Monday, February 28, 2011

The Process of Growing in the Faith

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.  But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.  -II Peter 3:17, 18 (KJV)  

As you may recall, I have written in both of my blogs about how that I have been attempting to get in better physical condition.  Something I have learned about this process is that starting out can be painful.  I was having a conversation recently with a young man I know who also is making a number of lifestyle changes involving exercise and fitness.  He made the comment that after increasing his exercise routine that he “felt it in his body” as he never had before.  His muscles, heart, and lungs were responding to the increased activity as they were pushed beyond what they had been used to.  Over time our as we exercise, our muscles become accustomed to greater use, but until that happens we certainly will feel it in ways we previously had not experienced.  In the end, however, we are better off, for we have grown stronger. 

The Word of God teaches that as followers of Christ we are to always be undergoing spiritual growth.  We are to be careful not to become spiritually stagnant and complacent.  Stagnation and complacency can creep into our lives and hinder the growth which the Lord intends for us to experience.  This spiritual growth process, however, can be painful.  As we are stretched and as we grow we also will feel it in ways we had not felt before.  But in the end we will find that we are stronger; our faith has grown and increased, and our perspective on life and our problems have become more focused and in tune with God’s will.   

The spiritual growth which the Bible speaks of will not happen overnight.  Instead, it is a lifelong process of staying in the Word, daily prayer, being faithful, and seeking the Lord through any and all circumstances.  Do we believe that God is faithful?  If so then the Lord will confirm to us His faithfulness on a daily basis.  Christ will never let us down, neither will He abandon us in our time of need.  The Lord will be there to comfort us as our faith is being refined and as we are growing in Him. 

What sort of spiritual battles are you facing today?  Remember that when we are faithful the Lord will bring us through and we will come out stronger on the other side.  Jesus is Lord, and He will empower us to stand firm through all our trials. 

Do not be discouraged.  Look to the Lord, keep growing in the faith, and be faithful – at all times. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Held Together for Christ’s Service

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.  –Ephesians 4:16 (KJV) 

A number of years ago while serving a congregation in another state there was a man in my church who loved gospel music.  He drove an old pick-up truck that had a cassette tape player and he always had numerous cassette tapes of gospel music on hand.  The only problem was the way he kept those tapes.  What he needed was a type of box or holder for his tapes, but he preferred instead to keep them in pile on the seat beside him.  I once had to take a brief trip with him in his truck and while I enjoyed the fellowship and the gospel music, each time he stopped at a red light a few tapes would fall to the floor.  He didn’t seem to mind, or notice, so I didn’t say anything.  Apparently he had simply gotten used to this disorganized style of keeping his tape collection. 

That story reminds me of the way that many people go about their lives.  They lack organization and are drifting along.  They are probably aware that changes need to be made to make them more productive and efficient, but for whatever reason they continue on as they are.  The Word of God reminds us that since we have come to faith in Jesus Christ that He is able to hold us together, every aspect of our lives, in wonderful and powerful ways.  Is your prayer life disorganized and haphazard?  Christ can empower us to focus on our time of prayer.  Is your time spent in the Bible something that seldom takes place and when it does you really don’t know what to read?  The Lord will give us power to so focus on His Word that we can apply it daily to our lives and store its truths in our hearts.  Is your service to God in the church half-hearted?  Christ can help us to become totally committed to Him. 

Let us not settle for hap-hazard, disorganized, and lifeless faith, but rather let us seek the Lord with all our hearts and become all that the Lord intends for us to become.  Through faith in Jesus the power of the Holy Spirit can transform anyone to become a vibrant and solid witness for Him in the church and community.  The Lord has called us to the abundant life in Him.  He has not called us to complacency and apathy. 

The time to rise up and get serious about serving Jesus is now, and with God’s help we can accomplish anything the Lord calls us to do.  Be waiting, be ready, and be available to serve the Lord.  The opportunities are all around us. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Praying Without Ceasing

See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.  Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  -I Thessalonians 5:15-18 (KJV) 

Are you like me, in that when you are alone you sometimes will talk to yourself out loud?  Perhaps this is how we sometimes work through problems and vent our frustrations.  I’m no psychiatrist, but a little talking to ourselves is probably not a cause for alarm.  Consider, however, how much better off we would be if anytime we realized we were talking to ourselves we stopped and began speaking to the Lord in prayer.  Try this the next time you are going through a problem or feeling stressed.  Don’t waste a lot of valuable energy venting to no one, but instead tell it to the Lord.  God is able to handle any problem we place at His feet.  In fact, He has told us in His Word to do just that. 

Paul the Apostle gives us an insight into our attitude toward prayer: “Pray without ceasing.”  The idea is that even when we are not in a quiet, reflective, and dedicated time of prayer we are still going through the day in an attitude of prayer.  We can then be open to God’s will, sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit, and willing to adopt a Christ-like stance in the face of daily challenges.  Praying without ceasing will involves serious and concentrated daily prayer, but even when that sacred time is concluded we walk forward in that humble and Holy Spirit led attitude.   

When we are going about in an attitude of prayer we are better equipped to live out the teachings of God’s Word.  The Lord has a unique and individual plan for each of us, and that plan is revealed day-by-day as we walk with the Lord and seek the guidance of His Spirit.  Within that plan there are also common characteristics of the Christian life which we all are called to seek: practicing humility and forgiveness, loving one another, reaching out in Jesus’ name, and staying in the Word of God. 

Are you confused these days about God’s will for your life?  If so, begin by doing exactly what that the Lord has told us to do.  Pray, love one another, take on the attitudes of Jesus, and hide God’s Word in your heart.  The rest will begin to take shape and make sense.  God is faithful and He will make His will known.  Keep trusting in Him. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Confronting the Unfairness of Life

Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.  But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.  For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.   -Psalm 73:1-3 (KJV) 

For a number of years now I have adopted a philosophy which may seem harsh, but it has a way of keeping my expectations about life in check.  That philosophy is this: life isn’t fair, so don’t expect it to be.  Why is it that we are so surprised when trials and difficulties come to us?  Do we honestly believe that we should be able to live our lives without trouble, problems, crises, or disappointments?  If we take such an unrealistic view of life we are setting ourselves up for serious discouragement, for problems and heartache are going to come to us all, for this is part of the human experience.  While my philosophy seems harsh, it’s kept in balance with faith in the Living God who is aware of our problems and is able to give us strength and spiritual power to not just get us through, but to lead us forward in victory.   

