Friday, December 31, 2010

Redeemed From the fall through Christ

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. -Romans 3:22-24 (KJV) 

The weather has turned a little warmer here in southwest Virginia and as a result the snow and ice have started to melt.  This is a blessing for us, because the driveway that leads up to the church parsonage has been covered with snow and a thick layer of ice for almost the entire month of December.  The upper part of the driveway where we park has been the most treacherous.  Twice I have fallen and several times I have come close to falling, but was able to dance and twist my way back into balance thus avoiding a potentially dangerous fall.  You know what I am talking about?  This is where you lose your balance, but through some fancy footwork you are able to regain your footing and remain standing.  If such a near plunge onto the ice doesn’t get your heart rate up, then nothing will. 

We may be able to dance our way out a fall onto the snow or ice, but there is one fall from which people have never been able to dance their way out of.  That is the fall that came about as a result of sin entering into the world.  Ever since the fall of mankind as recorded in the book of Genesis, all people have had to face that fallen condition.  The Bible is clear that all have sinned.  No one is excluded.  This included me, you, and everyone else.  Sadly, countless people remain in that fallen condition and have not received the grace of God that has been made available.  This wonderful grace is freely given through faith in Jesus Christ.  The Scripture is clear that in Jesus Christ we have been “justified freely.”  Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is God’s free gift to the world.  We no longer have to live in that fallen state, but through Jesus Christ we can be redeemed.

Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, came into the world and gave Himself for our redemption.  His sacrifice upon the cross can wash away our sins and release us from our fallen state.  Having been redeemed through faith in Jesus, we are now free to walk forward in grace, life, and spiritual victory. 

Stop wandering around in sin and darkness.  Look to the Lord today and experience the grace He offers. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Gospel Being Shared Around the World

But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” -Matthew 9:36-38 (NKJV)

The other day I received a newsletter from a friend of mine who used to be the pastor of a church here in the area of southwest Virginia.  Around two years ago he was called to be the pastor of a church in Misawa, Japan, which in the northern part of that country.  Based upon the pictures he has sent this is a beautiful and scenic part of Japan.  My friend and his wife shared a positive report of how the Lord is blessing their ministry.  As I read their newsletter I could sense the excitement over all the blessings they are experiencing in this tremendous work.  The Japanese believers there are a part of the body of Christ that is growing all over the world.  I think it would be wonderful to some day visit and experience first-hand the ministry in which my friend and his wife are involved. 

What a blessing it is to hear reports about the spreading of the gospel all around the world.  I am always encouraged when I hear about people in other countries and of other cultures coming to faith in the Lord Jesus.  In many cases these courageous believers are risking their very lives to leave false religions in favor of the true gospel of Christ.  This should encourage us to pray for them that they would stand firm and continue to hold fast to the true faith.  We are called by our Lord to go and teach all nations the Good News that they too might come to faith in Christ.

Bear in mind that not all of us can go overseas and be missionaries.  However, we can support those who go by praying for them and offering financial support.  Consider also that we here in the states have a ministry in our own communities.  All around us are people who have never trusted Jesus as Savior, for they have not heard the gospel.  We are also surrounded by people who are discouraged and who need the hope that Jesus brings.  Let us be challenged to see the world around us, including our own towns and neighborhoods, as our mission fields.   

Let’s be those workers who are willing to go out into the fields and harvest souls for the kingdom of God.  Pray also, as Jesus said, the Lord will send others to work in the fields alongside us.  Someone you may meet today needs to hear about the salvation Christ offers.  

Stop and tell them that Jesus is the answer.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Getting our Hearts Ready for the Coming of the Lord

…the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.  And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “ The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’”  -Luke 3:2-5 (NKJV) 

During the month of January I am planning to preach a series of messages about the ministry of John the Baptist.  One certainty about John was that he was not concerned with being a people-pleaser.  John spoke the true, complete, and unvarnished truth.  The Messiah was about to appear and people had better get their hearts ready.  John was that voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” That message is still very relevant today.  The coming of the Lord could occur at any time, or any one of us could be called out of this world and have to stand before Him.  In either case, we had best be ready. 

Because of Jesus Christ’s coming into the world and the salvation He has made possible, we can be ready.  Through faith in Christ our sins can be washed away and we are given a new lease on life with a new heart and a new outlook.  As Isaiah the prophet said in Isaiah 1:18, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Consider, however, the countless people who drift through life with little to no thought as to their spiritual condition or where they will spend eternity.  The Word of God teaches that once we breathe our last that the opportunity to get right with the Lord will have passed.  Now is the time to receive Christ as Savior and Lord.  

Jesus Christ empowers us to move forward knowing that our lives are in His hands.  We need not fear tomorrow, for we know who holds tomorrow.  The follower of Jesus can walk in the victory that Christ brings, and this victory presents us with a wonderful win / win situation.  We live the abundant life in Christ, but when we leave this world we go to be with the Lord forever.  Paul the apostle said it this way: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).   
If your heart is ready for the Lord’s coming then rejoice and serve Him every day with joy and gratitude.  If your heart is not ready, then pray to receive Jesus as Savior right now.  He will welcome you with open arms. 

Salvation – life eternal, and new life right now are waiting for you.  Do not delay; receive Him today.   

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Do not be Afraid, for Christ has Overcome the World

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  -John 16:33 (KJV) 

The other night on Christmas Eve I was doing what I usually do that night, which was wrapping presents after everyone had gone to bed.  I remembered that I had stashed a few gifts for my wife at the office, so I walked down to the church to retrieve them.  We had held a Christmas Eve service a few hours earlier and I went into the sanctuary to make sure that no lights had been left on and that the heat had been adjusted properly.  The sanctuary was lit only by the light from the baptistery, which cast a soft and soothing glow.  Even though I had gifts to wrap and was also looking forward to getting some sleep, I had to sit down and enjoy the quiet of the moment.  There in the sanctuary alone, I did what I have done many times before, which was worship the Lord and give thanks to Him. 

