Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Cleansing Power of Jesus Christ

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. -Psalm 51:7, 8 (KJV) 

A couple of years ago one of my sons decided to make himself a cup of tea.  We tend enjoy hot tea during the winter months and someone in our house is frequently brewing a cup.  The problem was he only thought there was water in the tea pot.  He sat it on the stove, turned the burner on high, and walked away.  When he came back a few minutes later the tea kettle, once white and shiny, had burned to an ugly dark and scorched color.  We were certain the tea kettle, which ironically I had bought for Andrea a few months earlier, was ruined. 

I was not prepared to discard the tea pot just yet.  After letting it cool I soaked in hot soapy water and then began a careful process of cleaning it with scratch pads.  It took several cleanings yet in the end I was able to restore it to its pre-burned condition.  In fact, one might not even realize it had ever been burned and nearly ruined in the first place. 

As I consider this I think of what the Lord does for us.  We too were negatively affected by the devastating consequences of sin.  In many instances we might have wandered so far from God and become so soiled by the world that we wondered, along with everyone else, if there was any hope for us.  Yet God in His mercy reached out and touched us through the Holy Spirit.  He drew us in, gently, lovingly, and with deep compassion and grace.  By Christ’s sacrifice on the cross of Calvary we were washed clean and made pure.  Our sins which had stained our souls and our lives were washed away completely through Jesus Christ.  

Like David in his Psalm of repentance we too were in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  The Lord did not discard us, but instead forgave and cleansed us.  God even went so far as to adopt us as His own children.  The grace of God is indeed wonderful and miraculous.  Others might have given up and thrown us out, yet God in His mercy redeemed us and gave us a new start on life. 

Do not give up – on yourself or someone who is far from God.  The Lord still works miracles in peoples’ lives and He is still searching for the lost sheep who has wandered away.  Having found the one who was lost God then offers mercy and grace.  A wonderful transformation takes place; death becomes life, despair becomes certain hope, and what was stained with sin becomes clean and pure.   

The Lord is gracious and He will save. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Next Big Thing?

34Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.  35Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.  36But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. -Matthew 24:34-36 (KJV) 

There is a great amount of talk across the web about what is going to be the “next big thing.”   Just a few short years ago, 2005 to be exact, the web site “MySpace” was the all the rage.  Kids and adults alike were flocking to the web site to set up accounts and design their own personal MySpace page.  As Facebook grew in popularity I had a feeling MySpace might not be around for long.  As it turns out I was right.  The web site is about to sold for a paltry 35 million – a mere pittance in the world of billion dollar Internet sales.  So, what will be the next new Internet craze?  Your guess is as good a mine. 

Around 20 years or so ago we began to hear talk of a new movement in church ministry known as “Seeker Friendly” churches.  At its heart the philosophy is one of making unbelievers as comfortable as possible with church by removing anything which looks like what we would think of as traditional.  Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California is credited with beginning this particular movement.  In recent years countless churches have adopted this approach to ministry with widely varying results.   

Since the seeker friendly movement began we have seen some interesting approaches to ministry.  There are now “drive-in” churches as well as “drive-through” churches.  Some non-traditional churches offer coffee, soft drinks, and other refreshments which can be enjoyed during the actual worship time.  Well, nothing draws folks in like coffee and doughnuts, I suppose.  As you might have read in a recent blog, I have a weakness for doughnuts, yet I prefer to wait until before or after church when I need a “doughnut fix.”  

Through all of this I have continued to stay the course in ministry; at the church where I am Pastor we hold to a more traditional worship service, yet I notice some folks wearing suits and ties while others wear blue jeans and more casual clothes.  We keep singing the old faithful hymns with a mix of praise choruses and southern gospel.  And I keep striving to preach the Word of God as the Lord leads.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a fad or a craze.  The gospel of Jesus is the truth and it’s here to stay. 

My main concern is for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed.  As long as this is being done and souls are being saved, then let us rejoice.  So, what’s the next big thing in church growth?  My prayer is it will always be the gospel of Jesus Christ, for as our Lord said, His words will never pass away. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Letting the Lord Guide our Words

11Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.  12And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.  13So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. -Job 2:11-13 (KJV) 

Many times I have been with people during periods of intense grief.  During those times we need only reach out to the Lord in faith to experience the wonderfully healing power of His Spirit.  I have heard people say they are uncomfortable at hospitals and funerals because they do not know what to say.  The truth is most of the time we do not have to say anything.  Our presence is what is most important.  A warm handshake, a gentle embrace, or a touch on the shoulder speaks more comfort than any words we could possibly utter.   

