Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hiding in a Cave of Discouragement

And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” -I Kings 19:9-11 (NKJV) 

I remember one morning a number of years ago when I sat on the side of my bed with my face in my hands wondering how I would make it through another day.  I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, discouraged, and spiritually defeated.  This experience left me so completely dejected that I wondered how I would ever rise up again and proclaim the gospel to others.  How could I encouraged and urge people forward to new heights of faith when I myself was feeling so low?  The Scripture says the prophet Elijah suffered a similar experience.  He too struggled with the same feelings of defeat and discouragement.  Elijah had seen awesome victories and incredible movements of the Spirit of God.  Yet, he experienced overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair.   

The Bible says at one point Elijah actually went and hid in a cave.  This is not where a mighty prophet of God is supposed to be.  Instead, a prophet is to be out proclaiming God’s love and power to a lost world.  We see how compassionate the Lord was with Elijah.  God came to him and gently asked him a question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Notice the calm and loving way in which the Lord addressed the prophet.  There was no condemnation, no threats, and no rebuke; just a kind word from God who is always willing to help in our time of need. 

“I have been zealous for the Lord, yet your people have forsaken Your covenant, broken down Your altars, and I alone am left – and they are trying to kill me too!” Poor Elijah; how like this we are sometimes.  Discouragement typically causes us to feel extremely sorry for ourselves and we begin to count our many sorrows.  However, the Lord was not going to give up on Elijah.  God invited the prophet to come out of the cave and go stand on the mountain.  Once he did this he witnessed the wondrous power of God, he heard the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit, and he got his life back on track. 

Now, about that day I sat on my bedside; God empowered me to rise up and go forward.  Like Elijah, the Lord invited me to go and stand on the mountain of His grace and power.  I am still listening daily to His voice.  You can as well.  Do not hide in the cave of defeat any longer.  Come up and stand on the mountain. The Lord will meet you there. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Forty Day Journey of Faith

And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.  And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.  -I Kings 19:7, 8 (KJV) 

Andrea and I have a dream we hope to pursue one day.  Our dream is to take about two weeks off and drive all the way to California seeing as many sites along the way as possible.  Neither of us has ever been that far west, so the trip would be a new experience for us.  Once we reach California, we want to see the Pacific Ocean before turning around and heading back.  I know in my heart such a journey would enrich us in many ways. 

The Scripture shows how after the contest on Mount Carmel between the prophet Elijah and the false prophets of Baal that Elijah journeyed for a period of forty days and nights until he reached Horeb, the sacred mountain of God.  Elijah’s journey was not for spiritual renewal or reflection.  Instead he was running in fear for his life.  The wicked queen Jezebel had vowed to kill Elijah for what had happened on Mount Carmel where Elijah had slain the pagan prophets who had been leading Israel astray.  Before Elijah’s forty day journey he had gone into the wilderness where he suffered a sort of physical and spiritual breakdown.  His words reflect the desperation which was in his heart: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (I Kings 19:4).  This doesn’t sound like the same prophet who had stood on the mountain in the presence of the people and prayed for the fire of God to fall.  No, this sounds like a depressed and discouraged man. 

How amazing was the manner in which the Lord empowered Elijah to rise up and move forward.  The Lord sustained the prophet and helped him to travel the forty day journey to a place of spiritual renewal and restoration.  Yet we see the prophet still needed confirmation of the power of God.  While hiding in a cave the Lord invited Elijah to again witness the wonder and holiness of God.  The gentle whisper came, Elijah’s spirit was renewed, and he walked forward in faith.   

Last February I embarked on a forty day journey of arising each day at 4:15 AM for the purpose of praying and communing with the Lord.  This experience utterly changed my life.  At the end of the forty day faith journey I felt spiritually renewed in ways I had never experienced before.  The forty day journey has ended, yet I continue to arise each day before dawn to seek the Lord.  Like Elijah, each day I experience the gentle whisper of God’s voice. 

Begin a new journey of faith in the Lord.  Let Christ draw you in closer as never before.  Seek Him today, for He is waiting to increase your faith.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thanking God for Every Remembrance of You

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.  -Philippians 1:3-6 (KJV) 

What a blessing it is to be a part of the Body of Christ.  Having a local congregation of brothers and sisters in Christ who are there to encourage one another in our time of need means more than the combined riches of the world.  All of you encourage me in countless ways through your support of this blog.  I am finding out when a daily blog does not appear that many of you become concerned.  To all of you I send a great big, “Thanks and I love you all!”  I set out this morning to write my daily entry, however, I was delayed because of a routine medical test I had to undergo this morning.  As part of the preparation for the test I had to spend the day yesterday (Wednesday) on a diet of clear liquids.  That afternoon I had to drink about a gallon of this horrible tasting fluid guaranteed to flush the system.  As for the results let’s just say, mission accomplished. 

Apparently my doctor likes to make sure everything is truly on track, for the next part of the preparation for the test was getting up at 4:00 this morning to drink a bottle of Magnesium Citrate.  It had a nice lemony flavor and went down easily enough.  Around 5:00 I then sat down to finish a column for the local paper, the Bristol Herald Courier, which will appear in this Saturday’s Religion Section.  My plan was to then finish my blog entry and upload to the site.  Despite the fact the lemony concoction went down easy it did not want to stay down.  I became extremely nauseated and spent the next hour or so pacing the floor trying to keep that stuff down.   

At one point I walked around outside breathing the fresh morning air which definitely helped.  I was able to keep it all down, yet this put me way behind on my morning routine.  By then it was time to head to the surgery center and have the procedure.  The results were fine.  I was found to be in good health and I shouldn’t have to undergo this particular ordeal for about another five years – thanks be to God!  I don’t react well to anesthesia and afterward I ended up spending the afternoon asleep.  I am just now getting caught up on a number of pursuits I usually get done in the morning. 

Like Paul the Apostle, I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.  Your love, friendship, and support of my writing encourages me beyond what I can possibly express.  And like the beloved Apostle, I too am confident that God will complete the good work He has begun in us – in Jesus’ name.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where are the Righteous?

Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.  They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.  -Psalm 12:1, 2 (KJV) 

Last Saturday I removed my hummingbird feeders from storage, cleaned them and filled them with sugar water.  I then placed them in the same location I have for the last several years. Within a couple of hours the hummingbirds were back and my, they certainly were hungry.  I never tire of watching these amazing birds – the only birds on the planet capable of hovering in midair and flying backward.  I was thinking of how disappointed I would be if for some reason these wonderful birds failed to make their annual appearance.  In fact, I believe I would honestly experience a sense of profound grief if these marvelous creatures did not return. 