As I prayed and talked with the Lord, I was led to look ahead to the coming year.  I began to pray that blessings would come into my life, my family, and the congregation.  I began to envision this time next year some wonderful developments having come to pass.  These included my wife continuing to be cancer free, my brother overcoming cancer and restored to health, my sons continuing to grow and make wise life decisions, my preaching and writing ministries flourishing, and the church experiencing unprecedented growth.  As I prayed and thanked God I began to look ahead with great anticipation at the blessings the Lord will send our way.

My sincere prayer for you is that God will move in your life in wonderful ways in the coming year.  Pray with me that the power of God will strengthen us, the Holy Spirit will guide us, and blessings of God will fall upon us.  Be faithful, stand firm, resist the devil, and rejoice always and the result will be the power of God in our lives. Look ahead with me in anticipation at what the Lord has in store. 

Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged, but remember that Christ our Savior has overcome the world.  Through Jesus victory is ours and that victory is sweet. 

Rejoice in the Lord!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dealing with another Snowy Sunday

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.  -Matthew 18:20 (KJV) 

Once again the weather did not cooperate yesterday and our church services were hindered by all the snow and icy road conditions.  This makes the third Sunday in December that decisions had to be made about whether to cancel services or try to proceed.  I have come to think of this as a sort of plan A and plan B.  Plan A is to have just the one service at 11:00 AM, and plan B is to cancel everything for the day.  Again we held with the plan A strategy and this worked well.  Yesterday morning around twenty people braved the icy roads and frigid temperatures to come to church for morning worship.  If someone tells me they are going to stay in and not risk driving in the snow I understand completely and I believe the Lord does as well.  

As we began the worship time yesterday and I looked out at the people who had gathered, I recalled what the Lord Jesus said about when there are two or three gathered in His name He is in the midst of them.  Indeed, we experienced the presence of the Lord and worshiped Him with glad and grateful hearts.  The Word of God was opened, the gospel was proclaimed, and the people were challenged and strengthened.  We dismissed a little early in case the road conditions worsened and to my knowledge everyone made it home safely.  Days like this make me also think about how grateful we can be to the city workers who are out on the roads all night plowing away the snow and spreading salt to make traveling safer.  

I am certain that countless churches all up and down the east coast had to make similar decisions about whether to try and have worship yesterday.  Some were simply unable to due to the heavy snow and icy roads.  We were among the fortunate ones who were still able to hold services for those able to get to church.  If you had to stay home yesterday because of bad weather, remember that God knows your heart and understands your earnest desire to be in His house to worship.   

In all circumstances let us be thankful and look to Jesus our Lord and Savior.  We have countless blessings to consider and showers of blessing on the way. 

Rejoice in the Lord.  Again I say it; rejoice! 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Story That Never Grows Old

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.-Luke 2:6, 7 (KJV)

Most families who understand the basics of good communication know that certain stories merit re-telling from time to time.  These stories are usually shared when everyone is together.  They vary from something funny that happened on a vacation, how everyone survived during a blizzard without any electricity for a week, or the last-second desperation play that won the championship game.  The reason we tell and re-tell these stories is that they define who we are as families and as individuals.  

With that in mind I want you to consider the account of the birth of Jesus Christ.  This is a story that never grows old and we should not become weary of re-telling it.  The reason being is that it defines us as followers of Jesus Christ.  Just as it is with the resurrection, had Christ not come then our faith would be in vain, and we would still be lost in our sins.  But Jesus Christ has come into the world, born of the Virgin Mary in the humble stable in Bethlehem just as the prophets foretold.  The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords came that we might have life and life everlasting.  Salvation has come to all who believe.  I would think that we all received some nice gifts yesterday, but none of them can compare with the gift of salvation that came to us through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

Telling others about the birth of Jesus Christ is never out of date and always relevant to us and to all people. Let us never grow tired of telling it. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Witnessing for Jesus as did the Shepherds

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.  -Luke 2:20 (KJV) 

The Bible says that after the shepherds saw the Christ child that they went back to their work glorifying and praising God.  They also told anyone who would listen what had happened to them.  These men, humble shepherds, became among the first believers to go and testify to the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world.  The message they had heard and the wonder they had seen could not be kept to themselves.  They were compelled to tell it to others. 
On this Christmas Day will we consider anew our calling to do as the shepherds, and tell everyone around us what we have experienced with the Lord?  Being faithful to Jesus Christ means being His witnesses.  Being witnesses for Jesus is not contingent on people believing what we say.  Rather, we testify as to what we have experienced regardless of whether others believe us or not.  Ours is to tell the Good News.  God will do the convincing through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Perhaps it’s early and your children are still sleeping, or maybe it’s late in the day and most of the Christmas festivities are over.  Whatever your circumstances, stop and again give thanks to the Lord for the greatest gift that was ever given.  Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord has come and provided salvation for all who believe.  Be counted in that number of the faithful. 

To all my faithful readers, may the Lord richly bless you on this Christmas Day.  Thank you for entrusting me with the privilege of sharing with you each day from God’s Word.  May you have a blessed and Christ-centered Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Special Christmas Gift

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  -Luke 2:7 (KJV) 

Andrea and I returned yesterday from a four day visit with our family in Ohio, and this was a special time of visiting and catching up with our loved ones.  We had two Christmas gatherings, one with Andrea’s side of the family and another with mine.  Both were filled with great food, blessed fellowship, and healthy laughter.  At my parent’s home we had gathered together and as is our custom a time of gift giving was observed.  After we were finished, a nephew of mine who had recently lost his job approached me and showed me the new gloves he had been given as a Christmas gift.  They were made soft leather and lined with fur, guaranteed to keep his hands warm on cold days.   

“Uncle Danny,” he said to me, “I wasn’t able to get you anything this year for Christmas, and I feel bad about that.”  I assured him that no gift was necessary as spending time with family was more than enough.  “I understand that,” he said, “but I still want to give you a gift.” He then handed me the expensive gloves and said, “Take these gloves as my gift to you.” I stammered around a moment and told him that I couldn’t possibly take his new gloves.  “No, I insist,” He said, “It would mean a lot to me if you accepted these as a gift from me.” To refuse such a sacrificial gift would have been the worst sort of offense.  I humbly accepted.  You know something?  That may be the nicest Christmas gift I have ever received, not because the gloves are of such quality, but because of the spirit in which they were given.  

