Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mastering the Sin Which Seeks to Enslave us

And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.  -Genesis 4:6, 7 (KJV) 

The Word of God shows us how the two sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, brought sacrifices to God, and while the Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice He rejected Cain’s.  Cain then went about sullen, angry, vengeful, and unable to hide his feelings.  Can you relate to this?  Few among us are capable of hiding our true feelings when we are truly upset.  We might try to go around with smiles on our faces, yet those who know us well can look at us and tell we are not feeling all right.  This was the situation with Cain; his countenance signified he was unhappy and trouble was brewing beneath the surface of his feelings. 

The Lord gave Cain a warning which we do well to heed. “Sin lieth at the door.  And unto thee shall be his desire…”  Another wording of this could be, “Sin is crouching at your door, and it desires to control you, yet you must master it.” Should we fail to gain control over our feelings, responses, and behavior we will become ruled by them.  The results will involve giving into destructive behaviors which will only create more problems in our lives.  Cain was unable to control his emotions, and he eventually rose up in a jealous rage and murdered his own brother (Genesis 4:8).  Sin is always the result of a decision to go against what God has told us to do, and often times the decision is made in the heat of the moment when we are not in full control of our emotions and responses.  To be ruled by emotion is to go against the leading of God’s Spirit. 

How often have we allowed ourselves to be guided by emotion rather than faith?  Have you ever given in to angry and vengeful feelings and later regretted the outcome of your response?  All of us have done this at one time or another.  Christ calls us to follow Him in faith and to be daily lead by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Setting aside time each day to pray and study God’s Word empowers us to be lead by the Spirit rather than our emotions.  The Bible reminds us the righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17).  The Lord will gently guide us by His Spirit so we will not be driven by emotion and fear. 

Set aside time each day to pray and seek the Lord.  So important is our daily time with God that it merits rising earlier to seek Him.  Begin to do so in earnest.  You will be amazed at the outcome.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Claim the Power of God’s Word and Prayer

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.  Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.  -Matthew 4:8-10 (KJV) 

A number of years ago the U.S. Navy had an advertising slogan which declared, “Some jobs promise you the world, but the Navy delivers.”  I want to point out today the devil will also promise the world, yet he will never deliver.  Jesus resisted the temptations offered Him because He was standing firmly on the Word of God, He had been praying, and His spiritual resolve was ever growing.  When we take a similar position of spiritual discipline we too will be empowered to keep walking forward in God’s will and not be tripped up by the distractions and temptations which will be tossed our direction. 

I recall as a boy watching comedian Flip Wilson and one of his comedy routines involved an individual he called Geraldine.  Do you remember Geraldine’s famous phrase?  She used to say, “The devil made me do it.”  This always seemed to make people laugh, yet blaming the devil for our inability to resist him is no laughing matter.  We have the choice of wallowing in self-pity and trying to blame others, including the devil, for giving in to the temptations which come our way, yet we have to realize the responsibility ultimately rests with us.  If the devil places something before me, and I give into it, then I have no one to blame but myself.  We waste our time and energy when we blame others for what we have done.   

Jesus understood as He took His stand against the wiles of the devil that His strength was the Word of God, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord also knew anything the devil was offering was evil and should be resisted.  Consider the word “devil” is one letter removed from the word “evil.”  The two words are indeed synonymous.  Christ empowers us to take our stand upon the same resources which He Himself employed: God’s Word, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  These precious and divine resources are available to us every day as we walk forward in God’s power and the spiritual victory which will follow. 

Don’t waste time placing blame and suffering in guilt and spiritual paralysis.  Claim the victory Jesus offers, stand upon His Word, and walk forward in faith.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Growing Through Time Alone With the Lord

Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.  Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.   -Matthew 4:5-7 (KJV) 

Consider for a moment the scope of temptations we face every day.  All it takes is giving into one desire, one action, or one carrying out of a behavior we know we should not do and we are ensnared.  All we have worked for, including marriage, family relationships, and our standing in the community will come crashing down.  In the end the devil laughs at our inability to resist.  No sin is worth so great and terrible a price.  Jesus fully understood the power of the devil and the need to resist him at all costs.  The Lord would not be tricked and neither would He be lured into a behavior which ran counter to what He had come into the world to accomplish. 

The Lord set an example we can follow, and while we may not go away and fast a full 40 days, we are to commit ourselves to daily prayer and time in God’s Word.  Ongoing and daily prayer is the process by which the Lord has called us to grow stronger in our stand against immorality and ungodliness.  The world looks on in wonder at followers of Christ who have taken a firm stand upon God’s Word and who refuse to be ensnared by the enticements of the world.  As we move forward day-by-day we grow stronger in our resolve and commitment to be faithful to the Lord at all times.   

Every fall Andrea and I spend a weekend with another couple who we have known many years, and the place we have traditionally gone is a state park which offers a campground and cabins.  The cabins are fully equipped with electricity and heat, but no television, which suits us fine.  Many times I have had conversations with people who were appalled at the prospect of spending a weekend without cable TV.  For us, this is the best aspect of our annual trip; an entire weekend without TV.  Have our senses become so dulled to the Spirit of God we cannot stop and commune with him even for an hour?   

Warm weather is fast approaching, which means Ada (our dog) and I can resume our weekly hikes through the local back country.  Again, the best part of these hikes is no TV, no computers, and no cell phones.  Get away and spend time with the Lord.  You will be amazed at how you will grow in your faith and spiritual resolve.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Waiting for the Rain to Cease

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.  And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.  -Genesis 7:11, 12 (KJV) 

I went to bed last night with the sound of the rain falling and when I woke this morning I was greeted with the same sound.  You may be like me in that you don’t mind a little rain; it’s the sunshine you miss.  As we get closer to the bright, warm, and wonderful days of spring we have to persevere a little longer and move forward through these gloomy and rainy days.  Noah could have related to our situation as he waited for the rain to stop falling and for the sun to begin shining.  Even after the rain ceased he and his family had a long and arduous task of waiting for the waters to recede.  They may have wondered if they would ever make it to the brighter day the Lord had promised. 

Like the rain which seems to never stop, we sometimes view our struggles in a similar manner.  We too wonder if we will ever get to a brighter day of God’s blessing and power in our lives.  How do we climb up and out of these dark days?  How do we persevere and move forward through the trials which seem to always be confronting us?  Will it ever end and will we ever feel better?  Our answer comes when we wait on the Lord and trust Him no matter what.  Even though the days are overcast we still have the promise of God’s presence.  He has not abandoned us nor will He do so during the difficulties of life, whether they are rainy days or personal struggles.  Ours is to trust the Lord and move patiently forward in His grace and power. 