David of the Old Testament professed deep sorrow over what he saw as a diminishing number of godly and righteous people in the world.  Everywhere he looked people were no longer seeking the Lord.  Instead they were going their own reckless way and failing to heed God’s Word.  We have an idea of how David felt, for we too live in an age in which it seems people no longer have any regard for God.  As I reflect on my life I know beyond any doubt it has been through God’s strength and help I have come this far.  Andrea and I have encountered numerous difficulties, problems, and crises over the years, and yet the Lord has always been faithful and brought us through to brighter days.  Not only do we find people failing to seek the Lord, we also find those who believe, yet have grown weary and apathetic in their faith.  They are walking about in spiritual defeat rather than the spiritual victory meant to be ours in Jesus Christ. 

This has been an ongoing theme lately in my preaching, counseling, and overall ministry; do not give up, for the Lord will bring us through to victory.  The Lord knows full well the trials and challenges we face as a part of daily life.  He will not abandon us to face life on our own strength and resources.  The Lord will empower us to rise up in Jesus’ name and walk forward in faith and spiritual power – each day.  We take comfort in God’s presence and we will also be encouraged when we look and see what the Lord is doing all around us.  In the midst of all the ungodliness which so permeates our society the light of Jesus Christ is breaking through the darkness and shining brightly.  Lives are being touched and souls are being saved for Christ’s kingdom.   

Do not despair and do not be discouraged by the darkness which is all around us.  Instead look up, trust the Lord, keep the faith, and grow in your walk with Christ.  Pray for a great revival of faith.  Let it begin with each one of us. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Innocent Man

Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.  -I Peter 2:22-24 (KJV) 

I need to offer my apologies to author John Grisham for borrowing a title from one of his books for the title for today’s blog.  I have read just about all Mr. Grisham’s books except this particular one, and I am sure I will get around to it eventually.  Last Sunday in my Easter sermon I referred to the fact that an innocent man was tried, sentenced, beaten, and executed and it all happened so our sins would be paid for.  Jesus Christ, an innocent man, bore upon himself the sins of the world.  Through faith in Christ we claim this sacrifice for sin which took place on our behalf.  We are granted forgiveness, eternal life, and power for daily living.  We offer all praise to the Lord who so graciously gave Himself for us.  The tomb was then found empty on the third day.  Christ has risen indeed! 

Jesus set an example we can follow in all areas of life.  His was a sacrificial and humble attitude at all times.  Peter reminds us in God’s Word how our attitudes are to reflect those of our Lord.  Jesus was insulted, mocked, and falsely accused, yet He did not retaliate.  What is our typical response when suffering these types of abuses?  We desire to strike back, get even, and seek revenge.  However, Jesus taught we are to instead seek the godly response of prayer, humility, forgiveness and grace.  The world will not know how to react when confronted with such Christ-like character.  This is why the Scripture reminds us how a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1).  Loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, and repaying evil with good will cause those without Christ to scratch their heads in puzzled bewilderment, for they are not used to the godly way of handling conflict.   

People might think we are cowardly and ineffectual; yet following the ways of Christ builds strength, character, and personal integrity which the world will never understand.  Walking daily in the power of the Holy Spirit is a prescription for peace in the face of life’s most difficult storms.  Many believers, however, miss out on the peace which could be theirs in Christ.  We become so busy with other activities we often neglect this most vital discipline of prayer and meditation on God’s Word.   

God will empower you to make today the day in which you take back control of your life, outlook, and daily routine.  Seek the Lord today, every day, and remember the innocent man, Jesus Christ, who died in our place.    

Monday, April 25, 2011

Looking to the Lord on Difficult Days

How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?  How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?  I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.  -Psalm 13:1, 2, 6 (KJV)

If you are anything like me you know Monday can be a rough day.  Often after a wonderful weekend of being with family, relaxing, and pursuing activities which bring tremendous joy we have to face the realities of the work week.  It’s easy to wake up on Monday morning feeling at least a little down and wishing the weekend had not ended.  If we are not careful we might begin to feel sorrowful and overwhelmed with all the responsibilities which are facing us with the coming week.  These overwhelming feelings have a way of mounting in our minds and leaving us with a negative outlook.  David of the Old Testament understood these feelings perfectly.  He became so distressed that at one point he began to wonder if the Lord had actually forgotten about him. 

Like David we too can begin to think so negatively about life and our problems that we start to question whether or not God still cares about us.  As followers of Christ we are called to hand such feelings over to the Lord in faith knowing He does indeed care for us and we are in no way forgotten.  This realization will facilitate the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and a wonderful realization then follows; God knows, cares, and has in no way forgotten.  We then sing to the Lord a new song of praise and thanksgiving. 
 
Are you feeling overwhelmed today with all the thoughts swirling around in your mind?  Are you tired of going over these troubling thoughts again and again?  Thinking about and continually pondering our problems is exhausting resulting in a heavy and sorrowful heart.  By the power of the Holy Spirit we find peace in the midst of these troubling thoughts which seek to rob us of the joy meant to be ours in Jesus Christ.  This is why we must set aside time every day to commune with God and mediate upon His Holy Word.  This is our daily opportunity to take all our burdens and give them over to the Lord.  God then eases our minds with the hope that He is with us and will bring us through the present storm.   

The words to an old hymn of the faith remind me of this truth: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear; all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer!”  

My friend, stop where you are right now and give your burden over to God.  I know it appears to be hopeless and overwhelming.  In Jesus Christ there is hope.  The Lord will bring you through to a brighter day.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Not Here, but is Risen!

And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.  Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.  -Luke 24:11, 12 (KJV) 

About two years ago I was visiting my parents in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio and I decided to make a sort of pilgrimage to the graves of two important people in our nations’  history.  Orville and Wilber Wright are from Dayton and they are buried at Woodland Cemetery, which is not far from my parents’  home.  Their graves were easy to find and my father and I were both moved by the thought that we were standing by the tombstones of men who had changed history.  The Wright brothers were the first to construct an airplane and get it to fly.  Modern aviation is built upon their original ideas and theories. 
 
A little ways down from the Wright brothers’ graves is a small family mausoleum.  The people buried there were obviously people of great wealth as the crypt is of solid marble, well constructed, and easily over 100 years old.  For a moment I imagined coming to this tomb in the early hours of the morning.  I would have had great reservations about going inside – even in daylight, let alone before dawn.  I am not superstitious, but I am human and that crypt was not a pleasant-looking place to be. 

