Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Being Thankful and Growing in Faith

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. -Psalm 100:4 (KJV)

Consider how that a thankful heart leads us to trust God no matter what.  I will not hit you with a lot of talk today about how good we have it here in America, for hopefully we all realize that.  Parents who tell their kids at the dinner table to eat all their food because there are starving people in the world who would love to have it are telling the truth.  Most of us are living like royalty compared to millions upon millions of people live in abject poverty.   

And yet I was irritated because the line I front of me wasn’t moving fast enough.  I was upset because my car wouldn’t start this morning.  Someone said something to me that sort of rubbed me the wrong way.  The biscuits my wife fixed were baked a little too long, my favorite shirt wasn’t washed when I needed it, my coffee wasn’t hot enough, and on and on we go with these inconveniences.  In the broad scheme of things those little petty annoyances are not worth getting upset about at all – ever.  A thankful heart helps us to understand that.   

Are we fully aware of the hope that Jesus Christ brings?  My prayer is that we will embrace this wonderful truth in a way we have never done before. When I was a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the President of the seminary was the late Dr. Roy Honeycutt, one of the most brilliant Bible scholars I have ever know, but also one of the most humble and gracious men I have ever known as well.  One morning in chapel he told the story of a new student who early into the semester came to him and said, “Dr, Honeycutt, I am having problems here!”  Dr. Honeycutt asked him what was wrong.  The young man said, “I am hearing and learning things I have never heard before!”  Dr. Honeycutt gently said, “Son, that is why you are here.” 

My prayer is that we will come to a level of faith we have never experienced before, because that is why we are here.  We are called to grow in faith, grace, love, and the knowledge of God's Word.  Jesus Christ is greater and more powerful than any problem we will ever face, and we can claim the victory in Him.  Be thankful, look to Christ, and make Him Lord of your life.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Living in the Light of Christ

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. -I John 1:7 (KJV)

I feel a burden for anyone who doesn’t know Jesus as Savior.  But I also feel a burden for believers who are not walking in the fullness of God’s grace.  I feel for them, because I understand exactly what that’s like.  I have been there myself, and it’s a terrible place to be.  Jesus has not called us to despair, defeat, or a half-hearted kind of faith.  No, the Lord has called us to the abundant life in Him where spiritual victory is the norm and not the exception.  Living for Jesus and walking in spiritual victory involves a life-time commitment.  There is no where in the Bible where it says this will be easy.  If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.  Walking in the light is for the faithful – and that is what the Lord has called us to be.

Jesus taught that we are to so be like Him that His light becomes our light.  We become the light of Jesus in sin-darkened world that desperately needs the love of God.  My mother has told me that when she was a little girl living in eastern Kentucky that they would sometimes clean their oil lamps.  They used oil lamps becasue they had no electricity in their home.  She said that after cleaning the globes on the lamps they were amazed at how brightly they shined.  We too will be amazed at how brightly God’s love shines from us once we remove the grime of sin and any attitude that hinders us.

Walk in the light of Jesus Christ and seek to experience the fullness of His grace. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Walking in the Light and Love of Christ

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. -Ephesians 5:1, 2 (KJV)

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:1-2 to be followers of God.  Do you know another way this can be applied?  Be imitators of God.  Take on the attributes of the Lord – at all times and in all situations.  No matter what life throws at us and no matter how difficult our problems become, seek to be like Jesus – in every aspect of life.  The beginning point after trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to walk in His love.  Now, here is a formula for victorious Christian living and it’s meant to be practiced by followers of Christ; Walk, live, in the love of Jesus Christ.  
 
Those who have never trusted in Christ as Savior cannot walk in spiritual victory.  The reason being that they are still in a lost condition.  But if they will realize the need for salvation, open their hearts and receive Jesus, then they will be saved, born again, redeemed, and cleansed from sin by the shed blood of Christ.  Such persons, whoever they may be, will then be given power to walk in the love of Jesus Christ – as the Bible commands.  What happens when we begin to walk in the love of Christ?  The answer is that His light begins to shine from our lives.   
 
As a follower of Jesus, if I am mean, moody, cynical, hateful, and sarcastic, then such negative attitudes will greatly hinder the light of the Lord that might otherwise have shined through.  That is why the Bible clearly tells us to get rid of those undesirable attributes.  I Peter 2:1 says, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”  To walk in the love of Jesus means to live in such way that the light of Christ can shine freely from our lives.  Ephesians 5:2 reminds us of what the Lord has done; Christ has loved us, and has given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God.  Christ loved the world so much that He died in our place.  He bore upon Himself the sins of the world that we might have forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  A man told me once that he had so much wrong with his life that he didn’t think he had anything to be thankful for.  I said, “Wrong; you have salvation.”  No matter what we can always be thankful for that.  

Always remember that greatest blessing, that we have salvation through Jesus Christ.  From that ultimate blessing flows a wealth of God's grace, mercy, and love, joy, and peace.  Look to the Lord and continue to be thankful.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Throwing off that which Hinders

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith... -Hebrews 12:1, 2a

Before a more modern era in the incarceration of criminals, there were methods used for keeping prisoners from trying to escape.  One of them was affixing to the prisoner a heavy steel ball attached about the ankle with a chain.  So heavy was the weight that the prisoner would have great difficulty running away.  If he attempted to do so he would be hindered by the heavy weight attached to his leg.  The Word of God challenges us to lay aside any weight that hinders us in our walk with Jesus Christ.  We are to be ever moving forward in terms of our spiritual growth and progress.  Anytime sin creeps into our lives the result is that we become ensnared and unable to move forward in our spiritual growth.  Like a heavy ball and chain, sin has the power to ensnare us and keep us from moving forward in our faith.

We are further reminded that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.  Who are these witnesses?  These are the people of faith which the Bible outlines and refers to in Hebrews chapter 11.  Just as they overcome the world and all its trials and temptations through faith, we are called to do likewise.  The difference between us and them is that we are on the other side of Christ’s coming.  We have experienced the promised salvation which the prophets foretold.  We are the recipients of those promises and heirs to a kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Through faith in Christ we can, as the Scripture says, run the race with endurance.  The Lord empowers us to keep going and keep progressing when we might otherwise have given up.  Do not give up and do not surrender, but rather be encouraged by the power of the Holy Spirit which is available to all who put their faith in Christ.  Let us do as the Bible says and look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. 