My friends, God gave to us the greatest gift of all in the coming of Jesus Christ into the world.  Such a thoughtful, caring, and sacrificial gift should not be refused.  Instead, such a wonderful gift merits humble acceptance in the spirit in which it was given.  Our Savior, Jesus Christ, gave Himself to us.  This precious gift of salvation is the greatest of all gifts. 

Do not turn Him away.  Trust the Lord Jesus and receive this blessed gift that has been given. 

Rejoice, for Christ has come into the world.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Take Time to Rejoice in the Lord

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. -Matthew 2:10-12 (KJV)

You’ll notice the response of the wise men when they saw the star and were led to the Lord Jesus.  They rejoiced.  I wonder how much rejoicing we have done this Christmas season.  Are we so consumed with everything that is going on that we have forgotten how to rejoice in the Lord and to seek Him as did the wise men?  Nothing would stand in their way.  They stood before a wicked and evil king and did not fall victim to his schemes.  The reason for this was that they were attentive to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.  When we tune our hearts to the Lord and we focus on Him we are led to the place where God would have us to be.  We are not wandering aimlessly through the season, but we are intently seeking Jesus.  Will you, will I, will we as followers of Christ seek the Lord Jesus?  Will we lay aside all stresses and distractions and place Jesus Christ at the center of our lives?  Will we walk forward with the attitude that says we have come to worship the king?  If not, then we are in for a letdown this Christmas.

Have you noticed how that when we are looking ahead to something and anxiously awaiting its coming that it seems to get here and be gone way too soon?  Christmas can certainly do that.  We look forward to it for so long and then it seems that its gone as soon as it came.  When we place Jesus at the center of Christmas it doesn’t happen that way.  Trusting Jesus Christ and focusing on Him has a way of slowing everything down in terms of all that goes on this time of year.  

Place Jesus at the center of Christmas and here is what will happen: less stressed, less exhausted, more focused, more thankful, more appreciative, and more able to understand the true meaning of it all.  All of that happens when we trust the Lord and place Him at the center of all we are doing.  A personal relationship with Jesus Christ will empower us to walk in the fullness of His grace today, at Christmas, and all the year.

Rejoice in the Lord.  The Savior has been born.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Worship Christ and Proclaim the Reason to the World

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. -Matthew 2:7, 8 (KJV)

Sad to say, but there is evil and depravity in the world, but what will be our response?  Shall we give up?  Will we throw up our hands and say, “It’s too much!  This world is going down the tubes and there ‘s no hope?”  Someone has said that rather than curse the darkness light a candle.  We can hold forth the light of Jesus Christ and then fan that small flame to a roaring blaze.  If enough believers will stand up and shine forth the light of Jesus Christ we could see a revival spread across the land.  
Faith overcomes our doubts about reaching people for Jesus Christ.  There is hypocrisy in the world – sad, but true.  We combat the hypocrisy of the world by practicing and living sincere and true faith in Christ.  The wise men went seeking Jesus and they found Him.  When we seek the Lord Jesus we too will find Him.  And having found Him we can worship Him in spirit and in truth.  

Do you want to know what one form of hypocrisy looks like?  Here it is: it’s a holiday tree, a holiday observance, a holiday dinner, a happy holiday, "thank you and have a happy holiday!"  We choose not to call it Christmas because we don’t want to offend anyone.  Everyone know its Christmas!  Let’s say what it is; Merry Christmas and God bless you!  Old Ebenezer Scrooge said, and I’m quoting from the story here, “Every idiot that goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly though his heart.” Well, get over it, Ebenezers of the world, we are going to say it: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

As we go about our days let others know that Jesus Christ is the reason for the season.  Look to Him, trust in Him, and place Jesus at the center of our lives - year round.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Worshipping Christ in Sincerity

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. -Matthew 2:5, 6 (KJV)

Anyone who has spent any time in church, especially around Christmas will be at least a little familiar with this account.  King Herod tried to pull off a ruse in order to find out where Joseph and Mary were keeping Jesus.  Do you know what a ruse is?  A ruse is a deception, a trick, or a lie to gain information.  Herod thought that he could discover where the Christ-child was, not so he could worship, but so he could have him killed.  Such was the depravity of this man who was a ruler at that time in Jerusalem.  
This brings to mind some serious issues.  One is the question of how we can sincerely worship the Lord and honor Christ this season in spite of the depravity of the world.  The second issue involves how we can worship the Lord and honor the birth of Christ in the midst of all the hypocrisy in the world.  Remember brethren that we are to be the light of Christ in a lost, dying, and hurting world that has for too long been shrouded in the darkness of sin.  The only force powerful enough to pierce that darkness is Jesus Christ.  

This past summer the world was captivated by a group of miners in Chile, South America who were trapped underground for 69 days.  One source said they were three miles from the entrance.  No doubt that situation looked hopeless.  Those men might have given up.  But then against all odds hope broke through.  Rescuers were able to pierce the mine and send food to the men and ultimately bring them up to the surface.  What a blessing to hear some of those men praising God and giving thanks to Him for His protection and deliverance.  One even spoke of a wonderful presence with them that was the Lord.  To me this is a picture of what Christ has done for us.  We were like those miners trapped underground without hope of rescue.  But Jesus Christ broke the power of sin, evil, death, and darkness and has brought us safely to a higher and safer place.  

Only Jesus Christ could accomplish such a great work of redemption on our behalf.   Christ has accomplished this for us and has overcome the darkness of sin.  Look to Jesus today and find the salvation He offers.  Let us worship Him with glad and sincere hearts.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Worship Christ in True and Genuine Belief

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.-Matthew 2:3, 4 (KJV)

The Bible says that after Jesus was born in Bethlehem that wise men came from the east seeking Him so that they might worship Him.  Who were these men and how did they know of Christ’s coming?  Most likely they were astronomers, not to be confused with astrologers.  There is a vast difference between the two.  These men had observed in the heavens a wondrous sign that they believed heralded the divine pronouncement of a new born king.  As they followed the star it leads them to the land of Israel.  Once there they innocently inquired of King Herod where they could find the new born king that they might worship Him. 