The Bible says the women who had attended Jesus’ needs during His earthly ministry came to the tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week with the intention of anointing the Lord’s body with spices used for embalming.  Here we see not only devotion on the part of the women, but also pure courage.  Would you have gone to the tomb, before dawn, for such a task?  When they arrived they found the stone rolled away, and looking inside they saw visions of angels who gave them the news which continues to rock the world to its foundations.  “He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:6).  Trembling and bewildered they hurried to the disciples and told them the news.  However, in their excitement they didn’t seem to be making much sense and the disciples questioned what had happened.   Simon Peter then went to the tomb and also found it empty and in his heart wondered what had taken place. 

My friends, is it so difficult to believe the tomb was empty and Christ has risen?  What took place was precisely what Jesus said would come to pass; He would be tried, crucified, would die for the sins of the world, and on the third day rise again.  As His followers we have faith in Christ, the reality of the resurrection, which takes us beyond doubt to pure spiritual power. 

Because of the resurrection we can face today, and we can surely face tomorrow – because Jesus lives!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hell was Split Wide Open

And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.  And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.  And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.   -Mark 15:37-39 (KJV) 

I recall when I was little boy overhearing a conversation between two adults regarding the behavior of a certain individual who was known for having a bad reputation.  “One day,” one of them said, “he is going to split hell wide open.”  This imagery captivated my young imagination.  Children always take symbolic imagery in the most literal terms possible, so I kept trying to get a picture in my mind of a person crashing into hell and literally blowing it apart.  Such a scene is indeed too much for a child to grasp, so I eventually abandoned any attempt at understanding such metaphors and moved on to more pleasant thoughts.  Yet even today I still find myself attempting to attain a mental picture of this dramatic scene; hell was split wide open. 

The Scripture says the Lord Jesus died upon the cross of Calvary and in so doing bore upon His body the sins of humanity.  When Jesus died hell was split wide open, yet in this instance the term is positive and conveys Christ’s victory over this terrible place of everlasting torment.  No longer would sin, death, hell, and the grave have the final say so over the souls of the world.  The sin which separated us from God and kept us from His presence had been paid for once and for all through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Do not expect everyone to comprehend the grace shown to an angry, bitter, and hostile world.  Those without the Spirit of God cannot comprehend the measure of love and compassion demonstrated through this supreme act of devotion and self-sacrifice.   

The soldier in combat whose comrade throws himself on a live grenade to save others will see a form of it.  The one who steps in front of an assailant and takes a bullet for another person demonstrates a similar attitude.  Yet Christ’s sacrifice reigns supreme, for His was done on behalf of all people for all time.  Even today we may come to Him in faith and find salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.  The most hopeless outlook will be transformed through the power of Jesus Christ.  We need not surrender, for Christ has won the victory on our behalf.  Since hell has been defeated, we now have the promise of heaven and a happier day right now. 

Do not allow your present dark circumstances rob you of the joy we have in Christ.  The world waited as Christ lay lifeless in the tomb, yet on the third day He arose.  In Him we have life, spiritual power, and hope of a brighter tomorrow.  Resurrection day is coming!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Brighter Day is Coming

And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.  And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.  And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.  –Mark 15:24-27 (KJV) 

“Oh, that was a dark day in my life.”  I wonder how many times I have thought or said those words.  I said this about the day my faithful dog, Jenny, died.  I recall the day the doctors confirmed my wife’s cancer diagnosis as a dark and terrible day.  I remember the day I stood at a graveside attempting to bring at least some solace to a young couple whose infant child had died.  These were dark and horrible days – each one of them.  In each situation we face which has the potential to bring us to our knees in grief, we have a sacred option; look to the Lord Jesus in full and unquestioning faith.  Through the blurred vision of our tears we will see the blessed hand of the Risen Lord reaching out to us with the divine words of comfort and hope, “Fear not; I am with you always.”  

I have for years tried to imagine the pain, loss, grief, anger, and sorrow Jesus’ followers felt as they stood helplessly by and watched as He was crucified.  Adding insult to injury, the battle-scarred and seasoned Roman soldiers callously gambled for His clothes as the religious leaders mocked Him saying, “Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days; Save thyself, and come down from the cross.  He saved others; himself he cannot save.  Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:29-32).  The pain of those words served only to make a horribly dark day even darker.  Through it all the Lord Jesus hung upon the cross as His blood was shed for the sins of the world.   
 
I am not telling you anything you do not already know when I say the world is often a sorrowful and difficult place in which to live.  Many days I find myself longing for the blessed and brighter day which the Lord has promised will come.  Until then we are called to trust the Lord in faith, look to Him in belief, and let the Holy Spirit empower us to rise above our fears and forebodings to the higher ground of spiritual victory.  The Lord will bring you through whatever dark day you are having.  Sadly, there are probably more on the way.  However, through Jesus Christ and the power of the resurrection we have confidence we will overcome. 

Do not despair and do not give up.  The joy of resurrection is coming!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our Hope in Jesus Christ Which Overcomes the Darkness

Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?  When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.  -Luke 22:52, 53 (KJV) 

Now that springtime is here I am sure to enjoy walking my dog more often.  We particularly enjoy heading to one of the local parks on a warm day and spending time walking and enjoying the sunshine and nice weather.  For me this is a positive way to at least for a while get away from all of the darkness in the world.  When I refer to darkness I am talking about the spiritual darkness which so permeates the world around us.  After rising early this morning for prayer and meditation on the Scriptures it took about a minute to be bombarded with bad news; there were reports of political unrest in foreign nations, problems with the economy here at home, the threat of terrorism, and various reports of burglary, assault, and murder.  So bad was the news I actually walked away from the news reports and returned for more time in God’s Word – always the right decision. 

The night Jesus was arrested He told those who had come for Him how for the moment darkness was reigning.  Our Lord was handed over to wicked men who placed Him on trial, brought false witnesses to accuse Him, and then they subjected Him to cruel and vicious treatment.  Our hope comes in knowing the cross and the tomb were not the end and neither did they have victory over the Lord Jesus.  On the third day, according to the Scriptures, Christ arose.  Our hope is not in ourselves, our accomplishments, or our power.  Instead our hope is in Jesus Christ – the resurrected Lord who overcame death, hell, and the grave on our behalf. 

In the midst of all the darkness in the world we have the light of Jesus Christ to show the world around us the hope we possess in Him.  People still question and wonder how we can claim such peace in a violent, bitter, and angry world, yet our answer remains steadfast; Jesus Christ, our rock, our fortress, and our strong and mighty tower, will hold us fast and keep us standing on solid ground. 