No doubt the 40 days of rain and the period of waiting for the waters to draw back was a time of testing for Noah and his family.  Their only course was to trust the Lord and wait upon Him.  The Lord understands our weariness and sorrow and will send His blessings to us even during the dark days of life and the waiting we must go through.  Like Noah and his family, we will one day soon walk forward in the brighter days of Christ’s presence.  Trust the Lord and wait on Him and you will not grow weaker during your struggles; instead, you will be made stronger. 

40 days is a long time.  However the Lord will bring you through and will make you stronger.  Wait on Him and do not give up.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

From Practice, to Habit, to Assimilation

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.  But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.   -Matthew 4:3, 4 (KJV) 

As Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness for 40 days He found spiritual power and strength for standing firm and resisting the lies of the devil.  During every temptation Jesus quoted Scripture and took a firm stand on God’s Word.  In doing so He was empowered to resist and to remain firmly established in God’s will.  Jesus spent 40 days and nights alone in the wilderness praying, fasting, and seeking spiritual power.  Following this period the Lord began His earthly ministry and eventually went to the cross upon which He gave His life for the sins of the world.  Again we see the power of 40 days.  In yesterday’s blog I shared about my own 40 day experience of rising early each day before dawn to seek the Lord in prayer.  The 40 day challenge has past, yet I continue to arise earlier than ever before to spend an extended time in prayer each morning – to God be the glory.   

The significance of the 40 days in Scripture is evident: the rain fell 40 days and nights bringing the great flood, the Israelites mourned 40 days after the passing of Jacob, Moses was on Mount Sinai 40 days receiving the Ten Commandments, and Jesus fasted and prayed 40 days in the wilderness.  When we do anything over a 40 day period it becomes a part of us.  We pass from practice, to habit, to assimilation into our being.  I have heard many years if we do something for three weeks it becomes a habit, and this is true.  Take on a challenge 40 days and what you have undertaken will become a part of you.   

As I stated yesterday, I have never been a “morning person,” yet by the power of God I am becoming one.  This is the direct result of taking on the 40 days challenge which the Lord gave me.  My prayer throughout the experience was for spiritual breakthrough.  My desire was to experience God in a fresh and powerful way.  My prayer was answered ten-fold.  Let us never believe we have gone as deep into our relationship with Christ as we can go, for the Lord is willing to take us deeper.  However, be careful, for as we begin to grow in the Lord the devil will increase his attacks just as he did with Jesus in the wilderness. 

Take heart, for the Lord is with us. Stand strong, trust the Lord, and delve deeper into your relationship with Him.  Great blessings await us in Christ.   

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Power of 40 Days

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.  And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.  -Matthew 4:1, 2 (KJV) 

On February 7 I began a spiritual journey which took me to a deeper level in my relationship with Christ.  I have always spent time in prayer and studying God’s Word in the morning, yet I felt something was missing.  I began to pray about this and the Lord impressed upon me the need to arise much earlier than my usual 6:30 or 7:00 AM and seek Him in prayer.  As I considered this, the time of 4:30 AM kept coming to mind.  Andrea and I keep our alarm clock in our room 15 minutes fast, and I felt the Lord telling me to leave it; set the alarm for 4:30 AM, which is actually 4:15.  Having established to undertake this, I prayed about how long.  The answer was clear; arise at 4:15 AM every morning for 40 days. 

I kept coming to the Scripture where it says in Mark 1:35, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”  Therefore, I sought to follow His example.  Again, bear in mind I have never been one to rise so early in the morning, however, after the first week it began to get easier.  By the second week I was hitting my stride.  However, during week three the attack began in earnest.  I came down with one of the worst head colds and sore throat I have ever experienced.  When going to bed (now considerably earlier) I felt miserable and slept terribly.  When the alarm would go off at 4:15 it was as though the devil was daring me to try and get up to pray.  However, I persevered and continued rising on time as planned and the Lord gave me the strength – and the victory.  A week or so later I began to feel better; the head cold went away and my strength returned.   

On Friday, March 18, I accomplished my goal; 40 straight days of rising at 4:15 to seek the Lord in prayer.  You know something?  I continued on and am still rising around 4:30 to pray and seek the Lord.  If I can accomplish this, so can you.  Let He who boasts, boast in the Lord (Psalm 34:2), for this is all by His power.  Each day when tempted to go back to bed I quote Matthew 26:41, “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” God then gives the power to stay awake and commune with Him. 

Why is 40 days so significant in the Bible?  I am planning a sermon series on the subject and will explore it here also.  I invite you to go deeper into your walk with Christ.  Arise early, every day, and seek Him in prayer.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Great Movement of God’s Spirit

And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.  And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.  -Acts 19:17, 18 (KJV) 

I have heard it said many times when God’s people begin to pray great things happen.  Now, I realize using the word “things” will be frowned on by those who prefer better grammar.  Good English requires an explanation of exactly what is meant by the word, so the need to be more specific is in order.  When believers become committed to prayer we see a movement of God’s Spirit among individual Christians, families, the church, and the community.  Allow me here to take this deeper and get even more detailed.  As followers of Christ we are commanded in Scripture to seek the Lord in prayer daily and without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).  When this happens we see believers growing in their faith, reaching out in love to those around us, forgiving one another, testifying to the grace of God, and recommitting themselves to serving the Lord. 

Personal renewal will inevitably move into the church as well.  We see a renewed interest in worship and preaching.  We witness an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as people are convicted of sin and moved to confession and repentance.  We also see believers praying with greater urgency than ever before.  The community at large will then be positively affected as the light of Jesus Christ shines forth as a witness to the love and power of God.  All of this was taking place in Ephesus as described in Acts 19.  The Holy Spirit was moving and working among the people in such powerful ways that a revival began.  Reverence and awe came upon the people, the Lord Jesus was glorified, and unbelievers were confessing their sins to God and seeking forgiveness.   

When God’s people begin to pray great things happen.  I believe this statement to be true.  What is the Lord doing in your life?  Are you where you desire to be in your relationship with Christ?  If not, begin to pray and seek the Lord.  If you will seek the Lord in earnest faith and sincerity you will witness first hand a movement of God in your life unlike anything you have ever seen.  Do not settle for lifeless, dull, shallow, and half-hearted faith.  Move out deeper into the waters of God’s grace and power.  Experience Jesus Christ unlike ever before. 