Herod and those around him failed to see that the coming of the Messiah was different than any other king’s appearance.  King’s aren’t born in stables to poor and insignificant people, but rather kings are born into wealth, power, and privilege.  God did this in a way that allowed the world, all people, to identify with Christ’s coming.  Since when has God worked His will in ways that made sense to us?  God is not required to do anything in a manner that makes sense to the world.  He is God, and He will accomplish His will and purposes as He sees fit.  

The wise men believed despite the unbelief that was all around them.  The question for us is will we do likewise?  Will we believe and hold to the truth regardless of the scoffers and those who refuse to believe?  Do the righteous live by what we see or are we to live by faith?  The Bible says that we as followers of Christ are to live by faith.  Faith takes us above what we see to what the Word of God says and what the Holy Spirit confirms in our hearts.  We worship the Lord and we hold to our faith regardless of what the world says or believes. 

Worship Christ this Christmas from a heart that truly believes.  Within such faith we find the true meaning of Christmas. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

We Have Come to Worship the King

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. -Matthew 2:1, 2 (KJV)

We have come to worship the king.  That was the reason the wise men came from the east seeking the Christ-child.  We could so call this devotional thought, “The man who tried to ruin Christmas,” as Herod set about to destroy the child Jesus.  That is a horrible thought right here around the Christmas season.  Had not Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, heeded the warning of the angel and fled to Egypt with Mary and the baby, Herod’s plan might have succeeded.  King Herod proved himself to be an evil, paranoid, and devious man.  As soon as he heard the words of the wise men he was troubled, and the Bible says that everyone else was troubled also.  Why was that?  We rejoice at the thought of Christ’s coming into the world, but for the ancient Jews of Herod’s day, talk of a new king meant a possible uprising which would have brought the wrath of Rome down upon them.  

The people would not comprehend until later that the kingdom Jesus spoke of and brought to the world was not of this world but was a heavenly kingdom.  The heavenly kingdom that Jesus brought is greater than all the kingdoms of the world and will one day be established.  The Christmas season reminds us that we are to welcome that day, look forward to it, and long for it.  When the angels said in Luke 2:14, “peace on earth, good will toward men,”  they were referring to that peace which God would bring about one day.  Until Christ comes in power at the second coming His peace can rule in our hearts.  However, when the trumpets sound and the clouds part, He will reign here forever and ever.

We have come to worship the king.  That is truly what Christmas is all about.  We worship the Lord and we seek Him with all of our hearts.  Like the wise men, let nothing stand in the way of experiencing the full measure of Christ’s blessings when we come seeking Him to worship and adore Him.  

That, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas.  Le us come and worship the Lord.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Laboring in Obscurity?

As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; -II Corinthians 6:9 (KJV) 

Often times we feel that we are laboring in obscurity in the kingdom of God and that we are not making a difference.  God knows who we are and that is enough.  We think, “Here I am laboring in the fields of the Lord in utter obscurity.  No one knows, cares, or appreciates what I do.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every contribution made in the work of the kingdom of God can help bring someone to faith in Jesus Christ.  And for that there is a heavenly reward; so great is this reward that it is better and will outlast anything we will ever receive in this life. 

I have observed over the years a number of pastors who became discouraged because the church in which they served did not experience the growth they had hoped for.  As a result they began to think that their labor had been in vain and that they were unknown and unimportant in God’s kingdom.  I would encourage anyone who felt this way to consider this question: Is a church of 25 or 50 any less important or valuable in the kingdom of God than a church of 500 or 1000?  The answer is no, for both have a vital place and ministry in their respective communities.  A congregation can desire to grow and reach people for Christ, and we ought to have that desire.  However, not all congregations can be mega-churches.  In fact, the overwhelming number of evangelical churches in America today consists of congregations of 100 or less people.  

How many people attend the congregation where you worship and call your church home?  Is it 500, 100, 50, or 25?  Whatever the number, remember that God has placed you strategically in your community to reach people for Jesus Christ.  Whatever size the congregation, you can impact the world around us in wonderful and powerful ways.  I love what the late Dr. Gerald Borchert said about this; “In God’s kingdom, there are no small churches.”   

We all have a ministry, and God knows and cares about us.  Furthermore, Christ has called us to share His love with a lost and hurting world.  Be the light of Jesus Christ and keep on serving Him.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Number One Best Seller

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  -Hebrews 4:12 (KJV) 

Yesterday I spent a little time wandering around a local bookstore to see if any books caught my eye.  I was drawn to a section that contained a number of recent best sellers.  There was a new one by one of my favorite authors, John Grisham, one from Patricia Cornwell, whom I have never read, and a few by James Patterson.  Several other authors were new to me.  I stood there wondering, not for the first time, what makes a book a best seller.  The above mentioned writers, by virtue of their following, are pretty much guaranteed to have any new book they write on the New York Times list.  For the others, it may be a matter of touching a nerve with the public or simply producing the right book at the right time. 

Perhaps you are like me and have picked up a New York Times best seller and after several chapters were amazed that such a terrible book was selling so many copies.  The tastes of the reading public is varied and no one can accurately predict just what books will peak peoples’ interests.  One book we can always count on is the Word of God, the Bible.  This remains the all time, number one, best seller.  No other book outsells or has more readers than the Bible.  I thank the Lord every day that I have His holy Word to inspire, encourage, and lift my spirits.   

No matter where you are in your life and no matter what problems you are facing, the Bible has answers.  Within God’s Word we can find comfort and encouragement to stand firm in the face of whatever difficulties life throws at us.  Those trials will come, and through faith in Christ and by standing on the Word we can find strength to go forward in God’s power.  We also find within the Bible God’s plan of redemption for mankind through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

The Bible was relevant to our forefathers and it remains relevant to us today.  Open the Word of God today and let its blessed truths speak to your heart today.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk

We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed.  But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses… -II Corinthians 6:3, 4 (NKJV) 
The Bible says that when Paul the Apostle and his fellow workers ministered among the people that they were careful to put no stumbling block before anyone.  How can we go about doing the work of the ministry without offending anyone?  The answer is that we cannot, for the gospel is going to be offensive to many people.  Paul’s point is that they did not purposely do anything that would have driven people away rather than draw them to Jesus Christ.  The last thing we should want to do as followers of Christ is to put stumbling blocks in front of those who either need to receive Christ or who need to grow in their faith. 
We can place those stumbling blocks in many ways.  Our words must always line up with our deeds.  As someone has said, if we are going talk the talk, then let’s be sure to walk the walk.  When I was a fairly young believer there was a man in my Sunday school class who would go out of his way to argue with the teacher.  I don’t mean simply disagree, but rather he always seemed to want to engage in a heated argument.  The teacher was a wise and godly believer and would not engage this man in open debate.  This could easily be the sort of situation Paul was talking about which could create an unnecessary offense.