The psalmist in Psalm 73 was trying to come to terms with an age old question regarding the unfairness of life.  He confessed that he actually began to be envious of foolish and ungodly people, for they seemed to not have the problems that he endured.  We can easily begin to feel the same way.  We might look around and notice that there are a lot of ungodly people in the world who do not appear to have the depth of trouble that we have as followers of Christ.  We are struggling with financial problems, but they are rich.  We have sickness, but they look healthy.  We are depressed, but they are cheerful and happy.  But is that a true picture of reality?  The answer is, of course not.  Unbelievers also have financial problems, life-threatening illnesses, and they too suffer from depression.   

The inequalities of life began to make sense to the psalmist when he humbled himself in worship before God: “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end”  (Vv. 16, 17).  As the psalmist sought the Lord he began to realise that believers have in their lives something that unbelievers do not, and that is the power of God to help and sustain them through the trials of life.  Let us never be tempted to envy those without Christ, for they are lost and wandering without the Savior.   

Whatever you are facing today, rise up in faith and the power of the Holy Spirit and walk forward in spiritual victory.  Jesus is greater that any problem we will ever face.  Look to Him today.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Challenge of Waiting on the Lord

And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.  –Genesis 15:5, 6 (KJV) 

One of the most difficult spiritual challenges we will face is that of having to wait on the Lord.  What does that mean for us as followers of Christ?  Waiting on the Lord refers to our trusting God to work His will in our lives in His time.  We face difficulties related to marriage, raising children, finances, and our jobs, and we pray that God will resolve these problems.  This is a spiritual process and is going to take time.  As we move forward and wait on the Lord to bring us through and work out these problems it is easy to grow impatient.  When we become impatient the tendency is to try and somehow circumvent God’s plan and attempt to move the process along faster.  That, my friends, is always a bad idea. 

Abraham of the Old Testament faced the challenge of waiting on the Lord to bring about a promise in his life.  The promise of God was that Abraham would be the father of a great nation of people, and this promise would come about through the birth of a child by his wife, Sarah.  The problem was that both he and Sarah were growing older and the promise was a long time in coming.  No doubt Abraham was tempted to question God’s promise.  “Did I hear that right?” he may have wondered.  Each time God confirmed to him that he had in fact heard correctly: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee…” (Genesis 12:2).  Abraham and Sarah at one point took matters into their own hands and tried to go around God’s will, but He still brought them back to where He wanted them to be.  Still, the waiting continued. 

Perhaps you feel that you are waiting on the Lord to bring about the promises of His Word in your life.  The challenge from God is to not give up, trust the Lord, and wait upon Him.  God will bring about what He has promised, but remember that the promise comes according to His will and His time.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 21 how that the promise came about in Abraham and Sarah’s lives.  Sarah, at the age of 90, gave birth to a healthy baby boy.  And Abraham, at the age of 100, saw the promise of God made a reality.  They named the baby Isaac, which means, “He laughs.”  How appropriate; God turned their waiting into joyful laughter. 

The Lord will accomplish His will in our lives.  Wait upon the Lord.  Trust in Him and be patient.  He will fulfill His promises.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Always Relying on God’s Strength

Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.  My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word. -Psalm 119:27, 28 (KJV) 

As you may have noticed, I try to have these daily devotional blogs posted first thing each morning.  The problem is that life and any number of unexpected situations can arise which hinder that taking place.  I mentioned yesterday how that I had been battling a terrible sore throat and head cold, which I am sad to say, has gotten worse.  I saw my doctor yesterday for a routine check-up and after doing a swab on the back of my throat found no infection.  He recommended that I continue taking over the counter cold medicine, drink fluids, and ride it out.  So, that’s what I am doing.  This morning I was up at 3:00 AM and felt so miserable that I could not go back to sleep.  Neither was I in any condition to work on my blog.  I was finally able to sleep from 5:00 to about 8:00 AM and that period of sleep proved to be beneficial. 

A friend suggested that I spend the day on the couch wrapped in a warm blanket and I have to say that sounded most inviting.  However, when I woke up at 8:00 I could not see myself spending the day on the couch.  I asked the Lord for His help and healing, and I then proceeded to splash my face with water, shave, dress in my sweat suit, and then head outside for my morning workout.  Through it all the words of the Psalmist kept coming to mind: “Strengthen thou me according to thy word.”  Following my workout I showered, had breakfast, and so far have had a fairly productive day.   

Someone may fuss at me over this and tell me that I should not have tried to work today, but rather should have stayed in and rested.  No doubt a strong case could be built for such a position.  However, I truly felt the Lord leading me to rise up and fight this head cold in a way that may not work for everyone, but is working for me.  For those who may be worried about me, you have my word; tonight I will be home and in bed early. 

God is faithful and He never lets us down.  By His strength we can rise up and go forward even in those times when we would not have thought that to be possible.  Let us look to the Lord always and rely upon His strength at all times.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Looking Ahead to That Brighter Day

And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her.  The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah.  –Psalm 87:5, 6 (KJV) 

About a week ago I was telling a friend how that I had been blessed by not being afflicted with a serious cold in almost two years.  The reason for my run of good health may be related to the strict exercise routine I have been observing for the last year and a half.  However, I spoke too soon, for late last week I began to have a sore throat, runny nose, and that nagging feeling that a cold is coming on.  This morning I woke up with one of the worst sore throats in recent memory.  Fortunately, I happen to have a check-up with my doctor this afternoon, so hopefully he will give me something to make me feel better.  When we feel this bad what can keep us going is the hope that we will soon feel better.  What a glorious day that will be – no sore throat! 

Psalm 87 is a song of praise to God that looks forward to the blessings that await God’s people.  They had been through hard times, they had gone into exile, and they had felt the wrath of God upon them.  But God in His mercy had preserved a remnant of the faithful, and a bright and glorious day was awaiting them.  Theirs was to be patient, remain faithful, and keep looking to that brighter day.  Those that had been afflicted would one day walk again in the light of God’s grace. 

