Sunday, October 31, 2010

Be Careful not to Live in the Past

Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions.  Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. -Ecclesiastes 7:10, 11 

Back when I was a seminary student in Louisville, Kentucky, I worked a number of part-time jobs to make ends meet.  One of those jobs was a janitor at a Christian Church.  This was a church that at one time had been fairly large with several hundred people attending on Sundays.  However, the church had declined over the years and at that time might have had 40 or 50 people on a given Sunday.  The sanctuary would seat a large crowd, but compared to those former days there were not many people attending.  Sadly, this is an all too common trend; churches that at one time were large and thriving are now just barely able to keep the doors open each week. 

Such scenarios might cause us to reflect back on the time when the church was larger and doing more than right now, and we then begin to desperately desire those former days.  The Word of God cautions us on this, the reason being that if we focus on the past we will become discouraged about the present.  Hear me carefully on this: There is nothing wrong with desiring that a church grow, thrive, and have great crowds attending.  That is indeed what we are to be about as followers of Christ.  We desire that the churches be filled on Sundays.  However, if our focus in on the past we can quickly grow saddened and discouraged about any positive work going on right now.  You see, if our focus is on the past we are liable to miss out on the blessings that the Lord is doing in our midst right now. 

None of us is capable of going back and undoing or re-doing the past.  We must deal with the here and now.  Can we learn from past mistakes, failures, and victories?  The answer is yes, but those past victories will not win battles today.  What wins today’s battles is vibrant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  While those past victories can inspire us today, they cannot on their own win battles for today.  Only the Lord can accomplish that – and He will by faith in Him.  

Wherever you are, whatever size church the Lord has placed you, seek to be the most dedicated and humble servant of Christ you can possibly be in that congregation.  Perhaps the church in which you serve is not as large as it used to be.  Begin praying that the Lord will turn that around and that a great wave of revival and a powerful movement of God’s Spirit will fall resulting in unprecedented growth.  God can do that and we must be faithful. 

Serve the Lord, right here, right now, in unquestioning faith.  Seek the Lord today and tell others about the love of Jesus Christ and His wonder-working power.  And pray that a great revival will sweep across the land.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Getting Ready to Receive the Lord

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  It is written in Isaiah the prophet:  "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way" - "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' "  -Mark 1:1-3 

As we approach the mid-term election it seems that all we hear about on the news are ads for those running for office.  These politicians are traveling all across the country and each one is trying to secure our votes.  Anytime a politician comes to town there is a great deal of preparation.  There are ads on TV, radio, we get those irritating recorded phone messages, and the media gets in a frenzy.  Along with all of this is the security measures which must be taken for each candidate.  The preparation involved for a candidate to come to any of our towns or cities is truly amazing.  

Consider that when Jesus Christ came into the world there was a great preacher by the name of John the Baptist who was seeking to prepare people for the Lord’s coming. John’s entire ministry was that of preparation; getting the people prepared to receive Christ when He made His appearance.  No doubt John did indeed feel like that “voice crying in the wilderness.” He was proclaiming a message to people who seemed to have anything on their minds except preparing their hearts to receive Christ.  That situation has not changed that much today.  Everywhere I go, I encounter people whose focus is on anything but seeking a relationship with the Lord.  They are so caught up in their lives that any concern about getting right with God is pushed to the back of their thinking. 

The Word of God challenges us to seek the Lord, get right with Him, and to prepare our hearts to receive Him.  Let us be ready to receive Christ into our hearts, but let us also be ready for the coming of the Lord – whenever that may be.  If we are too busy to pray, too busy to open the Word, and too busy to come to church and worship, then folks, we are too busy.

Where are our priorities?  If we place Christ first in our lives, everything else will line up in its proper place, just as Jesus said (Matthew 6:33).  Stop today and pray, spend time in God’s Word, and walk forward in faith seeking a closer walk Christ.  We are blessed when we seek the Lord every day and put Him first. 

Christ is calling us today.  Be ready, be prepared, and receive Him joyfully.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bold as Lions

The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.  –Proverbs 28:1 

As I read the above verse I cannot help but reflect on a man in my neighborhood when I was a boy who owned a large Chow.  As you may or may not know, this breed of dog is long-haired.  I recall that during warm weather the man would have the dog’s hair clipped, and one year, for reasons known only to him, he had the dog’s hair trimmed to look like a lion.  He left a mane of hair around the dog’s neck and even trimmed the hair on the tail all the way down to the end.  That was a strange sight to behold, and the dog did indeed resemble a lion.  

The late comedian Jerry Clower must have observed something similar, for he once told the story of some people he knew who also owned a Chow and had the dog’s hair trimmed in a like manner.  As the story goes, a little boy who lived nearby saw the dog and told his mother that he had seen a lion.  The mother knew what had happened, told the boy to stop telling tales, and to pray about making up such outlandish stories.  A little while later the mother asked the child if he had prayed about this:
“Yes, I did,” the boy replied.
“And did the Lord give you an answer?” the mother asked.
“Yes, He did,” the boy said.  “The Lord told me that the first time He saw that dog He thought it was a lion too.”   

How often do we allow fear to rule in our hearts rather than vibrant faith in Jesus Christ?  The Lord has the power to drive fear, doubt, and uncertainty from our hearts.  This occurs when we trust Him regardless of what our eyes are seeing.  The tendency is to go by what we see, but we know that looks can be deceiving, right?  So often the problems loom before us, we become overwhelmed, and we focus on the situation rather than the power of God.  In the end we end up cowering in fear, and that is not where followers of Jesus Christ are to be.  Our calling in Jesus Christ is to rise up and go forward in faith regardless of how great the problems appear.  I was telling someone this just the other day, and I have to remind myself of it a lot: God is far greater than any problem we will ever face.  Through faith in Him we can have the victory. 

Move forward in vibrant faith; the kind of faith which the Scripture says makes us bold as lions.  So, what sort of problems are you facing today?  Do they appear to be overwhelming?  Look to the Lord, trust in Him, and move forward in strong and righteous faith. 

In Christ we have the victory.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ignorant or Apathetic?

