Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Fairness Principle

1Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.  2But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. 3For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… 16When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; 17Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.  -Psalm 73:1-3, 16, 17 (KJV) 

I have an axiom I have held to for a good many years; life isn’t fair, so don’t expect it to be (sounds harsh, I know). This fairness principle doesn’t just apply to the areas of health and finances.  We wonder sometimes why a death row murderer stays perfectly fit for decades while an upstanding member of the community who has lived a godly life is struck down with cancer.  Again I remind us; life isn’t fair, so don’t expect it to be. 

If you are reading this you hopefully know I devote a good amount of time and energy to writing.  Do not let anyone lead you to believe a writer does this effortlessly.  No, this requires a tremendous amount of work and discipline.  I pray my number of readers will grow, yet in the meantime I am pleased to know my readers seem to be blessed and keep coming back for more.  From the bottom of my heart I thank you. 

Now, what does the fairness principle have to do with all of this?  I have wondered what it would be like to possess the writing skills of Ernest Hemmingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald.  What would potential publishers think if they began to peruse a manuscript I had sent and it sounded something like one of those literary masters?  Such writing skill just might get me published by the big league publishing houses.  However, the two men I mentioned, Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, battled inner demons which stemmed from depression and alcohol abuse.  Fitzgerald was quoted as saying, "First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you."  Yet, both of these men are known the world over for their literary genius.  And here I labor; stone cold sober, pouring my heart out for my faithful readers.   

The Lord keeps reminding me, as He did the psalmist, that life isn’t fair.  However, this should never deter us from being faithful to Christ.  We are called to be faithful and leave the results with God.  You may believe you are working and laboring in utter obscurity, yet nothing could further from the truth.  When you feel discouraged, do as the psalmist; go into the house of the Lord and seek God in prayer.  Look to the Lord and He will give you a proper life perspective on all you are doing. 

Those who reject the Lord are walking on slippery ground – even though they appear to be solid and steady.  In Jesus Christ we are standing on the solid rock.  Keep standing on Him and take Him at His Word, each and every day.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Our Commitment Determines our Involvement

4Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  5Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.  6And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. -Psalm 37:4-6 (KJV) 

Today it might seem I am a little off topic, but bear with me.  Today is Memorial Day, and words could not possibly express my personal appreciation for those who have served our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure the freedoms we hold dear.   They understood total commitment and let us make sure those lessons are not lost on us.  Please read on...

Yesterday as part of the morning message I felt led of the Lord to issue a challenge to the congregation to be more committed in attending regularly scheduled services.  I would hope anyone reading this would also be encouraged to take up the same challenge in your place of service.  Why is this so important?  It’s important because our commitment determines our involvement.  Our involvement then determines our effectiveness in ministry.  As followers of Christ we are facing a time of apathy and indifference.  Countless people these days will serve the Lord – as long as it is convenient.  When we are asked to be involved in a ministry what is our response?  Do we pray about it and if the Lord is leading do we respond positively and get involved?  Or do we sit back in the hope someone else will take on the challenge? 

Christ is calling His people to wake up out of our spiritual slumber and begin serving Him with zeal, devotion, and unwavering commitment.  Andrea and I have been blessed over the years through greater and deeper involvement in whatever church the Lord placed us.  Do not fear getting more involved in the ministries of the church, for the Lord will open doors of ministry which will take you to deeper levels of faith and commitment.  The result will be spiritual blessings and renewal of faith in your personal devotion to Christ.  A friend of mine once compared ministry to riding a bicycle up a steep hill.  Pedaling up the hill is involvement; flying down the other side is total commitment!  Christ is indeed calling His people to total commitment. 

Do we have to be at the church every time the doors open?  The answer is no.  However, keep in mind how our commitment determines our involvement, and our involvement determines our effectiveness in ministry.  Many if not most of us have vast resources of untapped talents and abilities from which our congregations can greatly benefit.  We must not allow ourselves to become comfortable where we are.  The Christian life is all about growing and walking more closely with Christ.  This happens when we resolve with the Lord’s help to be totally committed.   

The Lord is calling us to stop and examine our hearts and lives.  If you find you are suffering with half-hearted commitment to Christ then now is the time to change.  Seek the Lord’s power to be more committed – totally committed.  Ministry, blessings, and a closer walk with Jesus Christ will result. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Calm in the Midst of Life’s Storms

17And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.  18And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; 19When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.  -Isaiah 32:17-19 (KJV) 

Within the last month we have had more hail and violent storms than at any other time I can recall.  Someone commented to me how the thunder even sounds different these days and more ominous.  I agree with this statement.  I am grateful for growing up around my dad who never became upset when a storm arose.  In fact, dad was always calm during a storm and I cannot recall ever seeing him appear to be worried no matter how bad the weather looked.  On one occasion when I was a boy growing up in Ohio the sky grew dark and tornado warnings were everywhere.  The alarm came right after supper and we all left the table and headed for the basement.   

My mother, grandmother, brother, and me all reached the safety of the basement, yet we couldn’t find dad.  My mom called to him and told him to quickly come to the basement.  “I’ll be down in a minute,” dad called from upstairs.  We could hear the frantic sound of dishes rattling in the kitchen as dad lingered upstairs.  “Tom, get down here,”  my mother called again.  “There is a storm coming!”  Finally dad hurried down the stairs and joined us and we all saw what had delayed him.  Our dessert that night was strawberry shortcake, and dad had quickly made his dessert; a bowl of angel food cake topped with strawberries and whipped cream.  “I figured as long as I had to wait out the storm I may as well enjoy my dessert.” Dad said as he happily began eating. 

I watched in wonder as my father seated himself and enjoyed his dessert as the storm outside howled around us.  Looking back I realize this is the way I want to confront the problems, trials, and crises of life.  I desire to be calm, peaceful, have faith in God, and embrace the joy of having Jesus Christ in my life, even as the storms howl around me. 