What trials and difficulties are you facing right now?  Are you feeling the burden of spiritual darkness?  Remember Christ has overcome the darkness of evil by His power – resurrection power which is available to all who believe.  Take heart, be comforted, and claim the power in Jesus' name.  A brighter day is coming. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trusting God During the Stresses of Life

Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.  I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.  -Psalm 4:7, 8 (KJV)

I have often thought how there are times when the most productive pursuit we can follow is to rest.  Lack of sleep, rest, and what is known as “down time” is wrecking peoples’ peace of mind and in some instances destroying their health.  Life throws at us all sorts of pressures, problems, headaches, and frustrations.  Failure to develop positive coping strategies can result in disaster.  All too often I see people falling emotionally beneath the weight of their personal struggles and the pressure of daily life.  Like me, you may have read of the recent epidemic of air-traffic controllers who have been fired for sleeping on the job.  Such situations become the fodder for late-night TV comedians, yet we know sleeping on the job when you are supposed to be directing airplanes in for landing is no laughing matter.   

No doubt you are under a great amount of stress.  However, the good news is according to God’s Word the Lord will place His peace in our hearts even during the most stressful times of life.  The Lord will place gladness in our hearts in abundance equal to a successful harvest.  As we work our way through nerve-racking situations the Lord will empower us to rise up and walk forward in faith.  Will there be times when we feel we are breaking under the pressure?  Part of the human condition means we will at times suffer the dark forebodings which daily war against our souls. 

Take heart, do not give up.  Stop and spend time in God’s Word.  Pray and seek the Lord as never before.  Arise before daylight, just like Jesus, and seek the Lord in quiet prayer and meditation.  God has promised to be our refuge and help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).  Rejoice in the Lord, for the hopeless situation can still turn out for the good.  Daily time alone with God will lead us to a deeper understanding of the Lord being our Savior and help.  We can take the position of Jeremiah the Prophet who even in the midst of terrible suffering knew that in the Lord there was still hope.  “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:25, 26). 

Salvation in Christ is ours, and God’s deliverance will come.  However, we must be willing to trust the Lord and wait upon Him.  The Lord will turn our grief into joy, our sorrow into laughter, and our groaning into shouts of praise.  Keep looking up!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Being Careful With our Words

And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. -Ephesians 6:19, 20 (KJV) 

Many years ago before I went into the ministry and began preaching I worked at a warehouse in Dayton, Ohio.  In the next department from mine there was a dear Christian lady named Val who I spoke with on many occasions.  One day I came into this area and found there had been some sort of disturbance.  Something had happened which had upset Val and she had lost her temper and said unkind and unfortunate words to another worker.  I was told afterwards when she had calmed down Val said, “Where is Dan?  I hope Dan didn’t hear what I said.”  Knowing I too was a believer, Val was apparently upset over what I might think of her outburst.  I later spoke with her and assured since God forgives and understands, the least we can do is forgive one another. 

How many times have we opened our mouths only to deeply regret what we said?  James 1:26 says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”   The right words will lift one another up and exalt the name of Jesus, yet our words can also tear each other down.  Paul the Apostle’s prayer was that the Lord would empower him to speak boldly words which would exalt Christ and encourage those around him.  We are encouraged in God’s Word to guard our words carefully lest we utter anything which dishonors God and or harms another person. 

The more time we spend in God’s Word and the more we pray the greater will be our ability to manage what we speak.  The Lord is ever teaching us to be more like Jesus Christ is all areas of life.  Day by day we can become more like the Lord Jesus.  Are you tired of losing your temper, regretting what you say, and feeling like your words are getting you in trouble?  If so, then resolve today to begin walking daily in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord honors our desire to live honorable lives before Him. 

Today, make your mind up to speak words which exalt Christ and reflect godly character.  Praise the Lord in all circumstances. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Power of a Godly Response

And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.  Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?  -Numbers 17:12, 13 (KJV) 

All of us know the terrible feeling of being in a panic.  We cannot think clearly, our thoughts race, our hearts pound, and our minds are filled with unsetting images.  To be in a panic is to be at the mercy of our most negative emotions which are controlling our every thought.  Trying to regain control of our thought processes during such a time is an overwhelming challenge.  Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we recover the peace and calm meant to be ours in Jesus Christ.  As followers of Jesus we are not to be ruled by fear.  Instead we are to be guided by faith.   

The Word of God shows us in Numbers 17 how the people saw the power of God clearly displayed before them.  In response they went into a panic and began to worry about God destroying them.  Their fears were justified, although their reaction was misguided.  God is indeed a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24), yet we may also live under His grace, mercy, and blessing.  The Lord is perfectly willing to show us mercy and forgiveness.  He will furthermore empower us to walk in spiritual power every day.  However, we must be willing to seek His will and turn aside from sin, self, and pride.  Jesus said if we desire to follow Him we must deny ourselves, take up the cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).   

Following Jesus Christ and walking in His will brings peace, and we also learn the value of godly patience.  Rather than panic we learn to wait on the Lord knowing He will be with us and will bring us through whatever problem or crisis we are currently facing.  So often ours is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem.  Rather than wait on the Lord and seek His will we instead take a “grab it and fix it” mentality.  Have you ever taken this approach to a problem?  How did it turn out for you?  I would not be surprised if you answered, “not too good.”  Seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and walking in His power brings about the peace, calm, and patience we desire.  When the storms of life come, and they will indeed come, we will be empowered to respond in quiet dignity rather than panic.   

Who is happier and in a better position; the one who quietly trusts God or the one who is blindly raging about in panic?  The former is in a place of spiritual strength to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.  The latter will fall under his unbridled emotions.   

Do not fear, do not panic.  Instead trust the Lord Jesus – with everything.  He will bring you through to victory. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blessed is the King!

And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.  And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.  And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.  -Mark 11:7-9 (KJV) 

Have you ever found yourself under so much stress that you were muttering under your breath?  You know what I am talking about; all those negative feelings come boiling to the surface and you are doing all you can to keep them under control, yet they sort of boil out in the form of quiet complaining.  This beats a full-blown eruption of anger, yet even those private mutterings are problematic.  The more negative our internal feelings the more trouble we will have finding the peace of Christ during life’s storms.  Beware of those mutterings, for they will rob us of the joy we are meant to have in Jesus Christ. 