The Scripture show how Job was tested in just about every way possible, yet his faith remained constant.  In the end the Lord blessed Job far beyond anything he had previously experienced.  The Bible says when Job’s three friends came to see him they were so filled with grief over all which had happened they sat with Job for seven days and spoke not a single word.  Imagine the discipline it took during the seven day period to not say anything.  Often we are so uncomfortable with silence we think we have to say something.  Consider how there will be times when the best response to someone’s grief is to simply be there.  Words are not always required. 

I find this principle applies to others aspects of life as well.  The Bible says how too many words will create problems in our lives.  Ecclesiastes 5:7 says, “For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.” We can easily allow our words to get ahead of our thoughts and we end up speaking words we later regret.  Even Jesus, when standing trial before King Herod and the Sanhedrin, did not speak in His own defense, choosing instead to commit Himself to God; “Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.  And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him” (Luke 23:9, 10).

There is indeed a time to speak and a time to be silent.  As we walk with Christ He will give us wisdom to know the difference.  Trust Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our words.  Speak carefully; for once uttered we cannot take back what we have said.   

Therefore, if we must speak, let us utter words which exalt Christ, comfort one another, and witness to His grace.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Process of Submitting to God

24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.  –Matthew 16:24, 25 (KJV) 

I shared in another blog post how that when I was a boy my brother and I used to engage in some fairly serious wrestling matches.  I suppose this is common for boys as we are apt to test each other’s strength.  When one of us got another person in a hold of some sort and was trying to win the match, the one with the upper hand might demand his opponent cry “uncle.”  Speaking this word is a sign of submission.  Once uttered it signified you had surrendered.  I am not sure the origins of why we demand the person cry uncle, so I’ll have to get back with you on this one. 

Jesus said if we desire to be His followers we must deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Him.  Through losing ourselves we gain life in Christ; we gain the abundant life here and now and eternal life when we cross over into heaven.  Taking up the cross of Christ is a symbolic act of submission to God’s will.  We deny self and take on Christ thereby submitting.  It is not intended to be a painful cry of “uncle” in which we are dragged into Christ’s service.  Rather we are intended to joyfully submit to Christ and take up His cross and follow Him.  I have known some who by their own admission went “kicking and screaming” into the Lord’s service.  If that’s what it takes then so be it.  However, surrendering voluntarily is by far the better choice.   

Many people choose not to follow Jesus for fear of losing their identities.  We do not lose our identities in Jesus.  Instead we discover who we truly are.  Countless people have spent painful years going through the process of trying to find themselves and answer the questions regarding who they truly are.  Everything about the gospel is designed to aid this process. The Lord takes us as we are and transforms us into what and who we are meant to be.  Indeed this can be painful at times, yet in Christ we find comfort and as we go we discover the joy of growing into who and what Christ has called us to be. 

So, who am I anyway?  I can best discover the answer to this question by taking up the cross and following Jesus Christ.  He leads us down paths of service in which our spiritual gifts are put to positive and practical use and we then grow in service to Christ.  My friends, do not fear the process of submitting to God’s will.  This is the most liberating experience of our lives, for in Christ we find our true selves.  The Lord will empower us to be all we are meant to be in Him. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Handling Life’s Little Frustrations

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  -Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV) 

I will never understand clothing manufacturers.  A few months ago I bought a new suit and the pockets on the pants and the jacket were sown shut.  I have to wonder whose idea this is.  I mean, is this some sort of cruel joke?  I need those pockets.  My, what a hassle to have to take a pair of sharp scissors and carefully cut open the thread holding the pocket shut without damaging the fabric.  Why in the world do they do this?  For the moment I have no answer to this question and I only know it causes me frustration when I have to cut those pockets open. 

These little frustrations which come about in daily life can get to us, and if we are not careful we will find ourselves getting extremely upset about them.  It helps if we can place these situations in their proper perspective.  For example, the other morning I had to give my son a ride to work.  He was carrying in his hand a cup of coffee he had just poured and as he was getting in the car he dropped the coffee, which spilled on his pants and shoes.  He was fairly upset, and it was an opportunity to remind him of having the right perspective, or as I like to call it “divine perspective.”  I reminded him that if this was the biggest problem he faced for the day he would be in great shape.  There are a numerous situations we could face which pale in comparison to a spilt cup of coffee – or pockets sown shut on a new suit.   

God has promised us that He is ever working on our behalf to bring us peace and not evil.  God has promised to bring about good in our lives if we will trust Him.  This makes me think; God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, the One who holds the world in His hands, is thinking about me.  And what He thinks about me is good, not evil.  The plans He has for me will work to His glory and my benefit.  Mine is to trust in Him and wait patiently for His will to be done.   

Sometimes when I pray I can’t help but think of how I am only one person in world inhabited by around 6 billion.  And yet God still thinks of me, knows me, takes time to listen when I pray, cares about what hurts and concerns me, and is ever working on my behalf.  This is not only humbling, but it also brings great peace and comfort.   