We might also create an offense through ungodly or inconsistent behavior.  I John 2:9 says that if a person claims to be in the light but hates his brother, then he is walking in darkness, and remains in spiritual darkness until that hatred is removed.  This passage goes on to say in verse eleven that such a person has been spiritually blinded.  I don’t have to agree with everything that every believer does, but neither will I be ruled by hatred.  I John 2:10 says that “he who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him.”  Let’s always be on our guard against placing anything in someone’s path which might cause him or her to stumble.   

Consider that as we walk through our daily lives that we are called to shine forth the light of Jesus Christ to a lost world.  So great are the spiritual needs of those around us that we must be consistent in our faith and testimony for the Lord.  Reach out in love, show grace and compassion to those around us, demonstrate for the seeking what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ looks like. 

I have heard it said that for many people, our lives will be the only Bible they will ever read.  Let them see that blessed light shining from us that they too might come to know the Lord. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

“Fear not” is Applicable to us Today

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  -Luke 1:30, 31 (KJV)

We have contained in these verses one of the greatest and most powerful truths of our faith.  It is that we fear not, for the Lord is with us.  I wonder how many times we have read this, thought about it, but taken it for granted.  Do we comprehend the spiritual power of this divine truth?  We do not have to be afraid, for the Lord is with us.  The same promise was given to Mary, to Joseph, and many others in Scripture.  “Fear not” is applicable to us today.  God calls to us and reminds us to fear not, for He is with us.  This promise applies to the soldier on the battlefield, it applies to the missionary in the jungles of Southeast Asia, and it applies to you and I right here right now wherever we are.  The Lord has given a sacred charge; fear not.   

Since we have been given this charge, why are we so unwilling to practice it from day-to-day?  Instead of taking the Lord at His Word and letting our troubled hearts be stilled, we instead walk around in a state of fear.  What does the Bible say about this?  II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and a sound mind.”  Fear holds us back and hinders our effectiveness in the kingdom of God, but faith overcomes fear and faith moves us forward in Jesus’ name.   

What would have happened if Mary and Joseph would have allowed themselves to be overcome and paralyzed by fear?  The result would have been unfaithfulness to the divine charge the Lord had given them.  The call was not to simply be unafraid in the presence of the angel, but to not be afraid of doing God’s will.  Mary was probably fearful at the sight of the angel, but once she overcame that fear it was time to get ready to do the will of God.

Let that be our attitude as well, that we are willing and ready to follow whatever the Lord is calling us to do.  God is faithful and He will empower us to accomplish His will in our lives. 

Look to the Lord and rejoice, for salvation has come in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Power and Wonder of Jesus’ Birth

Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.  And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  -Luke 1:39-41 (NKJV) 

I recall the three times that Andrea was pregnant that she maintained a wonderful attitude.  There were times when she was thoughtful and introspective, and other times she was joyful and glowing.  One aspect of the experience that never lost its wonder was when the baby would move inside her.  No matter how she felt or what kind of mood she was in, this always made her smile.  Many times she would say, “Dan, hurry; the baby is moving.” I would then place my hand on her stomach and feel our son kicking and moving within her.  I also could not get over the miracle of that life which was growing within her and I never tired of this happening.  I have no trouble believing that an expecting Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was filled with the power of God when her baby moved within her. 

The Bible says that when Mary greeted Elizabeth that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb heard her voice and literally leaped for joy.  As a result, Elizabeth spoke a prophetic word of confirmation that the baby Mary was carrying was a fulfillment of the promise of God.  Here were two women, both of them carrying sons.  One would proclaim the coming of the Messiah.  The other was that promised Messiah, the Son of God, the long expected King of Kings, and Lord of Lords whose coming had been foretold by the prophets of old.  When these women met one another it was inevitable that a powerful movement of God’s Spirit would occur.  

Who would have thought that two seemingly insignificant women would play such vital roles in the will of God coming to pass among mankind?  But that is the way God does His will; He chooses the very people most of us would have disregarded as worthy of such divine work.  God reveals great truths to those who humbly seek Him, but those who think they are wise will not recognize them (Matthew 11:25).  When we are faithful and open to God’s will He will move and work in our hearts, which empowers us to accomplish His divine purposes. 

Throughout this Christmas season let us discover anew the wonder and power of the birth of the Lord Jesus.  Christ has come, and we rejoice that salvation is ours through Him. 

Blessed be the name of the Lord! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Signs of Christ’s Coming

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.   -Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)

Several years ago I used to deer hunt on land owned by a church member.  One day as I was heading into the woods he warned me that it was surely going to rain all day.  I asked how he could be so sure.  “Look up into the hilltops,”  he said, “as long as those misty looking clouds linger up there then it is going to rain.”  You know something?  He was right. 

Down through the ages people have understood that there are signs in the world that signify coming events.  When we see the sun setting and the sky is red we recognize that as a sign that the next day we will have nice weather.  However, if we see a red sky in the morning we know that’s a sign that we are in for some bad weather.  Jesus confronted the religious leaders with this very truth when they came to Him asking for a sign (Matthew 16:1-4).  Jesus told them that they could read the signs in the sky, but they were blind to the evidence of the coming of the Son of God.   

Isaiah the prophet proclaimed God’s Word at a time when the people did not want to hear it.  They had become hardened to the power of God and the truths of His Word.  Isaiah told them that since they were unwilling to seek the Lord that God Himself would give them a sign of His power and grace.  A virgin would conceive and give birth to a son.  This probably left King Ahaz and his entire court blinking in speechless bewilderment.  The prophet was seeing a sign that would be fulfilled in a span of time when God’s master-plan of redemption for all of mankind was ready to be unveiled.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the virgin and proclaimed by angels, has come into the world.  As John the beloved disciple testified, “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  

Let us rejoice that Christ has come into the world and has brought salvation to all who believe.  The signs of His coming remain; we have an empty tomb, the witness of Scripture, and the convincing power of the Holy Spirit in us.   