As followers of Christ, we too look forward to that brighter day that we know is coming.  The dark storm clouds of life may gather, but in Jesus Christ we have the promise of a new and glorious day.  The Lord will bring us through the storm and He will be waiting to receive us when this life comes to an end.  When that day comes there will be a celebration, a reunion, and a homecoming that will truly overshadow any trial or hardship we ever faced in this life.  Until then we serve the Lord with gladness and faithfulness, and we look ahead to brighter days that the Lord has promised. 

Keep moving forward, be encouraged, for one day soon the dark clouds will part and we will see the Lord.  What a glorious day that will be. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Taking Seriously the Call to Discipleship

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.  –Luke 14:11 (KJV) 

Jesus provided in Luke 14 two important principles which many of us have trouble following.  First, Jesus taught that we are better off to always be seeking an attitude of humility rather than self-promotion.  Jesus pointed out the embarrassment we would suffer if we went to a banquet and sought for ourselves a seat at the head table near the host only to be told that the seat was taken.  Instead, Jesus taught, seek out the lower and less important seat and then the master of the feast would see and invite us to a more prominent place.  The attitude of humility is always appropriate for the follower of Christ.  From this position we are better equipped to serve, witness, and demonstrate for others the love of Christ functioning in us.   

The second principle Jesus taught was that of reaching out to the poor and needy among us.  Jesus said that if we prepare a banquet that we should alter the guest list to include the poorest and neediest of the community.  By reaching out to others in such a tangible way we will be blessed in ways that will ring throughout eternity.  But how many of us would do that?  The poor and needy of the world can be difficult to deal with, they have needs of food and other basic necessities, and in the end we might feel used and taken advantage of.  That will be a challenge, to be sure, but Jesus summed it up in verse 27 with these words: “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” 

Do we truly desire to be Jesus’  disciples?  Do we honestly want to walk in the fullness of God’s grace?  If so, then take seriously the call of Christ to take up His cross and follow Him.  As we follow Him we reach out to a lost and hurting world and demonstrate for them that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  By humbling ourselves before the Lord we become equipped to reach out in His name, free of judgment and free from the wrong attitudes that so often hinder Christian growth.  A world of people need to not only hear the gospel, but they need to see the gospel being lived out in us. 

Reach out today in Jesus’  name.  A lost soul is drowning in hopelessness.  Throw out to them today the lifeline of hope that Jesus offers.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Grace and Freedom in Jesus Christ

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?  -Romans 6:1, 2 (KJV) 

There has been a lot of discussion in this area of northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia in recent years about concealed carry laws.  The discussion centers on where someone with a license to carry a concealed weapon may in fact carry said weapon.  A number of state lawmakers have devoted a great deal of energy examining the merits of bar patrons being allowed to carry their guns with them inside the bars.  I have been waiting for some wise-cracking comedian to make a joke about what a fine idea that is to have persons consuming large amounts of alcohol also packing loaded guns.  I will save the sarcasm and just state my opinion that this is probably a bad idea.  Just because someone has a license to carry a gun is no guarantee that the person will use it responsibly. 

Paul the Apostle dealt with the issue of grace in a similar manner when he posed the question of whether or not we will continue to sin just because we are under grace.  In other words, just because we have been redeemed from sin and forgiven, does that give us a license to sin?  The answer is a resounding, “God forbid!”  The Word of God makes is clear that we are called to live holy and honorable lives before God.  Being under grace is by no means a license to sin, but rather it is power to overcome the sin which might otherwise destroy us.  The grace of God in Jesus Christ has cleansed us from sin and has given us new life in Him.  We are not free in Jesus to do as we please, but rather we are free to love, serve God, forgive one another, and walk in the spiritual victory the Lord brings each day. 

Being under the grace of God is to experience the fullness of Jesus’ love working in and through us.  We need no longer be shackled to the fear and anxiety that daily life so often causes.  We are now free in Jesus to serve Him in the blessed promise that He is with us every step of the way.  And as we go forward we have the assurance of a heavenly reward what outweighs anything the world can offer. 

Serving and Lord and walking with Him brings true peace.  Walk with Jesus in that peace today. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reaching out to Those Needing the Great Physician

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?  When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  –Mark 2:16, 17 (KJV) 

Down through the years I have had the opportunity to minister to a number of troubled people.  My hope and prayer is that I have been able to point them to Jesus Christ, for only though faith in Him can true peace and stability in life be attained.  One such person that stands out in my memory is a man named Jerry.* He and I were co-workers many years ago at a company I worked for in Ohio before I began preaching and doing vocational ministry.  Jerry was a drug addict and an alcoholic, but somehow managed for a time to keep working and putting forth at least a pretense of having his life together, which he clearly did not.  I tried to encourage Jerry to seek the Lord and let Him provide the strength and power to overcome the addiction that was tearing his life apart.  Sadly, those demons of addiction began to get the best of Jerry, and despite my efforts to keep in touch with him he lost his job and drifted away.   

There are people like Jerry all around us.  They are the people who Jesus described as being in need of a physician, although in this case that physician is the Great Healer, Jesus Christ.  As I stated in yesterday’s blog, sin is the sickness and Jesus is the cure.  Through faith in Him the most troubled and hopeless soul can find deliverance, forgiveness, and a completely new outlook on life.  No doubt there is a Jerry in your life.  He might be a son, brother, friend, neighbor, or co-worker.  Are we willing to reach out in Jesus’ name to the sin-sick people of the world and introduce them to the one that is capable of bringing healing to their lives?  This is a vital part of the call of God in Christ in our lives, that we shine the light of Jesus to those walking in the darkness of sin. 

Those in need of the healing Jesus provides will often times try our patience, stretch our grace reserves, and sometimes leave us wondering if we have made a difference at all.  My friends, remember that sharing the love of Jesus with a lost soul is always time well-spent.  Such endeavors are never wasted, for the gospel can take root in peoples’ lives and touch them in ways we may not see for a long time. 

Remember to pray for some lost soul today.  Reach out in the name of Jesus.  Someone in your life is in need of the lifeline only Jesus can provide.

*Name has been changed.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Vilest Sinner can be Saved

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.  –Luke 6:37 (KJV) 

Let me share a poem with you today that I learned as a boy.  This poem has stayed with me all these years and still touches me with its profound truthfulness. 