I have no idea what sort of storms you are facing right now.  However, recall how the Lord is able to prepare for us a table in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5).  Even as our problems and trials rage around us we can have the peace of Jesus Christ in our hearts.  Claim this peace today, for the Lord is with us. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Life is Worth Living

9I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.  10The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. -John 10:9-11 (KJV) 

No doubt you have had the experience of getting up in the morning and after reading the news thinking to yourself, “What’s the world coming to?” I think this way often, yet my thoughts became even more dismal when I read about the Oregon woman who has been making a tidy profit selling suicide kits.  This caused me to reflect back on the practices of Jack Kevorkian who is now in prison for helping people kill themselves.  It turns out that a number of Dr. Kevorkian’s “patients” were people who were suffering from depression.  Had they given it more time, sought professional help, and looked to the Lord they would still be here and enjoying a previously undiscovered quality of life. 

Countless people are barely hanging on and are daily trying to just put one foot in front of the other.  Wherever you may be in your emotional outlook I want to challenge you to not give up.  No matter how hard life has become or how bleak your outlook may appear please know it can and will get better.  You may feel sorrowful and lousy all of the time.  Believe me; I know how this feels because I suffered from depression myself for a number of years.  However, the Lord has taught me how to daily manage and overcome depression and live a productive and happy life.  I believe with all my heart this is possible for you as well.   

Please feel free to have a look at my other blog, “Happiness, Health, and a Brighter Outlook”  which can be linked to the right of this page.  You will find numerous tips and suggestions on how to live a happier, peaceful, and more productive life.  With God’s help you can and will overcome.  Look to the Lord and allow Him to empower you to rise up and confront whatever dark forces you are facing.  Let me share with you my list of reasons why life is worth living: 
  1. Life will get better; give it more time.  You will be amazed at how things will have improved in a year from now.
  2. You are an individual of immeasurable worth and potential.  Never forget that.
  3. You are not here by accident.  You were created by God for a divine purpose.
  4. You are stronger than you think you are.
  5. There are people who love you and need you in their lives.
  6. The world is a better place with you in it.
  7. You may feel terrible, yet you can be happy again.
  8. God is perfectly willing to help you; just ask and He will be there for you.
  9. You possess gifts and talents from which others may benefit.
  10. Joy is coming if you will seek it and wait for it.
Keep going and never give up.  Christ stands ready to provide the abundant life He has promised. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Studying the Old Fashioned Way

But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.  -Deuteronomy 4:29 (KJV)

This morning as I sat down to write my daily blog I was unable to get on the Internet and it was unavailable here the better part of the day.  I cannot blame the good people at Bristol Virginia Utilities because the storm we had the night before no doubt kept them busy doing an overwhelming amount of repair work.  Speaking of the storm, we had high winds, thunder, lighting, and more hail than I have ever seen fall at one time.  No kidding, when it was over our yard looked like it had snowed.  I spoke with several other people in the area and they reported similar amounts of hail.  I regret not taking pictures.  We may not see that much hail fall at one time again for a while.  If so I will not complain.

Okay, back to the topic of modern technology; we can become so dependent on it that we do not know what to do with ourselves when we are deprived of it.  If you are over the age of 40 you can easily remember a time when no one had cell phones or home computers.  I usually type my sermons and Bible study outlines, yet I recall a few short years ago when I wrote them all out by hand.  Needed to look something up?  We had to get up, go to the bookshelf, find a book on the subject, and start reading.  Or, we had to (hold onto your seats here) make a trip to the LIBRARY – oh no!  I recall it like it was yesterday; I would gather as many books as I could find on one subject, pile them around me, and start reading and researching my topic.  I always kept a notepad handy to scribble notes, quotes, and reference information.  You know something; I miss those days.

These days we can simply do a Google search and there is enough information to keep us busy for hours.  Gone are the days of leafing through dusty volumes of great theological works and commentaries.  I am deeply grateful I am just old enough to have gone through college and seminary without the modern convenience of the Internet.  I honestly believe having had to dig into books the old fashioned way made me a better and more committed student of the Bible.  

The great saints of old attained heights of faith and depths of grace without the benefit of modern technology.  Our first and greatest resources for spiritual growth are God’s Holy Word and prayer.  No modern technology can replace these – nor should they.  Make studying God’s Word and seeking the Lord in prayer a top priority, every day.  

God’s Word was here long before modern technology, folks, and God’s Word will remain long after it’s gone.  Modern technology has its purposes, yet God’s Word will prevail and remain preeminent.  Open it and glean its riches every day. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Breakfast With Mark Lowry

1Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  2It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; 3As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.  -Psalm 133:1-3 (KJV) 

This morning I had the unique experience of having breakfast with internationally known singer, songwriter, and comedian Mark Lowry.  Mark was the guest speaker at the annual Community Prayer Breakfast held here in Bristol, Virginia.  This is a coming together of Christians from all over the community for the purpose of prayer, fellowship, and worship.  We had a blessed time and everyone in attendance, several hundred, by my estimation, was encouraged and strengthened on our faith.  The event began with breakfast being served at 6:30 AM, followed by the program which began at 7:45.  My, that’s early, I know, yet all those people turned out for this wonderful event. 

I arrived at around 6:15, and since I was on the program to pray the benediction, I had a seat reserved at the table designated “Mark Lowry and Friends.”  Many people had arrived by then, yet no one else was at my table.  I obtained a cup of coffee and sat down to wait for others to arrive.  A few moments later someone patted me on the shoulder and said, “Are you my only friend today?”  I looked up and it was Mark Lowry.  He sat down and for about ten minutes I had him all to myself.  We talked as if we were old friends and I can honestly say that he is every bit as genuine and down to earth as he comes across on television.   

I could not help but think how this man is known the world over as a gospel singer.  His song, “Mary Did you Know,” has been sung in churches and Christian programs all over the world.  The song was even sung by my son’s choir when he was in high school.  Mark Lowry has sung with the internationally known Christian singer Bill Gaither for many years.  And here we were chatting like old friends. 

This event further reminded me of when brothers and sisters in Christ come together we are one in the Lord.  Jesus reminded us how the greatest among us is to be a servant (Matthew 23:11, 12).  Mark Lowry certainly demonstrated the servants’ heart and attitude.  I saw him not as someone famous, which indeed he is, but rather as a brother in Christ who was willing to fellowship with me and the others around him. 

