, but I continually take to heart these blessed words and God’s challenge.  For me, this involves being thankful for my wife and holding fast to an enduring love, devotion, and commitment to her.  I am blessed beyond measure to have a wife who is so devoted to God, to me, to our family, and to the Lord’s work.    

Have the past twenty-eight years been easy?  Of course not.  We have gone through some difficult times just as any couple would.  But through it all we have trusted in the Lord and sought His strength and guidance.  We have sought the Lord during the hard times and given thanks for His blessings in the good times.  Such an attitude makes for a balanced life of living daily in God’s grace and mercy.  Through it all we have rejoiced in God continually with grateful hearts. 

The past six months as Andrea has battled cancer have been extremely difficult.  During this time I have reflected often on the vow I made all those years ago about “for better or for worse, and in sickness and in health.”  Even though this has been the “worse” and the “sickness”  part, God has been faithful and has daily strengthened our love and commitment for each other.  I am constantly aware that it could just as easily have been me battling cancer and Andrea being the one to stand alongside and help me through the ordeal. 

I close today’s blog entry with a challenge to all married men reading this: Take to heart God’s challenge to rejoice in the wife the Lord has given you.  Never take her for granted, and love her deeply with a sacrificial and Christ-like devotion. 

Happy anniversary Andrea.  I love you deeply and I thank God for your faith and commitment.  I look forward to many more years together.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Jesus Christ: Our Example and Our Hope

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. -I Peter 2:21

Countless people have had to live with the consequences of poor judgment, bad decisions, and ungodly behavior.  Sinful behavior not only negatively affects the individual sinner, but it negatively affects those around him or her.  However, the reverse is true: When we practice godly living, when we make Jesus Christ our example, then we are blessed.  When we take on the attitudes, teachings, and grace of Jesus Christ the result will be the blessing of God upon our lives.  If we can get hold of this wonderful truth we will find untapped resources of God’s grace, mercy, blessings, and spiritual power.  

The man who puts his trust in Jesus Christ will be a better man.  The woman who trusts in Christ becomes a better woman.  And the young person becomes a better young man or woman.  Families are strengthened when the family comes together in shared faith in Christ.  The local church is strengthened and empowered when we come together in unity in the name of Jesus Christ.  Local government leaders all the way up to national leaders become better and more capable leaders when they practice faith in the Lord.

We all do well to ask of ourselves, how much like Jesus am I?  Am I living for him, following His example, taking on His humility, living out what He has commanded, and am I doing what He has called me to do?  Those are powerful questions that demand answers from us – if we are serious about following Christ.  We take on Christ and we can begin to make a positive impact upon those around us.  Regardless of our occupation or individual gifts and talents, the light of Christ can shine through to a lost world.  That is exactly what we are called to be doing: shining the light of Christ for all to see; not that we would get the glory, but that Christ would receive the glory.  

Perhaps you are going through such a difficult time that you wonder if there is hope for you.  The answer is an emphatic yes, and you will find that sure hope in Jesus Christ.  He is our hope and He is the answer.  Christ has the power to set people free from the chains of sin that so often enslave them.  He can then place our feet upon a right path; a path of righteousness for the sake of the gospel.  
What a difference Jesus Christ can make in peoples’ lives: He sets the captive free, He makes the lame to walk, and He strengthens those too weak to go on.  When our hearts are right with God then His blessings will reside upon us, our churches, our families, our schools, and our nation.  When we get our hearts right with the Lord and begin to take seriously the call to follow Jesus' example the result will be vibrant and dynamic faith.  

Christ will lift us to new heights of faith and a forward path in the abundant life He has promised.  Take heart, stand firm, keep going, for in Jesus there is victory.  In Jesus there is hope.    

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spiritual Wrestling Matches

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  
–Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) 

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I have done quite a bit of wrestling in my time.  Well, I have to confess at this point that I never did any official wrestling on the team in High School or college, but I did my share of wrestling my brother and some of the boys on our street.  Back when I was a boy we were being influenced by the wrestling stars of the day: Wild Bull Curry, Tex Mackenzie, Bobo Brazil, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, and Chief Jay Strongbow, to name a few.  Are any of these names ringing a bell?  Believe me when I say that they were legends to me and my childhood friends.