The next time you find yourself facing a problem, and unfortunately it won’t be long, try praying instead of muttering.  Seek to praise the Lord and exalt His name rather than utter destructive words.  Picture in your mind the day described in Scripture when the Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”  How wonderful to have been a part of this throng of people shouting praises to the Lord.  When our negative thoughts and internal rumblings are handed over to the Lord in faith He will then empower us to turn our cursing into praising, our complaining into thanksgiving, and our mutterings into joyful songs of worship. 

“But you don’t understand what I am facing right now.”  Were you to say this to me I would have to agree, for this is a true statement.  I have no way of knowing the details of what you are going through or the depth of sorrow you are enduring.  However, the Lord does know.  Christ knows and He understands.  He is further willing to provide strength, comfort, peace, and grace in the midst of whatever trial you are presently facing.  By the power of the Holy Spirit we can find strength to rise up and walk forward in faith.  Keep moving forward toward the brighter day which the Lord has promised will come to all who put their faith in Him.  God has not abandoned us, nor will He ever do so.  Christ will be our strength, our shield, our fortress, and our strong and mighty tower (Psalm 61:3).   

Do not give up, do not despair, and do not lie down in defeat, for the Lord is with us.  Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ready for the Daily Battles

But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp.  Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.  -Numbers 14:44, 45 (KJV) 

To say the world is changing is an understatement and I often believe technology is changing way too fast.  For example, about the time I begin to get used to my cell phone and its various features I find out it has become outdated.  I don’t know the current stats on how often people purchase a new cell phone, but it appears to be every few months.  Personally, I have been using the same phone for around three years.  I was having a conversation recently with a fellow pastor and we were having this discussion.  I was telling him about a friend of mine who uses his cell phone to check bank accounts, see when checks have cleared, surf the Internet, and check stock quotes.  My colleague looked at my phone and said, “Dan, no one is going to be checking stock quotes on that phone.”  

We had a good laugh over how technologically challenged I am, yet it illustrates a point; if I desire to tackle present situations, such as keeping up with the latest technology, then I need to be prepared by making the needed adjustments.  The Bible shows us in Numbers 14 how after the people rebelled against God and refused to go and take possession of the Promised Land that the Lord’s judgment was upon them.  They would have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until the generation who had not believed God was gone (Numbers 14:34, 35).  However, a number of them panicked and decided they would try and take the land anyway.  God warned them not to try, yet they persisted.  The Amalekites and the Canaanites then came out and as the Bible says “discomfited” them.  This is King James Bible language for getting a sound thrashing. 

Let us not think for a moment we can stand up to the challenges of life on our own strength and with whatever weak faith we can find.  As followers of Christ we are called to grow in faith, every day, so we can stand against the powers of darkness which are all around us.  If you find your faith is weak and not growing, then take steps to change this situation.  Strong and vibrant faith which moves mountains and overcomes evil happens when we pray, seek the Lord, and remain in His Word.  I am not talking about a hasty prayer muttered once or twice a week.  Rather, I am referring to daily, committed, disciplined time alone with the Lord.  The result will be strong and growing faith which brings spiritual power for daily victory. 

Christ has not called us to defeat.  Instead, we have the victory in Him.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Making the Right Choices

And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.  The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.  And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.  -Numbers 13:23-25 (KJV) 

Consider for a moment all of the choices which lie before us on any given day.  We daily have the usual choices – what to wear, what to eat, which TV channel to watch, or what radio station to listen to in the car on the way to work.  I’m dating myself here because no doubt countless people aren’t using the radio anymore.  Instead they have satellite radio or a sophisticated IPOD on which they have downloaded their favorite music collection.  Thanks to modern technology the choices we make every day is becoming more and more complicated.  Trying to keep up with it all can make one’s head swim. 

In the midst of all these choices we also have to choose what sorts of attitudes we will put into practice.  Will we be upbeat, happy, encouraged, looking on the bright side of our situations, or will we choose to be morose, sorrowful, and negative?  The choice is ours – every day.  The Word of God shows us in the book of Numbers how the Lord sent spies into the Promised Land to look it over and determine how and when they should enter in to claim the land as the Lord had instructed them.  For an entire 40 days the spies searched the land.  During this period they had ample time to consider the right choice, which was to trust God and move forward, even though the odds appeared stacked against them.  Unfortunately, only two of the men, Joshua and Caleb, brought back a positive report.  The other ten refused to believe they could overcome, even with the Lord’s help.  As a result of this, the people rebelled against God and ended up wandering through the wilderness for 40 years –  one year for every day they had explored the land. 

No doubt you are facing a number of difficult situations in your life right now.  Remember we have the choice as to what our attitude will be.  Will we trust God, move forward in faith, and claim the victory the Lord intends for us to have, or will we cower in defeat?  The Lord has always called His people to walk forward in victory.  We have the victory in Jesus Christ.  Ours is to rise up in faith and claim it. 

Set aside time to commune with the Lord every day.  Seek God’s help in whatever attitude you desire to change.  You will be surprised at what the Lord will do in your life.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Preparing Ourselves to Face our Problems

And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.   -I Samuel 17:16 (KJV)
   
And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.  -I Samuel 17:32 (KJV) 

Last week I received an email which looked suspicious the moment I saw it.  The email was allegedly from my Internet provider telling me how there was a problem with the server and unless I took action immediately I would not be able to send or receive email messages.  I deleted the message.  You have no doubt received these bogus messages too I am sure.  Many of them get blatantly obvious in their attempts to deceive.  They will pretend to be from banks and credit card companies and they ask for critical information such as social security numbers or bank account numbers.  Do not fall for these ruses, for they are being sent out by crooks looking to rob and defraud innocent people like us.   

Understand the devil has no principles, morals, scruples, or sense of fair play.  He will lie, deceive, distort the truth, and seek to throw us off balance through any means possible.  If the devil cannot come up with a new tactic to deceive he is not shy about trying to imitate the ways of the righteous.  Even the giant Goliath, the enemy of Israel and himself a godless pagan, resolved to take his stand against God and the Israelites an entire 40 days.  Throughout this period the army of Israel waited in fear as their enemy strutted about cursing God and daring anyone to fight him.  Goliath reminds me of a schoolyard bully who gives the appearance of being strong, yet can be defeated if someone has the courage to stand up to him. 

Consider during the 40 day period of Goliath’s challenge there was someone else who had been faithfully seeking God and preparing himself for battle.  No, it wasn’t a seasoned warrior in battle armor.  Rather it was a young shepherd boy who was willing to trust God with his very life.  David followed God’s leading, relied on God’s strength, and brought down a giant no one else would dare confront.  Let me ask you to consider what sorts of Goliaths are challenging you today.  Are you losing heart because of these problems?  Do your knees shake at the prospect of confronting them?  The Lord invites you to take your stand upon Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Devote yourself to prayer every day, stay in God’s Word, and you will be victorious.   