Hallelujah, what a Savior! 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Practicing Godliness in an Angry World

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.  -I Peter 2:11, 12 (NKJV) 

The other day Andrea and I ventured out into the crowds to do a little bit of Christmas shopping, but also grocery shopping as well.  The stores were packed with people, many of whom were buying groceries in preparation for the snow storm that was predicted.  Maneuvering our cart through the aisles was a test in patience, grace, and shopper resilience.  At one of our stops we were waiting in line at the check-out when we noticed an altercation taking place between some other customers.  We were never sure exactly what started it, but an angry woman was releasing a tirade of profanities and invectives at the person behind her.  The situation became so tense that a few other employees had to intervene.  The fuming woman was still muttering threats as she finished paying for her groceries and exited the store.   

As I observed this unfortunate situation I had to wonder about the spiritual condition of the woman who was so angry there in the store.  What event so tipped her emotional bucket that she poured it all out on the hapless person behind her?  We will never know, but whatever it was I can only hope that she learns to control her temper and conduct herself in a more mature and patient manner.  Such behavior should never be seen in followers of Christ.  In fact, the Scripture says that we are to live such good lives among unbelievers that even if they were to accuse us of doing wrong there would be no basis for the accusation.  The end result would be that through our constant witness they too would come to faith in the Lord Jesus.

Whenever we walk out into the world we have ample opportunities to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to a lost world.  The light of Jesus Christ shines brightly from us when we practice grace, patience, self-control, godliness, and humility.  As the Word of God says in Galatians 5:22, there is no law against practicing these attributes.  We are free to practice them in ever increasing measure.  Doing so will strengthen our testimony for the Lord Jesus and will point others to Him.   

As we go about our daily routines, let us pray that the Lord will empower us to shine forth the love of Jesus to everyone around us.  Troubled souls will see the peace that is ours and will desire it for themselves.  Pray that we will walk in the fullness of God’s grace and love.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rejoice, for Christ is Born

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.  -Matthew 1:18, 19 (KJV) 

Every time I read the above passage I find myself trying to grasp what Mary and Joseph were thinking and feeling as the events unfolded.  Mary, Joseph’s betrothed, was found to be with child.  God accomplished something that had never been done in the history of mankind and has never been repeated since.  He caused a young woman to be with child solely by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Scoffers and skeptics reject this outright, but believers who by faith accept that with God all things are possible receive it as true.  So, how did Joseph take the news when he discovered that Mary was expecting?  Judging by his decision to quietly end the engagement, the answer is not too well. 

However, just as God had revealed His will to Mary, so did the angel pay a visit to Joseph instructing him to go ahead and take Mary for his wife, for the child conceived in her was of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).  God’s plan of Christ coming into the world as the Son of God, the Messiah, the Redeemer, and the hope of the ages, was about to take place.  Mary and Joseph stood at the beginning of God’s wonderful plan of salvation which was about to be revealed to all of mankind.

Today, we stand on this side of these marvelous and miraculous events.  Why do we look to these occurrences as described in Scripture and hold to them as the pure and definitive Word of God?  We do so because we have found that in Jesus Christ we have hope.  Christ’s coming into the world has done as the Scripture promised and brought light to those walking in darkness (Isaiah 9:2).  Without Jesus in my life I was the one walking in the darkness of sin and hopelessness.  Jesus’ coming into the world brought the light of God’s love right to me in the most personal way imaginable.  Because of Christ, all who believe can trust in the Lord and commune with Him as friend to friend.   

Just as God revealed to Mary and Joseph that Christ’s coming was real, the Lord will also reveal this to us.  Do not look upon the birth of Jesus as a fanciful story, but rather by faith see His coming as the actual event that it is.  Sin no longer has dominion over us.  Death has been defeated. 

Rejoice, for Christ was born.  Halleluiah, Jesus Christ, our Savior, has come!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Free Access to God Through Jesus Christ

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.  - Hebrews 4:15, 16 (KJV) 

What do we mean when we say that someone is under conviction?  We mean that the person is having strong feelings about getting right with God, but is having trouble doing so.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Can you or I do that in the heart of a person?  The answer is no.  Only by the power of God’s Spirit can a lost person be convicted of sin.  The Holy Spirit does the work of convicting the heart of the sinner and making us aware of our need for salvation. 

The lost sinner comes to faith in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit is convinced that Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus Christ has granted us free access to God Almighty.  We can now approach the Lord and have fellowship and communion with Him. 

The Scripture shows us that when the Israelites worshipped God that they had to do so at a distance.  Only the priest could approach God on behalf of the people.  Jesus Christ has become our high priest who offered Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf.  Because of Jesus we no longer have to worship God from a distance, but we can come in close and have fellowship with Him.  People who have never trusted the Lord will sometimes say that they have never experienced anything like that before.  My response is, “You don’t know what you are missing.”  

As followers of Christ we are to always be about the work of witnessing, sharing, preaching, and teaching people that Jesus is the Son of God and the way of salvation.  The Holy Spirit will do the work of convicting and convincing them.  Reach out in Jesus name, for some troubled soul needs to hear the good news about Christ’s love today.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reaching out to Those in Need

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.  And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.  And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.  And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.  -Mark 3:1-4 (KJV) 

The Word of God shows us that Jesus consistently chose meeting human need over keeping the letter of the law.  Jesus’ critics held to a strict interpretation of the Old Testament which held that no work of any kind could be done on the Sabbath day.  This included providing any sort of medical treatment except for what had to be done to save someone’s life.  The man Jesus met in the synagogue had been suffering due to his withered hand.  Jesus decided to heal him right then rather than waiting until the Sabbath was over. 

One might think that those watching would have rejoiced over this wonderful movement of divine healing power which Christ brought about, but sadly they were too focused on trying to keep the letter of the law.  Their stern legalism blinded them to the needs of those around them.  As a result, what could have been a time of rejoicing and praise to God turned into a bitter hatred of the Lord Jesus, as seen in verse six: “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.”   