All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.  -Isaiah 44:9 

Many years ago I heard a story about a pastor who was trying to talk with a young man who was known for being rebellious and prone to get into trouble.  After feeling that he was getting nowhere, the pastor finally said, “Young man, are you ignorant or are you apathetic?”  The young man answered, “I don’t know and I don’t care!”  This describes the attitude of countless people in the world today in regards to their belief in God; they do not know and they do not care.  To take such a position in regards to faith is a dangerous place to be.  Such persons would do well to humble themselves before God and seek forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

The Scripture reminds us that those who deliberately turn away from God are ignorant – to their own shame.  They are not only ignorant of the truths of God’s Word, but they are ignorant of the salvation and grace the Lord has offered.  Such ignorance takes a person down a path away from the Lord, which can result in heartache, loneliness, and no direction in life.  Such an individual is left to wander on his own wisdom and handle problems in his own strength.  Christ calls us to trust in Him that we might have the power to live in spiritual victory every day.  We need not wander through life alone, for the Lord is perfectly willing to help us. 

Why would anyone refuse such a gracious offer?  So often it is pride that is the culprit.  People refuse to acknowledge that they need the Lord, and such a prideful stance is taken at our own peril.  When we trust in the Lord we are placed on solid ground and our lives can have a richness and fullness we would have never dreamed possible. 

Christ is calling to stop relying on self and begin trusting in Him.  A relationship with Jesus Christ brings life, peace, joy, and purpose.  The troubled soul finds new life through the lord.  Look to Him today.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Basis of True Inspiration

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  –I Thessalonians 1:3 

The word “inspired”  has a meaning that I wonder if people fully grasp.  To be inspired means to be motivated by a force which has divine origin.  Being inspired is a touch from the Holy Spirit of God.  That divine touch has the power to move us forward in ways that we could not have achieved on our own power.  In I Thessalonians Paul the Apostle commended the believers because their faith, labor, love, and endurance were inspired by their sure hope that Jesus Christ was with them.  

I wonder how often we accomplish our dreams, hopes, and goals on our own strength and power.  Countless people plunge forward doing what they desire to do with little thought as to whether or not the Lord is in it or leading them.  For the follower of Jesus Christ, this should never be the case.  All that we do, desire, or seek to accomplish is best done if inspired through faith in the Lord.  Perhaps you are thinking, “Are you saying that all I do as a follower of Christ ought to be inspired by Him?”  The answer is yes; that is exactly what I am saying.  From the moment we rise in the morning, we can be inspired by Christ to accomplish what He has in store for us that day.  When our hearts are open daily to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, then the Lord will lead us to where we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing. 

What about the process of becoming inspired?  Is this only for those who are “super spiritual?”  The answer is no; being inspired by the Lord is for all followers of Jesus Christ.  When we mark out time each day to spend time alone with God, then the result will be inspiration.  I have referred to this process many times that has come about from a number of circumstances: I spent time with the Lord one morning in prayer and was wonderfully inspired.  I went for a long hike through the woods and while there was inspired by the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.  I spent time reading the Word, reflecting on a Biblical truth, listening to a sermon, and being encouraged by a friend.   In each case I was inspired, and that inspiration had at its core faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Inspiration that comes from faith in Christ is available to all believers every day.  Be open, listening for the Lord’s voice, reach out in love, help and encourage others, and be faithful and obedient.  In all of these we will be continually inspired by Christ.  And we will move forward to heights of faith, depths of grace, and floods of joy we would not have believed possible. 

Thank the Lord today for the inspiration that comes through Him.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Been Letting Those Leaves Pile up?

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

As the leaves fall from the trees we have a decision to make: do we rake them up a little at a time as they fall, or do we wait until they are all on the ground and then rake them up?  Either approach can be justified, but I honestly believe the best strategy is to keep them raked a little at a time, thus saving a seriously large task once they are all on the ground.  Trying to rake all those leaves at one time can certainly look like an overwhelming job and a person could easily become discouraged and frustrated.  Perhaps that’s why people sometimes simply don’t rake their leaves, but let them lay there until they dry up or become mulch.  A man once told me that he never raked his leaves as he believed it was better for his yard that way, what with the leaves turning to mulch and all.  To me, that sounds suspiciously like a guy just trying to justify not raking his leaves.

The Word of God tells us to trust in the Lord and do not lean on our own understanding.  That is a faith principle intended to be practiced every day.  If we only try to lean on the Lord when everything is going well, then we are not taking this Biblical practice to heart.  Should we fail to trust the Lord each day, through all situations, and no matter what is happening in our lives, then we will be like the yard where the leaves have begun to pile up.  Looking at all of those unresolved issues and situations can look most overwhelming. That is why as followers of Christ we do well to trust the Lord with all our problems all of the time.  Otherwise, everything we face begins to pile up in our lives, which can produce frustration, lack of focus, and that terrible feeling of being overwhelmed. 

Whatever you are facing today let me remind you that the Lord knows, cares, and understands.  Do not try to solve the problem on your own understanding, but rather trust the Lord and seek His wisdom.  Christ has a wonderful way of coming alongside us in our time of need and giving us the assurance that He will work it all out; to His glory and our benefit. 

Stop worrying, do not fret, let go of those feelings of being overwhelmed and frustrated.  The Lord is with you, and He is greater than any problem we will ever face.  Rejoice in the Lord, claim His peace, and move forward in faith.  There is peace of mind for the troubled soul in Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Be Faithful and Keep on Fishing

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.  –John 21:4-6 

Hello to all my faithful readers!  I regret not having blog posts for the last two days, but Andrea and I took the weekend off for our annual trip to Hungry Mother Park in Marion, Virginia with our dear friends, Dan and Leslie Smith.  This has been a tradition every 4th weekend in October for the last 25 years, although the location has varied.  As you will see from the picture below, I didn’t do so well fishing.  This tiny bass, which was around three inches long, was my only catch of the day.  Dan Smith fared far better and caught several bluegills, three of which were large enough to keep.  And they were delicious.  Even though the fish weren’t biting for me, we had a wonderful time enjoying the beautiful scenery, visiting with our friends, and just relaxing.  Truly the Lord blessed us.