Make no mistake about it, my friend; God thinks of you too, and what He thinks is good because He loves you.  Do not worry and do not fret.  God has a plan and you and I are a part of it. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Staying Power of the Gospel

And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.  -Matthew 4:24 (KJV) 

Over the years I have seen articles in newspapers and magazines with titles like “What’s Hot”  and “What’s Not.”  They will explore people and trends which are either famous or infamous.  Most mornings I read and on one side of the page is a section called “Trending Now,”  that explores people and topics currently in the news.  What is famous and being watched by the public is liable to change at any moment.  The list of people who became famous and then quickly faded into obscurity is indeed lengthy.   
For example, you may recall Robert Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice.  Around 20 years ago this young rapper became famous almost overnight.  He was filling concert halls and other large venues across the country.  However, just as quickly as he rose to stardom his fame collapsed.  One news program stated that as his fame took a downturn he could not even find an audience at a free concert in a shopping mall. Indeed, the public is extremely fickle towards those who attain celebrity status.  For a while the news and TV were filled with Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana), The Jonas Brothers, and Lady Gaga, yet their fame appears to be dwindling.   

Consider that of all the trends, people, and fads which have captured peoples’ attention the gospel has remained consistent.  Since the Lord Jesus first began His public ministry people have been touched by the power of what He had to say, what He did, and what He was all about.  Jesus isn’t a fad which is about to go away.  The gospel continues to go out and touch peoples’ lives all around the world.  People will become famous and rise to celebrity status, and then just as quickly they will fade away.  Yet Jesus remains our Lord and Savior, and He continues to transform people in positive ways. 

As Jesus’ followers let us not grow weary or discouraged thinking that what Christ offers is no longer relevant.  Countless people in Jesus’ day thought He was irrelevant to them, yet the message continued to grow.  Down through the ages some have even sought to silence the message of the gospel, and yet it continued to move forward.  My prayer for us today is that we will be faithful to the Great Commission given to us by the Lord that we go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 29:18).   

In a world of instability and hopelessness Jesus offers hope and stability.  Jesus offers light and life in a world shrouded in the darkness of sin and misery.  Let us never tire of going and telling, and being His disciples.  We have been given our commission.  Let us strive to be faithful to the Lord every day. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Using Our Talents in the Lord’s Service

14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.  -Matthew 25:14, 15 (KJV) 

A friend of mine told me he how had attended an auction recently and for the bargain basement price of $10.00 had acquired a box of miscellaneous items.  Included in this odd assortment of stuff was a catalogue which was over 50 years old and in fairly good condition.  My friend listed the catalogue on Ebay and was pleasantly surprised when it sold for over $100.00.  Not a bad return on his investment!   

Jesus told a parable about a man who traveled to a far country, but before he left gave each of his servants a certain amount of wealth which was to be entrusted to their care.  The first was given five talents, the second two, and the last one.  Jesus referred to the amount as “talents,” which means they could have been amounts of silver or gold.  According to one source, if this was gold the worth was staggering.  If in today's money an ounce of gold is worth $1,200 U.S., one talent is worth around $1,440,000 U.S!  If you read the rest of the parable (vv 14-30) you will find the first two servants doubled their master’s money while he was away.  However, the third servant took the money and hid it in the ground and simply gave it back upon the master’s return.   

Jesus said the master was pleased with the first two, yet was angry with the third.  The servant had squandered the great wealth with which he had been presented.  Jesus told this parable to illustrate how easy it is to waste the gifts the Lord gives us.  Countless people have been blessed with wonderful resources which could be used in serving the Lord, yet they either keep it to themselves or fail to use them at all.  Many years ago I met a man who lived off and on at the local homeless shelter.  Drugs and alcohol had wrecked his life, health, and relationship with family.  I had brought my guitar to the meeting at the shelter to use as part of the worship time and afterward the man asked if he might play a song.  I handed him the guitar was impressed with his ability.  Sadly, his musical gifts had lain dormant beneath the addiction which ravaged his life.   

We are called by God to put to use whatever gifts and talents the Lord has given.  Some reading this have been given gifts of preaching, teaching, music, and other abilities, yet have not been using them.   

My friends, it isn’t too late.  Begin using for God’s glory whatever abilities you have and the Lord will multiply them in His service.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

God’s Blessings in the Midst of Discouragement

27And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.  28Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.  -Judges 8:27, 28 (KJV) 

The book of Judges shows us a period of godlessness in Israel’s history.  The people often lacked sound leadership, they were easily led astray, and when they did cry out to God and the Lord helped them they quickly turned away.  The life of Gideon is a bright spot in an otherwise series of discouraging events.  Following his victory over Israel’s enemies Gideon produced a gold ephod which was a priestly garment intended to be worn in the worship of God.  Unfortunately, the people took this sacred garment and turned it into a type of talisman, or idol, and worshipped it.  The Scripture says it became “a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.”  Despite this setback the people enjoyed 40 years of peace. 