I dreamed death came the other night, and heaven’s gates swung wide;
An angel with a halo bright ushered me inside.
And there to my astonishment stood folks I’d judged and labeled;
As quite unfit, of little worth, and spiritually disabled.
Indignant words rose to my lips, but never were set free;
For every face showed stunned surprise;
As not one expected me.  –Author unknown 

There will be times when we will find ourselves looking at people around us and passing at least a form of judgment on them.  Anytime we do this we run the risk of passing unfair judgments which will ultimately hinder our ability to see them with the gifts and potential God has given.  This can then lead us to dismiss certain people as being unfit or incapable of being useful in God’s service.  Jesus warned us about passing such judgments lest we be hindered in our ability to reach out to those around with His love.  Will we so limit God’s transforming power through Christ that we dismiss people as being beyond reach?  Is any sinner beyond the reach of God’s wonderful grace?  According to the Word of God, the answer to that question is no. 

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (Matthew 9:13, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32).  If we truly take this truth to heart, we begin to delve deeper into the power of God to reach even those we might otherwise have thought were beyond reach.  So great is the power of God that He can reach into the hearts of the vilest sinners and bring them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  You and I are called to go such persons in Jesus' name and share with them the salvation the Lord offers.  Sin is the sickness and Jesus Christ is the cure. 

Let us not be caught up in judgmental attitudes toward the lost people that are all around us.  Someone has said that anytime we point a finger at someone there are four more pointing right back at us.  The late singer Rich Mullins also said, “There’s no use in pointing fingers, unless you’re pointing to the truth.”  Well said; that truth is Jesus Christ. 

By the grace of God we have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus.  I was that vile sinner, but thanks be to God I have been set free in Jesus!  Go and share that message today.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Priority of Sharing the Gospel with Others

And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me…  -Acts 1:7, 8b (KJV) 

I have known for a long time that I need to keep a careful record of my schedule and upcoming events, meetings, and various other commitments, but for some reason I have trouble taking the time to write that information on a calendar.  Kind people have even provided me with those handy pocket sized weekly planners, and yet I still forget to write down important dates.  I have it in my head that I can somehow recall all of those events from memory.  That’s not too bright, I know, because all that information can start running together and sooner or later an important meeting gets missed.  I am good about writing down upcoming events on little scraps of paper which I then leave beside the keyboard on my computer.  Now if I can move those dates into my pocket calendar I will truly be on my way to being an organized person.   

Jesus said that there are dates and times that are not meant to be known to us, such as when exactly He will return.  That day will come, but the Lord clearly said that we do not know when that will occur nor are we meant to know.  I take comfort in knowing that we will meet the Lord; either Christ will come to us and we will meet Him in the air in the clouds and in victorious glory, or we will be called out of this world and will go to Him.  Either way we know that we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore, we do as the Scripture says and “Comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:18).  As Jesus’ followers our main emphasis is to be on the task of being His witnesses in the world.  Jesus stated that we will be His witnesses all over the world.  Wherever there are people we are to go to them and share with them the gospel of Christ. 

Our commitment to sharing Jesus with a lost world begins right now wherever we are.  We are called to share Christ with our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else with whom we come into contact.  When the light of Jesus Christ is shining from our lives the result is a desire to share that light with others. 

Pray today that the Lord will empower us to be His witnesses that others will receive salvation and will know the peace and joy Christ offers. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guidance and Direction are found in Jesus Christ

And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.  Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.   –Leviticus 20:6, 7 (KJV) 

A few years ago I was out one day when I noticed that someone had opened a place that offers psychic readings and fortune telling.  Who would have thought that in the small town of Bristol, Virginia we would have a fortune teller?  I don’t know how this person’s fortune telling operation is going, but apparently he or she has enough customers to remain in business.  For as long as people have been on the earth they have sought out such persons to try to answer their questions and provide direction in life – at least that what I imagine is the reason anyone would visit a fortune teller.  The Bible shows that God gave stern warnings to His people to avoid such practices, and if someone did begin consulting such individuals he or she would be cut off from the community of faith.  That means that those who remained faithful to God would have nothing to do with those who engage in such practices. 

Followers of Jesus Christ have been given the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God who Jesus referred to as “The Comforter.”  The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and provides guidance, direction, peace, spiritual power, and the ability to discern the Scriptures and God’s will for our lives.  We need not waste our time, or money, visiting those who claim to possess psychic powers.  Such persons are charlatans pretending to have power to speak with the spirits of the dead and to see the future.  According to the Word of God, such practices are an abomination before the Lord.  Furthermore, no one knows the future except God.  We do well to look to Him to guide us forward into His will knowing that our lives and our future, as well as the future of the entire world, are in His hands.   

Our Great Commission given to us by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28:19 is to “Go ye therefore and teach all nations…”  Our calling and commission is to go and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world that needs hope, peace, and guidance.  All around us are people that stand in need of the salvation only Jesus Christ can provide.  As we let His light shine from us, we show them that Christ is the answer to the questions people seek. 

Let that light shine today.  Demonstrate to a lost world and to those that are searching that Jesus is the true way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Being Like Jesus

Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.  –Acts 11:25, 26 (KJV) 

I recall when I was a young boy that a TV show hit the airwaves and was for a time hugely popular.  The program was called “The Monkeys” and featured a four-member singing group and a lot of silliness involving various adventures the group faced.  Interestingly enough, several of those songs that the Monkeys sang can still be heard on a few radio stations even today.  The Monkeys wore a style that was a combination of late 60’s early 70’s and I distinctly remember the hats they wore which had a certain British look about them.  My older brother told me how that on one occasion he a friend went to a store in search of these hats.  My brother’s friend, after trying one on, pronounced that the hat “made him look like a cowboy.”  This was not the desired look at all.  Had he worn that hat he would no doubt have suffer ridicule from at least a few people. 

The Bible says that the first followers of Christ were so seeking to be like Jesus that unbelievers gave them what was actually considered a derogatory name.  The term “Christian” was first used as a kind of insult.  The word implies someone who was trying to be a “little Christ,”  or just like Jesus.  When the early believers took upon themselves the attitudes, love, mercy, grace, and joy of Christ they were roundly criticized, rebuked, and in many instances persecuted.  That has not changed even today.  When we begin to get serious about being like Jesus and letting His love shine from us, we too will be criticized, made fun of, and maybe persecuted.   