May we ever strive toward Christian unity and love.  Let’s always be looking for ways to work together for the purpose of sharing the gospel and encouraging one another in the faith.  When we do so the church is strengthened and Christ is glorified.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Spirit Helps us to Pray

26Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:26-28 (KJV) 

This morning as I went to my usual place to pray I found my mind was crowded with all the thoughts which seemed to be vying for attention.  Can you relate to this?  Surely you know the unsettling feeling of having so much on your mind that you don’t know where to begin in terms of sorting them all out.  I recall when I was a boy a friend of mine came to my house with a deck of cards and said he wanted to teach me a new card game.  “The game is called 52 card pick-up.” He said.  He then threw the entire deck in the air, and as the cards flew everywhere he rolled on the floor laughing.  “Very funny.” I said.  Trying to gather up all those cards is a little like how we feel some mornings when we try to pray.  Everything is jumbled, confused, and not making much sense. 

When we feel ourselves overwhelmed with the struggles of life we can easily have trouble concentrating on our prayers.  The Lord understands perfectly, which is why one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to help us to pray.  The Spirit of God comes alongside us during those dark and troubled moments and empowers us to focus on the Lord.  Even when we feel we are not able to focus or concentrate the Holy Spirit will literally do the praying for us with words we cannot even utter.  We may be so grieved and distressed that all we can do is groan.  The Holy Spirit will take our groaning and turn them into praise, confession, and adoration for the Lord. 

If you woke up this morning feeling overwhelmed then you are in good company.  The Lord understands and desires to help us during our times of weakness.  Christ will calm our hearts, organize our jumbled minds, and bring into captivity every thought and make them obedient to Him (II Corinthians 10:5).  Do not fear telling the Lord your every thought, even when it’s a cry for help.  The Lord understands.  Do not believe you are abnormal if your prayer time is spent groaning in despair.  I assure you this is more than normal – and the Lord can handle it. 

Come to Christ and let Him give you peace.  Such is His promise; He will grant to us peace, love, joy, and help.  Trust in the Lord today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Join With Creation in Praising the Lord

We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.  Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.  -Psalm 20:5, 6 (KJV) 

Something I love about this time of year is going outside right at daybreak and listening to the birds as they sing.  The trees around our house sound as though they are filled with birds who cannot wait for the day to begin.  Their songs echo off the trees as they break forth in a chorus of praise to God.  “Birds praising God?” you ask.  To me, when I hear those songs of joy each morning, I believe that all creation, including these humble creatures, are giving praise to God.  If creation can break forth in praise to the Lord then certainly we can as well.  Do not give into feelings of despair and gloom today.  Instead join your voices with those already praising and thanking God for all His blessings even in the midst of trials and difficulties.  The Lord is indeed our strength in the problems and heartaches we all must face. 

This talk of birds singing causes me to reflect on when I was a seminary student in Louisville, Kentucky.  During this time, 1989-92, Andrea and I rented a small apartment.  Outside our bedroom window was an awning which sometimes attracted birds to build nests.  One year a Robin built a nest in the awning and when I saw there were eggs in the nest I could not bring myself to pull it down.  In the coming weeks we watched as the mother diligently tended the nest until the eggs hatched.  We then quietly observed the babies as they grew under the care of their mother.   

Early one morning there was an unusual amount of chirping and singing in the nest, and when we looked out the window we saw the baby Robins on the edge of the nest apparently ready to take flight.  A little while later they were gone and the nest was empty.  It sounded like a sort of bird celebration of leaving the nest and facing the larger world beyond.  The entire process, repeated since the beginning of creation, fascinated and intrigued us.  Consider how much better off we would be if we would face each day and the challenges it brings with the same attitude.  Rather than lie down in defeat we rise up in praise and thanksgiving and boldly confront the day and whatever it holds. 

We have no reason to fear, for the Lord is with us.  We have every reason to trust God and take Him at His word.  Faith in Jesus Christ brings victory and according to God’s Word we are free to lift our voices in praise to Him.  Stop doubting and start believing.   

Rejoice and lift high the banner of the cross.  Today is a new day.  May we go forth rejoicing and giving to the Lord our all. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Importance of Connections

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.  Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.  Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.  -Psalm 40:3-5 (KJV) 

I have had a unique privilege of being pastor at my present church for a little over 15 years now.  As I look back and reflect on this period of time I am reminded of how blessed I have been to have served here for so long.  Pastors have a way of moving around every so many years, and to stay in one place for this length of time has made for a more fruitful and blessed ministry.  One blessing of an extended ministry is how I have gotten to know so many people over the years.  Some of these people have come into my life and while I may not see them for a number of years, there is a connection, and this connection is vitally important, for it provides a means of reaching out in the name of Jesus. 

The other day I was conducting a wedding for a young couple.  The bride attended the church here as a child, and when she became engaged she asked me to perform the ceremony, which I was glad to do.  At the rehearsal there was a relative of hers who I had not seen since the girl was a child.  The young lady saw me, threw her arms around me, and said, “Hi Father Dan!” “Father Dan?” I have been called a few things in my time, but “Father Dan” was a first.  There was no way at that moment to correct her or explain how in our denomination we go by a few titles (brother, pastor, or reverend), yet Father is not something Baptist preachers are ever called. 

My point is that while this young lady had my title wrong, her intentions were good.  She desired to show me respect, yet she didn’t know how to do so.  My hope and prayer in such a situation is God will use the connection I have to open a door for continued ministry.  Understand when we are faithful God uses the connections in our lives as a means of sharing the love of Jesus Christ with others.  Let us always be looking for ways to share with others the wonderful love of Jesus – by any means possible. 

No doubt there are people in your life who need to know how the Lord offers a better way.  He has placed His love in our hearts, and we are called to share His love with others. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thankful for Full and Blessed Days

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.  -I Corinthians 1:4-6 (KJV) 

Busy schedules, full days, places to go, and people to meet.  If this describes you then you are in good company.  I have plenty to do on any given day, and please don’t think I am complaining.  Each day in which I can get up, face the day, be healthy, and enjoy the life with which God has so richly blessed me with is a good day.  To add to an already full schedule I now have the added annual job of keeping the grass cut.  Ah, if only I had more time to devote to yard work. I understand completely why so many people find such pleasure in working in their gardens and doing general yard work.  It’s indeed hard work, yet the rewards are tremendous. You have the satisfaction of a nice yard, and you get immediate results.   