When we are feeling down we can look to Jesus.  Whenever we are discouraged we can look to Jesus.  Anytime we grow tired and weary we can look to Jesus. Should we start to believe that our problems are too much to bear we can always look to Jesus.  What is holding you back?  Is it some sin, a wrong attitude, or an unforgiving spirit?  Resolve to give that weight over to the Lord and to carry it no longer.  

The troubled soul finds spiritual power, strength, and encouragement in the Lord.  Look to Him today.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Another Thanksgiving has Come and Gone

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.  -Psalm 95:2 (KJV) 

Another Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, but living in an attitude of thanksgiving to God continues.  Many people get to thinking about being benevolent and generous this time of year, and while that can be positive we are better off seeking to be thankful the entire year.  When we are thankful to God the result is gratitude, which in turn leads to a more positive outlook.  The Lord has not called us to be morose and sorrowful, but rather we are called to be the light of Jesus Christ in a lost, troubled, and hurting world.  Being thankful facilitates such an attitude in a powerful way.   
 
An unfortunate byproduct of the Christmas season is stress.  We try to do too much, take on too many responsibilities, attend too many Christmas events, and we spend too much money.  A thankful attitude keeps us centered on Jesus Christ, and when Jesus is our focus we are less likely to become overwhelmed with all that’s going on this time of year.  Followers of Christ are called to keep our relationship with the Lord our main priority, for as long we are putting the Lord first everything else will then line up in its proper place (Mathew 6:33).  

Just because Thanksgiving is past doesn’t mean that we cease from being thankful.  Consider what you are thankful for right now.  Count your blessings and experience again the wonder of walking in the light and blessings of Jesus Christ.   

The troubled soul finds rest, peace, joy, and comfort through a relationship with the Lord.  Keep looking to Him, pray daily, stay in the Word, and give Christ the preeminence in our hearts.  Keep looking to the Lord, for He is with us.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Living in an Attitude of Thanksgiving to the Lord

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.  -Psalm 69:30 (KJV)

Being thankful to God is an ongoing attitude of thanksgiving and praise that positively affects every aspect of our lives.  When we walk forward with Christ in the power of a thankful heart, we are living in spiritual victory over the problems and trials which would otherwise have brought us down.  A thankful heart is the heart of an over-comer, for we know that in Christ we will have the victory over sin, temptation, and our daily struggles.  A thankful heart empowers us to praise the Lord, look to Him in faith, and rejoice even in the midst of trouble.  Consider these principles for living daily with a glad and thankful heart:

Being thankful brings the peace of Christ more closely to our hearts.  When we are thankful the result is blessed peace.  And it’s a peace to which nothing in the world can compare.  No thrill, no experience, no situation, and no amount of money can compare with the experience of having the peace of Christ in our hearts.  Romans 5:1 says "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord."  That peace can be with us every day as we serve the Lord and walk with Him.

Being thankful helps us to take on a positive attitude even in difficult circumstances.  I heard a story about two men who were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence.  The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn't make it. Terrified, the one shouted to the other, "Put up a prayer, John. We're in for it!" John answered, "I can't. I've never made a public prayer in my life." "But you must!" implored his companion. "The bull is catching up to us." "All right," panted John, "I'll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: 'O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'"  We all will go through hard times, but when are thankful to the Lord, we will make it through and we will do so in spiritual victory.  

No matter what we are facing we can praise the Lord and give thanks to Him.  Remember James 1:2: "Count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations."  When we face trials of all kinds, rejoice.  When we are up against some new problem, rejoice.  When we face some new struggle, rejoice.  For Jesus Christ has already overcome and He is greater than any problem we will ever face.  That is cause for thanksgiving.   
  • Pray always (I Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Give thanks always.
  • Being thankful overcomes bitterness and ill feelings.
  • Being thankful is a power source that leads to vibrant praise.
  • Being thankful moves us forward when we are discouraged.
  • Being thankful helps us smile when we face those daily frustrations and problems.  We can say "Thank you Jesus," and we can mean it with all our hearts.
Give thanks and be of good cheer, for Jesus Christ is Lord.  In Christ there is victory!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Putting a Thankful Attitude into Practice

Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways.  When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.  -Psalm 128:1, 2 (NJKV)

Hopefully we understand that we are supposed to be thankful and have grateful hearts, but are we truly thankful?  Are we walking in a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude?  It’s one thing to say we are thankful, but the next step is to actually put a thankful attitude into practice.  We can accomplish this in a number of ways.

Remember that in Christ blessings always outweigh trials.  Psalm 128:1, 2 speaks of the blessings that come from serving the Lord.  Though it may not seem like it all of the time, those blessings will outweigh the trials and heartaches.  Of that we can be certain.  We can say with Jeremiah the prophet, it is because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22, 23).  Through faith we begin to look at all of our blessings and trials.  I know from personal experience that the blessings will be greater than the difficulties we face.  Remember also the ultimate blessing which is having Jesus Christ as Savior.  This outweighs any problem we will ever face.  

Realize that in Christ a thankful heart is greater than worry and fear.  When we stop and are thankful we will find that our fears are comforted and our worries are stilled.  Ephesians 1:3 says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places with Christ.”  Thanksgiving leads to praise which leads to victory over whatever we fear.  We have trials, but because we are so thankful to God we are not afraid.  Rather, we will rejoice.  Rejoicing always drowns out fear and worry.  Worry has to have a source.  Praise and thanksgiving cuts off the supply of what worries us.

Recognize that being thankful takes our minds of ourselves and places them on Christ.  One of the greatest hindrances to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is self.  We can become so self-absorbed that we cease from being thankful for anything.  Being thankful causes us to stop thinking so much about ourselves and to begin considering what the Lord would have us to do.  When we pray as the Lord Jesus did that God’s will, not ours be done (Mark 14:36), then the result will be a movement of God’s Spirit in us. 