Isn’t amazing how the Lord can still bless us even when our plans and our best efforts go wrong?  Gideon’s good intentions backfired when he made the ephod, yet the blessings of the Lord were upon the people for 40 years.  Never underestimate the power of God to bless us when we are faithful.  Our plans will sometimes go awry, our schedules will not go as planned, and our best efforts will at times fall apart.  However, the Lord knows our hearts, and He honors the faithfulness of His people.  We too will enjoy the peace of God in our hearts and lives when we walk in faithfulness to Him.   

Some days we feel as though nothing is going right.  If you read my blog post from a few days ago you saw how my best intentions to have a productive day were thwarted by a series of unanticipated events.  In the end, however, God was faithful and brought spiritual victory in an otherwise frustrating day.  We will have days such as these.  From the moment we arise it appears nothing is going right.  This is when we must trust the Lord and be faithful.  He has a plan and He will bring us through to victory and spiritual growth – if we will trust Him.   

A comedian of another era once remarked, “No good deed goes unpunished.”  We can easily feel this way when our good intentions do not go as planned.  The high call of God in Christ Jesus is to be faithful, trust the Lord, and continue forging ahead to new heights of devotion to Christ.  The person you try to help may snap at you.  The one you offer to pray for just may curse you.  Those we reach out to in love may inform us in no uncertain terms they do not want our help.   

Be faithful anyway and keep shining the light of Jesus Christ.  The result is the peace of Christ working in us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rediscovering the Power of Prayer

 5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  7Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. -Proverbs 3:5-7(KJV) 

As followers of Christ we know one of the goals of our faith is to be lead by the Lord.  Therefore we look to verses such as Proverbs 3:5, 6 to encourage us to trust in the Lord rather than ourselves.  However, sometimes we overlook the verse which follows.  This verse challenges us to reject our own wisdom in favor of the wisdom God brings to our lives.  Such wisdom comes over time through applying God’s Word to our lives and walking daily in a personal relationship with Christ.  Departing from evil involves a rejection of behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, and practices which stand in opposition to God’s Word.   

How does this come about?  The answer is we build into our lives a lifestyle of living by faith in Jesus Christ.  I have conversations with people who want to exercise and take better care of themselves physically, yet they fail to do so.  Physical exercise, like our faith, must be built into our daily lives.  I know from personal experience how eating less and exercising more is indeed a challenge. I also know rising every day before daylight to spend time in prayer and meditation in God’s Word is also a tremendous challenge. 

This is why last winter I undertook the challenge of rising every morning at 4:15 AM for 40 days to commune with the Lord.  This experience had such a profound effect on my life that I continued to rise earlier after the 40 day period was over.  I also discovered closeness to God through prayer which I had never before experienced.  Make no mistake about it; the early morning hour can be a challenge, especially for someone like me who is not a morning person. 

What we learn from deeper and more committed prayer is how best to live for the Lord every day.  Christ empowers us to have more peace, joy, and calm in the face of the problems we encounter.  We also discover how best to sort out the challenges of our often hectic lives.  There is another benefit from drawing closer to God, and this is spiritual strength for walking forward in faith.  The storms of life may rage around us, yet we will not be afraid.  David of the Old Testament knew what he was taking about when he said, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).   

The more we pray and seek the Lord the closer to Him we are, and the closer to Christ we are the greater our spiritual power for facing the trials of life.  Do not wander in weakness and do not be guided by fear.  Instead, be lead by the Holy Spirit. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

When Daily Schedules go Awry

1My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: 2For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.  3Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 4So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. -Proverbs 3:1-4 (KJV) 

Once again my blog for today was nearly done in by the weather.  Early this morning as I sat down to write my blog entry the weather turned nasty.  The thunder was rumbling with force strong enough to rattle the windows of the house.  The bad weather then continued throughout the day, which explains why I am writing this at 10:30 PM – way past my bedtime. 

These days I take no chances with lightning.  Several years ago during a storm lightning struck right behind our house and took out our TV and microwave oven.  As soon as I hear the thunder the PC is turned off.  I am told the only safe way to protect your PC during a thunder storm is to turn it off, and we have had to do this quite often lately due to the many storms we’ve had this season. 

Not long after I realized I would be delayed in posting my blog I found a screw had embedded itself into the front tire of my car.  Not wanting to wait around until the air ran out I drove my car to a shop to have the tire plugged.  I was then informed that since the screw had stuck so close to the sidewall of the tire it would have to be replaced.  The shop was short on help, several customers were in front of me, and it would be a few hours before they could put on the tire.  I gave them the go-ahead and called my son who gave me a ride home.   