This blog entry, however, isn’t about yard work; it’s about the blessings of serving the Lord and being involved and connected with those around us.  God did not create us to work in isolation.  Instead, we are called to be an active part of the work of the church, which is the body of Christ, and the community around us.  I am reminded of this every time I go out and engage in some form of ministry or volunteer work.  When we use the gifts God has given us to His glory the result will be that are we blessed.  Furthermore, those around us are blessed by the love of Christ shining from our lives.   

Today was a full day, which made it a blessed day.  It also explains why it’s after 10:00 PM (past my bedtime), and I am just now getting around to entering today’s blog.  I face problems and trials just like anyone else, yet the Lord is teaching me more every day to always stop and be thankful.  I have more to be thankful for than I could possibly cover in this writing.  And as I stare down at the age of 50, which happens next month, I have every reason to believe the blessings of God will increase more and more. 

What is your outlook right now?  Are you counting sorrows or blessings?  Are you thankful for a full schedule or complaining about having too much to do?  Are you bemoaning all your troubles or looking up and praising God for His grace, power, and mercy.  My friends, take the stance which trusts the Lord, counts blessings, thanks God in all circumstances, and claims the power of Christ – which is resurrection power for daily living.

Stop living under the circumstances.  Rise up and be a witness for Jesus Christ in a lost, troubled, and hurting world.  We have the victory in Jesus.  Claim the victory today.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sing to the Lord a New Song

O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.  Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.  Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.  For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.  -Psalm 96:1-4 (KJV) 

Every year singers, songwriters, and those simply following a dream write songs.  Some submit them to recording studios and others try to get someone famous to take notice of their songs in the hope it will be then be used.  The reality is that of all the new songs written only a small number will ever be heard.  Such is the fierce competition of the music industry.   The Word of God challenges us in Psalm 96 to sing unto the Lord a “new song.”  This new song of which the Scripture speaks is not one we have composed.  Rather, we are called to proclaim the truth of God’s grace, love, and power in a way the world around us has not considered. 

The new song we sing to the Lord is one of a changed heart and a renewed mind.  No longer will we surrender to the dark forces which war against our souls.  Instead, we will claim the power of Christ which defeats evil and empowers us to stand firm.  We will boldly proclaim how the gods of the nations cannot be compared with the One True God, for He is indeed God.  The psalmist spoke forthrightly and announced how “all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens” (Psalm 96:5).  The new song is placed in our hearts through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  In Him we are new creations, for Christ has given us a brand new start, a clean, slate, and has made all things new (II Corinthians 5:17).   
Have you noticed how even people of minimal musical ability will break forth in song when they are in a good mood and their lives are going well?  Music is the outward expression of what is going on within our souls.  Music known as “the blues” was written out of the anguish people have faced.  However, songs of praise come from glad and grateful hearts which acknowledge the grace and power of God to save us and lead us to victory.  The victory we celebrate in song is about the deliverance Jesus Christ has brought; victory over sin, death, and hell.  Christ has brought victory over all which stands in the way of a blessed and abundant life in Him. 

What sort of song have you been singing?  Has it been a funeral dirge of woe, death, and despair?  Faith in Jesus Christ empowers us and transforms our outlook to sing songs of praise, thanksgiving, and worship.  Let Christ empower you today to sing the new song of His love and grace.  Jesus Christ is Lord, life is waiting, joy is ours, and victory is certain.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beware the Attacks of the Devil

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.  -Luke 22:31, 32 (KJV) 

Throughout history bread has been a staple of numerous cultures.  Mankind long ago discovered wheat, which can be harvested and refined into flour, is a valued part of daily nutrition.  Today we purchase our flour already ground and ready for use.  The Scripture shows how Jesus used the refining and sifting process of wheat to illustrate how vulnerable His disciples were to the attacks of the devil.  The Lord warned Simon Peter how the devil was attempting to sift him like wheat.  The evil one’s desire was to render Peter so broken and emotionally scattered that he would be powerless to stop any spiritual attacks on his life.  The devil would then be able to mold, push, and knock Peter around any way he saw fit.  Fortunately for Peter, Jesus would not give up on him, even though Peter denied the Lord three times. 

Understand the devil is taking the same approach with us even today.  He still seeks to slip alongside us and begin a subtle process of sifting and tearing us down.  The devil knows what he is doing when he attacks, for he likes to hit us at our weakest moments in our most vulnerable areas.  His ultimate goal is to render us useless for God’s service.  Sadly, many people fall victim to his sifting every day.  They allow themselves to be caught up in his lies, schemes, and temptations.   

When you feel discouraged, sorrowful, and of little use in God’s kingdom know the devil is attacking you.  He is trying to sift you like wheat so you will be ineffective for Christ.  Resist him at all costs.  Stand firm and do not surrender, for the Lord is greater and stronger than any attack of the devil.  Peter was a disciple of Jesus, a trusted worker in Jesus’ earthly ministry, and he went on to become a leader in the early church.  Yet he was every bit as susceptible to temptation and the attacks of the devil as we are today.  Like Peter, we have Christ on our side and He will not give up on us.   

The other morning I woke up early as usual for my daily prayer and Bible reading time, yet I felt overwhelmed and exhausted.  My prayer time was distracted by all I was facing.  Rather than surrender to those dark feelings I gave them over the Lord.  I made a conscious decision by the power of the Holy Spirit to walk throughout the day in spiritual victory rather than defeat.  You know something? Christ honored my prayer and desire to be faithful, and as the day went on so did the power of Christ increase in my life. 

Make a decision today to walk in spiritual victory.  Do not submit to the devil’s schemes, but instead be led by the Spirit of God.  Victory in Jesus is ours! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Power of Self-control

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.  -I Thessalonians 5:5-8 (KJV) 

The subject of self-control comes up numerous times in the New Testament.  The Bible teaches we as followers of Christ are to practice self-control as a lifestyle.  This involves a day-by-day surrender to the power of God over self-will.  Failure to exercise godly self-control has long been a problem which then leads to larger issues.  Any sin we commit, from what goes on in the mind to an actual deed, extends from a lack of self-control.  When we do as the Scripture teaches and put on Christ we are taking on an attitude in which we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in every aspect of life.  We are then empowered to stand firm in the face of the temptations we face very day. 