A wonderful movement of the Lord is ready to happen in your life, the church, and community.  What are you waiting for?  It can begin today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Be Still and Know the Lord is God

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.  -Psalm 46:10, 11 (KJV)

I have to remind myself often we are not the first generation to suffer from information overload.  However, we are the first generation to have access to such vast amounts of information coming at us so quickly.  People have always struggled with the process of sorting out our thoughts and trying not to worry.  Our minds are constantly working, processing, and gathering information, which can be a distraction from the happiness we all desire.  No doubt you know the feeling of all those unresolved thoughts racing through your mind.  We all have memories we would like to forget, yet they remain in our minds and will frequently come unbidden into our thoughts.  The result is we relive the painful memory all over again.  Add to this the constant inflow of thoughts, feelings, and images from around the world and we easily begin to feel weighed down.

Consider the case of a woman named Jill who I read about in a recent article.  She is plagued with memories so detailed she can recall everything which has happened to her, down to the last detail, for the last 30 years.  Her condition is so rare doctors had to invent a name for her condition, which they termed hyperthymestic syndrome from the Greek thymesis, for remembering, and hyper, meaning well above normal.  Jill states "Some memories are good and give me a warm, safe feeling.  But I also recall every bad decision, insult and excruciating embarrassment. Over the years it has eaten me up. It has kind of paralyzed me."1

While Jill’s condition is rare, we can all probably relate to her, for most of us are bothered by past memories.  The Word of God invites us to be still and know God is there.  “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Cease from worrying, fretting, and casting troubled thoughts about in our minds.  No amount of worry ever solved any problem.  Instead, the problem only grew worse as a result of our worry.  The Lord knows, cares, and is willing to provide comfort in times of trouble.

What is worrying and troubling you today?  Is your mind anxious with heartache, fear, loneliness, or worry about the future?  Look to the Lord and claim His peace.  God is still on His throne, and He has heard our cries.  Jesus Christ has come to bring life and peace in the midst of life’s storms.  Be still, calm, and of good cheer.  The Lord cares for you.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Our Strength in Jesus Christ

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.  And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.  And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants?  -I Chronicles 21:1-3 (KJV) 

Often when two Christians who attend different churches meet the conversation turns to how many people attend their respective congregations.  Pastors tend to do this as well, and one could get the idea we think we are in a contest.  Several years ago Andrea and I attended a conference in another part of Virginia and the host church, from what I could tell, had probably 1500 to 2000 people on Sunday morning.  I was having a conversation with a member of the church who inquired as to the number of people who attend where I am pastor.  I answered we will usually have between 80 and 100 on Sunday morning.  “Oh,” she replied; “How sweet.” That was the one and only time anyone has ever described our weekly attendance as “sweet.”  

Indeed, we can easily become too focused on numbers while neglecting other matters such as proclaiming the gospel, personal growth, love for one another, fellowship, prayer, and ministry within the community – all of which are meant to occur regardless of the size of the church.  We do well to remember the words of Jesus who said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Of course we are to be reaching out to people in Jesus’ name so more people will come and the church will grow.  However, it’s not all about numerical growth.  The Lord promised His presence as long we are faithful and continue to gather in His name.  When we faithful and doing what the Lord has called us to do, then numerical growth will come.  We can’t all be mega-church, and we are not all are meant to be.  Rather, we are meant to serve the Lord wherever He has placed us. 

King David of the Old Testament was lured into taking his eyes off the Lord which lead to relying on the number of his people for strength as a nation.  God had demonstrated He would take care of His people regardless of their number as long as they were faithful.  David later realized he had sinned and acted foolishly (I Chronicles 21:8).  Let us not be tempted to believe we are strong based solely upon the number of people we have.  Instead, let us find strength in Christ only.   

In Jesus is strength, and in Him is the power to effectively minister in His name.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Maintaining a Balanced Spiritual Diet

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.  -Daniel 1:8 (KJV) 

Last week in the midst of a hectic schedule I had to resort one day to eating lunch at a buffet.  The food was wonderful, and I did what many of us do in these places; I ate a little too much.  It so happened the next day Andrea and I met with relatives who were in town for the weekend, and once again I found myself in a buffet facing the temptation not to overeat.  Again, the food was delicious, yet after two straight days of eating such rich food I felt run down and full.  I resolved it will be a while before I indulge myself in this way.  I try to maintain a healthy diet and eating too much rich food is counterproductive to this practice. 

Daniel of the Old Testament faced a similar dilemma in regards to his diet.  Not only did he wish to avoid the unclean food served to him by his Babylonian captors, he also desired to eat food which was more nutritious.  He knew all the rich food being served would work negatively on his physical and emotional condition.  The Word of God says Daniel then suggested to his captors an experiment; for ten days he and his companions would abstain from the food served to the king’s servants and would instead eat only vegetables.  At the end of the allotted time the two groups of men would be examined to see who was healthier.  Following the ten days the two groups were brought in an examined.  Daniel and his companions were clearly in better health than those who had partaken of the richer and less healthy foods (Daniel 1:15). 

Maintaining a balanced diet is God honoring because we are taking better care of our bodies, which according to Scripture are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16, 6:19).  Consider also we are to expand such discipline to what we allow into our hearts and minds.  All around us are forces which seek to distract us from God’s Word and His will for our lives.  What we see, read, look upon, and contemplate can also either feed our spirits or draw us away from God.  When we are daily being fed by the Word of God and prayer we are then being provided with spiritual nutrition which will empower us to victorious Christian living.  

Be careful not to fall victim to the ungodliness and unbelief which surrounds us.  Instead, be daily fed by the Word of God.  Spiritual strength, health, and vitality will follow.  Be strong in the Lord and walk forward today in the power of His Spirit. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Knowing When to Speak and When to be Silent

He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.  Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.  -Proverbs 17:27, 28 (KJV) 

Knowing when to speak and when to be silent is a challenge.  Most of us know the pain of having said something we later regretted.  I cannot recall all the times I have spoken only to later wish I had held my peace.  Ecclesiastes 3:7 says, “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.”  Knowing when to do one or the other is not easy, yet the Lord is faithful and will let us know we should speak up and when we should be silent.  One of our nation’s greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, is credited with saying, “Better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”  Indeed, saying too much is like digging a hole for ourselves.  Climbing out of the hole is then difficult. 

The Word of God teaches that even someone lacking common sense will be considered wise if he knows when to hold his tongue.  There will be times when a response is needed and we must speak up.  However, other times our only response is to say nothing.  If we are walking daily in the power of the Holy Spirit the Lord will reveal to us what we are to say and when.  Kind words are like a soothing balm to the spirit which brings health to the souls of those to whom we speak.  However, harsh words are like wild animals released from their cages; rounding them up and putting them back is nearly impossible. 