As followers of Christ, let us always follow Jesus’ example of placing human need over and above the letter of the law.  People may come into our churches that are shabbily dressed and lacking in proper hygiene.  The letter of the law says to bar their entrance and insist that they go home and get cleaned up first.  Human need says to reach out to them and show them the love of Jesus Christ.  The letter of the law looks down on sinners and reprobates, but seeing human need leads us to witness to them of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.  

The letter of the law narrows our focus to see only a set of rules, regulations, and ritual.  Seeing human need broadens our vision and allows us to look at the fields of human souls and see that they are ripe for a harvest (John 4:35). 

Christ calls us to reach out to the lost souls that are all around us.  Let’s never grow tired of sharing the love of Jesus.  Troubled souls are everywhere.  Jesus brings hope.  Look to Him today. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sealed With the Holy Spirit

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  -Romans 8:18 (KJV) 

The Word of God reminds us in Romans 8:18 that no problem, no crisis, no difficulty, no sickness, and no worries can take away from the promise that heaven is our eternal home.  That truth has the power to move us forward in Jesus’  name and to help us to not grow discouraged.  When we receive Jesus Christ as savior, God places His Word in our minds and writes His covenant on our hearts. 
Because of Jesus Christ heaven is ours and we have power for victorious living right now.   We will not be defeated by our problems, but rather we will rise above them through faith in the Lord.  We can and will be guided each day by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If someone were to ask me what is the advice I am most giving these days it would be this: Do not be controlled by anger and emotion, but be guided by the Holy Spirit.  This goes along with what the Scripture says in Ephesians 5:18: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”  Wine isn’t the only thing that can make a person drunk.  People can be drunk with power, lust, vengeance, and anger.  All of those have the power to wreak havoc in our lives.  That is why we bring our minds, our thoughts, and our actions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  To be controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit leads to excess, but the Spirit guides us to the will of God in our lives.   

In days before modern mail service if someone sent a letter, the sender would seal the envelope or scroll with a wax seal which was then stamped with the insignia of the sender.  God wrote the new covenant in Jesus Christ upon our hearts and He sealed it with the Holy Spirit for all eternity.
Be thankful today for the salvation God has given through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Summer or Winter, Praise the Lord

I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.  O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.  -Psalm 34:1-3 (KJV) 

I recall last summer writing in my blog about the heat wave we were experiencing at the time.  Even as I was writing that particular blog I knew in the back of my mind that colder weather was waiting just around the corner.  I am not sure where you are right now as you read this, but winter has arrived, and here in southwest Virginia it’s cold and I mean downright cold.  I just came in from a brisk evening walk with our dog, Ada, and “brisk” is the operative word.  The temperature was a cool 19 degrees and with the wind blowing it was easily pushed down into the single digits.  Despite the cold, Ada and I enjoyed our walk thoroughly.  What a wonderful night to breathe the cold air and praise the Lord for His strength and peace in my life. 

Something I have been learning over the years is the peace that comes from praising the Lord in all circumstances.  Regardless of the problems I am facing, giving thanks to God is a wonderful resource for finding joy even in the midst of those trials.  King David was a man who put this attitude into practice throughout his life and doing so made a powerful difference.  He resolved that he would praise the Lord at all times.  Such an attitude empowers us to see past the problems to the one who is able to bring us through them.  The Lord doesn’t just get us through, but by faith in Jesus Christ we can walk forward in victory.  
Sunshine, cold weather, rain, or snow, we are called to have God’s praises on our lips at all times.  You probably encounter people who complain when the weather is hot, and then they moan in the winter about how cold they are.  Faith in the Lord Jesus helps us to be thankful at all times; “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” That is a word from the Lord that makes me want to shout His praises.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!  A thankful heart is a joyful and peaceful heart.

As you go throughout your day, stop and give thanks to God.  We have many blessing for which we can be thankful.  Stop and count them, pray for strength in the trials you are facing, and praise the Lord that He knows and will help you through and on to victory.  Look up, be thankful, and be glad, for Jesus Christ has overcome the world.   

Through Jesus we have the victory.

Monday, December 6, 2010

God’s Wonderful Gift of Salvation

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  -Matthew 16:25, 26 (NKJV) 

Nothing in this world can compare in value to our salvation, for nothing else will save us from sin and bring eternal life but faith in Jesus Christ.  Isn’t interesting all of the treasures that are coming to light these days?  Items that we would never have believed to be valuable are now proving to be of tremendous worth.  Who would have thought that a vase found in someone’s attic would sell for tens of millions of dollars?  And who would have thought that a rare baseball card would have sold for over $200,000.00?  The problem is that those treasures can be lost.  Salvation in Jesus Christ is ours to keep forever.  The Lord promised that if we will trust in Him that we can be in His flock forever.  God always keeps His promises, and the promise of salvation in Jesus Christ is absolutely certain. 

A young man named Matt Cawley had planned to propose to his girlfriend Stacey Scanlon on the jetty of Bass River Beach on Cape Cod. The Dedham, Massachusetts native tied the $9,000 engagement ring to a large sand dollar and left it on the jetty, hoping to lead Scanlon there shortly after.  She saw the ring, untied it from the sand dollar, and accidentally dropped it in the ocean.  Despite help from lifeguards who spent hours diving in the area and searching for it, the ring was never found.  The couple later reported that they purchased another ring and proceeded with their wedding plans, but a lesson was certainly learned about how easily possessions can be lost.

Possessions can indeed be lost, but salvation in Jesus Christ, our greatest treasure, is for eternity.  Trust in Christ today and discover the joy of walking in the fullness of His grace and the blessings of salvation.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Changed and Perfected in Jesus Christ

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  -II Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) 

My father used to drive around looking for old pieces of wood furniture, preferably antique, and he would get them either for nothing or very cheap.  Dad would then strip them down and refinish those pieces of furniture, and I have to say that he always did a beautiful job.  Often the table, or end table, or coffee table was unrecognizable to its former state.  I recall the table he brought home when I was a young teenager.  It was an antique round oak table and was such a wreck that I doubted whether it could ever be restored.  However, my father did such a good job that when he was finished the table was nearly unrecognizable to its former state.  That one they kept and it is still in use in their home.  This is what Jesus Christ does with us.  He loves us, forgives us, cleans us up, strips us down, and refinishes us to divine perfection.  Those spots and blemishes of sin are washed away by the precious blood of Christ which was shed for us on the cross of Calvary. 