At this point I was pretty much behind on everything I had intended to accomplish for the day, and it was then I recalled it was my day to be on 24 hour chaplaincy call at the hospital.  I was supposed to have picked up the pager at 9:00 AM.  By then it was approaching 3:00.  I rushed to the hospital to get the pager and found out I had not been needed all day, which was a blessing since I didn’t have the pager with me.   

I am glad to report the new tire for my car is in place, the pager is at my side, we had a wonderful first night of Vacation Bible School where I am teaching the teenagers, and this blog is in place.  You see, when we walk forward in faith keeping our eyes on Christ, He will keep us where we are meant to be, no matter how haywire our schedules go.   

Do not be discouraged when your day doesn’t go right.  God has a plan.  Trust in Him and let the peace of Christ reign in your heart.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Tale of Two Men

7The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.  8O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. -Psalm 34:7, 8 (KJV) 

When I was growing up I had before me a stark contrast of different types of men; one was a godly and decent man, the other was not.  The first was my father.  From my earliest memory dad was a God-fearing, honest, hard-working, and kind man.  He worked hard at his job at Chrysler Corporation providing for his family, was always faithful in our church, loved his family, and was always willing to lend a helping hand to neighbors or anyone else in need.  He remains to me the finest example of Christian character and devotion to God I have ever known.  It’s an honor to call him my father.  I pray my life reflects the influence of his godly example. 

The second man I am thinking of lived several houses up from us (we lived in the populated suburbs of Dayton, Ohio) and was the father of a friend of mine.  This man’s life was the polar opposite of my father.  He was a heavy drinker, had numerous run-ins with the law, was abusive, violent, profane, and rarely held down a job.  I recall my friend telling me how difficult life was with an abusive, alcoholic father.  One night my friend’s mother (a woman who stood about five feet tall) apparently had enough of her husband’s abuse and laid him out with a baseball bat.  He was taken away by ambulance to the local hospital.  As he was carried away I think the neighbors all wanted to cheer.  As I recall that was the last time he tried to beat her, God bless her. 

My situation is not one I have ever taken for granted.  Even as a young boy I realized how fortunate I was to have a father who was loving, kind, and approachable.  Dad was always willing, and still is, to take time to listen to me when I had a problem.  The traits which have made my father such a good man stem from his personal relationship with Jesus Christ and his strong stand upon the Word of God.  More nights than I can recall I came home to find dad seated in his chair with his Bible open before him.  What a blessing to have been raised in a home where God’s Word was honored and the principles it teaches were applied.   

I have no idea what kind of a father raised you or if he was a godly or ungodly man.  If he was a good man and loved you then be thankful.  If he was not, remember that God is to us a loving Father willing to love and help us in our time of need. 

To all the dads reading this I say, “Happy Father’s Day.”  You are touching lives more than you know.  Keep trusting God and living for the Lord.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Daily Spiritual Battles

8Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.  10Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.  -Psalm 95:8-11 (KJV) 

Behind our house there is a large expanse of dense forest which covers several acres.  As a result of this we have had close encounters with all sorts of wildlife.  Countless deer have roamed close to our house, as have turkeys, snakes, possums, raccoons, and numerous species of birds.  Although we have never seen a skunk we have smelled them on many occasions.  I even saw a coyote passing through our yard a few years ago.  A few nights ago the weather had cooled considerably so we turned off the AC and opened the windows.  Around 3:00 AM we were awakened by the sound of a life and death struggle in the woods behind the house.  Since our bedroom window faces the forest we could hear the sounds, yet we could not see what animals were fighting. 

I will never be certain, yet I have a theory the struggle involved some sort of bird, perhaps a turkey or an owl, and a coyote.  The bird was screeching with a sound of mortal peril and I heard the distinct canine sounds of growling and snarling.  After a few minutes the forest was quiet again.  The next morning I wandered the woods behind the house searching for clues to what may have happened, yet my search was fruitless.  However, there had been a definite struggle going on in the woods, of this we are sure. 

I point this because we as followers of Christ face spiritual struggles every day.  The spirit and the flesh are always at variance with each other and will ever be at odds.  In order to ensure our spiritual struggles result in victory over the flesh we must arm ourselves with the Word of God and prayer.  Psalm 95 speaks of the Israelite’s failure to trust God completely and how they ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 long years.  Had they been faithful they would have saved themselves untold heartache. 