As followers of Christ, consider the words we speak.  Are we speaking words to one another which bring healing and comfort, or are we tearing one another down.  Christ calls us to speak soothing words of encouragement and edification so the Body of Christ may be built up and strengthened.   

In these modern days of email, text messages, and instant messaging, it’s easier than ever before to let our words get ahead of our reasoning.  Have you ever fired off an angry email or text message only to later regret doing so?  I have typed many an email, and then as I was about to hit the “send”  command, stopped.  I then went back and either toned down my rhetoric or didn’t send the email at all.  Always seek the Christ-like response to any and all situations.  The Lord is faithful and if we seek His will we will be given the right words at the proper time. 

Remember, glorifying the Lord Jesus is appropriate in any and all circumstances.  Speak words of praise to Him today. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Groaning of a Troubled World

See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.  -Hebrews 12:25, 26 (KJV) 

For the last two weeks people around the world have watched the horrifying scenes coming from Japan as the result of the earthquake and tsunami.  Trying to get our minds around the level of destruction is almost impossible.  We see the images and we listen to the accounts from the survivors, yet we cannot fully grasp the depth of what they have been through.  Our hearts go out to them, we pray for them, and we as a nation are willing to help in any way possible.  When we hear reports of entire towns and villages wiped from the earth, our sense of balance and order are shattered by the chaos of it all.  We hope and pray somehow the people affected will find the strength and power to pick up the pieces of their lives and go on. 

One comforting image I saw was of people gathered together for prayer.  The report did not tell to what or whom they were praying, yet I earnestly hope their prayers were directed to the Living God.  Through Christ the people of Japan can find comfort, healing, and hope. 

Are we fully aware of how fortunate we are as a nation to have been spared such calamity and destruction?  The United States has areas across the country which may erupt and cause devastation similar to what we saw in Japan.  Not too far from where I live in southwest Virginia is the New Madrid Fault, and scientists have been predicting for years that a major earthquake is imminent.  So far this has not come to pass, yet we know it could happen any day.  Let us not grow complacent and believe such disaster could not happen here, for we too could feel the earth shake as other countries have.  Now is the time to look to the Lord and trust Him. 

The plea of God’s Word is to not refuse the One who speaks – the Lord God Almighty.  God has provided refuge through Jesus Christ our Lord.  The coming days can be faced with faith and certainty the Lord is with us and will not leave us to suffer alone in the world.  Look to Christ, stand firm in the days to come, and claim the promise of peace in the Lord. 

God holds the world in His hands. Therefore, He holds us as well, and we are safe in the hands of God. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Thirsty for the Presence of God

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.  My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?   -Psalm 42:1, 2 (KJV) 

Most of us know the feeling of being thirsty.  For a number of years we have all heard the talk about maintaining the right amount of fluid in our bodies and how we should drink 7 or 8 glasses of water a day.  I have tried practicing this and have found, as maybe you have as well – 7 or 8 glasses of water a day is a large amount of water.  Recent studies indicate this may be unnecessary.  One doctor who publishes articles in the newspaper suggested we let our bodies tell us when we need fluid.  He suggests we drink water when we are thirsty.  I read an interesting article a number of months ago which suggested when we feel our energy levels running low, which is a sign of becoming dehydrated, to drink a glass of water.  I have tried this and it works.  Staying hydrated is vital to maintaining good health. 

The Word of God says the human soul desires the Lord just as a deer pants for water.  Without water a deer would not be able to function.  The same principle applies to us.  Without the Word of God and a personal relationship with Christ we too will falter, stumble, and drift aimlessly and lifelessly though our days.  The power of God’s Spirit so moves in our lives we are empowered to rise up and walk forward in confident and victorious faith.  Do you desire the Word of God?  Do you have an intense longing to experience the fullness of God’s Spirit each day?  When this is the desire of our hearts the Lord will satisfy our longing completely.  The Lord will so indwell the believer that each day is a new experience with the power and grace of God. 

Do not allow the cares of the world or the trials of life to defeat you today.  Open your heart and let Christ have His perfect will for your life.  Prayer, the Word of God, and faith will keep us going the direction the Lord would have us to go especially during the storms of life.  These storms will often arise suddenly and without warning.  However, when we are standing on the solid rock of Jesus Christ we will be able to remain firmly planted, rooted, and sustained by His presence.   

Do not be tempted to look to the world for help.  Instead, continue looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.  He is able to help us through any trial we face.  Desire the Living Water of Jesus’ power in our lives.  You will not be disappointed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spiritual Nourishment Through Christ

This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.  So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. -John 21:14, 15 (KJV) 

I am certain taking care of livestock on a farm is a tremendous challenge.  They must daily be fed, given water, and provided with shelter.  Every day I make sure our dog, Ada, is cared for.  Failure to provide the basic needs of food and water would be to neglect taking care of an animal placed under our care.  We love our dog so much we are as willing to provide for her as we would be a human member of the family.  When I consider the responsibility of providing for hundreds of animals, however, I realize the magnitude of such a task.  Farmers and keepers of livestock have my deepest respect for the challenges they daily face in meeting this demand.  Followers of Christ who have leadership over the flock of God also have a serious charge, which is to provide for the spiritual needs of the church.  Spiritual sustenance must be provided through biblical preaching, teaching, and encouraging the flock to a closer walk with Christ.  
Consider also those who provide for the flock must themselves be spiritually fed as well.  Pastors, church leaders, and all who share in the care of the church must daily be fed by the Word of God and prayer.  Failure to do so will limit our ability to provide for the needs of the church.  Following the resurrection, Jesus gave Peter a serious charge: “Feed my lambs.”  Peter was to go forward in the power of the resurrection and provide for the spiritual needs of Jesus’ followers.  He was not to coerce them, berate them, or attempt to push them forward.  Rather, Peter was called to feed them.  The Scripture bears witness how following the resurrection Peter served the Lord in faithfulness. 

We are quickly approaching the time of year when we contemplate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus.  Will we walk forward, like Peter, in the power of the resurrection?  Will we stand firm upon the truths of God’s Word and faith?  All around us people are turning and drifting away from the Lord.  Christ calls us to stand firm and serve Him in faithfulness.  Let us not surrender to the apathy which so permeates our culture.  By faith let us claim the power of the resurrection.  If Jesus were to confront us today with the question of our devotion, let’s be ready to answer in the affirmative that we do indeed love Him.  We will then demonstrate our love by reaching out to others.   

Walk in faith.
Live in prayer.
Die to self.   