The Word of God speaks of self-control as being “sober.”  In modern English the word sober refers to not being under the influence of alcohol.  The mind is then clear to make rational and carefully thought out decisions.  We understand that being intoxicated robs a person of this crucial ability, which explains why so many people have engaged in behavior while intoxicated which they would never have done while sober.  Similarly, we find people will often do something while not practicing self-control which they would not have done were this vital spiritual discipline been in place.   

Understand when the Scripture speaks of self-control it refers to being guided by the Holy Spirit.  As we are led by the Spirit we are then empowered to make good decisions and use sound judgment.  Plunging forward into something which will harm us or damage our witness comes when we fail to practice the self-control taught in the Bible and exemplified in the life of Jesus.  The promise of God is when we add to our spiritual gifts the discipline of self-control we are blessed with peace, joy, and the love of Christ ruling in our hearts (II Peter 1:5-8).   

I have witnessed firsthand the fallout in peoples’ lives when they fail to practice self-control.  Reputations can be ruined and relationships damaged when we lack this vital discipline.  However, practicing godly self-control leads to the peace of Christ reigning in our hearts at all times –  even in the midst of trials and difficulties.  How is self-control developed?  It comes through daily prayer, meditation on God’s Word, worship, and seeking the Lord’s will for our lives.   

Keep going forward, continue seeking Christ, and remain in His Word.  Self-control will be the result.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Seeking a Heavenly Reward

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  -Matthew 6:1, 2 (NKJV) 

Many years ago while serving as the pastor of another church the congregation there went through a period of financial difficulty.  A man in the church approached me and said he would like to help.  However, it was important to him that he remain anonymous.  At his urging we worked out an arrangement.  Every Sunday morning he would leave an envelope containing $1000.00 on the desk in my office, which I would then put in the church offering plate.  For ten straight weeks the envelopes kept coming and after this period of time the church’s finances were dramatically improved.  Such generosity and humility about giving to the Lord struck a powerful chord in my heart.  This man desired no recognition or acclamation whatsoever.  Instead, he knew the Lord would be the one who would acknowledge and reward him. 

Often when we do something nice for someone we enjoy receiving at least a little recognition for our efforts.  There is certainly nothing wrong with giving or receiving a thank-you note once in a while.  I have received numerous such notes and I have sent more than I can remember.  However, Jesus said when it comes to serving the Lord we must allow God to be the one who acknowledges and rewards our efforts.  Will we serve the Lord and then go out and announce all we have done?  Will we make sure people know of our service to God so we will receive applause and accolades?   

Jesus said if we go out and seek after the rewards and praise of others then this is the only reward we will get.  However, if we let God be the one to reward us then our acclamation and recognition will be on a divine and eternal level.  No reward in this life could possibly compare with the eternal rewards of heaven. 

Do not make the mistake of believing your efforts in serving Christ are in vain or no one notices the good you have done.  The Lord knows and He will give back to us 100 times over for what we have done in His name.  Let us never grow tired or weary of serving Christ.  We serve the Lord Jesus as we reach out to others with the gospel, a helping hand, a kind word, a visit to the hospital, an offer to pray, or we simply listen to the concerns of others.  We will sometimes grow tired, yet the Lord empowers us to continue serving Him. 
Serve the Lord with gladness.  Our efforts will be rewarded.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Sort of Legacy Will we Leave Behind?

And Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done.  For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.  -I Kings 14:22, 23 (KJV) 

The headline on Yahoo News seemed to scream at me: “German Grandchildren of Nazis Delve into Past.”  As much reading as I have done about World War II, somehow I had never considered how latter generations of those who committed such atrocities have coped with the sins of their grandparents.  The article described how the grandchildren of Nazi war criminals are trying to come to terms with the evil their grandfathers did.  Rainer Hoess, the grandson of infamous Nazi Rudolf Hoess, described how at the age of 12 he was beaten black and blue by an Auschwitz survivor who found out that he was the grandson of the commandant of that particular death camp.  Even now Hoess and others say they struggle with feelings of guilt associated with what their grandfathers did during the war. 

I have to contrast this with my grandparents and the legacy they passed on to me.  My mother’s father, Harley Northcutt, was a doctor and hard-working member of the community of Menifee County, Kentucky.  I never knew him as he died before I was born, yet I love to hear the stories of the good he did for others and his devotion to their health and well-being.  My other grandfather, Samuel Birchfield, was a dedicated Christian, family man, farmer, and community leader.  He died when I was a child, yet my memories of him are all positive.  His faith in Jesus Christ was so firm and committed that it was passed on to me by way of my father, also a devoted follower of Christ.   

We have no control over what our parents and grandparents have done.  If our parents or grandparents were not followers of Christ, then we can change this pattern to one of devotion and commitment to the Lord.  However, if they were godly people of faith we can then carry on this legacy to new levels of commitment to the Lord. 

During the period of the kings, the Israelites went through periods of rebellion against God.  Rather than change the destructive and ungodly legacy of their parents they continued on in this pattern.  The Bible says they even took the depravity of the parents to new depths of ungodliness.  Until this pattern was broken the people could not walk in God’s blessings. 

Whatever your heritage, be it one of godliness or depravity, it’s up to us to light the way for those who will follow.  Let’s commit ourselves anew to shine the light of Jesus Christ so that all who come behind us may see our faith, glorify God, and follow our example – as we have followed Christ. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Throw out the Lifeline

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.  Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.  -Psalm 25:14, 15 (KJV) 

A number of years ago Andrea and I were taking a vacation at Natural Bridge State Park in Kentucky.  One day we drove to the nearby town of Stanton because we heard about a restaurant there which was known for its great food.  As we were driving around trying to find the restaurant we saw a sign by the side of road which said, “Big Yard Sale Today at Thelma Smith’s House.”  We had a good laugh over the sign.  Apparently, everyone in this small town knew Mrs. Smith and where her house was located.  Those of us who were not from around there were simply out of luck. 