Regardless of what we might face, we are called to take upon ourselves the humility and mind of Jesus Christ.  As His followers we are to be like Him in every way.  No matter what the world may think, we are to continue being like Jesus that His light may be a witness of the grace we have been shown through Him.  Let us not forsake this divine calling for fear of someone making fun of us or hating us.  As Jesus warned, they hated Him, and there are those who will hate us as well (John 15:17-19).  Do not be afraid of being like Jesus, for this is our high call of God in Christ. 

Walk forward today in bold faith that shines the light of Jesus Christ to a lost and troubled world.  Hope, joy, peace, and life eternal are found in Jesus. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heeding Wisdom’s Voice

Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.  For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.  All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.   –Proverbs 8:6-8 (KJV) 

The voice of wisdom which we find in the book of Proverbs is one of reason, intelligence, good sense, and level-headedness.  Why are so many people unwilling to heed that voice of reason?  This has been the dilemma of the human condition since time out of mind.  Imagine yourself walking by a railroad track and you saw that the train was fast approaching.  You also looked and saw someone about to step in front of the train.  No doubt you would shout at the top of your lungs and warn the person to stop, step back, and go no further, because a great and terrible danger is fast approaching.  How heartbreaking it would be if the one you sought to warn kept going and stepped into the path of the oncoming train.  The results would be a disaster.   
 This is how the Lord looks upon those who refuse to heed His warnings.  He is calling to them, warning them, pleading with them to stop, but they keep moving toward what will only bring them harm.  Such is the hold the world and its ungodly ways can have upon people.  The invitation from God is to turn away from that which causes heartbreak and despair.  Turn away from the path that leads to destruction.   Receive the salvation the Lord offers.  Doing so will bring deliverance, joy, peace, and redemption.  Jesus Christ has come into the world to be this divine deliverance from the dark forces which so often enslave people. 

The answer for whatever problem people are facing can be found through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Through faith in Him the powers of darkness are broken and shattered.  The Holy Spirit will indwell the believer and provide guidance so that we are empowered to avoid those traps that come about as the result of failing to heed God.  Countless people will seek the wisdom the world offers, while many will not bother to seek wisdom of any kind.  But God offers a divine wisdom that brings His power into our lives. 

God’s invitation is to leave the path of ungodliness and receive Jesus Christ as Savior.  We are then on a path that leads to blessings, spiritual power, and the peace of God in our hearts.  Heed God’s voice, and walk with Him today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ask, for the Lord Will Provide

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?   -Matthew 7:9-11 (KJV) 

I have a number of hard and fast rules about going out to eat.  One is that I almost never send back a plate of food.  The last person I want to offend is the one back there in the kitchen who is preparing my food.  Last December Andrea and I were traveling and we stopped for dinner at a well known restaurant chain.  They were having a special on buffalo chicken tenders and I couldn’t resist, so I ordered them.  As I cut open the first piece I saw that the chicken was not just undercooked, but raw.  When the waitress came back I politely showed her the problem and asked if they could give me another order as these were barely cooked.   

A few minutes later a gentleman emerged from the kitchen with another order of chicken which he gave me.  He introduced himself as the kitchen manager and he apologized for the problem with the first order.  He then invited me to cut open a piece or two to make sure they were cooked all the way through this time, which I did.  Seeing that all was well he apologized again and went back to the kitchen.  I couldn’t help but consider how that these things certainly happen and that it’s easy for mistakes to be made.  What I appreciated was the manager’s willingness to make it right and to see that I had what I needed. 

This situation brings us to another consideration: God is perfectly willing to provide for us.  All we need to do is ask in faith.  Not only does the Lord provide, but He stands beside us to ensure that our needs are met and we are nourished and fulfilled.  How often do we go without the benefits of God’s blessings simply because we did not take the time to ask in faith?  Is this to say that God gives me everything I ask for?  The answer is no, but the Lord will instead provide for us according to our need and His will for our lives.  You may not believe this, but God knows what we need a lot better than we do.  Ours is to trust Him in faith that does not waver. 

What are you struggling with today?  What are your needs?  Go ahead and ask God.  He will provide. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Keep on Being Faithful

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.   –Matthew 3:1-3 (KJV) 

There may have been times in your life when you felt that were all alone in what you were doing.  You were trying to get your life heading in a right direction, attempting to be a witness for Christ, endeavoring to lead your children down a path of righteousness, and moving ahead toward where God was leading.  The problem was you had the feeling that no one was listening or taking you seriously.  That’s a troubling thought.  To be in that place leaves us feeling like John the Baptist, which was a voice crying in the wilderness.  Such movements toward where God would have us to be are never futile, but it’s easy to become discouraged.  We begin to think that our efforts are wasted or not going anywhere.  If we are not careful we might begin to question the promise of God that when we are faithful we are blessed and God always hears and answers our prayers. 

No doubt there were times when John began to wonder if he was making a difference.  John was a man familiar with spending time in the wilderness.  He prayed, sought the Lord, and proclaimed what he knew God was telling him to say.  But people will still be people.  As it was in those days so will it be today.  As followers of Christ, whether we are preaching or serving the Lord in some other capacity, we will always have to confront apathy and indifference.  I can imagine John the Baptist growing discouraged, but then people started showing up to hear the message.  The handfuls become crowds, and then the crowds grew into multitudes.  Soon there were more people to baptize that could be counted.  John’s faithfulness was realized and the fruits of his labor were seen as people responded to the message, which was to get ready for the coming of the Lord. 

No matter how God has called us to serve, let us be faithful and not grow discouraged.  Keep being a witness for Jesus even when it appears no one is listening.  Continue being a godly example for your family even when it looks like they don’t care.  Persevere in living an honorable life before God even when those around us don’t seem to notice.  As they responded to the faithfulness of John, people will also respond to the power of Christ shining from our lives. 

Pray in faith, walk in power, and let Jesus shine from your life today.  Be faithful, for God is at work all around us and wants us to be a part of that holy calling.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Don’t Become Distracted by Legalism

Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.  –Romans 14:16-18 (KJV) 

I have devoted a great amount of time over the years to preaching and teaching about the difference between being under law and being under grace.  As followers of Jesus Christ we are under grace.  That does not mean for a moment that we discard the law and commandments of the Bible, for by them we learn of the holiness of God.  The law clearly shows us our need for a savior, and the one who was able to fulfill the law through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, is Jesus Christ. Through Him the law and all its righteous requirements have been fulfilled, and if we are in Christ through faith, then those righteous requirements have been fulfilled in us as well. 