Give to Jesus our all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Waiting on the Lord to do His Will

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  -II Peter 3:8, 9 (KJV) 

As we progress through life we come to understand the passage of time is an amazing and sometimes agonizing process.  During a crucial and stressful time an hour can seem like a day and a day might feel as though it went on forever.  Have you ever been waiting for the results of a medical test which may reveal a serious condition?  Time slows down to an agonizing pace.  What about a day spent with someone you love and you desire the day never end?  The time seems to take wings and fly by.  The Word of God reminds us in the realm of eternity time ceases to exist.  I find great comfort in knowing someday in heaven we will no longer be bound to time constraints and schedules.  Will we miss our nice wristwatches and pocket calendars in heaven?  I don’t think so.  We will instead rejoice in the freedom of having left those behind in this world. 

A few years ago I read an article which dealt with strategies for finding and maintaining happiness.  The author suggested during difficult times to try placing the situation in the perspective of the passing of time.  “Give it more time,”  he suggested, and we will be amazed at the results.  Last year at this time my wife Andrea had begun in earnest her treatments for cancer.  She underwent chemo-therapy and 28 radiation treatments.  During this period I prayed each day for healing for her and strength for myself so I might continue to help her through the ordeal.  A blessed promise came to me which I told no one, but will do so here.  “This time next year the situation will have improved,” the Lord told me.  I waited on the Lord, continued trusting and believing, and His will was accomplished – to His glory and our benefit. 

Last year was the longest year of my life; it felt more like 20.  Yet, the Lord was faithful and He brought us through to a better and brighter day.  What are you facing right now which is troubling you?  Does it seem the situation will never end or get any better?  Trust the Lord and wait on Him.  Claim God’s promise of comfort and strength.  This time next year you will probably be amazed at how everything in your life has improved.  Wait for the Lord and give it more time. 

Again I say, wait upon the Lord.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Asking, Seeking, and Waiting on the Lord

Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.  And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.  -Psalm 37:4-6 (KJV) 

Fatigue, stress, and schedule overload are daily challenges to living in victorious faith.  We can so easily become caught up in our ongoing to-do lists that we wonder if we are accomplishing anything.  Have you ever had the sensation of spinning your wheels yet not getting anywhere?  I believe this is a common problem in today’s society and followers of Christ are as affected as anyone.  The Word of God invites us to hand our troubles to the Lord.  Tell God how we are feeling and what we want, and He will then provide for us according to His will.  When the desires of our hearts line up with the Lord’s will we then receive the blessings he has in store for us. 

Many years ago I heard someone say that God has a storehouse of blessing which He is waiting to give us, yet we never take the time to ask in faith.  Rather than be distracted by all the challenges and problems we face, a better approach to life is to commit our way to the Lord.  The result will be walking the fullness of His grace and blessings.  God knows we have needs, desires, and problems, yet the Bible teaches that we are to ask God for His strength and help.  Jesus reminded us when we ask we receive and when we seek we find (Matthew 7:7, 8).  The Lord is willing to pour out His blessings on our lives.  Ours is to ask in faith. 

Any of us can find ourselves facing adversity.  The desire of our hearts is for the problems to be solved.  Yet, there will be times when we ask God for the problem to be rectified the answer is wait.  The desires of our hearts will come as we trust the Lord.  However, we may have to wait for His will to come to pass.  In fact, I find this is usually the case.  In the meantime, do not fret, do not quit, and claim the encouragement we find in God’s Word and prayer.  Seek the Lord in faith and then move toward His will. 

An abundance of blessings await all who seek the Lord in faith. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Christ-like Reponses to Daily Frustrations

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.  -I Peter 5:8, 9 (KJV) 

During the course of any day we will face all sorts of challenges to our faith and patience.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I went to the store to purchase a number of items needed to celebrate my wife’s birthday.  We keep it simple in our home; the birthday person gets to choose his or her birthday meal which is followed with a cookie cake and ice cream.  I added to the menu a cheesecake, which Andrea loves, and to prepare this added dessert I had to find a pre-made graham cracker pie crust.  After wandering around the store without finding this critical item, I was forced to ask someone where it could be found.  The only employee in sight looked to be around 17 and I inquired of him where I might find the pie crust.  “Uh, those would be with the cake mixes,” he replied.  He relayed this with a slight rolling of the eyes and a look (and tone of voice) which implied, “What kind of an idiot are you, anyway?”  

I let that go and continued on.  When I got to the check-out it was discovered that my cookie cake did not have a sticker with the bar code on it.  The cashier then had to go to the bakery section and obtain the needed codes.   However, she was in no hurry whatsoever and proceeded to mosey after the needed information as a line of impatient customers formed behind me.  After what seemed like an extremely long while she moseyed back and finished scanning my purchases.  By the grace of God I kept my good humor, maintained a positive disposition, and left the store still smiling at those around me.  To God be the glory. 

The Scripture reminds us that our adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  He will come at us from any possible angle, and if he can gain a foothold he will try to bring us down.  Often when we lose our tempers it is the result of a series of frustrations rather than one major incident.  These circumstances will be exploited against us as the devil seeks to rob of our joy, peace, and Christian witness.   

Stand firm, trust the Lord daily, and resist the temptation to explode at people around us.  Let us do as Jesus commanded and turn the other cheek, love one another, and consider others over ourselves.  When we humble ourselves the Lord will lift us up at the proper time.  Until then, walk in grace and with the mind of Christ.  Let His light shine from us.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Giving God all the Glory

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.  –Jeremiah 9:23, 24 (KJV) 

I read about a survey which was conducted and the results showed that many people admit to not being good listeners.  The reason for this is during the conversation they are more concerned with telling their story rather than listening to what someone else is saying.  The truth is we often enjoy telling our story.  The Word of God reminds us if we are going to boast about something we do well to limit such talk to what the Lord has done.  This stance places us where we are called to be in our relationship with the Lord.  The Scripture points out that a wise person doesn’t have to boast about his wisdom nor should he.  When we take the humble attitude of exalting the Lord rather than ourselves God receives the glory and He will then exalt us at the proper time.  

In recent months many people across the nation, me included, followed the sudden stardom of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice.  Mr. Williams was discovered living on the streets, homeless and destitute, yet he possessed a voice perfect for radio and TV broadcasting.  Suddenly he was in the spotlight making appearances on the national news, talk shows, and he received offers from major corporations to perform voice-overs.  Throughout all this I wondered if all the attention might push this man back into alcoholism and drug use.  Sadly, my concerns proved to be true.  Since his sudden flight to stardom Mr. Williams has been in and out of rehab and drug treatment.  All the attention may have proved too much for him to handle.   