As I pondered that tiny fish I caught, and my what a laugh we all had about that, I couldn’t help but think about that morning after the resurrection when Jesus called to the disciples from the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The disciples had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything, so the Lord suggested that they cast their nets to the right side of the boat.  When they did that, the catch of fish was so large that they almost could not haul them all in.  It was then that they recognized that Jesus was the one to whom they were speaking. 

 There have been times in my life when, like the disciples, I did not feel that I was accomplishing much.  I kept throwing out my line, but nothing was happening.  And then when I was beginning to get truly discouraged, I felt the presence of the Lord.  “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."  Just as He said that to the disciples, He communicated that to me.  What the Lord was telling me was to not give up, do not grow discouraged, and keep on fishing.  Discouragement has ever been the enemy of spiritual growth and accomplishment.  That one fish I caught didn’t seem like much, but I did in fact catch something, right?  And even though it was small, it brought joy to me and those with me. 

Christ’s presence in our lives is like that: Faithfulness produces joy, which in turn produces hope, which then proceeds onto the realization that little can be a great amount when God is in it.  Do you think you aren’t being effective in God’s kingdom?  Think again.  Be faithful, and leave the results with the Lord.

Have a blessed day!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Sweetness of God’s Word

The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.  –Psalm 19:9-11
I would like to brag for a moment about my wife, Andrea.  Among her many talents, she makes the best caramel popcorn in the world.  That’s a tall order, I know, but it’s true.  I love caramel popcorn, and I have had quite a few varieties both store bought and homemade and none can compare with hers.  When it comes to caramel popcorn, Andrea is like a gourmet chef and that stuff is a delicacy.  Whenever she makes a batch I cannot stop eating it.  I will go back and fill my bowl over and over again.  Yes, it’s that good.

The Bible says that what God has given us in His Word is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.  No matter how much of you take in you still desire more.  It’s sweet, valuable, powerful, and has the most wonderful affect upon the deepest part of who we are as individuals.  Gold brings wealth to our lives, honey brings sweetness, and the Word of God brings both: the spiritual riches of God’s grace and the sweet truths that enrich our lives in countless ways.  We can study the Word for the rest of our days and we will still desire more.  Such is the nature of the Scriptures.  Like with Andrea’s caramel popcorn, I just keep wanting more and more.   

The psalmist stated that he was God’s servant, and as the Lord’s servant, the Word of the Lord warned him about that which displeases the Lord.  By keeping his life right with God he knew that he would be blessed.  God’s Word does the same for us today.  We learn what it means to live godly and honorable lives before God, and we find that we are blessed beyond measure for doing so.

How much time have you been spending in the Word of the Lord?  Do you build into your daily schedule time alone with God where you can pray and meditate upon the deeper truths of His Word?  The psalmist did so, and the results were remarkable.  We can do likewise and we will experience similar results. 

Open the Word and explore the riches it holds.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Fear for Those who do what is Right

For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.  –Romans 13:3 

I have been teased a lot over the years about my driving; mainly that I drive too slowly.  If I might defend myself, I don’t drive slowly; I simply drive the speed limit.  Of course, this places me in a minority of drivers, or that is how it seems.  There was one instance back in 1998 that I was driving up I-81 on my way to a meeting.  I was running late, and so I decided to go ahead and speed like everybody else.  I never even saw the State Trooper until I passed by him at 81 miles per hour.  He was very nice and wished me a nice day after he had written the ticket.  “This is great.” I thought.  The one time I decide to drive like everyone else on the road and I get a speeding ticket.  That pretty much ended my foray into driving above the speed limit and I returned at once to my usual adherence to the speed limit.  

The Scripture reminds us that those who are doing right have no terror in their hearts of those who are in authority over us.  There is wonderful peace to be had from being on the right side of the law.  I love driving and going about my daily routine knowing that I have nothing to fear in terms of running afoul of the authorities.  Sometimes around the holidays, I encounter the check-points set up by the local police departments to check for drunk drivers, drugs, expired tags, and otherwise outside-the-law drivers.  What a blessing to approach those situations with confidence that there is nothing to hide and therefore nothing to fear.  
Such a scenario can be replayed throughout our day-to-day lives.  When we walk with the Lord in righteousness, honesty, and integrity, we will not have to be afraid of being caught doing something wrong.  Rather, we can walk forward in confidence that we are where we are meant to be and doing what we are supposed to be doing.  

About that ticket back in 1998: I appeared in court on the appointed day, dressed in a suit and tie, and holding a copy of my driving record which gave evidence that my driving had been, until that ticket, as clean as a whistle.  The judge looked it over and asked if I had anything to say.  I simply offered an apology and an assurance that such action would not be repeated.  The judge then stated that he would suspend the ticket, and if there were no more charges for the next six months, then the ticket would be dismissed.  I nearly skipped from the courtroom. 

Isn’t being honest wonderful?  Slow down, be careful, and remember that we honor the Lord by how we live – in all aspects of life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do not be Afraid of Spiritual Renewal

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  –Ephesians 5:17, 18 

I have a friend who not only is a pastor, but also preaches revivals at other churches throughout the year.  He was telling me of a church in which he preached and the people had not been responsive.  In fact, he said they had sat there each night, staring at him and looking bored with the entire event.  He later relayed to the pastor of the church that he didn’t believe the people were very excited about the revival meetings.  “Well, I’ll tell you something,” the pastor said.  “I don’t worry too much about that because I certainly don’t want my congregation going charismatic.”  My friend then replied, “Brother, you have nothing to worry about.”   

I find that this describes many believers; for some reason there is a resistance to the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives.  That is a sad reality, for the blessings of such an outpouring of God’s Spirit are truly wonderful and life-changing.  Why are so many Christians seemingly afraid of a genuine spiritual encounter with the Lord?  Could it be that we are fearful of what that encounter might reveal?  There may be areas in our lives that need to be brought under the guidance and submission of the will of God.  These could include wrong attitudes, bad habits, moral issues, a cynical outlook, or a lack of commitment to Christ.  Any or all of these would require a true spirit of repentance and a seeking of the Lord to help overcome them.   

The good news is that the Lord is always willing to help us overcome the negative aspects of our lives when we come to Him in sincere faith.  The Scripture teaches that the Lord will not despise a contrite spirit and a humble attitude (Psalm 51:17).  In fact, that is just the sort of attitude God is looking for in His followers.  The Lord will not turn away someone who comes to Him genuinely seeking a diving and life-changing experience of faith and worship.  