Why not devote yourself to a 40 day period of praying about whatever problem is facing you?  Start today.  Rise up earlier every day 40 days to pray and seek the Lord.  God will give you strength you never knew you had.  Victory will be yours in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Love of Christ Overcomes Hatred

Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.  Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.  -Luke 6:22, 23 (KJV) 

Have you ever noticed how the term “hate” is tossed around almost as much as the word “love?”  People will say they hate certain foods, various programs on TV, or a particular sports team.  Comedian Jerry Seinfeld pointed out how when it comes to sports it must be the uniforms we actually hate; “Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify. Because the players are always changing, the team can move to another city, you’re actually rooting for the clothes when you get right down to it. You know what I mean, you are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city. Fans will be so in love with a player but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt, they hate him now. Boo! Different shirt! Boo!” (Jerry Seinfeld, The Label Maker Episode.) 

Even though Mr. Seinfeld can make the idea of hatred for another human being sound funny we know hatred is no laughing matter.  Knowing someone hates us is a terrible feeling.  If you are the kind of person (as I am) who wants everyone to like you this is particularly distressing.  Jesus pointedly reminded us of this hard truth; not everyone will love us.  In fact, some will actually hate us, and their hatred will demonstrate itself in their attitudes toward our faith.  Followers of Christ are called to be ever seeking to have His love working in our hearts at all times.  We then desire for those around us to also experience the love of Christ.  However, we know this will not always happen.  In this troubled world there will be those who resent our efforts to share the gospel, and they will hate us for it just as Jesus said. 

Jesus has told us what our attitude is to be when we are hated for the cause of sharing the gospel; “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy.”  The Lord never promised such a perspective would be easy; He simply instructed us to take on this attitude.  The love of Jesus and hateful attitudes cannot co-exist in our hearts.  To try and have Christ’s love reigning within us, yet also try to harbor hatred is as unnatural for Jesus’  followers as mixing oil and water.  The love of Christ drives hatred from our hearts and replaces it with love, peace, and joy. 

Are you harboring hatred in your heart today?  Allow the love of Jesus to drive those destructive feelings from you.  Peace, joy, personal growth, and blessings will follow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Promise of a Brighter Day

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God...And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. -Luke 6:12, 20, 21 (KJV) 

Anytime we find ourselves going through a difficult time it’s easy to begin to wonder if we will ever be happy and have peace again.  Our nerves become rattled, our mood is down, and we cannot stop thinking about the current problem which is staring us (and maybe beating us) in the face.  Today I want to encourage you to look to the Lord who in turn empowers us to look forward to a brighter day which is coming.  God knows we struggle, have fears, are distracted, and often feel overwhelmed, yet the promise is a brighter and happier day is surely heading our way.  Believe it my friends, for what God has promised will come to pass. 

Jesus understood the pressures we often go through.  He also had to deal with the stress of ministering to the crowds, many of whom were hostile, questioning, and looking for ways to defeat Him.  On at least one occasion Jesus went away and spent an entire night seeking God in prayer.  When He came away from this dedicated time of prayer and contemplation He then chose the 12 men who would be His disciples.  After this He shared with a large crowd the message called “The Sermon on the Mount.” Two inescapable lessons meet us here; one is the power of devoted time alone with God, and secondly the hope of a brighter day. 

The first part of the Sermon on the Mount is dedicated to reminding us of the promise of a happier time.  If we are suffering financial problems, be faithful and the Lord will provide.  If we are hungry, be faithful and continue to look to the Lord and He will met our needs.  When we are so distraught the tears will not stop, keep looking to Christ, for a day is coming when we will no longer feel so burdened with sorrow.  In fact, we will laugh until it hurts.  Hopefully, you know the healing power of laughter.  A good and healthy laugh has the emotional power of a B-12 shot.  The Lord’s promise to us is that through Him we will find overwhelming peace and joy even in the middle of excruciating heartache. 

What sort of trials and difficulty are you facing right now?  Are you wondering if you will ever be happy or laugh again?  Do not give up, do not give in, and keep looking to Jesus Christ.  You will happy again.  You will laugh again.  Believe it, for Jesus has promised.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Moving Forward in Faith

And I stayed in the mount, according to the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also, and the LORD would not destroy thee.  And the LORD said unto me, Arise, take thy journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give unto them.  -Deuteronomy 10:10, 11 (KJV) 

I am acquainted with a young man who lives in another state, and throughout his childhood and teenage years he struggled with obesity.  As he approached the age of 30 his weight was over 300 pounds.  He knew the time had come to make dramatic changes, so with God’s help and the oversight of his doctor, he began a strict regimen of diet and exercise.  Over a period of time he lost well over 100 pounds, is in the best physical condition of his life, and competes in long-distance marathons.  His progress and accomplishments are truly remarkable.  All of this young man’s training, discipline, and hard work empowered him to move forward to achievements he might never have imagined possible. 

The Scripture shows us how Moses spent disciplined and concentrated periods of time alone with God in prayer and meditation on His Word.  This process gave Moses the spiritual power needed to lead the people toward their goal of entering into the Promised Land.  In order for Moses to be the kind of leader the Lord had called him to be he had to dedicate himself to a strict routine of prayer and communion with God.  Each time Moses was alone with God he was empowered to face the difficulties awaiting him when he went back to the people.  As followers of Christ we are spiritually “shooting ourselves in the foot” when we neglect the discipline of prayer and devotion to God.  We make time for a number of pursuits, yet this vital aspect of our lives is often overlooked.   

Just as my friend could not have run a marathon right at the beginning of his training, neither was Moses ready to lead the people into the Promised Land right off.  Instead, a time of training, spiritual discipline and dedication were needed so when the time came he would be ready.  No doubt you are facing at least a few hard issues in your life.  Trust in God, remain in His Word, devote yourself to prayer, and you will be ever moving toward spiritual maturity and personal growth.  Followers of Christ are called to be daily growing in faith so we will be able to stand during the trials which come our way. 

Be patient, be faithful, and seek to love the Lord more each day.  God is preparing you for spiritual victories which will surely come.  You will be astonished at the power of God in your life as you move forward in faith.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Facing our Problems in God’s Power

Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you.  I prayed therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  -Deuteronomy 9:25, 26 (KJV) 

As we read in the Bible about those who dedicated themselves to serving the Lord we see a definite pattern.  The saints of old such as Moses were extremely disciplined in their approach to serving God.  They took seriously their calling, they prayed, sought the Lord, and were willing to do what the Lord commanded.  God’s Word filled Moses’ heart; as a result his life became a testimony to the grace of God.  He was by no means perfect and like us, had his faults and failures.  However, he made seeking the Lord and communing with Him a top priority.  Follow this example and we will move deeper into our relationship with the Lord and the result will be every area of our lives is positively affected.   