When we are walking with Christ in faith and humility we do not need to boast of our own deeds or desire any attention.  We give glory to Christ and He then lifts us up in a manner that gives glory to God and works to our benefit. 

What has the Lord done in your life?  Give Him all the praise and glory.  As He has blessed us in the past He will do so again.  Look for it, expect it, and wait for it.  The blessings are coming in Jesus’ name.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Praying for the Fire of God to Fall

Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.  -I Kings 18:38, 39 (KJV) 

Many years ago I heard a story about a pastor who was having a conversation with a rebellious young man in the community.  The youth mocked the pastor’s attempts at getting through to him, and he refused to listen to godly reasoning.  In exasperation the pastor asked him, “Son, are you ignorant or apathetic?”  The young man replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”  Such an attitude describes many people in the world today.  They remain in a state of ignorance regarding God and His Word and they lack any desire to change.  No one ever began to make positive changes unless he or she truly desired to do so. 

Unfortunately, ignorance and apathy have made their way into many churches.  All too often people are content to sit in the pew week after week refusing to pray that the fire of God would fall upon their lives.  When we pray for a great movement of God’s Spirit and His power begins to move among us, the results will transform us into vibrant and dynamic believers who are walking in the power of God’s Spirit.  I Kings 18 describes the challenge that took place between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  The false prophets prayed all day that their gods would consume the sacrifice they had prepared, but nothing happened.  Elijah the prophet then prayed and sought the Lord, and the fire of God fell from heaven in a miraculous display of God’s divine power.  In response the people fell on their faces crying, “The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God” (v 39).   

We often become discouraged because we wonder if the power of God will ever move in our lives and our congregation.  When this happens we do well to step back and examine our own attitudes and habits.  Are we praying for revival?  Are we praying for a great outpouring of God’s Spirit?  Are we seeking the Lord daily in prayer and a fervent longing for His will to be done?  Our efforts of earnestly seeking God will not be in vain.  God will move in each individual heart who seeks the Lord and that movement will spread into the church. 

Revival will come, but it must begin with each of us on an individual basis.  Pray earnestly, fervently, and without ceasing that spiritual breakthrough will take place – in our lives and in churches all across the nation.  Let us exalt Jesus Christ and pray for a great revival.  With one heart let us proclaim, “The LORD, he is God!”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wavering Between Two Opinions

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.  -I Kings 18:21 (KJV) 

I have been a coffee drinker since I was around 18 and over the years I have tried various methods of enjoying this small pleasure.  There is non-dairy creamer, milk, sugar, a variety of sugar substitutes, and of course one can always simply drink it black.  These days, however, the situation has become more complicated.  We have all these possible flavorings and types of coffee such as latte’s, cappuccinos, frappuccinos (I’m not making that one up – honest), espresso, and one I am yet to try called a Macchiato.  There was a time when the answer to the question, “So, how do you take your coffee?” was answered with something like “A little cream and sugar please.” Those days appear to be long gone.  Personally, I keep wavering between having my coffee black or with a little sugar.  I realize I need to be on side or the other. 
God’s people the Israelites needed to make a decision as well, yet it was far more important than how we like our coffee.  Theirs was whether they would follow the Living God in faithfulness or continue to bow down to worthless idols.  The prophet Elijah issued the challenge of how long they would waver between two opinions.  They had to reach a decision; either they were going to follow the Lord or they were not.  As long as they remained indecisive they would never experience the power of God’s grace, love, and mercy.  It wasn’t until they witnessed the fire of God fall from the sky they made up their minds and chose to follow the Lord (I Kings 18:38).   

People today remain in a similar place of indecision.  They waver between following their own desires and living according to the principles of God’s Word.  Followers of Christ are called to have the matter firmly settled.  Place Jesus Christ at the center of our lives and live in faithfulness to Him.  This solid decision empowers us to walk forward in faith and spiritual victory.  Living in a place of indecision leaves us frustrated, disconnected, and lacking in focus.  Is God challenging you today with the same question given to the Israelites?  If so, choose to receive salvation offered in Jesus Christ.  Rise up in Jesus’ name and begin walking in the abundant life He has promised.  The road is narrow, yet Christ walks with us every step of the way. 

Settle the matter.  Stop wavering between two opinions.  Follow Jesus Christ in faithfulness.  Blessings and spiritual victory will follow. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Overcoming the Urge to Grow Bitter

And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.  I went out full and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?   -Ruth 1:20, 21 (KJV) 

The Word of God gives the account of two women who had seen difficult days.  Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, both widows, were contemplating going different directions, but so devoted was Ruth to her mother-in-law she would not part company with her.  Just before their intended separation, Naomi stated that she would from then on be called Mara, which is the Hebrew word for “bitter.”  She felt under such affliction she no longer believed the blessings of God could again reside in her life.  However, because of Ruth’s faithfulness and God’s leading, both women again found the strength to move forward toward God’s will.  What followed was new life and new blessings from the Lord. 

Have you ever been in the place where you believed the Lord had turned away from you?  Difficulties, problems, crises, and misfortunes can afflict us to the point where we actually begin to believe the Lord no longer cares about us.  Anytime we come to such a dark and lonely place the result will be bitterness.  This condition is notorious for robbing us of the joy, strength, love, and peace the Lord intends for us to experience.  Nowhere in God’s Word will we find life will be easy and trouble free.  However, the Lord has promised He will be with us always, He will never leave us nor forsake us, and He will continually guide us with His Spirit.  Keep moving forward in faith and we find strength.  Give up and the result will be bitterness and sorrow. 

How we long for peace in the midst of life’s struggles.  The Lord has provided peace through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Life is difficult; Jesus offers help.  Life is filled with trouble; Jesus offers hope.  Life is unfair; Jesus provides stability and proper perspective.  Life is uncertain; Jesus offers the assurance of His care and provision.  Life can leave us filled with questions; the Lord has answers.  Let us cease from trying to live in our own strength and power and instead seek the Lord.  As the Bible says, “With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles” (II Chronicles 32:8).   

The Lord is with us –  always and every day.  Resist the urge to give into bitterness, but instead claim the peace Jesus Christ offers.  There is hope in the Lord.  Claim the blessed hope today and walk forward in peace, joy, and victory. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Water Gushing From the Rock

And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.  And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.  -Number 20:11, 12 (KJV) 

Over the last two weeks we have been blessed here in southwest Virginia with an abundance of rain.  Hopefully, this soaking will be a help to the underground water table should we face a drought later on.  There is a 12 inch drain pipe at the corner of our yard which carries water from a source somewhere in the hills above the house.  Last week during the rain, the flow of water was so great the pipe was overwhelmed and the water was literally gushing from the pipe.  As I watched the water flowing I recalled the incident recorded in Numbers 20 where the Bible says Moses struck the rock with his staff and water flowed forth.  As a result the Israelites had the water they needed and the people were saved. 