Part of our high calling in Jesus Christ is to be thankful to God every day and to walk forward in an attitude of thanksgiving and praise.  During this week of Thanksgiving, may we be reminded of these blessed truths.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Blessings of Being Faithful to the Lord

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!  For the LORD has spoken:  
   “I have nourished and brought up children,
      And they have rebelled against Me;
      The ox knows its owner
      And the donkey its master’s crib;
      But Israel does not know,
      My people do not consider.”  -Isaiah 1:2, 3 (NKJV)
 

Raising children and then getting them through the teenage years is an experience in grace, patience, persistence, and prayer.  Even the best and lovingly raised kids will sometimes go against what their parents taught them.  Is there anyone reading this right now that was raised in a good home, but yet rebelled for a time?  Many of us have done just that; we went against the sound teachings and examples given to us by our parents.  That was heartbreaking for our parents and it’s heartbreaking for us when our children sometimes go astray.  However, we know that God is faithful and the Word of God which we teach our children will not have been in vain.

The Bible shows that the Lord understands the heartbreak of having His children rebel against Him.  The Lord loved His people, nurtured them, cared for them, and provided for them, but they went against Him and all that they had been taught.  Let’s not become smug or overconfident and think that we would never do what the ancient Israelites did in bowing down to idols and turning away from God.  We are every bit as capable of such rebellion as them.  By the grace of God and through faith in Jesus Christ we can live lives of faithfulness and devotion to God.  Anytime we turn away from God and go against Him will, it’s just as heartbreaking as it was when His people Israel did the same in ancient times. 

The Lord is calling us to daily devotion and a closer walk with Him.  When we commit our way to the Lord we are blessed, just as God has promised in His Word (Psalm 37:4-6).  The challenge for us as followers of Jesus Christ is to consistently follow the Lord every day.  Commit your way to the Lord.  Resolve to walk in faith.  Move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Face the challenges of life with the confidence that the Lord is with us.  Take up the cross, adopt a humble spirit, and live for Jesus. 

Blessings in abundance are waiting when we are faithful to the Lord.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Overcoming the Smothering Grip of Discouragement

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.  -I Thessalonians 2:1 (NKJV)

One of the greatest hindrances to the work of the ministry is the false belief that our labors for the Lord are in vain.  According to the Word of God, when we follow God’s will and are faithful to His Word, then our labor will not be in vain.  One problem is that we want results and we want them right now.  I believe this explains why people so often enjoy doing yard work.  The results are immediate; you can tell right away that you have accomplished something.  The work of the gospel ministry doesn’t always work like that.  Sometimes it takes many years for the fruit of our labors to be realized.  This is where we can become discouraged and falsely believe that we aren’t accomplishing much or anything at all.  Does the devil want us to become discouraged?  The answer is, of course, that he does.  We must stand firm and not give into discouragement. 

The work among the Thessalonians was difficult and exhausting, but in no way was it in vain.  Paul was not about to give into the smothering grip of discouragement.  Paul knew something about what can happen when a person gets discouraged.  Consider the case of John Mark, a young man whom Paul had taken under his wing.  Look at the events of Acts 15:36-41.  That had to be a disappointing time for Paul, because John Mark had such promise.  However, we find that the rift between them was later resolved and healed.  John Mark gave into the darkness of discouragement, but later he came back into the work of the ministry.  The words of Colossians 4:10 and II Timothy 4:11 demonstrate this to be true.

To me, this is one of the all time great success stories of the Bible.  Mark had become discouraged and had walked away from the ministry for a time.  However, he eventually came back and is known in the Word of God for being faithful.  God is very forgiving and full of grace and compassion. So much so that one who becomes discouraged and fails can be restored and go on to serve the Lord in dynamic fashion.  That is what John Mark did.

Have you been feeling discouraged?  Have you considered walking away from your service to God?  If so stop now and remember that the Lord is full of grace and compassion.  Christ can re-energize and revitalize your faith and devotion to Him.  Open your heart and let the Lord do this today.  In Christ discouragement is overcome.

You are a vital part of God’s kingdom.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Sacred Trust of the Gospel

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.  -I Thessalonians 2:4 

Sunday morning is an important time for believers because we come to church to worship, but it’s also an important time for preachers because we have been entrusted with so great a task, which is that of preaching the gospel.  I recall when I was a seminary student studying theology under Dr. Wayne Ward.  Dr. Ward pointed out one day that if a doctor makes a mistake during surgery it could create a medical problem for the rest of the patient’s life.  However, if the preacher makes a mistake, someone might choose to not come to faith in Christ and be condemned for all eternity.  We cannot underestimate the critical importance of proclaiming the gospel to those in need of salvation. 

The Bible speaks of the sacred trust of the Gospel.  God allows the preacher and those in the ministry to be trusted with a great and awesome task; that of proclaiming the way of salvation.  That is a charge, a task, that should be taken seriously, and it merits handling with great care.  The devil is alive and well, and he is out to not only discourage, but to destroy.  As followers of Christ we are called to pray for one another, stand firm on the Word of God, and boldly proclaim the gospel of Christ without fear and without compromise.

Let us be so close to God, so deep in His Word, so soaked in prayer, that we can stand when the devil starts firing his arrows – and they are always the flaming kind (Ephesians 6:16).  With God’s help we can stand firm and be the witnesses, the preachers, and servants the Lord has called us to be.  

Be faithful and go forward in the power of the Holy Spirit – in Jesus’ name.  
 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Leaves that Fade and Fall

For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades, and as a garden that has no water.  The strong shall be as tinder, and the work of it as a spark; both will burn together, and no one shall quench them.  -Isaiah 1:30, 31 (NJKV) 

As I write this blog I can hear the sound of the riding mower outside.  My son isn’t cutting grass, but rather he is getting up the last of the fallen leaves.  The church parsonage, where we have called home for nearly fifteen years, is surrounded by trees and forest, so raking all the leaves from the yard is a task that usually extends well into November.  Those leaves have faded and fallen, and we will not see new growth on the trees until next March or April.  Perhaps that seems like a long time, but be patient and forge ahead through winter, for a beautiful spring will be here soon. 

The Word of God says that those who go against God will be like the leaves of an Oak tree that have faded and fallen lifeless to the ground.  They were glorious for awhile, but now they have fallen.  This is a poignant picture of those who make the fateful decision to go against Almighty God.  As the Scripture reminds us, there is a way that seems right to us, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 14:12).  