Being under grace, however, does not mean that we are free to simply do whatever we want or to rebel against God without consequence.  The Word of God says in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”  The grace of God is not a license to sin – not for a moment.  Rather, we are called to live lives of holiness and righteousness before God.  Pursuing such a lifestyle leads to the peace of Christ reigning in our hearts, for we then have the light of Jesus shining from us to a lost and troubled world.  We aren’t perfect, but we are forgiven, and God is not finished with us yet. 

All this talk about grace leads us to another consideration; do not get all hung up on legalistic issues that in the broad scheme of things make no difference and will only distract is from the greater work of sharing the gospel with others.  Will we argue about trivial points of religious preference or practice?  Will we waste time bickering about the clothes we wear or the food we eat?  Shall we be divided over whether the pastor wears a tie or not?  Will we set a dress code in the church that might exclude the poor and needy that possesses no better clothes to wear?  Will we condemn the one who chooses to abstain from meat, but chooses instead to be a vegetarian?  As the Bible reminds us, “…the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” 

Brethren, let us fix our eyes on Jesus and tell a lost world that He is the way to salvation.  Let nothing stand in the way of our Great Commission to go and tell about the love of Christ.   

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good Fashion Never goes out of Style

Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.  –Romans 13:13, 14 (KJV) 

Someone has said that good fashion never goes out of style and I believe that to be true.  Anytime I watch one of the older movies from the 1930’s and 40’s, and I see screen legends such as Gary Cooper, James Cagney, or the legendary Cary Grant, I see what they were wearing was the height of fashion for that era.  But what also intrigues me is how that I could wear one of those sharp looking double-breasted suits today and still look most fashionable as well.  Most of the suits I wear are either blue or gray, and I have a nice black suit which I wear when conducting funerals.  I guess my tastes in fashion are conservative and safe, which works well for me.   

The Word of God instructs us as Jesus’ followers to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  We are to so be like Jesus that we have spiritually clothed ourselves in Him.  We take on His attitudes and attributes, which further encompass His grace, love, and mercy.  Furthermore, we are to never remove this covering from us, but rather we clothe ourselves in Christ all day, every day, and every waking moment.  We are called by God and commissioned by Christ to be walking in His light and love at all times. 

Most people probably believe that to be a tall order.  Take heart, however, for it can be accomplished – not in our power, but in the power of Jesus Christ working and functioning in us as we live for Him.  God has not called us to try to walk in Christ’s power on our own strength, but rather He has sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to walk in the fullness of His grace.  The Holy Spirit will indwell our hearts and give us the ability to avoid that which pulls us away from the Lord.  At the same time the Holy Spirit will draw us toward that which enhances our faith and keeps us moving in the right direction. 

Be sure that you are clothed with the Lord Jesus today.  Let us steer clear of anything which has the potential to throw us off track such as ungodliness and sinful conduct.  By the power of Christ we can walk forward in righteousness and victorious living.  This is the promise of God. 

Walk forward in Christ’s power today, for in Him we find life, joy, peace, and daily hope.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Are you Debt Free?

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.  For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.   –Romans 13:8, 9 (KJV) 

Throughout my adult life I have heard financial experts speak of the need to get out of debt.  Many of us would love to do that I am sure.  I certainly advocate employing sound financial practices and one of those would be avoiding debt as much as possible.  In these tough economic times, countless people have discovered too late that they had overextended themselves and could not get caught up with their debt, and the results were extreme financial difficulty.  We understand that some debt is nearly unavoidable.  For example, even as I write this I am contemplating purchasing a more reliable car.  I would love to be able to pay cash for it, but will most likely have to finance a newer vehicle through the bank.   

The Word of God says that there is a debt that is to never be paid off, and that is the ongoing debt of love for one another.  We are always in a state of debt when it comes to owing love to each other and to those around us.  Jesus taught and demonstrated for us that we are to love one another, and that the law and the prophets are summarized in the practice of loving God with all of our hearts and then loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40).  As Paul the Apostle so succinctly stated, we briefly comprehend the law of God by loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Since we owe that to one another, let us never reach a place where we believe the debt to be paid and we no longer have to practice this Christ-like love.  Rather, we continue to love one another, and those around us, on a continual basis.   

My, but that’s a lot of practical theology this morning, but with God’s help it can indeed be comprehended and put into practice – each and every day.  People will be unkind, hard to deal with, ungrateful, unfriendly, and at times rude.  The Word of God says we are to love them anyway.   

Reach out today to those around you.  Love your neighbor and those that have need.  Demonstrate to a lost world that the love of Jesus is functioning in you. Let His light shine.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stop Worrying and Start Trusting

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.  For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.  –Psalm 37:8, 9 (KJV) 

Have you ever found yourself fretting about a problem or issue you were facing and you just could not seem to let it go?  Might it be that I am “preaching to the choir?” for most of my readers will agree that they have been in that place?  So often I find myself fretting about problems that I know I must give over to the Lord.  We know that Scripture admonishes us to hand our trials, stresses, frustrations, and any crisis we face over to God, but yet we somehow want to hang onto them as if we can work them out better.  If we are not careful we are not only robbed of the peace and joy the Lord intends for us to have, but we also end up making a mess of whatever current problem we are facing.   

One of our greatest challenges as followers of Christ is to be lead by the Holy Spirit at all times and in all circumstances.  Being lead by the Spirit is entirely biblical, but being guided by anger and frustration is entirely of the flesh.  As the Bible so clearly points out, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace”  (Romans 8:6).  When we are ruled by worry, fear, and anxiety, then we are being lead by the flesh, for our fretting and worries will ultimately be guiding us – typically away from where Christ would have us to be.  The end result is hostility and bitterness, which are emotions the Word of God warns us about.  However, to trust in the Lord, seek His will, and wait upon Him leads to life, joy, peace, and the ultimate resolution of whatever problem we are facing.  Trusting Christ and being lead of the Spirit empowers us to step back and trust God while allowing His will to be accomplished. 