This scenario, however, was a problem for the people.  Rather than trust God and move forward in faith they had complained bitterly about their situation.  “Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!”  (Numbers 20:3).  The situation was further complicated when Moses failed to follow God’s instructions.  The Lord clearly told Moses to speak to the rock (V 8), yet in his apparent exasperation Moses had hauled off and smacked the rock with his staff – twice.  The people had their water, yet the Lord was displeased with them.  Failure to trust God and take Him at His Word always presents problems when we then try to move forward.   

The simple axiom of “God will provide” is basic, yet absolutely true.  The Lord will lead us where He intends for us to go; ours is to be faithful and follow His will at all times.  I realize in my own life my exasperation has caused me to act out of emotion rather than faith.  I too have spiritually struck at the rocks of difficulty in my life rather than speak soothing words of faith and belief.  God provided, but I missed out on the blessing of having believed the Lord without question.  When we take God at His Word we are empowered to move forward in faith regardless of how bleak the situation appears.   

Are you facing a spiritual drought today?  Do not beat aimlessly at the problem and do not complain.  Instead, take God at His Word, stand firm upon faith in Jesus Christ, and watch God provide.  God is faithful and the fountain of blessings will flow into our lives.    

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wedding Crashers

And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.  -Matthew 22:11, 12 (KJV) 

In recent years a previously unknown term has come into existence.  “Wedding crashers”  refers to uninvited people who show up at weddings pretending to be invited guests.  They then partake of the food and celebration intended for those who had been invited.  Why someone would do this is a mystery to me, but then again a great amount of the odd behavior which people exhibit is considered strange and inexplicable to most of us.  So popular has this term become that a movie was produced a number of years ago based on the concept.  For the record, I haven’t seen the movie and have no intention of doing so.  I will also only attend weddings to which I have been formally invited. 

Matthew 22 gives us the parable Jesus told about a king who held a wedding banquet for his son.  After a number of delays such as guests refusing to come and assaults on the messengers, the king declared the wedding would be open to anyone the servants could find who were willing to attend.  The doors of the banquet were then opened to all.  However, all invited guests had to be presented with their official wedding clothes.  Jesus said during the celebration the king found a man at the banquet who was not dressed in wedding garments.  Upon questioning the man he was found to be without an answer.  The unfortunate wedding crasher was then bound, carried out, and thrown into the outer darkness.   

This powerful parable paints a picture of Christ’s coming and our need to be ready.  When we receive Jesus Christ as Savior we are cleansed from sin and given the Holy Spirit.  We “put on Christ” (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27) much as a wedding guest puts on wedding clothes.  We are then prepared not only to serve the Lord right now, but we are ready for the great banquet which will take place in heaven one day.  The banquet Christ will give in heaven some day with be attended by people from all over the world.  People of all races, ethnic origins, and nationalities will be in attendance.  However, no one will get in without having put on Christ – the wedding garments He has provided. 

Have you put on Christ today?  Are you walking in the fullness of His grace, love, and mercy?  Through Jesus Christ we walk in spiritual victory each day, not focused on ourselves or our problems, but rather we have fixed our eyes on Jesus.  When the Lord then invites us to sit at His table we will be ready, for we will be wearing our wedding clothes.   

Until the day comes, let us serve the Lord with glad, joyful, and grateful hearts. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Seeking God’s Leading and Following His Will

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  -Philippians 2:12, 13 (KJV) 

Over the years I have ministered to many people who were wandering their way through life.  Such wandering can be discouraging and exhausting.  Without clear direction and purpose in life we can easily feel we are spinning our wheels, yet getting nowhere.  The Word of God issues a challenge to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  Once we come to faith in Jesus Christ we are then to move forward in humility seeking God’s will every day.  We are all responsible for trusting Jesus Christ on an individual basis.  Furthermore, we all must ultimately figure out for ourselves our place in the world and what the Lord is calling us to accomplish. 

The good news is we do not have to go at this alone.  The Lord will help, empower, and inspire us to serve Him and live life to the fullest.  We have the Holy Spirit to help us, and we also have the Body of Christ, the church, as a means of support and encouragement as we determine God’s leading.  God is perfectly willing to lead and work in our lives and provide us with purpose and direction.  However, we must by faith rise up and submit to His leading.  The process will not happen overnight; rather it is a lifelong journey of seeking the Lord and walking with Him each day.   

I am reminded of this when I take our dog, Ada, for a walk.  To say she gets excited when she sees the leash is an understatement; she becomes frantic in her desire to go outside.  She literally jumps in the air, twirls around the room, and if I don’t watch her she will grab the leash in her mouth and try to run away with it.  Sadly, she fails to comprehend her frenzied enthusiasm only hinders the entire process.  We too can easily get ahead of God’s will for our lives.  In our excitement to rush forward we can pull against the Holy Spirit, launch out in directions we ought not to go, and strain against the gentle leading of our loving Lord.   

God will work in us according to His will and purpose for our lives.  Ours is to patiently seek Him through prayer, staying in the Word, and humbling ourselves before Him.  Step back, take a deep breath, and seek the Lord.  He is willing to show us the way.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Faithful with a Little and Faithful with Much

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.  -Luke 16:10 (KJV) 

I read an article a few weeks ago which examined the growing number of professional athletes who are now facing bankruptcy.  These are men who at one time were making millions of dollars a year, but somehow squandered all of it.  I have to wonder how someone making 20 million or so a year for several years runs through all of that money.  One would have thought they would have laid a portion of the money aside to live on after retirement.  Apparently, these athletes thought their income was a bottomless pit of money.  However, they discovered too late those funds can indeed be spent in their entirety.   

Most of us, me included, have wondered what it would be like to have access to such large amounts of income.  Would we do any better?  Would we handle such immense wealth more carefully lest we squander it all?  I like to think that I would be more cautious than others who mishandled such great wealth.  Jesus said in Luke 16 the key is being faithful in all we have regardless of how much it is.  Whatever the amount of income with which we have been blessed we are given the charge of being faithful.  The Word of God teaches that when we are faithful the Lord will provide, and He will bring His blessings into our lives.  If you are of average income then be faithful and God will bless you.  If you have been blessed with a million dollars be faithful also, for the Lord will honor those who handle faithfully what He has provided.   