The best choice for a blessed life is to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and then live a life that honors God.  Many believe this is an impossible task, but if that were so God would not have told us in His Word that we are called to do so.  The way of the world is to exclude God from our thoughts and our decisions.  But in the end the consequences of this are dire and eternal.  The Lord invites us to come to Him in faith and walk under His blessings and guidance.  Make that right choice today and invite Jesus Christ into your heart.  If you are a believer who has grown cold and indifferent, then ask God to stir the fire of faith in your heart.  The Lord is always willing to inspire, help, and empower us when we seek Him 

The troubled soul finds new life, hope, peace, and joy through faith in the Lord.  Look to Christ today.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some People are Never Satisfied

And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying:

‘We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance;
      We mourned to you,
And you did not weep.’ 

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  But wisdom is justified by all her children.”  -Luke 7:31-35 (NKJV)

I heard a story about a man who went into a cafĂ© one morning for breakfast.  The waitress asked him what he would like.  The man said, “I’d like two eggs, scrambled, but very runny, sausage links burnt and hard as a rock, toast burned to a crisp, and a cup of cold weak coffee.”  The puzzled waitress replied, “Sir, I don’t think we can fix a meal like that.”  “Why not?” the man said, “You had no trouble with it the other day when I was in here.” 

Do you ever get the feeling that some people are never satisfied with anything?  No matter what they get they still aren’t happy?  Unfortunately, there are such people all around us, and they often direct their unhappiness and criticisms toward Jesus Christ.  The Lord drove this point home when He spoke of John the Baptist.  John had come in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming the coming of the Lord and the need to be prepared for when the Lord would appear.  Some thought John was a true prophet, but others refused to heed his message.  Jesus said that they reminded Him of the way people so often are; they are never satisfied.  Jesus pointed out that John came eating no meat and drinking no wine and some accused him of being demon possessed.  Jesus came eating meals and having fellowship with sinners and yet He too was criticized.  How ironic that those who rejected John’s message then rejected Christ as well, calling Him a glutton and a friend of sinners.  

By faith we receive the message of God’s Word that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.  By faith we receive Christ, and by faith we proclaim the message to a lost and hurting world.  Will they be pleased with the message?  Very often they will not, and they will make their indignation known.  But let us not be deterred, for the Lord has called us to go and share the Good News and make disciples. 

Do not be discouraged, but rejoice that the Lord is with us.  Without Christ we were among the troubled souls who were unhappy and perhaps blaming God.  Faith in Jesus Christ changes that perspective to one of vibrant and living hope.  Such hope is certain and will not disappoint us –  ever.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where is your Treasure?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.   For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  -Matthew 6:19-21 

With colder weather coming on I have this funny habit in which I like to go outside and see for myself just how cold it actually is.  To accomplish this, of course, one needs a reliable thermometer.  I had a fairly good one, but one windy night a couple of years ago it blew off of the carport where I had placed it and was broken.  Sadly, I have not replaced it.  The other night I was going through my desk and I found a little thermometer which I thought would be perfect for the job.  I told Andrea about the thermometer and she stopped me cold, no pun intended.  Andrea feels that this little thermometer is better suited to using inside rather than outside as it is affixed to a decorative little wooden plate.  I explained that it has been in the desk for the last ten years and needs put to use.  She wouldn’t budge.  That little treasure was returned to its box, placed back in the desk, and there it remains.   

This caused me to consider all the treasure we bury away in desk drawers, attics, basements, and garages.  People often get rid of their treasures by having a yard sale, but until then there it all sits, idle and unused.  Jesus said that if we are not careful we can end up spending all our time storing up treasure here on earth while neglecting the task of storing heavenly treasure.  Someone has said that there are no moving vans behind hearses.  None of us take any of our possessions with us when we leave this world.  That is why Jesus said that we must store up treasure in heaven.

What is this treasure anyway and how do we obtain it?  Heavenly treasure is stored up through a personal relationship with Christ, a humble spirit, acts of love, kindness, and compassion, a forgiving attitude, and helping others in any way possible.  All of these carry with them a heavenly reward reserved for us when we cross over one day.  If our hearts are focused and set upon worldly wealth and treasure, then that is where our hearts will remain.  In the end we will be left with only those possessions which, like it or not, will be left behind for someone else.  
 
Christ calls us to set our hearts on Him, which in turn leads us to store up treasure in heaven through lives well-lived.  Helping others and reaching out in Jesus’  name is always time well spent.   

Okay, I’m off to shop for that thermometer.  I hope I find a good one!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Treasure within the Human Heart

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.  But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” -Matthew 12:35-37 (NKJV) 

Have you ever found yourself daydreaming about what it would be like to stumble upon some valuable treasure?  We sometimes hear stories about a person who was looking around in the attic of an old house he had purchased and discovering some extremely rare antique that proved to be worth a fortune.  Whenever my family and I have gone to the beach on vacation we often see people with their metal detectors looking for valuables that have washed ashore and are buried in the sand.  There is certainly treasure out there; we just have to know where to look for it. 

Jesus said that we have a kind of treasure in our hearts, and this treasure can be good or bad, valuable or worthless.  The sort of treasure we have in our hearts will determine what is flowing from us when we speak.  Verse 34 of this chapter says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  What is in our hearts will show itself when we speak.  If we have good stored in our hearts, then what comes from us will be good.  However, if we have evil stored in our hearts, then what flows from us will indeed be evil.  A relationship with Christ can fill our hearts with treasure that can positively affect every aspect of our lives.  When our hearts are filled with the love of Jesus, then we are more kind, compassionate, caring, considerate, and patient to the needs of those around us.  Furthermore, we will be empowered to speak words of encouragement as well as proclaim the gospel.  

What is in your heart today?  Are you overcome with thoughts of anger, bitterness, rage, and hatred?  Jesus Christ can change that; He is able to drive all those negative and destructive attitudes from us and replace them with joy, comfort, and peace.  The Lord will then multiply these good attributes in ever increasing measure.   