The same holds true for us today.  When we are faithful to the Lord and seek His will for our lives we are blessed and we can walk forward in spiritual victory.  40 is the Lord’s sacred number in the Scriptures, and when we commit ourselves to God for this time period we are on our way to winning those daily spiritual battles which come our way.  Commit to rise earlier for 40 days to seek the Lord and you will experience powerful results. 

Spiritual victory is waiting as we walk in faith and trust the Lord.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Being Honest Even When no one is Watching

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

The year is now half over and as we head into summer I am just beginning what I refer to as “Wedding Season.”  Although I have done a few winter weddings summer is the time of year when I typically conduct more weddings than any other time.  Throughout the year I will conduct a varying number of weddings and funerals, and afterward the families involved will usually give me some amount of remuneration.  The amount varies, as I have no set fee and leave this entirely up to the family.  I keep a careful accounting of these funds and when it comes time to file my taxes I report this to the IRS as income. 

Wait a minute, you may be thinking; isn’t the money people give me for conducting a wedding or funeral considered a gift?  The answer is no.  According to the IRS and the tax laws of our great republic the funds I receive for such events are considered money paid for services rendered.  If someone presents me with a gift, say for my birthday or Christmas, this is indeed a gift and is non-taxable.  However, if I perform a service as a pastor and I am paid for said services, these funds are subject to taxation.  The catch is it’s up to me to report it to the folks at the IRS.  

So, what keeps me from simply not reporting the money I make from conducting weddings and funerals throughout the year?  The answer is godly conscience, Christian character, and a desire to live an honorable life before God.  Living lives which honor Jesus Christ is about what we do in public as well as how we live when no one is watching.  Will we be honest, godly, and people of integrity only when others are watching?  Let’s strive to practice such traits even when we are all alone with our consciences.  God sees and knows all we do, and He brings honor and blessings to our lives when we strive for holiness and integrity in every aspect of life. 

The Word of God challenges us to live such good lives among unbelievers that even though they would accuse us of doing wrong there will be no basis for their accusations.  In the end they will have to admit they were wrong and we are the ones who will be vindicated.  When we are faithful in all areas of life God is the One who will indeed vindicate us, and He will commend us for our honestly and character. 

Jesus calls us to let His light shine from our lives.  Such light shines brightest when our consciences are clear and our lives are characterized by integrity.  Let us strive to honor the Lord every day all of the time.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Importance of Perspective

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  -Matthew 6:25-27 (NKJV) 

From time to time the Lord has a way of reminding me about having and maintaining a right perspective.  When having a problem we can easily become discouraged and frustrated.  Trying to think in terms of “it could be worse” might seem superficial, yet the reality remains that whatever we are going through the situation could indeed be worse.  Often we focus on the problem which is right in front us while missing the bigger picture of God’s grace and power.  The Lord will bring us through the difficulty, whatever it may be.  Ours is to trust Him, be faithful, seek His power, and allow Christ to work in and through us.  The Lord can and will turn the problems we face, no matter how great, into blessings. 

I was reminded of this recently during a conversation with a fellow pastor.  He told me of the problems his congregation is going through and believe me when I say the problems are serious.  I committed to pray for him and the church that the Lord would give him wisdom and the people open hearts for listening to the Lord’s leading.  As my brother pastor was telling me of the church’s difficulties I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, and I thought we had problems to overcome.”  We do face challenges in the church where I am pastor, yet as I heard of the trials of our fellow congregation our problems suddenly didn’t seem so large and imposing.  This, my friends, is called divine perspective. 

So often we worry ourselves to death over problems which in the broad scheme of things are not going to make so great a difference.  God has the power to bring us through the trials we face and He will bring us to victory and solid ground.  The Lord will not abandon us in our time of need.  As Jesus reminded us, do not worry, for we add nothing to our lives by worrying.  Trust God, claim the peace which is ours in Jesus Christ, and move forward in faith. 

So, what are you facing right now which is worrying you?  Is it keeping you up at night, robbing you of sleep, interfering with the peace and joy you desire?  Consider that worrying will not change the outcome.  Worry will only interfere with clear thinking.  Trust the Lord, wait upon Him, and do not do anything rash.  God has a plan and He will bring about resolution.   

Keep trusting the Lord.   

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Taking a Stand for Christ Every Day

12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  –Ephesians 6:12, 13 (KJV) 

One of the first songs I learned to play and sing on the guitar, when I was around twelve, was a folk song by Bob Dylan called, “Blowing in the Wind.” Do you recall this one?  Anyone reading this today under the age of 40 probably will not remember this song, yet it was popular when I was a boy and the chords and melody lent themselves to my beginning guitar skills.  As I grew into a teenager I learned a number of others by Mr. Dylan, one of which stands out in my memory.  A line from the song I am thinking of says, “Ain’t it hard when you discover that, he really wasn’t where it’s at, after he took from you everything he could steal?” 
I can only wonder if the author of this song realized how applicable those words are for a Christian perspective regarding our stand against evil.  The Word of God reminds us how our stand is spiritual in nature and we take our stand against the evil which is ever seeking to rule us and ultimately bring about our downfall.  The devil is the author of this evil and he is ever trying to tempt us away from God and toward a path which would wreck our lives and our Christian testimony.  Countless people have discovered too late that what the devil was offering truly wasn’t where it was at, and he had indeed taken from them everything he could steal. 