What sorts of problems are burdening you today?  The Spirit of God leads us to trust Him and place the problem, whatever it may be, in God’s hands.  Try to handle life’s problems in our own strength and we quickly become frustrated and discouraged.  Face the problems in God’s power and we discover peace, calm, and joy we might never have known possible.  I read a story about a ship out at sea on a night which was shrouded in dense fog.  As the ship neared the coastline the captain saw the light of another ship heading straight for them.  He sent a message on the radio telling the other ship to change course.  There was no response.  He sent another message, this one more urgent, yet still there was no response.  In exasperation the captain shouted into the radio, “We are about to collide; change your course!” The reply came; “You change your course.  This is a lighthouse, and we cannot move or change course!” 

During the dark night of our problems and uncertainty we too can easily panic and begin to look for any solution we think might bring resolution.  The Lord’s invitation to us is to trust Him, for He cannot be moved and He will see us through the storm.  Do not allow panic to set in.  Instead, look to Jesus Christ, for He cannot be moved and He will not change.  He will be with us through the darkest night. 

The Lord invites us, is calling us, to spend time communing with Him every day.  Seek the Lord in prayer, and set aside time each day, before anything else, and meditate on His Holy Word.  Spiritual power and victory for daily living will be yours.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Going Back up on the Mountain

And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.  -Deuteronomy 9:18 (KJV) 

A story is told of a little boy who went to his first day of school.  At the end of the day his mother asked him how everything had gone.  The little boy indicated he had not liked it.  The next morning the mother woke the boy up for school, and the child said, “You mean I have to go back?”  The process of spiritual growth and maturing in faith is ongoing.  Each day we learn, develop, and continue to draw closer to the Lord.  The Scripture says Moses spent 40 days alone with God on Mount Sinai.  Upon coming down from the mountain Moses found the people had sinned by making for themselves a golden idol.  They had bowed down to it and in so doing had defied God and turned away from Him.  In exasperation Moses shattered the stone tablets containing the commandments.  God replaced them on Moses’ next prayer vigil on the mountain. 

We see how Moses, after spending 40 days alone with God, immediately did so again.  He pleaded with God on behalf of the people and implored for them to be spared from the Lord’s wrath.  We see how growing in the faith is ongoing.  We never reach a place where we have prayed enough, studied the Scripture enough, or worshiped enough.  The process of serving Christ and being His witnesses in the world is a task we live out and grow in each and every day.  Moses was willing to do whatever it took to bring the people to where they needed to be.  If this meant going back up the mountain for another 40 days he was willing to do so. 

Are we willing to do whatever it takes to grow in our faith?  Will we arise earlier each morning to seek the Lord?  Are we willing to turn off the TV in order to devote ourselves to reading God’s Word?  Will we follow Jesus’  example of humility and turning the other cheek?  In order to grow in Christ we are called to not just walk one mile.  Instead, we go the second mile for the Lord each day.  As followers of Christ, what could be more important than our relationship with Him?  As we grow in the Lord we also grow in all other areas of life: love, grace, patience, knowledge, devotion to family, and love for God. 

You might believe you have reached a plateau in your relationship with Christ.  God is calling you to come back up on the mountain and spend time with Him.  Spiritual blessings in abundance are waiting.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Expecting a Blessing From God

When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water: And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God…  -Deuteronomy 9:9, 10 (KJV) 

Last summer I fulfilled a personal goal of returning to the Red River Gorge National Forest in Eastern Kentucky to hike and spend time alone with the Lord.  This place is special to me because my father used to take my brother and me there when we were boys.  I hadn’t been back in over 30 years, and when I returned I was able to re-connect with the wonder I had felt all those years earlier.  It was the wonder of being in the midst of a part of God’s creation which has remained untouched since the beginning of time.  Each day as I hiked deeper into the mountains I thought of the prophets of old, Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist, who found spiritual strength through temporarily removing themselves from others in order to commune with God.  My schedule would not permit a 40 day stay, yet the three days I was there was a sacred time. 

Moses had gone up on Mount Sinai with the intention of receiving a message from the Lord.  He was not disappointed, for while there the Lord imparted to him the Ten Commandments, which became the cornerstone of the entire Old Testament Law.  In those sacred commandments we see God’s righteous requirements.  Moreover, we see our need for a Savior who would fulfill them on our behalf.  Our Savior, Jesus Christ said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17).   

When you enter into a time of prayer and communion with God, what are your expectations?  Are you expecting to receive a word from the Lord?  Enter into this sacred time, be it for 30 minutes or three hours, with an attitude of expectation, and you will not be disappointed.  The Lord will speak to us through His Word, through the Holy Spirit, and through the conviction of our hearts.  God is able to drive from us doubt, fear, worry, and anything else which hinders the joy and spiritual power meant to be ours through Jesus Christ.  Enter each day into your sacred time with God with the full anticipation that a powerful spiritual blessing will be given.   

Think of how often we miss out on spiritual blessings because we were too busy or too distracted to spend time alone with the Lord.  Set aside time today, every day, and seek the Lord in prayer and meditation on His Holy Word.  The Lord will meet with us there.  Spiritual blessings will be freely given. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

If You're Happy and You Know it...

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.  And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.  -Exodus 34:28, 29 (KJV) 

I recall when I was a boy singing a song in the choir at school which said, “If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.”  This is a true statement, for we can often read peoples’ moods when we look at their faces.  Many of us can put on a good face when we are down or worried, yet discerning people will be able to see through our fa├žade to the darker emotions we are experiencing.  On the other hand, when we are joyful, happy, and our hearts and full those around us will see these emotions on our faces as well.   

The Scripture says after Moses had spent 40 days on Mount Sinai alone with the Lord he came down from the mountain and his face radiated with a heavenly glow.  The people were so amazed they were actually fearful of coming near him.  Such is the power of being alone with God and worshiping in His presence.  Our attitude, outlook, thoughts, mood, and even the look upon our faces will be affected by the experience.  