Jesus Christ can and will fill us with such goodness that when we speak it will be words that bring honor and praise to God.  Such words have the power to touch lives and draw people toward Christ.  Let Christ fill your heart today with His treasure.  

What Christ offers will last for all our lives and all eternity. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Producing Good Fruit for the Kingdom of God

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.  Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  -Matthew 12:33, 34 (NKJV) 

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, we are now in the season of the year where maintaining a healthy diet is extremely difficult.  Already I have friendly and well-intentioned people holding before me various pies, cakes, cookies, fudge, and other sweets.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I go ahead and eat some those delicious desserts.  I suppose we could all serve carrot sticks and apple slices with our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners this year, but that would be admittedly boring and when word got out, well, no one would probably show up.   

Speaking of apple slices, there is a healthy snack for us.  We are always better off reaching for an apple or an orange than a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream.  When I think of good fruit I cannot help but think about the apple trees that grow along the driveway between the parsonage and our neighbor’s home.  My neighbor and I have had many discussions about these apple trees, yet we have never done anything with them.  For years the trees, about four of them, have never been tended. As a result, the fruit they bear is never very good.  Every year the apples that grow are small, blemished, and sour, and the only ones who enjoy them are the deer that feast on them in the night.  I imagine that if we were to tend those trees we might be able to get them to produce some good fruit.  

The Lord Jesus drew a similar comparison to us as His followers.  Jesus said that we are like trees that can bear either good or bad fruit.  If we allow our faith to grow dormant and untended the result will be unusable fruit for the kingdom of God.  However, when we seek the Lord, walk in faith, pray, study and meditate daily on the Word, and humble ourselves before God, the result will be spiritual growth and spiritual fruit.  As the Lord said, “A tree is known by its fruit.”  Part of the high call of God in Christ Jesus is to bear fruit for the kingdom of God.  That fruit can be seen in us as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).  As these Christ like qualities flow from us, we will reach out to others in Jesus’ name.   

What sort of fruit are you producing for God’s kingdom?  Make sure it’s fresh and usable.  Stand firm and pray that the Lord will empower you to produce spiritual fruit that will energize your witness and demonstrate to others that Jesus is working in your life.  Such abundance will produce an overflow of praise to God. 

Praise the name of the Lord!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Trusting in God and not in Ourselves

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.  -Proverbs 3:5-7 

I woke up this morning with my mind literally swirling with everything that I have to do today.  Starting my day this way is good and bad.  The positive side of this is that I am looking forward to tackling the day with all of its challenges, but the negative aspect is that some of the problems I have to face today were rushing up at me before I had even thrown the covers off.  You may have had a similar start to your day in that before you had your feet on the floor you were contemplating how you would handle the problems, concerns, and other issues that were waiting for you.  Were it not for faith in the Lord we could find ourselves greatly overwhelmed and discouraged before our day had begun.  However, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ leads us to victory and spiritual power to rise up and face whatever is waiting. 

Starting a hectic day with a passage like Proverbs 3 is always a good idea.  The Word of God challenges us to trust God rather than ourselves to provide us with the wisdom and understanding needed to navigate through the challenges we face every day.  I have read Proverbs 3:5, 6 countless times, but this morning my attention was drawn to verse 7, which admonishes us not to be wise in our own eyes, but to fear the Lord and depart from evil.  That, my friends, is wonderfully sound advice.  Seek the wisdom that comes from the Lord, keep a healthy fear of the consequences of straying from God, and turn away from evil.  As we begin the day bear in mind that there will be numerous instances in which we will be blessed by putting these principles into practice.

Trusting God and turning away from evil brings about the blessings of God into our lives.  We can walk forward in spiritual power and victory, and we are furthermore blessed with the fruit of a righteous life.  These blessings can take the form of increased fellowship with other believers, closer relationships with family, and a positive witness in the community.  Walking in the light of Jesus Christ empowers us to demonstrate to a lost world that having Christ in our lives is better than anything the world can ever offer. 

So, how is your day going so far?  If you are feeling overwhelmed with all that is facing you today, then resolve that with God’s help you will persevere and move forward in faith.  In Jesus’ name rise up to be an over-comer of the world.  In Jesus there is hope, joy, life, peace, and victory. 

Claim those blessed promises and move forward in faith.  Jesus overcomes all! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Faithful to What the Lord has Said

Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.  And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.  -Exodus 16:4, 5 (KJV) 

I seem to have a hard time keeping up with when the post office is closed for holidays.  I do all right with the big ones like Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter, but I often forget about Presidents’ Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Let’s Eat Peaches for a Day – Day (I made up that last one).  What’s funny is that even on those days when I know that the post office is closed and the mail isn’t going to run, I still end up wandering down to the mailbox to see if I have any mail.  About the time I open the mailbox and find it empty is when I’m thinking, “Oh, right; today is Groundhog Day!”  

I am continually amazed at how these day-to-day actions can become so ingrained into our thinking that we do them automatically.  Have you ever had an extended power outage, and during that period walked into a darkened room and flipped a light switch – knowing full well that the power was out?  I rest my case. 

The Word of God demonstrates this for us in amazing clarity when the Lord provided for the Israelites the manna that appeared each morning on the ground.  The manna was like a thin crust that could be gathered and cooked like bread or meal.  This was God’s way of feeding the people as they wandered in the wilderness.  God gave them specific instructions that six days a week they were to gather only enough to feed their families for that day (Exodus 16:4).  However some didn’t believe God and tried to hold some back (v 20).  It was as the Bible says that the leftover manna was rotten and unusable.  And on the seventh day, the Sabbath, God said that there would be no manna on the ground.  However, the people still went out that day and looked for it (v 27).

We are certainly like that sometimes.  The Lord tells us what we are to do, but we often go and try it our way.  Even when we know full well what the Lord has told us we still appear to be intent on going against what the Lord has said.  We do this to our own detriment, for we are blessed through doing God’s will.  Be careful not to allow habit and what we think is best to stand in the way of faithfulness to God. 

The troubled soul finds blessings in obedience to God and being faithful at all times.   
 