Let us never assume people know who Jesus is and what he has done for us.  Countless people in the world today are like those reading the yard sale sign.  They don’t know Jesus and they have no idea how to get to Him.  As Christ’s followers it’s up to us to take time to show them the way and let them know how they can find salvation through the Lord.  Often we make the assumption that the person we are talking to knows Jesus Christ as Savior.  In reality, the person may have never trusted Christ at all.  We then have the opportunity to let them know about the new life found in Christ and how through Him we are given salvation and a brand new start. 

As we go throughout our daily lives we are to be shining Jesus’ light to a lost and hurting world.  People all around us are struggling their way along without the grace, peace, hope, and spiritual power Christ offers.  Imagine passing by a river and seeing a person in the water drowning and crying for help.  Right beside us is a life preserver attached to a lifeline.  The least we can do is toss the life preserver out to them so the person will have the opportunity to take hold.  Jesus Christ is the life preserver and the lifeline.  We are called to share Him with others at every opportunity.   

Jesus called us to go and make disciples.  Consider all of the people you know who are hurting and in need of Christ’s love.  Pray for them, reach out to them, and let them see the love of Christ in you.  Be His witnesses.  Shine His light.  Tell them Jesus is the Savior. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Strategy for Coping With Life

Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.  And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.  And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place… -Luke 4:40-42 (KJV) 

I recall when I was in my early 20’s I worked for a warehouse in Dayton, Ohio and the work was at times physically demanding.  Such hard work can be exhausting.  Later when I was called into the ministry I no longer was engaged in this kind of manual labor, although working with people on a day-to-day basis can be exhausting in its own way.  We find in God’s Word how people were constantly seeking Jesus for healing, counsel, and to simply find answers.  The Lord also was confronted by those who were looking for ways to discredit Him.  I know from personal experience how working under such pressure from those around us can indeed wear us out emotionally, spiritually, and physically. 

Notice, however, that Jesus frequently sought refuge from the stresses He faced.  The Scripture shows us many times how Jesus deliberately slipped away from the crowds in order to be alone for spiritual nourishment.  Dealing with people can be exhausting; Jesus understood this perfectly.  Therefore, He often went way for times of prayer, meditation on God’s Word, and reflection on God’s will.  We do well to follow this example.  Consider how full and hectic our lives can be on any given day.  Our jobs, responsibilities, and the needs of family can drain us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  By spending time alone with the Lord we can daily find spiritual strength to face these challenges head on. 

I sometimes encounter young people who complain of being bored.  This is always interesting to me, for I cannot recall ever being bored in my entire life.  Even when I was a child I could always find ways to keep myself busy and find something to amuse me.  As an adult I find my schedule is so overwhelming it’s a matter of determining daily priorities of what I can get done and accomplished.  Finding something to do is not a problem – at all.  Perhaps you can relate to this as you think about all you have facing you. 

Having a full schedule is a blessing.  It reminds us we are alive and connected in positive ways with the world around us.  However, becoming overwhelmed, discouraged, and burned out are always a possibility.  The greatest strategy we have for coping with life and walking in spiritual victory is a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Life is tough; faith in Jesus Christ empowers us to cope and properly manage all which comes at us on a daily basis. 

Take time to pray and meditate on God’s Word each and every day.  Seek Jesus first (Matthew 6:33) and all else will line up in its proper place. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Danger of Flattery

(Sorry this post is so late.  There have been problems with Blogger all day.)

And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?  And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.  And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.  -Luke 4:22-24 (KJV) 

Everyone needs encouragement, kind words, and expressions of affirmation.  However, we are to be vigilant regarding flattery, for there is the possibility of an ulterior motive behind the words.  Writer Mason Cooley once said, “Flattery and insults raise the same question: What do you want?” If someone is offering genuine words of admiration and encouragement we will benefit from their concern and sincerity.  However, if they are seeking to manipulate us then such false praise will ring hollow in our ears.  I recall a seminary professor once telling me and a group of students to “beware the incense of praise.” If someone is symbolically burning incense in front of you while telling you how wonderful you are then be on your guard; he or she may have another motive in mind.   

Jesus would not be fooled by the flattery of those who thought they could only take in part of His message while ignoring the rest.  As long as they thought they were hearing what they wanted to hear they were willing to shower Him with praise; “All bare witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.”  “Isn’t He wonderful?” they were thinking.  “Joseph’s son; someone from right here in our own town.”  Such sentiments changed, however, when Jesus hit them with a hard and undeniable truth: “And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country…And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:24, 27).  The crowd then became angry with Jesus to the point of desiring to throw Him off a cliff.   

Jesus confronted the people with the truth of the gospel; they were sinners in need of salvation.  We too are called to share this vital truth with those around us.  Like the peoples’ response to Jesus, they too will in many instances resent us for telling them the truth.  We notice Jesus didn’t brow beat people and neither did He try to coerce them into following Him.  Instead He shared with them the truth.  Countless people believe they are fine just as they are.  The gospel confronts us with the reality of our need for salvation.   

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not flatter, coerce, or intimidate people into following the Lord.  Instead, the gospel points to the love and grace of God found through Jesus.  Through faith in Christ we can experience God’s grace in all its wonderful fullness.  In Jesus we find spiritual victory, life, joy, peace, and power for daily living.   

Let’s not flatter ourselves into believing we are fine just the way we are.  We need the Lord Jesus. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Integrity and Accountability

I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.  I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.  -Psalm 101:2, 3 (KJV) 

As followers of Christ we are called to live lives of holiness.  Does this sound like a tall order?  It is actually, yet even though this calling is a challenge it is not impossible.  Finding ways to commit sin has always been easy, however, in the modern age it’s becoming even easier.  As I sit here in front of my computer I am aware that I am a few clicks away from images which could quickly result in my downfall.  Many a minister, businessman, politician, and church leader have found out too late that the Internet had ensnared them and they lost everything; their jobs, marriages, relationships with family, and reputation.  We have before us a wealth of information and useful tools for ministry.  However, we also have in front of us a vast resource of the worst kind of evil. 