Never be afraid of moving in closer to the Lord.  God is ever inviting us into a closer walk with Him that we might be stronger, have greater faith, deeper devotion, greater concern for our fellow man, and spiritual power to stand firm in the face of life’s struggles.  Where are you in your walk with Christ today?  Are you in need a spiritual renewal and revival?  The Lord stands ready to revive, renew, and empower. 

Do not delay, but seek the Lord today.  Spiritual strength and victory are waiting to be shared.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Lord is With us

The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said: "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.  -Isaiah 8:11, 12

I wonder sometimes if these days it is even possible to turn on the news and not hear about war, tragedy, crises, or some global catastrophe?  The people of Isaiah the prophet’s day didn’t have TV or mass forms of communication, but they may have wondered something similar, for they too heard disturbing accounts of the possibility of invasion and war.  So we see that the fear of war and catastrophe isn’t anything new, but has been around for a long time.  Jesus reminded us that in last days we will hear of wars and rumors of war (Matthew 24:6).  If we aren’t keeping our focus on the Lord we could become so worried about these situations that we could be robbed of all peace and joy in our lives.

God’s challenge in Isaiah 8 was not to fear what the people feared, for they lacked faith and a right relationship with the Lord.  If their hearts were right with God they would not be so afraid and in such a panic.  This passage is relevant for us today because we too can hold fast to the promise of God that if we look to Him in faith we too will see the Lord’s hand working in our lives.  The people were not to trust in themselves, their own power, or the possibility of help from some other source.  They were to look to the Lord and trust Him completely. 

The Israelites of Isaiah’s day remind me of the man who was lost in the woods one night after dark, and he stumbled off a cliff, but managed to cling to a branch that stuck out of the side of the cliff.  In desperation he began to shout for help: “Is anyone up there?” he shouted.  Finally, a still, small voice answered.  “I am the Lord,” the voice said, “Do you truly want my help?”  “Yes Lord!”  The man said.  “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”  The Lord then replied, “Let go of the branch you are holding onto.”  There was a period of silence.  The man then replied, “Is there anyone else up there?”  

We are like that sometimes, are we not?  We ask for the Lord’s help and we promise that we will obey Him no matter what.  But when He tells us what to do we are fearful and unwilling to do what He has said.  Failure to trust the Lord will get us nowhere.  However, trusting the Lord will work wonders in our lives. 

So, what are you trusting in today?  Look to the Lord Jesus Christ, for He will not let us down or lead us the wrong way. 

The Lord is with us –  always.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sleeping Well These Days?

To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.  I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.  –Psalm 3:4-6 

My wife tells me that I don’t get enough sleep.  You know something?  She’s right.  The problem is that I hate to stop all the productive activities I am involved in and go to bed.  I mean, I’m just lying there –  and I could be doing so much more!  Someone has said that sometimes the most productive thing we can do is get some rest, and I have to agree.  Every night I know that I have to bring everything I am doing to a close, get some sleep, and start fresh in the morning.  God is faithful and He will always empower us to accomplish what He has in store for us to do.  I guess maybe I am a little stubborn sometimes.  If I was to ask the Lord, “Lord, do I honestly have to sleep?” The answer would be, “Yes, Dan; now stop what you’re doing and go to bed!” I won’t bother trying to win that argument.

The good news about all of this is that when I do go to bed I sleep my six hours or so incredibly sound.  In recent years I have developed this wonderful ability to fall asleep in a matter of minutes and sometimes seconds.  Believe me when I say that I feel blessed to able to do so, for countless people suffer from insomnia, and I am most fortunate to not have that problem.  The reason that I sleep so soundly is that like David of the Old Testament, I lie down to sleep knowing that the Lord sustains me.  Our lives are in the Lord’s hands; that is the best place they could possibly be, for God is capable of upholding and sustaining us.

 What a blessed thought to drift off to sleep knowing that my life is in God’s hands.  What if my heart were to stop while I am asleep?  That was a thought that at one time might have kept me awake worrying at night.  But that was then.  Now, I drift off to sleep knowing that was I to breathe my last that I would awaken in the presence of the Lord.  I would get to see the face of Christ.  That, my friends, floods my soul with such peace that sleep is even deeper and more restful than ever.    

Like David, I can also go to sleep not fearful of any problems that await me when I arise in the morning, for the Lord is able to sustain me.  And that’s even if “thousands draw up against me on every side.”  That blessed peace is ours in Jesus Christ. 

Sleep well tonight.  Trust in the Lord to give us His peace.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rising up and Moving Forward

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.  –Ephesians 5:13-15 

Have you ever had your day get off to a bad start because you overslept?  That is bound to have happened to all of us at one time or another.  Many of us have been foiled by the alarm clock; hit the snooze button, forget to set the alarm, or the old “I’ll just lay here a little while longer and then get up.”  In the end what happens?  We end up either running way behind or late to where were supposed to be.

God’s Word challenges us to get our lives out into the light; the light being symbolic of doing that which is honorable to God and exalts Jesus Christ.  Indeed, the light of Christ shines into our lives and will expose all that is going on within us.  The good news, though, is that with the Lord’s help those undesirable aspects of our thoughts or attitudes can be removed and overcome.  This is why we are challenged in Scripture to wake up and let the light of Christ shine on us.  Doing so is always to our benefit. 

Have you ever had the experience of trying to wake someone up who would not get up?  If you have ever had teenagers in the house then most likely you have had that experience.  I did it when I was growing up and my sons have done it as well, and that is to underestimate the amount of sleep they need. Sadly, many adults do the same.  We end up almost having to physically shake them out of bed.  Perhaps the Lord feels the same toward us sometimes.  He calls, challenges, inspires, convicts, and brings blessings to our hearts and all the while we continue on a kind of spiritual slumber.  We will only accomplish what the Lord is calling us to do when we by faith rise up and move forward in Jesus’ name.

No matter how physically or emotionally exhausted you may feel today, there is blessed spiritual strength to the found in the Lord.  Trust in Christ, rely upon the strength and help God is offering, and go forward into the blessings that await us today. 