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Power of the Light of Christ

No one lights a lamp and hides it under a jar or puts it under a bed.  Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.  -Luke 8:16 

I was looking outside the other night and contemplating how early it gets dark now that we have gone off of daylight savings time and winter is on the way.  Then I found myself considering the folks who live in parts of Alaska who have to handle months of darkness every winter.  No doubt they have come to appreciate the light, and not just the sun in the sky, but the light they have in their homes.  In times of cold and darkness we are naturally drawn to the light.  In the light we are reassured and comforted that the darkness is kept at bay and will soon be gone. 

Jesus said that we light lamps for the express purpose of giving off light to a room.  It would not make any sense to light a lamp and then hide it under a bed, for that would defeat the purpose of lighting the lamp in the first place.  Having lit the lamp, we then hold it up so that others can see as well.  The light provides illumination for us as well as others who come into the house.  Within this analogy we see a powerful picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a sin-darkened world.  Now more than ever we need the blessed light the Lord Jesus provides.

The spiritual darkness that is all around us can feel overwhelming at times.  We look around and see that countless people are going out of their way to go against God and all that the Bible stands for.  As we proclaim the gospel we are holding forth the light of Christ, and that light is more powerful than all the darkness of the world combined.  Jesus Christ can drive the darkness from individual lives and He can drive the darkness from the world.   

Do you feel that you have become overwhelmed with the darkness of sin?  Is there a loved one, a friend, or a co-worker who has seemingly embraced that darkness?  If so there is hope in Jesus Christ.  The Lord has the power to make the vilest sinner clean, and He can wash the stain of sin completely from our lives.  As we are cleansed in Christ the darkness of sin, along with its power, is driven from us. 

Walk forward in the light of Christ today.  Live in that blessed light and share the light with others.  Claim the victory that is ours in Jesus Christ.  The troubled soul finds life, light, hope, and forgiveness in Christ.  New life is waiting in the Lord today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Filled to Overflowing with God’s Blessings

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.  -Psalm 23:5, 6 (KJV) 

Note to self: When leaving a restaurant, do not set the box of leftovers on top of the car while getting out keys, unlocking the car, and getting into car.  The reason for this is that said box of tasty leftovers may be forgotten until I am several miles down the road, by which time the box will have fallen off and the leftovers gone. 

I relay this note to self because that is what happened to my son and his girlfriend the other night.  She had taken him out for his birthday and they were unable to finish their meal.  My son told me that he was sitting at the traffic light getting ready to drive onto the interstate on-ramp when he realized that the leftovers had been left sitting on top of the car.  I know there is a saying about there being no use crying over spilled milk, but is there one about no use crying over leftovers forgotten on top of the car?  I didn’t think so.

Life is like that sometimes; we have a moment of forgetfulness and our plans become thwarted.  What I love about the twenty-third Psalm is that we are reminded that even when our plans are not going the way we would like for them to we have the assurance that the Lord is with us.  God is not only with us, but He provides for us right in the presence of whatever it is we fear.  David of the Old Testament said that he could look across the battlefield and see the enemy preparing for the attack.  Even in such stressful times David said that the Lord prepared a table and covered it with blessings.  The blessings David spoke of were in such abundance that when he held out his cup it was filled to overflowing.    

I have heard all of my life about people who see life as like a cup that is half empty or half full.  The pessimist takes the former view and the optimist the latter.  Consider that according to God’s Word, we as followers of Jesus Christ take neither point of view.  Instead, we hold out our cup and let God fill it to overflowing.  Enough of this “half full”  talk; the Lord is perfectly willing to fill us to overflowing with the abundance of spiritual blessings.  

Have you felt discouragement and frustration lately over disappointment and problems?  Most people will say yes to that question, because we all face problems of all kinds.  Take heart, for the Lord is with us.  He will see you through whatever you are facing.  And God will bring wonderful blessings in the process. 

Wait on the Lord and keep trusting in Him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hearing the Word and Praying for Revival

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.  Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.   – I Timothy 4:13, 14 

Preaching the gospel has long been the primary method for sharing the message of Jesus Christ with others.  However, preaching has had a challenging time keeping up with the modern age of electronics, which in turn have lessened peoples’  attention spans.  Our minds have become increasing visually oriented from spending so much time in front of television screens and computer monitors.  Now more than ever people have a hard time sitting and listening to what someone is saying.  But the gospel must continue to be preached, for that is part of our high calling in Christ Jesus that we proclaim the message of the cross to the world. 

I recall a story I heard many years ago about a little boy who was standing in the foyer of the church looking at a bronze plaque that commemorated those who had given their lives in military service.  The pastor saw the little boy gazing at the plaque and asked him what he thought of it.  “What do all these names mean?” The boy asked.  “Those are the people who died in the service.”  The pastor replied.  The boy looked up and said, “Would that be the morning or the evening service?”  Perhaps you can identify with that, for you have felt that there was little to no life in the worship experience in the church you attend.  Sadly, it is often the case as the late Vance Havner said that “Some churches start at eleven o’clock sharp and end at twelve o’clock dull.” We know what that feels like to be in a worship time where there is little to no excitement or enthusiasm.

If you have found yourself in such a situation, what was your response?  Did you complain, criticize the pastor, or simply go somewhere else?  Those responses are often the case.  Allow me to pose an alternative to those responses: stay, encourage others, and pray for a great movement of God’s Spirit to fall upon that congregation.  It can begin with one person.  This attitude of prayer can then spread to another and then another, until enough people stop just sitting there and begin to get serious about their walk with Jesus Christ.  What follows can be a wonderful outpouring of God’s Spirit resulting in a renewed vision of what God can do in that congregation. 

Do you want an exciting worship experience on your congregation?  Hopefully the answer to that question is yes.  Leaving and finding another church may indeed not be the answer.  Instead, pray that God will move in your heart in a fresh and powerful way.  Pray that the people will get stirred up and on fire for the Lord.  And pray that a great revival will come. 

God is faithful, and He will do as He has promised.  Revival can happen – in us and in the church.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Make the Right Decision

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?  -Matthew 11:2, 3 (KJV)

It would be easy to read the above passage and think that John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to confirm for himself that Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah, the one everyone had been waiting for and expecting.  However, I cannot help but think that John sent his disciples to Jesus with the question not for his benefit, but for theirs.  John was already convinced that Jesus was the Son of God: “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).  John wanted his followers to have no doubt whatsoever that Jesus was the Christ.  The matter had already been settled in John’s mind to the point that he fully believed, for the Holy Spirit had revealed this truth to him.