We are to always be in the process of being perfected, and we are always to be edifying the body of Christ, which is the church.  Are we up to that task and are we doing this work diligently?  If not we must step up to the plate and get busy.  Jesus Christ is in the re-finishing work of people, and we are to be at the forefront of this work. 

Because we have been blessed with such grace and value to God, we realize this truth and we are encouraged by it.  The Lord has not called us to quit, but to go forward doing the work of the ministry.  We are called to be the light of Jesus Christ shining in the world.  That light shines brightest when we walk in truth, holiness, and humility.  When that happens the light cannot be extinguished and will be seen by the world.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

All Christians Have a Ministry

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not.   -II Corinthians 4:1 (KJV) 

Here we have the reminder that we have a ministry, we have received mercy, and because of Jesus Christ we will have strength and not grow weary.  The heaviness of spirit that afflicts countless people is detrimental to our productivity in the Lord.  Such heaviness keeps us from being effective in the kingdom of God.  That is why we claim the blessed promises of God that in Christ we are of value and we have a ministry.
Ministry will be worked out in unique ways among all of God’s people.  Ephesians 4:12 says that we have been given various gifts for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.  That is an awesome responsibility.  Christ has called us to reach out in His name and to always be involved in the work of the ministry.  Each of us has different gifts and talents, and we are meant to put those gifts to work in sharing the love of the Lord with others.   

What is our ministry?  We all have the ministry of reaching people for Jesus Christ, and we all have the ministry of being the light of Jesus in a sin-darkened world.  Jesus Christ has brought the light, and we are to be that light among the people of the world.  We can make a difference, but we must rise up and in Jesus’ name allow God to have His will and way in our lives.  A little Jewish girl named Anne Frank said this about making a difference in the world: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” That little girl was arrested during Hitler’s reign of terror and she later died in a Nazi concentration camp.  But those hopeful words resonate today.  We don’t have to wait a single moment to start to improve the world.  It can happen right away as we share the love and light of Jesus Christ in the world.

Has God called you to a ministry, but you have not responded?  What is holding you back?  With the Lord’s help we can always accomplish whatever we are called to do.  When we are faithful to our calling in Christ Jesus we are blessed.  Do not fear stepping out on faith and following Christ’s leading in your life.  Wide open vistas of service to Christ are waiting to be explored.  Move forward in faith and respond to the call.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What About This Word “Amazing?”

And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.   -Joshua 3:5 (KJV) 

If you are listening these days to the way people speak, you may have noticed that the word “amazing”  has somehow worked its way into casual conversation.  The downside to this trend is that the power of the word has been lessened and I would even go as far as to say cheapened.  I have been in conversations or been on the fringe of some that went something like this:
“Hey John; how was your trip to the Bahamas?” “It was amazing.” said John. 
“So, Rita; I see you are driving a new Lexus.  How do you like it?”  “Oh, it’s amazing.” Rita replies. 
“You know, Ted; I hear that Outback has a new Bloomin’ Onion recipe.”  “We had one the other night,” Ted answered. “It was amazing.”  

See what I mean?  This wonderful word with all its power and tremendous force for communicating profound truths has been reduced to describing recipes and automobiles.  Yes, I know I probably shouldn’t make such a big deal over this, but it just doesn’t set well with me.  This is the same word that the great hymn of the Christian faith, “Amazing Grace,” employed to describe the wondrous grace of God.  The word, as used in the song, is an attempt to describe the indescribable.  No word in the English language could possibly communicate the depths of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, so the closest the composer could come to it was to say that it was amazing.  Truly, that is a noble application of the word.  

Even the oldest English translation of the Holy Scriptures, The King James Bible, does not use the word “amazing.”  Other more recent translations employ it, but only in a few verses.  In Joshua chapter three God told the Israelites to get ready, for the He was going to do wonders among them.  A few more modern translations do render this word, “amazing things.” My prayer is that we as followers of Christ would prepare our hearts and be ready for when the Lord does wonders among us.  Let it be our desire to grow into a deeper knowledge of the power of God’s amazing grace.   

Jesus Christ loved us so much that He went to the cross of Calvary and shed His blood as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  All who come to faith in Him can have their sins washed away and given a new lease on life.

There is one word for that, my friends: amazing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Wonderful Treasure in Earthen Vessels

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.  -II Corinthians 4:7 (KJV)

I often encounter people who struggle with a low opinion of themselves and their own worth.  Of course, we do not ever want to grow haughty or prideful and think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but neither let us surrender to self-loathing.  Don’t be too hard on yourself; remember that the Lord truly loves us.  God knows we struggle and He knows that we have weaknesses.  The Lord is willing to help us in our weaknesses that we might walk in daily victory through faith in Jesus Christ.  Self-loathing is when we begin to think that we are of little worth and of no value to God and His kingdom work.  That is not true and is a lie from the devil.  We are of tremendous value to God.  Each one of us is a unique individual with unlimited worth and potential to God.  We should not grow prideful, but rather we are to humble ourselves before God.  Realize also that God loves us and we are valuable to Him.   

Each one of us has an extremely tough job and we all have a great responsibility.  You are in all probability the only person who could be you.  I don’t think anyone would want to be me, because if someone was me he would also have to deal with all of my problems, flaws, and weaknesses.   

The Scripture says that we are simply earthen vessels, jars of clay, but within these jars is a wonderful and divine treasure.  This divine treasure is the Holy Spirit of God given freely through Jesus Christ our Lord.  During dark and troubled times take heart and remember that you are of immeasurable worth to God.  We sometimes begin to think that we are worthless, but God is able to see past our flaws to a person who is perfectly capable of accomplishing His will.  Following God’s will brings comfort, peace, joy, stability, and direction in life.   

Don’t wander aimlessly though life and do not give into the dark feelings of hopelessness.  Jesus Christ came to bring life – the abundant life in Him.  Claim that promise today and walk forward in victory.