A wonderful day of service to the Lord is waiting.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Stirring of the Heart

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.  –Psalm 45:1 

I love Psalm 45, but verse one certainly gets my attention.  What does it mean to have our hearts stirred?  We all probably understand that imagery to some degree, but consider how it applies to us as individuals.  Certain situations and feelings have the potential to create what the psalmist referred to as a stirring of the heart.  For many people, especially this time of year, their hearts are stirred by their favorite football team.  A song that has a special meaning for us can stir our hearts as well.  When we think about someone we love; a spouse, children, or grandchildren, that also stirs our hearts.  When the heart is stirred we experience powerful emotions which are at work inside of us.  This can often be a pleasant and rewarding experience.   

We also will understand that our hearts can be stirred in some negative ways as well.  Anger is a stirring of the heart, as is jealousy, hatred, bitterness, and sorrow.  Such negative emotions can create serious problems if not brought under control.  What the psalmist is referring to are the noble aspects of life that can stir our hearts in positive ways.  His heart was being stirred by “a noble theme.”  What exactly was the noble theme that was creating such a powerful stirring within his heart?  This psalm spoke of someone who loves righteousness, hates wickedness, and has therefore been blessed by God (V 7).  Seeking to live a life that honors God is a noble pursuit, thus a noble theme to contemplate.

The New Testament gives us numerous examples of what constitutes those noble themes that can stir the heart in positive ways.  Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Contemplating these truths can bring about a wonderful stirring of the heart.  When we center our thoughts, attitudes, and actions on the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are empowered to have His love and grace functioning in us.  And when we are daily in the Word of God, our minds are renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2), which further empowers us to noble and godly thinking. 

What sorts of thoughts are you contemplating today?  Are those musing and meditations stirring your heart in a positive way?  If not, then go back and begin to pray, and contemplate the amazing treasures in God’s Word.  What follows will be a blessed stirring of the heart. 

Look to Christ Jesus today.  He is always able to stir our hearts toward what is right.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Victory Over Impossible Odds

Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel's troops fled from them.  But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the LORD brought about a great victory.  –II Samuel 23:11, 12 

Life certainly can be ironic.  Just yesterday I was writing in this blog about punching bags, and then that evening I sat down to relax for a few minutes in front of the TV, and what movie do you suppose I found?  “Rocky IV.”  This is the one where Rocky travels to Russia to fight the champion, who, by the way, had been running down America in general and American boxers in particular.  Wasn’t he sorry once he stepped into the ring with Mr. Rocky Balboa?  Rocky certainly set him straight, which came in part from all that work on the punching bag.

People have loved those movies over the years and they seem to be as popular now as ever.  I have known why for a long time, but let me state it here: we love to see the underdog take on and overcome the bad guy.  Just when it looks like all is lost and the hero is defeated, this insignificant person, who no one believed ever had a chance, pulls off a stunning victory.  The Scripture shows us a man named Shammah, a warrior in the army of Israel, who was willing to stand and fight when everyone else had fled.  David’s army, the Israelites, had run away in the face of greater numbers, but one man took a stand and stand against all odds was victorious.  We don’t know exactly how many warriors Shammah faced, but it was enough to make everyone else run for their lives.  That says something about his determination and courage in adversity. 

Such a determined spirit is available to us today as followers of Jesus Christ.  We are not to run away from the fears and trials that so often beset us, but rather by the power of God we can overcome, even when all seems lost.  Whatever you are facing today, remember that God has the power to bring you through; and you will not just survive, but you will walk forward in victory.  Just as God gave victory to one man who was faithful, so will the Lord grant victory to us.  Do not surrender, do not despair, and do not give up.  God is faithful and will help us in our time of need. 

The troubled soul finds great comfort in knowing that God is with us, we need not fear, and we will have the victory in Christ.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Being Joyful Through the Trials of Life

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  –James 1:2, 3 

The other morning after I had finished my usual 20-30 minutes of calisthenics, I decided to go a few rounds with the punching bag hanging from the ceiling of my son’s room in the basement, something I haven’t done before.  I danced around that bag and really flew into it – for about a minute.  My wrists and forearms began to ache so badly that for a moment there I thought I might have done myself an injury.  My son later assured me that this is common and that I have to work my way up to a longer session.  He also chastised me for wearing my thin exercise gloves and not the thicker training gloves designed for the punching bag.  I could only stand there humbled and corrected with my aching wrists and forearms.

When I consider the effects of pounding on that punching bag I am reminded of what the Scripture says about facing trials and the testing of our faith.  This process of trusting God and standing firm through the difficulties of life can be painful; to the point that the experience can leave us aching all over.  However, the Word of God says to count this all joy.  Count it all joy?  How is that possible?  I mean, here we are getting hammered with trials and temptations, and we are standing firm as the Lord has instructed us, and we sometimes get discouraged from the pain of it all.  And yet we are commanded to count it all joy.  The joyful part only makes sense in light of true and unquestioning faith in Jesus Christ.  When our faith is tested we develop perseverance.  This passage in the book of James also reminds us that as we grow in perseverance we also grow in maturity.   

Do you see how this works?  If we can learn to trust the Lord through the difficulties and trials we face, we will not be defeated by them, but rather we will be made stronger though them.  A stronger and more mature follower of Christ is also a more peaceful and yes, a more joyful person.  We learn to not waste a lot of precious time fretting over what has happened, what may happen, or what may not happen, but instead we walk forward in confident and victorious faith.  Such an attitude keeps us looking up to the Lord with joy in our hearts as opposed to becoming bitter or giving up altogether.   
What sorts of trials and struggles are you facing right now?  Remember that God is faithful and He has promised to help us through the worst problems we will ever face. When we are troubled, we find comfort in knowing that there is victory to be found in Jesus Christ. 

Do not fret, do not worry, but instead look to Jesus. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Bull in a China Shop

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." -Matthew 16:21-23 

Whenever I think of people in the Bible who sometimes said the wrong thing at the wrong time, I naturally think of Simon Peter.  He was a disciple with a good heart and good intentions, but in others ways he was like the proverbial bull in a china shop.  Imagine Jesus explaining to the disciples how that He was going to be crucified on the cross for the sins of the world, and that He would be raised to life on the third day.  And then imagine Peter taking Him aside and rebuking Him for such talk.  Jesus spoke as bluntly as He ever had with anyone: “Get behind me Satan!”  I don’t know how you read that passage, but I cringe every time. 