I have long been intrigued with verse 11 of Psalm 37, which says, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”  Jesus made reference to this in the Sermon on the Mount.  We tend to think of meekness as being weak and unwilling to stand and fight.  But the word actually refers to a controlled strength that is ever trusting God and standing firm.  Meekness is not weakness, but rather it is willingness to trust God at all times.  Such a stance brings the power and blessings of God into our lives. 

What are you fretting about today?  Hand it over to God and leave it with Him.  Jesus Christ is greater and He will prevail – in us and through us as we trust in Him.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Value of a Good Reputation

A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.  The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.  –Proverbs 22:1, 2 

The other day I was reading an online article about ways that folks like us can save money over the long term by eliminating certain items and habits from our lives.  That got my attention, because in these difficult economic times we all need to stretch our dollars a little further, and as followers of Christ I know that the Bible teaches that we are to be good stewards of the finances with which the Lord has blessed us.  The article listed six habits or items that if done away with can save a staggering amount of money over the long haul.  There was one problem, however; Andrea and I are already doing without them.   

For example, the article said that by cutting out a daily coffee and doughnut that countless people consume each day, average cost $4.00 that a whopping $22,000.00 can be saved over a ten year period.  I can count on one hand the times I will do that in a six month period.  Quit smoking, the article said, and you will save over $26,000.00 over a ten year period.  Again, neither of us are smokers and never have been.  If you’re spending an average of $10.00 per day eating lunch at work you could start packing your lunch and save around $37,000.00 over that ten year time frame.  Again, we either pack lunches or eat at home.  There were a few others such as weekly manicures and golfing, but as I stated, we don’t do those either.  I thought this over and realized that with all this saving I might retire a millionaire one day!   

The Word of God states that obtaining a good name and a good reputation is more valuable than any riches we will ever accumulate.  The Bible also says that to be esteemed by God and those around us carries with it immeasurable rewards.  To walk in God’s favor and to have an upright standing in the community is something we earn and we must continually pursue.  In doing so, we discover riches that transcend anything of earthly value.  Solomon, one of the wealthiest men that ever lived, understood the weighty value of a good reputation.  For us today, our standing in the community will positively reflect upon our witness for the Lord Jesus. 

Let’s show the world that we are serious about serving Christ and that we are committed to shining His light to everyone around us.  Walk in faith, walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and let Jesus shine from your life today. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Accepting the Invitation to Follow Jesus

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.  And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. -Matthew 4:21, 22 (KJV)

Accepting Jesus' invitation to follow Him means that we are willing to trust God with our very lives and our future.  A great many people have mapped out their lives and thought they had everything all figured out, but then they found out that the Lord had other plans for them.  Many people thought they were going to do this or that in life, but then they met Jesus Christ and their plans changed.  Jesus invites us to step out of what might be to what God would have us to be.  Christ invites us to leave what we thought was right in favor of what God has in mind for us.
Following Jesus is about dying to self, taking up His cross, and following Him.  We die to self, but we may also die physically for our faith as countless people have down through the ages.  I have read about the first missionaries who went into parts of Africa and the Amazon jungles and how many of them were killed outright.  Some were even cannibalized.  But yet they were willing to go and share the gospel even if it meant dying for that cause.  Would we be willing to do that?  Would we go and share the gospel even if it meant dying?  When we follow Christ we have to be aware that we may in fact suffer just such a fate.  But we would die having been faithful to what Christ has called us to do. 

Jesus calls us to be faithful and He then takes care of the rest.  Think about all the people around us who don’t know the Lord and who need to have someone share with them the gospel.  The fields are as Jesus said, ripe for the harvest (John 4:35).  As Jesus said, we can pray that God will send workers out into the fields that souls will be saved for the kingdom of God.    

Do not be discouraged and do not give up, for the Lord will always empower us and will always strengthen us to do the work and to do His will.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Learning How to Rest in the Lord

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. -Psalm 139:23, 24 (KJV) 

Are you the kind of person that has troubled falling asleep at night or does sleep come fairly easy?  If you are in the latter camp, rejoice and be glad, for countless people suffer from a terrible malady commonly known as insomnia.  Personally, I have never been afflicted with full-blown insomnia, but I used to have trouble falling asleep at night.  Part of the problem has been that I just simply enjoy being up late at night.  It’s peaceful and quiet, no phones are ringing, and there are few interruptions if I am reading or studying.  But that’s not the real reason I used to have trouble sleeping.  The real problem was that I always had too many thoughts bouncing around in my mind.  I would lie in bed at night and think of everything that was bothering me, all that I hadn’t gotten done that day, or whatever was waiting for me tomorrow.  No doubt many readers can relate to such anxious thoughts that leave us tossing and turning on our beds.  

These days I sleep better that ever.  So, what changed for me?  How did I go from having trouble sleeping to being able to drop off in a few minutes?  One reason is that I am getting older, but a greater reason stems from faith and attitude.  I have come to realize that each night I have to sleep, for this is the way that God created us.  Our bodies require a certain amount of rest every night or we cannot properly function.  When nighttime comes I have developed the habit of putting the day I have just lived and the one I will live tomorrow in God’s hands.  The previous day is over and there is nothing I can do to change that.  So, why not rest and be prepared for the next day?  Worry, fretting, and entertaining anxious thoughts will always hinder our sleep.  If we can learn to place ourselves in God’s hand, invite the Lord to calm our anxious thoughts, and remove from us anything that is ungodly, then we are on our way to proper rest. 

Is this to say that I have mastered this approach to sleep?  The answer is no.  Problems and stress still sometimes rob me of the rest I would like to enjoy.  But with each passing day we can learn to place those troubles in the Lord’s hands, knowing that He will give us rest.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart.”  I pray that often as I am drifting off to sleep.  Give that a try as a means to better rest. 

Jesus Christ lives, rules, and reigns, and He will give us rest in Him.  