The Bible says as followers of Christ we are called to go forth into the world and be witnesses for Jesus.  We are to shine His light to a world which for too long has been enslaved by the powers of darkness.  We accomplish this commission, given to us by Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:19, 20), through drawing close to the Lord and communing daily with Him.  As we grow in our relationship with Christ we also grow in spiritual power for sharing our faith with others.  I frequently encounter Christians who are discouraged, defeated, sorrowful, and wandering aimlessly.  They have lost their zeal for serving Christ and the joy of living has been shrouded by the cares and worries of life.  Jesus Christ has the power to break the chains which hold us down and hinder our forward progress.  However, we must by faith allow the power of God to work in our lives. 

We daily make time for all sorts of pursuits.  Sadly, what we often pursue is not working to our benefit.  Turn off the TV, put down the cell phone, walk away from the computer (As soon as you’re finished reading this!), and get alone with the Lord – every day.  Make time to commune with our Savior and to meditate upon the wonderful truths of God’s Word.  You will find spiritual power you may have never known was available.   

Spiritual victory is ours and obtainable through Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Oh Lord, Send Someone Else

And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?  Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.  And he said, O my LORD, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.   -Exodus 4:11-13 (KJV) 

“Oh Lord, send someone else.”  This was in essence what Moses told the Lord when God commanded him to go to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of slavery.  A careful reading of this passage indicates Moses was testing the Lord’s patience by arguing with Him.  Have you ever done this?  Has there been a time when the Lord placed on your heart something He wanted you to do, yet you stepped back and would not move forward?  No doubt we have all been guilty of this at one time or another.  Moses’ response was a result of looking at his own fears and failings while neglecting to see the power of God in his life.  Moses may have been like me in the area of how he felt about confrontation; he hated it.  Yet, God was clearly telling him to go and confront the most powerful king of the ancient world. 

I too would probably have had reservations about such a confrontation.  My heart is filled with dread over the prospect of having to confront someone with a problem.  However, we know we cannot always see eye-to-eye, problems are going to arise, and sometimes a confrontation is unavoidable.  Christ-like character and integrity compels us to handle the situation with grace, dignity, and Holy Spirit lead words.  I cannot be too hard on Moses, for I have been guilty of the same response; “Oh Lord, send someone else!” In the end, however, I was the one God was calling to deal with the situation.   
No doubt there are problems, issues, and situations you are facing right now which you would rather not have to confront.  We can always do nothing in the hope the problem will get better on its own, yet we realize this approach rarely works.  Instead, the problem will only get worse.  Moses did go forward and confront Pharaoh, and the Scriptures shows the situation became at times heated and downright ugly.  However, the Lord continued to guide Moses forward in faith.  All the while we see a refining process taking place in Moses’ life.  At one point Moses went back to Mount Sinai and there he spent 40 days alone with the Lord receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28).  Remember, when we trust the Lord each day we too are undergoing a refining process.  This will be difficult, yet we are made stronger though it.   

Do not be afraid of moving forward and growing in faith.  The Lord will be with you every step of the way.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Slow Down and Spend Time With God

And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel.  And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days.  -Genesis 50:2, 3 (KJV) 

Consider for a moment the way our culture has streamlined the grief process involved when someone passes away.  These days we will typically observe one day for the visitation, funeral, and burial.  Following this there will be a time where the family gathers for a meal, although quite often I notice this is no longer done and the family members go their separate ways immediately afterwards.  I can still recall years ago when the death of a loved one would involve a three day observance; two evenings of visitation at the funeral home followed by the funeral service the next day.  Today most of us feel this is too much.  In fact, I have presided over numerous funerals where all which was observed was a brief graveside service.   

Contrast this with the ancient practices of the Bible.  The Scriptures says when Jacob, the great patriarch of the Bible died, the first observance involved a 40 day period of preparation.  This was followed by 70 days of mourning.  The Scripture also shows how the family observed a 7 days period of mourning near the place of burial (v 10).  All together Jacob’s funeral involved a time period of 117 days.  Here was a culture which was not as focused on time constraints as we are today.  I realize a period of mourning such as this would not fit with our culture of today and neither am I suggesting we go back to this.  However, we do see how much more patient the people of ancient times were in their approach to life. 

Do you feel hurried and harassed today?  Do such feelings weigh upon you often?  You are not alone, for our culture seems intent on racing forward in just about everything from funeral observances to vacations to our daily time with God.  If most followers of Christ were honest regarding how much time they devote to prayer and Bible study they would admit they simply don’t have the time.  However, this is not a valid excuse, is it?  The real problem is one of priority.  We are often simply not willing to make the time to devote to prayer and meditation on God’s Word.  For followers of Christ, communing with the Lord is best placed at the top of our list of priorities.  As Jesus promised, seek Him first and everything else in life will line up in its proper place (Matthew 6:33).   

Slow down today.  Relax a while and get alone with the Lord.  Stop rushing frantically forward and begin spending daily time with God.  He will be waiting for you every time.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Long Walk Home

And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.  And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.  And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.  -Genesis 16:7-9 (KJV) 

Have you ever found your life so stressful you wanted to simply run away from it all?  Most of us will identify with such feelings and if we are honest will admit we too have fantasized about running away when life gets too difficult.  The Word of God shows us how Hagar of the Old Testament took such a drastic step.  By no fault of her own, she was placed in an awkward and difficult situation which become too much to bear.  Feeling angry, upset, and suffering at the hands of those who had dragged her into her problems, she ran away.   

Hagar had a good start and was putting distance between her and those from whom she was fleeing when the Lord found her.  The Lord called her by name and asked her where she had been and where she was going.  She explained she was running away from her mistress Sarai.  The Lord gave her a message which probably knocked her off her feet: “Return to thy mistress and submit thyself under her hands.” We can picture this young servant girl staring in disbelief.  “Did I hear this correctly?” She may have wondered.  There was no mistaking God’s instructions; go back and submit.  This was not what she wanted to hear.  No doubt the walk home was a long one. 

Many years ago I was serving in a church and the ministry was not going well.  I considered not just resigning from the church, but perhaps stepping out of the ministry altogether.  I confided in an older pastor my problems and desire to flee.  I hoped he would say something like, “You know, Dan, maybe you should resign.  Maybe even leave the ministry for a while.”  He said nothing of the sort.  My older and wiser friend looked me in the eye and said, “Dan, you can’t quit; go back, be faithful, stand firm, and keep preaching the gospel.”  Like Hagar, this was not what I wanted to hear, yet the message was clearly from God.  Go back and submit to the Lord’s will.  I followed God’s leading, the situation improved, and the Lord opened new windows of ministry and opportunity. 

What are you facing today which you believe is too much to bear?  Do you feel like running away?  Trust God’s leading, stand firm, and be faithful.  God will take care of the rest.