The temptations on the Internet are by no means limited to pornography.  There are also web sites which contain recipes for producing illegal drugs as well as synthetic forms of drugs readily available for order online.  There are also web sites which encourage bulimia, anorexia, and suicide.  That’s right; I have seen web sites which specialize in step-by-by step instructions for teenagers on how to kill themselves.  They also provide templates for suicide notes geared toward maximizing the guilt and anguish of those they leave behind.  God help us.  The Lord will hold accountable those who publish such filth; of this we can be certain. 

In the midst of all of this ungodliness there are an infinite number of positive uses for the Internet.  We have the tools for encouraging one another to a deeper walk with Christ, Bible translations and study helps, strategies for growing in faith, and online support for a range of personal problems.  I suppose I could be like a pastor friend of mine who refuses to even own a computer much less spend time online.  While I respect his hard-line stance, I also realize that in order to connect with a new generation of people I need to stay as current as possible.  Therefore, with God’s help and daily spiritual restraint, I will make use of the Internet and seek to use it for God’s glory and the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, seek God daily and practice personal holiness and discipline.  Share your computer usage with your spouse and keep no online secrets from one another.  Allow your history file open for inspection at all times.  Keep your computer in a public part of the house so family members can see what you are doing online.   

Let us strive to do as the Bible says and set an example in the faith for others to follow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Breaking the Language Barrier Through Christ’s Love

Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. 12 Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.  -I Corinthians 14:11, 12 (NKJV)

Recently I was having lunch in a new restaurant which opened nearby.  As I was standing by the buffet, a waitress approached me and asked me a question.  The problem was I could not seem to comprehend what she was saying.  I smiled and said, “Excuse me?”  She smiled back and in her soft and accented voice repeated the question.  I still didn’t get it.  Now, in a case like this we have two options: Ask one more time for clarification or smile and pretend to understand.  I figure the first option is a bad idea, seeing how I didn’t understand on the first two tries the odds of comprehending the third time are small.  So, I went with the second choice.  I smiled, nodded knowingly, and said, “Thanks, I’m fine.”  

I later considered how nice it would be if I could speak this young lady’s language. I could have asked for clarification in her language and the communication barrier would have immediately been broken.  I encounter this situation often when out in public.  I hear people speaking around me in a language other than English and I think what a blessing it would be if I knew their language.  I could then perhaps engage them in conversation and share with them the love of Jesus Christ.  My friends, what will be our response to all the people coming to America from other nations and residing in our communities?  Will we resent them, or will we make an effort to reach out to them in the name of Jesus?  The high call of God in Christ Jesus compels us to take the latter stance.

Jesus said we are to be His witnesses; in our towns, our states, across the nation, and around the world (Acts 1:8).  Evangelism is to be a top priority for the church, and it begins in the local community.  For a number of years now I have had in my heart a desire to learn Spanish so I might be able to minister to the many Spanish speaking people in my community.  Countless missionaries have undertaken this challenge and have traveled to other countries to share the gospel with others.  We have the opportunity to practice evangelism and do missions outreach right here at home in our own towns and cities.

Jesus encouraged us to look around, for the fields are indeed ready for the harvest (Matthew 9:37, 38).  Let us pray the Lord would empower us to be involved in the ongoing effort to reach others for Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Evidence of Christ’s Power

When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?  And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.  Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.  -Luke 7:20-22 (KJV)

One of the greatest challenges facing the church today is reaching out to those who are suffering and helping to lift them up and out of their pain.  The kind of pain I am referring to is not just physical, although we do minister to the sick on an ongoing basis.  For the moment I am talking about the countless people suffering from emotional wounds and scars created by the trials of life.  How will we minister to them in their time of need?  Will we take the time to do so?  Our response to the needs of those around us will serve as a testimony to the presence of Christ and His power in our lives. 

When messengers from John the Baptist came to Jesus inquiring whether or not He was the Messiah Jesus reminded them of what was going on.  He let His presence and power serve as a testimony to the truth.  Blind eyes were given sight, lame legs were walking again, lepers were being cleansed, those without hearing were given ability to hear, the dead were being raised, and the gospel was being proclaimed to the poorest people of society.  All of this spoke of the power of Christ which had come into the world.  Further proof, more evidence, or more convincing would be unnecessary, for the true light had come.  Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, had come into the world. 

Today we do not have to look far to find people who are in need of the healing touch only Christ can bring.  They are suffering from spiritual blindness, they have tuned out the truth, they are spiritually lame, they are tainted by the sickness of sin, and they are in need of spiritual resurrection.  None will be excluded, for any and all may come to the healing fountain of Christ’s love and experience the full measure of grace and redemption.   

Perhaps you are the one today in need of Christ’s healing touch.  Open your heart and allow Him to fill the void.  Let the Lord give to you the salvation He so freely offers.  Sin is the sickness and Jesus is the cure.  Faith in Him will bring you back to life and you will walk forward in new found spiritual power. 
Do not give up and do not surrender.   There is hope in Jesus Christ. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Come and See

Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.  And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.  -John 1:44-46 (KJV) 

When I was a boy growing up in Dayton, Ohio, there was a small community not far from where I lived.  This community had a bad reputation and anytime we learned someone was from there he or she was immediately suspect.  I recall a transfer student who came to my school, and when we found he was from this neighborhood we figured he was a rough character and was going to cause trouble.  While this young man did not cause any significant trouble, he did fit the description of “rough character.”  Such was the reputation of this community; people believed nothing good could come from it. 

We find in John chapter one how a similar feeling was held for the small town of Nazareth.  Apparently, anyone from this area was looked at with suspicion.  When word reached a man named Nathaniel that Jesus was from Nazareth he expressed misgivings about anything good coming from there; “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?”  Nathaniel’s experience had been if someone came from this particular vicinity he must be someone of ignoble character.  He wasn’t to be trusted, was not a person worthy of following, and was probably a criminal.  This sort of prejudice is harsh, yet not at all uncommon.  Admittedly, we often make the same unfair associations about certain people and places. 