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Invitation to Follow Jesus

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.  And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.  And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. -Matthew 4:18-20 (KJV)

Accepting the invitation to follow Jesus involves faith, belief, and a complete life transformation. When we decide to follow Jesus changes will take place in our lives.  Think about what those changes involve: 
  • Outlook; our outlook and the way we see the world changes.  We start thinking in terms of eternity rather than just what goes on during this span of time we are here.
  • Speech; the way we talk will be affected.  The one who was given to profanity will find out through the power of the Holy Spirit that he should no longer speak that way, and the Holy Spirit will give him power to change. 
  • Our understanding of why we are here; our understanding for being in the world is changed from thinking about how we want to live to how the Lord would have us to live.
  • Life direction; the one who was wandering away from God now begins to walk the straight and narrow road with the Lord.
  • Our motivation; in Christ we are divinely motivated to serve the Lord and do His will.  We no longer put ourselves first, but we place the Lord first in our lives knowing that all else will then line up in its proper place. 
Jesus saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew, casting a net into the sea and He called them to come and follow Him.  Take note of what He said; “I will make you fishers of men.”  They were fishermen by trade, but from then on they would catch souls for the kingdom of God.  That simple invitation changed their lives forever.  Notice that Peter and Andrew left immediately and followed Jesus.  If we are going to serve the Lord and do His will we must follow Him with the same kind of commitment. There can be no turning back. 

When we accept Jesus' invitation to follow Him we are intended to do so for life.  Christ is still calling people to follow Him and be His disciples.  In Jesus we find new life, purpose, hope, direction, and the abundant life.  Trust the Lord today and start walking in His blessing and power.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Get on Jesus’ Team

And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.  Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.  –Romans 15:29, 30 (KJV) 

When I was in Jr. High School, football jerseys in the school colors and bearing the school’s name were made available for the students.  These could be purchased and worn to show our school spirit and support of the team.  I acquired a shirt to show my support, but I didn’t play sports.  I was friends with a student who was a tremendous athlete and excelled in sports, especially football.  The previous year he and his family had moved about an hour away and I had not seen him since.  That summer they were in town for a visit and they stopped by the old neighborhood to say hello.  It so happened that the day they came to visit I was wearing the school football jersey.  My friend was immediately interested when he saw me and asked, “Dan, are you on the team?” “No,” I replied, “I just like wearing the shirt.”

All these years later that sticks in my memory.  I recall how sheepish I felt about having to explain to my friend how that I wasn’t on the team, but I was only wearing the shirt.  Even then I somehow felt that I was betraying him.  He had been on the team.  He was on the team at his new school.  He was out there practicing every day, playing in the games, taking the hits, and being an active part of the team.  And there I was, on the sidelines, simply watching those who were doing all the hard work.  I began to feel that if I was going to wear that shirt that I should be on the team. 

My friends, many of us bear the name of Christian. We identify ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ.  But are we truly involved in serving Him?  Are we truly on His team?  As followers of Jesus we are called to be involved with witnessing, sharing out faith, reaching out in Jesus’ name, and taking an active part in the Christian life.  Paul the Apostle urged the Roman believers to join him in the work of the gospel that they might “strive together.” Such striving together would result in stronger believers and a more united church. 

Do not sit on the sidelines, but instead become actively involved in serving the Lord.  Worship, serve, pray, study the Word, and witness for Jesus.  We are blessed when we become a part of the ongoing work of the ministry.   

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Overcoming Skepticism

The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.  Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.   –John 4:49, 50 (KJV) 

Many people, me included, are skeptical by nature.  Sometimes this trait can be useful.  The other night as I watched the local news on TV, I saw a story about a man who received a check in the mail.  The letter attached said that he was free to cash the check and do whatever he wanted to do with it.  The man wisely contacted the local police who advised him that the check was fraudulent and not to cash it.  Had he done so, the check would have bounced and he would have been responsible for the money as well as the bank charges.  Such skepticism can guard against our being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people. 

What about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Will we be skeptical towards what the Lord has promised, or will we take Him at His word?  The nobleman in John 4, whose son was dying, was willing to take Jesus as His word.  In doing so he laid aside all doubt, unbelief, and fear, and trusted Christ completely.  The result was that a miracle took place.  Likewise, when we seek to trust the Lord and take Him at His word, we too experience powerful movements of God’s grace, mercy, and love.  Notice I refer to the working of God’s power in the plural, for such experiences can be ongoing and frequent in believers’ lives.   

Taking Christ at His Word empowers us to walk forward in vibrant faith.  This is faith that doesn’t lie down and quit, but rather such faith stands firm and commands mountains to be removed from our way (Matthew 17:20).  Will you believe the Lord and take Him at His word?  He loves us; believe that is true.  He will never leave us or forsake us; believe that is true.  Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains; Jesus will empower us to such great works of faith.  Christ has a plan; He will help us know and do God’s will.  Jesus offers salvation; receive Him as Savior and Lord. 

Do not be a victim of skepticism that robs us of faith.  Trust Jesus and walk forward in life and victory.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The True Wisdom that Comes from God

The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.  And further, my son, be admonished by these… -Ecclesiastes 12:11, 12 (NKJV) 

Consider that throughout our lives we must distinguish between what is true wisdom and what is false wisdom.  True wisdom is found in the Word of God.  What we find there will lead us in the right direction and will help us to live in a way that honors God and brings blessings to our lives.  The false wisdom of the world will only bring us heartache and problems.  False wisdom is any teaching or thinking that removes the emphasis away from God and places it on us and our desires.  False wisdom refuses to acknowledge that God is the Creator and Ruler over all and that He has come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ to bring salvation to all that believe.  False wisdom holds that the world came about as the result of a cosmic accident and that you are I are accountable only to ourselves.  Such teaching stands in direct opposition to the Word of God. 

The Bible says that the words of the wise, or those who are teaching Bible-based wisdom, are like goads.  A goad was an ancient instrument used to prod cattle forward.  The wise teachings that come from the Lord can move us forward as well.  We receive the truths of God’s Word into our hearts, and we are then motivated to walk forward by faith and not by sight.  The wisdom of the Bible empowers and motivates us to serve the Lord, do His will, and live daily in vibrant faith.  When we place Jesus Christ first and apply to our lives the principles of God’s Word, we will be like those well driven nails as described in Scripture.  We will be secure, rooted, and firmly planted.   
This wisdom was given to us by the one true Shepherd who seeks to lead us as we serve Him and walk in His light.  Resist the wisdom of the world that seeks to distort the truth and lead people away from God.  Look to the Lord in faith and God will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, confirm in our hearts the truth that His Word is trustworthy and that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Spiritual blessings in Jesus will come into our lives.   

Troubled souls find hope in Christ.  Look to Him today.