I should not be too hard on Peter; after all, I have stuck my foot in my own mouth plenty of times.  The Lord has gently led me in one direction, but I went and did what I thought was right, which was always a mistake.  The Lord has given me an example of grace and humility, but I have flown off the handle and said things that I later regretted.  Jesus has commanded that we love our enemies and pray for them, but I have harbored vengeful and angry feelings in my heart.  Honestly, when I think about it, I have more in common with Peter than I’d like to admit. 

Fortunately for us, however, the Lord is always faithful.  Christ is always willing to forgive us and lead us back onto the right path.  Even with all Peter’s faults and flaws, Jesus still forgave him and saw in him great potential.  I believe that the Lord does the same with us; He looks past our flaws and sees potential in us that neither we nor anyone else may see.  Do not be discouraged if you have made some mistakes, gotten off track, said some unfortunate words, or behaved in a manner that was anything but Christ-like.  The Lord is quick to forgive us.  

Remember another follower of Jesus who made some gaffs along the way.  As I recall, that disciple came to be one of the most faithful, outspoken, and dedicated believers the Christian faith has ever known.  The troubled soul can find comfort in knowing that the Lord loves us – and He isn’t finished with us yet. 

Be faithful, keep moving forward, and keep looking to Jesus.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Power of Light over the Darkness

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  –I John 1:5-7 

I have found over the years that we seem to have a hard time keeping flashlights on hand around the house.  About the time I purchase a couple of new flashlights, they somehow end up not working, lost, or that little bulb in the top gets broken.  I have a friend who loves to buy flashlights and he lives by a code that you cannot have too many around the house.  I have come to agree with that belief.  So, what has happened to all my flashlights over the years?  I think it goes back to having sons.  Boys, as a rule, are hard on furniture, appliances, and carpeting, and they can also put the most well-built flashlight to the test. 

When my boys were small I remember how they loved to play with flashlights.  They would sometimes take them outside and play some kind of flashlight tag or some other light-related game, and then there was simply having one in the bed with them.  There is indeed a security to having that light available at any moment to shine into the darkness.  That is what light does, right?  It shines into the darkness and drives it away.  When we have that light with us the soothing comfort it brings is wonderfully peaceful.

The Scripture reminds us that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all; not even a trace.  The light of Jesus Christ is meant to shine from our lives and let others know that we are His followers.  That light shines brightest when we love one another, reach out a helping hand, and live out the Christ-like attitudes that Jesus taught.  Not only does that blessed light pierce the darkness, but it also lights our way and gives comfort and respite to the troubled soul.  Light is more powerful than darkness, and light has the power to drive darkness away.  When a light is shined into a dark room, the darkness doesn’t overpower the light, but much the opposite; the light overcomes the darkness.  Such is the power of Jesus Christ is our lives.  He is able to drive from our lives the darkness of sin, sorrow, doubt, despair, and bitterness.  

Through faith in Christ we are empowered to walk forward in the light of the Lord each and every day.  In that walk is victory over that which would otherwise have defeated us.  Spiritual victory is waiting today for those who resolve to walk in the light of Christ.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Beware of the Devil’s Lies

The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" -Matthew 4:3, 4 

Many years ago I heard a parable about a man who was walking up a steep mountain trail one day when he came upon a poisonous snake.  The snake asked the man if he would be willing to carry him to the top of the hill since the climb was so steep.  “If I pick you up you will bite me for sure.”  the man said.  “Oh no, I will not,” the snake answered.  “In exchange for your kindness in carrying me up the hill I promise I will not bite you.”  This seemed reasonable to the man, so he picked up the snake and they started up the trail.  As they reached the top the man said, “Well, here we are.”  And he sat the snake on the ground.  But just as he did so the snake turned and bit him, injecting him with poisonous venom.  “You promised you wouldn’t bite me!” the man cried.  The snake then replied, “You knew I was a poisonous snake when you picked me up.  This is what snakes do.  You should never have believed me!”  

The Scripture shows us how that Jesus, when He was temped, did not fall for the lies of the devil, but instead resisted the temptations being offered.  The devil has a way of making that which we should resist look extremely attractive, and he will hit us during our weakest moments.  This is what he did to Jesus while the Lord was fasting and praying in the wilderness for 40 days.  Jesus had made a commitment to fast and pray during this time and nothing was going to deter him.  The devil tried to get Jesus to abuse His power by turning stones into bread.  Jesus countered this temptation by standing decisively upon the Word of God.  In so doing, the Lord resisted temptation and stood firm.   

We do well to follow Jesus’ example.  Prayer and the Word of God are the most powerful tools available to us for resisting the lies and temptations of the evil one.  The devil will distort the truth, twist the facts, and tell outright lies in an effort to deceive us.  Never believe him under any circumstances.  For it is as Jesus said, when the devil is lying he is speaking his native language (John 8:44).  How can you tell when the devil is lying?  That’s easy; his lips are moving.  He can sound convincing and he can make what goes against God’s Word look most appealing.  However, in the end we will get bitten and will suffer the consequences.

Our calling in Jesus Christ is to live lives that bring honor to God.  We do not have to surrender in defeat, but rather we can rise up in Christ’s power and move forward in victory.  No doubt today there are some temptations waiting.  Trust the Lord and rely upon His strength.  Victory will then follow.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Go and do Likewise

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.' "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."  -Luke 10:30-33, 36, 37

Everywhere we go we will find people in need.  Some will be in need of the basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter.  Others will have emotional needs such as the need for security, comfort, encouragement, and kindness.  In either case, we often encounter people who are at the end of their rope and wondering how much longer they can hang on.  They are all around us, and we can begin to feel overwhelmed at the thought of trying to help them all.  But we can help some, right? 