Something we should note in this passage is Philip’s patient reply to his friend; “Come and see.”  Philip had already spent time with Jesus.  He had listened to His words, taken in the wonderful truths Jesus shared, and He experienced for himself the power of being in Christ’s presence.  He invited his prejudiced friend to simply come and experience Jesus Christ for himself; “Come and see.” He told him.  The Scripture shows how after meeting Jesus Nathaniel was convinced; “Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (V 49).  We can almost hear the excitement in his voice.  Jesus then went on to promise Nathaniel that he would see spiritual wonders beyond anything he had ever imagined possible.  He would experience the power of God first hand. 

Often we grow frustrated with the lack of faith and the skepticism of those around us.  Remember, when we witness for the Lord ours is to invite them to “come and see”  for themselves.  We cannot force, coerce, or bully anyone into receiving Christ, nor should we ever attempt to do so.  Rather, invite them to come and see for themselves. 

Let us be living, breathing, walking testimonies of God’s grace.  Invite those around you to “come and see” that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Being Thankful for the Godly Women in our Lives

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.  She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.  She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.  Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.  -Proverbs 31:25-28 (KJV) 

Today is Mother’s Day, and to all the women reading this I wish you a blessed and happy day.  You deserve a day in which you have time to yourself to relax and let others serve you for a while.  If anyone deserves a special day all to herself it’s today's Mom. A cartoon showed a psychologist talking to his patient: "Let's see," he said, "You spend 50 percent of your energy on your job, 50 percent on your husband and 50 percent on your children. I think I see your problem."  Thank you, ladies.  We would not get much done without you. 

As I reflect on the women who have positively influenced me over the years I realize how blessed I have been to have had these strong women in my life.  My grandmother, mother, sister, and my wife have all played a role in helping me to be the man I am today.  There are also many others such as teachers and Sunday school teachers who took the time to invest themselves in my upbringing.  Truly I am blessed by the godly influences which have had such a profound effect on my life.  My hope and prayer is I will continue to grow in the lessons they have taught me. 

In the book of Proverbs Solomon pondered the question, “Who can find a virtuous woman?  For her price is far above rubies” (V 10).  Solomon understood the value of a godly woman and the impact she can have on those around her.  He also understood how a godly woman is a precious find.  Many a young man has found out the benefits and blessings of having a godly wife.  As the Bible says, “She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life” (V 12).  I had a conversation once with a young man who was wondering if he would ever find the right woman.  I assured him if it was God’s will and if he was patient he would indeed find the right woman to marry.  However, I also warned him to be sure to look in the right places.  He needed to find a woman who was firmly grounded and standing on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.   

The godly woman shines the light of Jesus Christ from her life.  She is a living testimony of the grace of God and how Christ’s love has positively affected her life.  Take time today to thank God for the blessed influences of mothers and women of God.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

God’s Grace Functioning in us

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.  -Matthew 18:2-5 (KJV) 

Have you ever considered how radical Jesus’ teachings actually are?  Have you thought of how radical they were in His day?  For the Lord to speak of such topic as loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and forgiving even those who hate us was an absolute going against the standards of the time.  Those teachings remain at variance with the world even today.  Down through ages mankind has always strived for mastery; over himself and those around him.  From this standpoint come hatred, murder, violence, and war.  Jesus came along and taught that God has a better and nobler way.  The problem is the world simply doesn’t understand such love and grace. 

The world continues to misunderstand the marvelous and wonderful grace of God.  When grace is shown in its purest form people will often be left scratching their heads bewilderment.  People do the same when confronted with the grace of God.  God’s grace is showing us love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness when we have done nothing to deserve it.  In fact, we did the opposite.  Yet God loved and forgave us anyway.  Here we see the grace of God.  Someone has said grace can be seen in the following acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.   

When we show people the grace of God functioning in us they may scratch their heads in wonder, yet they will also see the love of Jesus Christ flowing from our lives.  Grace leads to peace, which brings spiritual power, which leads to a vibrant and effective witness for Jesus.  The grace of God having been experienced in Christ compels us to want to share it with others.  We begin to live out God’s grace in every aspect of our lives.  “Here, let me help you with that;” “I’m sorry, you were right and I was in the wrong;”  “No, I don’t want anything in return.”  “It’s no problem, I am glad to help.” 

The ways in which we live out the grace of God are endless.  We are called to reach out in Jesus' name every day as we shine His light to a lost and hurting world.  We in turn have peace which passes all understanding as we face the trials of life and the problems which are sure to confront us.  Walking in grace is walking in spiritual power. 

Someone you encounter today will need to see the grace Jesus brings.  Will you show them? 

Friday, May 6, 2011

God Bless America

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  -II Chronicles 7:14 (KJV) 

Yesterday, believers all across the nation gathered for the National Day of Prayer.  What a blessing it was to see people of all different denominations coming together for the purpose of praying for our nation.  I observed people praying for our government leaders, those serving in the military, public servants, and those affected by the recent storms.  During the prayer rally I participated in I looked up and saw our flag flying overhead and my heart was filled with powerful emotions.  I thanked God for the freedoms we hold dear, and I gave thanks for the biblical principles upon which our nation was established. 

We have much for which to be thankful, yet we also know we have our work cut out for us.  People need the Lord unlike any other time I have ever witnessed.  We look around and we find desperation in peoples’ eyes.  Crime, drug use, and alcoholism are all on the rise, and peoples’ attitudes toward life are turning more and more cynical.  Faith in Jesus Christ is the answer, yet countless people fail to open their hearts and receive the salvation and hope He offers.  Instead, they continue on in their own strength, which is a recipe for failure.  Christ offers hope in the darkest night of our struggles, and He brings light to a land blighted by sin and evil. 

We have been called as followers of Jesus to shine His light to everyone around us.  Let us commit to show the way and proclaim the truth.  In Jesus there is hope, deliverance, and new life.  Let us pray for a great revival of faith across our nation.  Pray for a movement of God’s Spirit unlike anything our world has ever witnessed.  May we claim the promise that when we humble ourselves and pray the Lord will hear from heaven and will heal our land. 

My friends, do not give up and do not surrender the fight.  Victory is ours in Jesus Christ.  Continue to share the good news, live in such a way that Christ is glorified, and pray for the fire of God to fall upon us and our great nation.  America can see the power and blessings of God once again.  It begins with each one of us. 

May God bless America.