Part of the high call of God in Christ Jesus is to be faithful in every aspect of our lives.  This includes our finances, our time, and our abilities.  The one who can sing or play an instrument is called to put those talents to work in the Lord’s service.  They may have voices capable of rivaling any famous singer or they may possess modest singing ability.  In either case they are called to serve the Lord and be faithful with their talents.  The same can be said of any other resource with which the Lord has blessed us. 

Whatever your gifts, abilities, or talents, be sure to seek the Lord and be faithful.  When we are faithful with a little the Lord will add to what we have.  He will take what we give Him and multiply it for His glory and our benefit.  Be faithful and serve the Lord with gladness.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Refining Process of Faith and Spiritual Growth

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: -I Peter 1:7 (KJV)

The Word of God teaches that as followers of Christ we are to be ever growing in faith.  How is this accomplished?  The first part of this may appear obvious: stay in the Word, pray without ceasing, wait on the Lord to accomplish His will, and believe the Lord without question.  Practice these spiritual disciplines and we are on our way to growing in our faith in Christ.  However, the Lord calls us to go deeper, and the other aspects of spiritual growth are more difficult. 

Faith grows through the trials of life. Goldsmiths have long understood that gold  is made pure through a process of refinement involving intense heat.  The more intense the purification process the more valuable the gold.  The same applies to our faith.  The greater the trials, the more our faith grows, is refined, and becomes of greater value.  Growing, vibrant, and solid faith is like gold; it will stand the test of time.  Pure gold is the only metal on the planet capable of withstanding the elements over long periods of time.  In theory, you could place a gold bar outside and leave it.  1000 years from now the gold would not have decayed, but would have stood the test of time.  Faith in Jesus Christ will stand during the storms, rain, and winds of life.

Faith grows when stretched.  Think about people who are in top physical condition.  How did they achieve this?  Their muscles had to be exercised, and as they were exercised they were stretched, and as they were stretched they grew stronger.  Something we know about the process is that it’s painful.  The same occurs with faith.  If growing physically stronger was easy everyone would be walking around looking like champion athletes.  The Bible says in II Thessalonians 1:3 that the believers' faith was growing "exceedingly" because of the trials they were enduring.  Everyone reading this has been through a hard time or is going through a difficult time right now.  The promise of God’s Word is that as our faith is stretched it also grows stronger.     

I know the process can be painful.  More importantly, God knows it’s painful.  However, we have a reward; these trials remind us we are worthy of the kingdom of God (II Thessalonians 1:5).  If we suffer, Jesus understands, for His suffering on our behalf was greater than ours.  In Him we find the strength, and the faith, to carry on and walk forward in victory.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Keeping our Confidence in the Power of God

If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;  -Colossians 1:23 (KJV)

 My son keeps a couple of fish in a fishbowl in his room, and of course the bowl has to be cleaned from time to time.  A week or two ago he set about to clean the fishbowl and while doing so he put the fish in a glass that I have drank out of many times.  When he was done he washed out the glass, he put it in the dishwasher, and I imagine that if it was tested for bacteria it would be as clean as any glass in the cupboard.  But you know something?  I can’t drink out of that glass anymore.  The reason is I no longer believe it’s truly clean.  I now have doubts about it, therefore, I can no longer put it to use.  Should we begin to have doubts about God, the Word, God’s power to forgive and help us, then we will have trouble enjoying the full benefit of faith.  

Having doubts about the power of God can have a dramatic effect on our outlook on life.  Growing in faith is a safeguard from this occurring.  How can we come to the Scripture without faith and experience the power of God’s Word?  The answer is we cannot.  If we are going to grow in faith we must continue in faith.  Colossians 1:23 reminds us if we continue in the faith we will not be moved away from the hope of the gospel.  This phrase should get our attention.  What does it mean to move away from the hope of the gospel and how might this happen?  The hope of the gospel is the certainty of knowing that since we have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior we have salvation.  If we have salvation we have the assurance of heaven.  There need not be any doubt about our salvation.  If we are truly in Christ the Lord will confirm this to us, and if we are lost He will let us know about that also.  

Be careful not to move away from our hope of the gospel.  Should our faith begin to waver, the result is we can begin to step back from this hope.  Should this happen we may end up losing the joy of salvation.  Christ has called us to walk forward in peace, victory, and joy.  Stepping away from our divine hope in Christ and allowing doubt to creep in robs us of these benefits.  

Here is a challenge for us today: stay in the Word, pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17), wait on the Lord to accomplish His will, and believe the Lord without question.  The Lord did not promise these would be easy, but He promised to be with us and help us every step of the way.  Walk forward in faith and belief.  Christ has the victory - and victory is ours through Him.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Responsibility of Freedom

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.  -Exodus 32:1 (KJV) 

Many years ago while serving a church in another state I was approached by the parents of a teenage girl in the church who was going through a time of rebellion.  The situation had reached a critical stage when the parents had gone out of town for a weekend and left the girl, age 17, at home alone.  They gave her strict warnings about not having friends over while they were gone, and though they had concerns about her ability to manage on her own, they decided to give her a chance to prove herself trustworthy.  While the parents were away the girl decided to have a party and invite a group of friends to the house.  The party grew into a large crowd of teenagers and a great deal of damage was done.  The worst damage, however, was when a few of the girls “friends” thought it would be funny to go through the house and pour beer on all the furniture.  When the parents arrived home, it was immediately apparent what had happened.  

So often when people get a taste of freedom they are unable to control themselves and the results are not pretty.  The same situation occurred when God’s people, newly paroled from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, found themselves alone and on their own at Mount Sinai.  While Moses was on the mountain receiving the commandments from God, the people decided to throw themselves a party.  Their behavior was the opposite of all that God was leading them to do.  Instead of worshiping God they bowed down to an idol.  Rather than conducting themselves with honor and integrity, they behaved like pagans.  Having cast off all restraint, they engaged in the worst kind of immorality.  When Moses came down from the mountain a civil war took place resulting in thousands dying.   

Let us not be tempted to read this passage in the Bible and believe we would never do something like this.  Giving into ungodliness and immorality is like opening a floodgate; any pent-up passion, anger, lust, and bitterness can come crashing out like a flood.  Getting it all back under control presents a challenge.  The best place to be is walking in obedience to Christ each and every day.  The Lord will help and empower us to remain in His will when we trust Him daily. 

The high call of God in Jesus Christ is to stand firm and not be given over to ungodliness and immorality.  The results will be a solid and steady witness for Jesus and the blessings of God being poured out upon us.  Walk with Jesus, remain in His will, and serve Him with integrity.