Jesus demonstrated that we are called to stop and lend a helping hand whenever possible.  The ways this can be accomplished are numerous.  We can volunteer in a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, hospital, crisis center, or local food bank.  These organizations are always in need of volunteers to assist in the work.  Those we meet from day to day can also be in need of a kind and encouraging word.  Consider that if you or I meet someone today who is in need, and we offer a word of hope, this just might mean the difference between life and death to the person.  He or she may be starting to believe that life is no longer worth living, and by an act of kindness the person might be swayed toward giving life another chance.

The beaten and helpless man in the parable of the Good Samaritan was passed over by some who would have been considered religious, but a Samaritan, someone who was despised by the people of Jesus’ day, had compassion on the man, stopped, and helped him.  As we go throughout our days, the Lord will give us guidance and discernment as to who we are to help and how.  At the very least we can offer a kind word, a smile, compassion, prayer, and encouragement.  And when we get involved in the community with organizations designed to help others, we find that many people can be assisted. 

Let us not pass by those on need, but rather let’s reach out in Jesus’ name.  The troubled soul finds comfort in Jesus, and we find peace in doing what Jesus said: “Go and do likewise.”

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Calm, Cool, and in Control

An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.  –Proverbs 29:22, 23 

Several years ago I found myself in a painful phone conversation with an irate woman.  She was upset over an incident that occurred between my son and hers, the details of which I will not delve into here.  Suffice to say that my son could hear her yelling at me through my end of the phone.  I calmly told her that I was sure the matter could be resolved if we could only discuss the situation like rational adults.  Sadly, I was not able to calm her down and she finally ran out of steam and hung up.  My son then asked me, “Dad, why didn’t you tell her off after the hateful way she talked to you?” “Well,” I explained, “what she needs is the love of Jesus Christ.  What better way to demonstrate that love than through patience, compassion, and grace?” 

Fast forward to a few months ago to another conversation; this discussion was between my son and another friend’s mother – not to be confused with the one who had bawled me out several years ago.  Somehow they got on the topic of self-control.  My son informed this lady that no one can make his dad lose his cool. The lady scoffed at this and jokingly said that she was certain that someone could get me to lose my temper.  “No,” he replied, “not my dad; you could not get him to blow his top; he’s always cool and in control.”  

When my son relayed this discussion to me I realized that he had paid me just about the highest compliment I have ever received.  For the record, I have lost my temper before and blown all my circuits, but to my son I am apparently a shining example of calm and cool under pressure.  Wow; I am still smiling over that one.

The Scripture reminds us that self-control is a valuable discipline.  Jesus commanded us to love one another, for “all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).  Uncontrolled anger will ever be a hindrance to the love of Jesus that is meant to shine through our lives.  I know this is a challenge, as human nature leads us to want to rise to our full height and let someone have it when we are threatened in some way.  However, as followers of Christ we are called to follow Jesus’ example of humility at all times and in all situations.    

Have you lost your temper lately?  Pray, daily study God's Word, and specifically ask the Lord for strength in this area.  Pray that you will have more of Jesus Christ working in your life – all facets of it.   

God is faithful and will always honor such a sincere prayer.  That self-control you desire will come to be. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Considering our Place in the World

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. -Psalm 19:1, 2

To all of my faithful readers: You will notice some new features on my blog, one of which is a counter that tracks the number of visits each month.  This will give me an approximation of how often people are reading.  Secondly, and this is something I am most excited about, I have added a search bar that allows you to do a search within the blog.  If you want to go back and find blog posts that deal with a certain topic, then simply type that word in the search box, hit the “search” button, and instantly you can link to any previous blogs containing that theme or word. 

Isn’t modern technology something?  Back in the mid to late 1980’s when I was a student at the University of Cincinnati, few people owned a computer.  We had to go to computer labs on campus and use the old doss mode pc’s that were slow, cumbersome, and had nearly no memory or RAM.  The printers were noisy and were the size of coffee tables.  The situation has changed dramatically, to say the least.  Today, if a web page takes longer than about a second to load we get impatient.  And we can store thousands of gigabytes of memory in a small flash drive.  “Back in the day” (as my sons are fond of saying) we had not yet heard of the World Wide Web, let alone flash drives and other technology that has revolutionized the way we all communicate.  

We have so much in the way of technology and electronic gadgets that we have perhaps begun to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.  The Scripture reminds us of the power of God and our place in the universe.  The psalmist stated that "the heavens declare the glory of God."   How is it that the same God who created the world, who flung the stars and planets in their place, and who caused the sun to shine, cares about you and me on a personal basis?  God has reached out to us in an extremely personal way; Jesus Christ has come into the world that we might have salvation, life, joy, and peace.  The Scripture reminds us of this truth: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory” (John 1:14, KJV). 

Like the psalmist, we do well to look up into the sky and contemplate the vastness of the universe.  Remember that God loves us; so much that He has redeemed us in Christ Jesus.  The troubled soul finds peace in knowing that the Lord cares for us, and that we have a vital place in the world.
Look up, be encouraged, and trust the Lord today.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Know Jesus, Know Peace

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  –John 14:26, 27 

Quite often when I am out driving around town I notice the bumper stickers people have on their cars.  They range from the ridiculous to the outrageous.  I recall one I saw which read, “All men are idiots and I married their king.”  That sounds like a woman who was none too happy with her husband or men in general.  Some aren’t so cutting and are less serious, even humorous, such as the one I noticed on a beat-up clunker which said, “My other car is a Mercedes.” That particular one did in fact make me chuckle. 

One day I was stopped at a traffic light, and the car in front of me had a bumper sticker which said, “Know Jesus, know peace.  No Jesus, no peace.” Not only did that cause me to smile, but it blessed me with its pure simplicity.  The truth of that statement is far more profound than we might realize; such a phrasing is more than a subtle playing of words and nuance of language.  Indeed, that bumper sticker spoke volumes about what the Lord brings to our lives.  Jesus Christ does in fact bring peace; blessed, sacred, wonderful, life-transforming peace.  Christ brings into our lives a kind of peace that transcends anything the world might offer.  What the world offers will invariably be a temporal and synthetic peace.  

What the Lord Jesus brings lasts a lifetime.  Such peace lasts through the darkest days and worst storms life can throw at us.  Through faith in Christ we can daily have the peace, calm, and joy that a relationship with Him brings.  Whatever you are facing today, the Lord can give you His peace.  Christ provides this blessing freely and willingly to any and all who will believe on Him. 