To have a matter firmly settled in our minds is a wonderfully liberating experience.  We no longer struggle with doubts, questions, or fear that maybe we have been in the wrong.  Rather, we move forward in the confidence that our faith in God has properly directed us.  Without such firm and established faith we are left to wander ahead still plagued with doubts and uncertainty.  That, my friends, is not a happy frame of mind. 

Have you ever had a decision you needed to make and you simply weren’t sure about how to proceed?  We have all been there at one time or another.  That burden of uncertainty weighed upon us like a heavy boulder that would have crushed our spirits had we not finally came to a resolution.  Once you reached a decision and moved forward with that decision, there was hopefully a tremendous weight lifted from you.  Often times when I find myself at such a crossroad, I seek the Lord through prayer and meditation on the Word, but I also have been known to pose to myself a question: If I had to make a decision right now and this moment, what would it be?  Very often that decision is the one I choose.  That may not always be the case, as there are exceptions, but frequently that decision is the one I follow.  Bear in mind that decision comes after much prayer and careful consideration.

Are you in doubt about whether Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior who can forgive your sins and transform your life for the better?  If you had to make a decision right this moment, what would it be?  My prayer is that you will put your faith in Christ and receive Him as Savior and Lord. 

Make the right decision and trust the Lord.  He will then confirm in your heart that you are correct.  Jesus is Lord.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seeking God’s Plan for our Lives

All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.  Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. –Proverbs 16:2, 3 

Now that daylight savings time has ended I have to engage in a small chore that may not seem like much, but somehow causes me at least a small amount of stress.  Try not to laugh, but this task I have to take care of twice a year is that of re-setting the time on my digital watch.  One would think that this would be an easy little chore; just push a few buttons, adjust to the proper time, and it’s done.  Oh, if only it were that easy.  There are four buttons on this watch, and they have to be pressed in an exact sequence in order to get the time set.  It sounds easy, but since I only have to do it twice a year I have trouble remembering each time how it’s accomplished. 

Fortunately, I have a little booklet that came with the watch when I bought it that explains how to set the time.  The print is so tiny that I just about need a magnifying glass to read it, but I do have good bi-focals which allows me to read these instructions.  The booklet explains in no uncertain terms exactly how to set the time on my watch.  I tried once to set the time without consulting the booklet and I could never get it right.  In order to do this correctly, I must consult the instructions.

The Word of God is our instructions for life.  When we seek to make plans, accomplish our goals, or move forward with whatever we believe God would have us to do, we must consult God’s Word in order to make our plans succeed.  To go off and try to accomplish our plans in our wisdom and our strength will lead us away from where the Lord would have us to be.  Be careful not to make that mistake, but instead remain in God’s Word, stay faithful to Him, pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17), and move forward in faith.  God will bless us when we seek to establish our plans in Him. 

What are your plans for today?  What about next month, next year, or even ten years from now?  Seek God’s will, be faithful, and make sure that your plans are rooted in the Word of God.  This is a sure plan for walking in the blessings of the Lord. 

Okay, let me find those instructions and get the time on this watch set.  Good thing I have a plan. 

God bless you.  
 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Coming of Winter

The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon.  It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.  –Psalm 74:16, 17 

It looks like winter is finally here.  The coming of winter means that the days will be shorter, the nights longer, and the bright and clear sunny skies may be fewer and farther between.  I know from personal experience that it’s easy to get down and discouraged during these long, cold winter months.  This is why as followers of Christ we do well to not only take care of ourselves both physically and emotionally, but spiritually as well.  A wonderful defense against the winter blues is to pray daily and stay in the Word of God. 

The Word of God reminds us that the Lord established the planets and also the seasons.  Let us not despair that cold weather has come, but rather let us seize the time as an opportunity for personal growth and service to our fellow man.  If you live in an area that has harsh winters, we know that countless people will be in need of basic necessities even more this season.  A tremendous way to combat the winter blues is to become proactive in reaching out to those in need.  Jesus said that if we give even a cup of cold water in His name that we will receive a heavenly reward (Matthew 10:42).  This could also apply to giving a bowl of soup, a blanket, a coat, or pair of shoes to those in need as well.  

We share the love of Jesus in what we say, and we also share His love in what we do.  Anytime we start to feel down this winter, look around and find a way to help others.  Soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food banks, and hospitals are always looking for volunteers.  Get involved this winter and show the love of Christ to others.  You will be blessed and will be a blessing to others.  

I am a person who knows what it’s like to get the winter blues because I absolutely thrive on sunshine.  Even in the dead of winter, as long as the sun is shining, I am going to bundle up and get outside for a while.  And on those bitterly cold nights you will find me and my faithful dog, Ada, taking long walks and enjoying the feel of the fresh, crisp snow under our feet.  Do you see what I am seeking to accomplish?  This is all part of a strategy for rejoicing in the Lord and walking in His grace even in the dark and dreary days of winter. 

God is faithful, and as He is faithful, He is also able to help us through each day.  Look to Christ, seek His blessings, and reach out in His name. 

Springtime is just around the corner!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Seeking and Claiming God’s Forgiveness

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.  For the sake of your name, LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.  –Psalm 25:8-11 

Often times we ask God for forgiveness, but we don’t always claim the forgiveness He offers.  And the sins of the past, which have been bought and paid for by Jesus Christ, can easily creep into our minds and cause us all sorts of problems.  We can begin to feel guilty, awful, terrible, and sad about them all over again.  We end up needlessly punishing ourselves for that which God has already forgiven us.   

We see in this Psalm some steps for overcoming the guilt of the past, one of which is confession.  David lifted up his soul to God.  If the soul is filled with sin then it must be cleansed by God in order to find peace of mind.  So like David, we too lift our souls up to God and seek His grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  David was lifting up to God all that he was and all that he had – his very soul; the deepest recesses of his heart he was laying bare before Almighty God.  