So influenced were we by the above named persons that we would conduct matches in the yard of our home.  Body-slams were disallowed due to the danger of a broken neck on the grass which served as the matt, but pretty much everything else was perfectly legal.  We sustained a few bloody noses and a number of bruises, but somehow no one was ever seriously hurt.  After all, we were all friends in the first place and I believe someone has said that that imitation is the highest form of flattery; we were simply trying to be like our heroes.  During inclement weather my brother and I would often wrestle in the family room, much to the dismay of our mother who once informed us that we sound like “a couple of rhinos crashing around the house.” Actually, that was probably a fair assessment of the racket we made. 

When I look back on those childhood wrestling matches I consider that in order to maintain a solid witness for Christ and to live lives that honor Him we must still do some wrestling.  As the Scripture says, however, we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood, but with the dark forces that exist in the world.  The follower of Christ must stand firm and wrestle against temptation, discouragement, bitterness, anger, and anything else that hinders our walk with Christ.  Thankfully, the Lord will empower us daily to win those struggles as we trust in Him and rely upon His blessed strength. 

What are you wresting with today?  What have you been wrestling with lately?  Is it some temptation?  Are you contemplating going some direction that would take you out of God’s will?  Perhaps yours is a struggle with discouragement and sorrow, and even as you read this you feel overwhelmed with the weight of it all.  The promise of God is that He is greater that any problem we will ever face.  Stand firm, do not give in, and never give up.  That standing firm will involve wresting with some dark forces that can creep into our lives.  Rest assured that the Lord is with us and victory comes through faith in Jesus Christ. 

The troubled soul will find strength, power, and renewed hope through trusting Christ.  Look to Him and never give up.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Experiencing Personal Renewal and Revival

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. -Psalm 51:10-12

We have heard it said many times that our nation needs revival, and that is certainly true.  But let us not forget where revival begins; right here with me and you.  We can forget revival happening unless we are serious about experiencing it ourselves first on an individual and personal basis.  To me, trying to tell others about spiritual renewal when we need it ourselves is like trying to straighten others out when we are still under the control of the same problem.  Jesus likened this to having a plank in one’s eye and at the same time trying to tell someone else how to get the speck out of his eye (Matthew 7:3-5).  That doesn’t make any sense, does it?  Of course not!  None of us are perfect, but once we have a handle on a problem or issue that used to drag us down we then become qualified to help someone else overcome the same problem.  

The same can be said of the need for revival.  If I am apathetic about my faith, half-hearted in my commitment to Jesus Christ, and if I rarely open the Word and seek God in prayer, then I am in no position to tell anyone else that he or she needs revival.  We first get our own hearts right with God, and then we become empowered to encourage others to do the same.  You don’t have to be the perfect Christian to do that; you just have to be committed and sincere. When we begin to seek the Lord and pray, as did David, that the Lord will create in us a pure heart and renew our spirits, then we have made a critical step toward personal renewal and revival.

Don’t be afraid to step out on faith and be the person that God is calling you to be in Jesus Christ; a person of love, grace, mercy, integrity, and bold commitment.  Get on fire for Jesus Christ and we will then be empowered to lead others to that same kind of Holy Spirit fire.  When we begin to take seriously the high call of God in Jesus Christ we not only begin to see the need for revival, but we begin to move towards it ourselves.  We start to remove from our lives anything that might hinder us in our walk with Jesus Christ thus leading us to fresh faith and a renewing of God’s Spirit in us. 

Spiritual renewal and revival begins with each one of us on a personal level.  When enough believers begin to experience the power of God then a wonderful movement of God's Spirit will take place all around us.  

Pray that we will each one experience a fresh touch from God, and having received that wonderful blessing we will be empowered to deeper levels of faith and commitment.  Start today, and let nothing stand in the way.