Ephesians 6 presents us with a strategy for resisting the wiles of the devil.  We take an assertive approach to our faith by daily putting on the entire armor of God.  We are challenged to put on the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, feet covered with the readiness of the gospel, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God), and constant prayer (Ephesians 6:14-18).  These, my brothers and sisters, will protect and empower us to stand firm against evil and walk forward in daily spiritual victory.   

Each day we can put on this blessed spiritual armor.  Putting on the armor of God prepares us to walk in faith and boldly confront the challenges which await us.  Set aside time each day for prayer and meditation on God’s Word.  The Scripture teaches we are empowered to walk in spiritual victory when we seek the Lord.   

Make time every day to seek the Lord.  Prayer and studying God’s Word are the keys to keeping our spiritual armor in place.  Commit to arise earlier for 40 straight days and you will experience a breakthrough in your prayer time.  God is faithful and He honors the prayers of His people.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Resisting the Devil’s Schemes

11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil… 16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  -Ephesians 6:11, 16 (KJV) 

Anytime I visit a certain grocery store I am tempted.  The temptation comes in the form of boxes of fresh doughnuts sitting on tables right up beside the check-out lanes.  You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I love to eat, and doughnuts are one of weaknesses.  These doughnuts are strategically placed for what retail vendors call “impulse buys.”  These are the items not on your list and you hadn’t planned on purchasing them, yet when you see them you buy them – on impulse.  Oh my, those doughnuts are tasty.  Glazed, chocolate cream-filled, raspberry-filled, strawberry, lemon-filled, and my true favorite, apple fritters, are all there to tempt me away from the strict diet I seek to maintain.  Indeed, it requires great will power to avert my eyes and walk past those delicacies. 

I point this out because the devil works in like manner.  He places temptations in our paths which appear too good to pass by.  However, if we surrender to them we will be quickly brought down.  Any temptation we face, such as adultery, lust, pornography, theft, lying, or envy, begins with a temptation which was lying in our path.  Often times the temptations are subtle, yet other times they are there nearly screaming for our attention.  In either case, God has promised to empower us to resist and to keep walking forward. 

This concept of resisting and walking are interconnected.  The problem comes when we stop long enough to take another look.  If we linger too long we become ensnared.  This is why the Word of God commends the one who doesn’t linger long enough to give into temptation, but chooses instead by the power of God to keep moving.  “1Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:1, 2).  

God has promised we are blessed when we do not walk in the manner of the ungodly, nor stand and desire their ways, or sit down and participate in what they are doing.  Instead, we seek the power of God through Jesus Christ to keep walking forward in spiritual victory.  The Lord has provided us with the spiritual strength to live lives of integrity and wisdom whereby we are not taken in by the devil’s schemes.  The Lord will bless us for our faithfulness and we will walk in the riches of His grace. 

Stop today and be sure your spiritual armor is tight and properly adjusted.  Begin each day with prayer and the Word of God.  Seek the Lord’s strength.  We are always blessed for doing so.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Joy in the Midst of Problems

1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.  2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. -James 1:1-4 (NKJV) 

Have you even been watching a DVD and decided to fast forward through a section of the movie?  Sometimes it’s nice to be able to skip through a part we don’t want to watch or have seen before.  Consider there is no fast forward option for life.  Have you ever found yourself wishing there was a fast forward for the problems we face?  Many times when facing some new dilemma or difficulty I find myself thinking how nice it would be if I could just skip this part and be a little ahead to a place where the problem is behind me.  However, we know this isn’t possible and we have to take life as it comes at the same speed as everyone else.   

Anytime I think about how nice it would be to have the fast forward button for my problems I realize I would miss out on what the Lord is teaching me through those trials.  According to God’s Word the trials we face tests our faith, which in turn produces godly patience.  This patience, which through faith in Jesus is being perfected, brings about a great work of God in our lives.  We grow in faith and become well-rounded believers who are ready to face other trials which are surely going to come our way.  God is not in the business of tearing us down, but rather He is always seeking to build up our faith, character, and hope.  Through this refining process we are daily becoming more like Jesus Christ, which is the goal of the Christian faith. 