We may as well confess our sins because rest assured that God knows all that resides there.  By lifting up our souls to God we open to Him the deepest part of our hearts; that part of ourselves known only to us and to God.  It’s been said that confession is good for the soul, and that is true.  We find relief, redemption, and release when we confess our sins to God.  Understand that God has heard it all.  Nothing surprises Him, and there is nothing we could do that the Lord hasn’t seen before. The depths of depravity to which people can sink continue to amaze me.  It shouldn’t, but it does.  But I am reminded that Jesus Christ offers forgiveness to the vilest sinner.   

I John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  That includes me, you, and all who will trust the Lord and receive the forgiveness and salvation He offers.  Do not carry around the weight of guilt any longer.  Come to Jesus and be freed from the burdens you are carrying.  In Jesus there is hope.  In Jesus there is forgiveness and new life. 

Trust in Him today.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Overcoming Guilt

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.  Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good.  –Psalm 25:5-7 

All of us know the pain we suffer when we recall something that causes us to feel guilty.  Sometimes guilt is part of the work of the Holy Spirit, reminding us of our need to repent about some sin or something that is interfering with our relationship with the Lord.  I am always concerned about anyone who feels no remorse about some wrong they have done.  The Bible says that the conscience can become seared as with a hot iron to the point that the person should feel guilt but he or she no longer does (I Timothy 4:2).  

Consider also that guilt can be destructive.  We can often feel guilty about the past when God has indeed forgiven us.  When God forgives us He truly forgives us – never to bring it up again.  So why do we feel guilty about it all over again?  One reason is that the devil likes to discourage us, and if he thinks he can do so through trying to make us feel guilty about the past, even though it has been forgiven, then he will exploit that as much as possible.

Psalm 25 is a personal look into the heart of David of the Old Testament.  David had some ups and downs, he had some weaknesses, yet scripture speaks of him as having been faithful.  What do we know of David’s youth?  He was a courageous young man who tended his father’s sheep.  At times he took on lions and bears in defense of the flock in his care.  He is best known for having engaged in single combat with the giant Goliath.  We would think about David’s youth as being exemplary.  However, David himself didn’t see it that way.  Apparently there were some sins in David’s past that no one knew about but him and God.  Am I being harsh or judgmental?  No, I am just looking at the Bible.  We might read this and think, “David?  Rebellious?  No way.”  Well, the Bible doesn’t lie and we have David, by his own words, confessing that there were sins in his past that still haunted him. 

We can no more speculate on what those sins were any more that we can speculate about each others’ pasts.  We all have sins of the past for which we have had to ask God for forgiveness.  Those sins must be dealt with by confessing them to God, seeking forgiveness, and then claiming God’s forgiveness.  We are called to give our sins over to the Lord and accept the forgiveness He offers.  Christ has paid the penalty for the sins we have committed, and He can and will wash us clean from brokenness, sin, fear, and a troubled past.

Look to the Lord today and claim the forgiveness He has made available.   

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A View from the Mountain

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land…Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”  -Deuteronomy 34:1, 4 

After living here in southwest Virginia for nearly fifteen years I have developed a wonderful affinity for the mountains and the surrounding region.  This is truly some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.  As I reflect upon this I cannot help but think about Moses and the view God gave him from the top of a mountain that was called Nebo.  From there Moses was able to see all the way into the Promised Land.  I can only imagine the thrill that surged through Moses’ heart as he beheld that beautiful valley that would become the dwelling place of his people the Israelites.  Unfortunately, Moses was only allowed to view that land from a distance; he was not permitted to enter into it.  

If you drive a couple of hours from Bristol on I-81 south, and then take Route 25E north, you will find yourself traveling up Clinch mountain.  Once you reach the top there is a scenic overlook where you can park and enjoy the view from the top of the mountain.  We have traveled this road many times and have stopped and taken in this spectacular view.  To me, this is something I have never grown tired of, and I always enjoy stopping and once again looking south toward the Tennessee valley.  On a clear day it is a view that will just about take your breath away.  
 
Consider that if we will trust in the Lord and seek a relationship with Him that He will permit us a look from the mountaintop of His love, grace, and power.  Unlike Moses, who was not permitted to cross over into that blessed place, we have been given free access to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  As we walk with the Lord we are also given wonderful glimpses into all that the Lord is willing to do in our lives; magnificent, marvelous, wonderful, and powerful works that will bless us beyond anything we could have imagined.  We are free in Jesus to move toward those blessings and experience them in the fullness of God’s love.

My friends, do not settle for just a gaze at what the Lord can do, but rather step out on faith and receive the blessings which the Lord has in store for us.  Trust the Lord every day and move forward into a deeper relationship with Him; blessing, peace, and joy and waiting.   

Look to the Lord today.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pray for our Government Leaders

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  -Romans 13:1 

By the time you read this there will have been some changes in leadership in Washington.  Even as I type this I am aware that a number of new people will be heading to our nation’s capitol to assume their new roles as government leaders.  Everyone who attends the church where I am pastor knows that I never preach politics from the pulpit and I intend to maintain the same approach in my blog.  So, relax; I am not going to start here.

While I have never preached politics, I do preach prayer: for our nation, our leaders, and those who are serving our country in the military.  To pray for our leaders honors God and is indeed a biblical approach to how we view those who are making decisions for our nation.  As long as I have been a pastor I have encouraged people to pray for our President, regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office.  This crosses party lines and brings followers of Christ together in a common goal; that God’s blessing would reside upon us.   
 Consider that God can use anyone He chooses to accomplish His will.  God may choose to bring about a great revival in our land and He may do so through some unlikely people.  When has the Lord ever done things in a conventional fashion or in a way that we would have thought?  The Lord instead does that which reminds us that ultimately He is in charge and as His followers we are in His hands.  God has a plan and a purpose.  According to His Word we do well to trust Him, pray for one another, and pray for our leaders. 

There will be a lot of talk in the coming days and weeks about what direction our nations will go.  My deepest and sincerest prayer is that we will humble ourselves before God, seek His will, and pray that a great revival of faith will take place across the land.  What a blessing it would be if we saw multitudes of people coming to faith in Jesus Christ, churches filled to capacity, and Christians reaching out in love to a lost and hurting world. 

Pray for our nation.  Pray that the will of God’s would be done.   

Revival in America can happen, if we seek the Lord and pray