The troubled soul finds rest and peace in the Lord.  Life is hard, but in Christ we can have peace in the midst of it.  Look to the Lord today.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Speaking Words of Faith and Encouragement

The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.  –Psalm 37:30, 31

I was listening to a comedian on TV a few years ago and he was talking about phone calls.  He posed the question about calling someone and then being disappointed when you didn’t get the answering machine.  Have you ever had that happen?  How did that turn out?  Hopefully, you took to heart my advice about smiling throughout the phone conversation, which can make a wonderful difference.  Speaking of phones, I have been trying to decide whether or not to get caller ID.  Yes, I know; it’s hard to believe that I still don’t have that feature, but I have come to the conclusion that getting caller ID will take away all the excitement from answering the phone.

Remember the days before we had caller ID?  Answering the phone was kind of exciting.  As it was ringing we were thinking, “I wonder who this could be?”  Now, we see who it is and we think, “Him?  I definitely don’t want to talk to him – so I won’t answer.”  And then the caller gets your machine, which is a relief, because he was probably in a hurry was grateful to just get to leave a message.  But seriously, must all the thrill be taken from the simple things in life?  Without caller ID the phone rings and we can wonder with great anticipation who will be on the other end.  An old friend, perhaps?  A loved one we haven’t heard from in a long time?  The possibilities are endless.  Honestly, I hate to lose all that. 

The Scripture reminds us that when we do have the opportunity to speak that if we are following the Lord we will communicate with righteousness and truth.  Regardless of whether on the phone or in person, what we speak will be honoring to God and an encouragement to others.  Does that mean that we have to be serious and somber all of the time?  Go back and re-read the beginning of this blog post and you will see that the answer is no.  Humor can honor our faith in Christ and be a tremendous encouragement to those around us.  I have said many times before and I believe it with all my heart, that laughter is a wonderful gift from God as well as the best medicine.   
As followers of Christ, let us strive to speak words of faith, encouragement, and edification to those around us.  There is someone the Lord will place in your path today who needs an encouraging word.  Be open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit to minister those soothing words of hope as we have opportunity.   
As the Bible says, when the Word of God is in our hearts, our feet are firm and will not slip.  Walk forward in faith today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Special Message Just for you From God’s Word

I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.  –Psalm 119:102-104 

I believe that people sometimes have the idea that when a preacher sits down with the Word of God that it is always for the purpose of preparing a sermon or Bible study.  We do a certain amount of that, but there is another purpose the spiritual leader must have in mind when opening the Bible and that is taking in the deeper truths of God’s Word.  When I open the Word each morning I try to do so with no other purpose other than communing with the Lord and growing in His Word.  I guess what I am saying is that sacred time each day when I am alone with God is done just for me.  Might that be considered selfish?  The answer is, certainly not.  

When we read the gospels we find that the Lord Jesus was often going off somewhere alone for the singular purpose of prayer and meditation on the Word.  Jesus was always setting an example that we can follow and we certainly see this in the time He spent alone in prayer and devotion to God.  To me, that time I spend alone with God is a sacred time.  This is when I can come to the Lord and freely give to Him all my problems, fears, worries, and concerns.  And I can also spend time listening for His voice as He directs me to the wonderful treasures in His holy Word.  I carefully guard that daily time alone with God so that nothing gets in the way.  When we seek the Lord daily for the sole purpose of spending time with Him we will not be disappointed.  In fact, we will find a special message from the Lord intended for us on an individual basis.  We will then be strengthened, empowered, and encouraged to walk forward in faith. 

Quite often we get busy and we neglect spending time with those closest to us.  You know something?  God is never too busy to take time to listen to whatever we have to say.  He will never turn us away and He is always attentive to our needs and He is concerned over whatever we are facing.

How long has it been since you spent some time alone communing with God?  Take time to talk with the Lord today.  Listen for His still small voice bringing soothing hope and comfort.  The troubled soul will find reassurance and encouragement through prayer and the Word of God.  Look to Christ and trust Him today.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Wonderful Power of God’s Word

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  –Hebrews 4:12 

As you may know from some recent posts I do more cooking these days than even before.  I honestly enjoy cooking, but also it’s a great help to my wife as she has been recovering from her cancer surgery of last May.  She is doing well; thanks always for the continued prayers.  We realize that when we cook meals that there is always some clean-up time involved afterward.  Even before I had my personal rediscovering of the kitchen I was a fairly good hand in the after meal clean-up.  

Several years ago I was in the kitchen washing a few dishes by hand, and I was washing a particularly sharp kitchen knife.  I thought I had the dish rag around the blade as I cleaned it off, but unfortunately the dish rag slipped off and I accidentally ran my finger along the blade.  In that instant I sustained a serious cut on my finger.  It didn’t merit a trip to the ER, but it was close.  I am still amazed at the sharpness of that knife and its ability to slice deep into my skin.
As I recall the sharpness of that knife I consider what the Scripture says about itself: that the Word of God is living, active, and sharper than any double-edged sword.  God’s Word can cut deep into our hearts and reveal to us those areas that need improvement or removed from our lives.  God’s Word also has the power to comfort us in our time of need.  Such is the definition of living and active.  God’s Word doesn’t just lay dormant in our minds when we read it, but rather by the power of the Holy Spirit it does a great spiritual work; revealing God’s expectations, revealing the salvation we can have in Jesus Christ, and the deeper truths of faith.

Every time we open the Bible we have an opportunity to explore the riches of God’s Word.  To me, opening the Word of God every morning is like walking into a gold or diamond mine.  The deeper we go the more likely we are to strike into a blessed and wonderful treasure.  Those revelations from the Word can speak directly to our hearts and show us how to walk closer to God which results in daily spiritual victory. 

Have you taken the time to open God’s Word today and let it speak to your heart?  It isn’t too late to do so, and some wonderful blessings are waiting within.  We are blessed when we ask the Lord speak to us through His Word.  Spiritual strength, encouragement, and spiritual power are waiting.  Spend time every day in the Word. 
Tomorrow’s Blog: "God’s Word has a special message for you."  Don’t miss it!