Here we have the key to finding the joy spoken of in James 1; faith in Jesus Christ gives us joy even in the midst of our problems, frustrations, and heartaches.  The peace of Christ can so overwhelm us that we walk forward in spiritual victory rather than defeat.  We are empowered to “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).”  Discouragement and spiritual defeat are rampant in today’s world and I frequently encounter followers of Christ who are sorrowful and dejected.  Faith in Jesus Christ lifts us up and empowers us to walk forward in victory.  Our problems will be there and others will follow.  Yet in Christ we will not fall apart.  Instead we will grow through them.   

My prayer today for you and for me is we will see our problems not as irritations, but as opportunities for spiritual and personal growth.  Keep looking to Jesus and keep looking up.  Christ is greater than any problem we will ever face.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Growing in our Relationship with God

5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  -Matthew 6:5, 6 (KJV) 

Numerous people from the congregation where I am pastor have been taking trips recently to the beach.  I prefer to go to the beach in the spring or fall as summer is too hot and too crowded.  A vacation can be a wonderful experience, for it allows us time to relax and get away from the day-to-day problems we always have to face.  Be careful, however, for even a vacation can be exhausting.  I have talked with people who have stated they came home from their vacation and felt they needed a vacation.   

One aspect of life which should not be put on hold or ceased, even for a while, is daily devotion to the Lord.  Developing a routine of daily and consistent time with the Lord is among the most important aspects of the Christian life.  Whether we are on vacation for a week or away for the weekend let us not neglect our daily time with God.  We might take a vacation from our jobs or daily chores, yet we are to be faithful in prayer and devotion to the Lord at all times. 

This summer would be an ideal time to take on a 40 day challenge.  Commit to rise earlier each day for 40 days for a more extended prayer time.  At the end of the 40 days your daily time with God will have been enhanced and taken to a deeper level.  The same can be said of spending more time in God’s Word.  Set apart this sacred period of days and you will discover a marked difference in your attitude, outlook, and relationship with Christ. 

More and more I am convinced that 40 days is the Lord’s special time frame for His people.  When we commit to something for this length of time we are affected to the point that what we desire to attain becomes a part of us.  This is why we find the Lord Jesus, for example, going into the wilderness for 40 days to fast and pray.  If you undertake such a challenge resolve to keep this between you and the Lord.  Take on the attitude Jesus gave us about prayer and fasting; keep it between you and God (Matthew 6:16-18).  As Jesus said, the Lord will reward us and this is what is most important. 

Never believe our devotion to God is in vain.  Pray, seek the Lord, and commit to a closer walk with Him.  Those around you will see your faith and will be inspired to seek the Lord also.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Grace of God Shown to the World

20And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  21And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.  -Genesis 8:20, 21 (KJV) 

Here in southwest Virginia we have had a run of 90 degree days with little rain.  I have been afraid to cut my grass for fear it might die afterward.  Indeed, a little rain might be nice right now.  As Noah was approaching the fortieth day of rain I wonder if perhaps he began to think it might never end.  If he had grown weary of all the rain we would certainly understand.  Never since has the world seen such a large amount of water which covered the whole earth.  According to God’s promise we will never see such large amounts of rain again. 

When I consider the amount of rain which fell upon the earth during the time of the Great Flood I think about the power of God and His grace which preserved mankind and gave us another chance.  God knew after the flood humanity would again become corrupt and turn away from Him, yet He still allowed mankind to be perpetuated.  God’s grace has carried all the way through the ages until the present time, for we have experienced the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Because of God’s grace we have not been condemned.  Instead we have been saved.  I think of what God has done for us in this way; imagine a courtroom and you are the one on trial.  You are guilty with no hope of being found innocent.  You have no one to defend you against the charges.  The verdict is in; guilty as charged.  The sentenced is passed; you are condemned to death.  Just when you think all hope is lost, the judge himself arises from his seat, takes off his robes, and comes to stand beside you.  “I will take your place.” He declares.  “I will take the punishment intended for you.”  

All you have to do is receive the judge’s offer.  He will take your place.  This is what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  He came and took our place of condemnation upon the cross of Calvary.  Through faith in Christ we now have forgiveness, new life, a clean slate, and a brand new start.  We are no longer condemned, for as the Scripture says; “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).   

Thanks be to God who has washed us clean through Christ and has given us another chance.  Trust the Lord and walk in the showers of His abundant grace and blessings.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Free in Jesus Christ

1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  15Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.  -I Timothy 4:1-3, 15 (KJV) 

Back in the late 1980’s when I was a student at the University of Cincinnati there was a cult which was frequently on campus seeking converts.  This particular group teaches a works based salvation, abstaining from meat, remaining single, and breaking all ties with family.  On top of all this the group also denies Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  Their teachings mention Jesus, yet they deny Him as the way to salvation.  To join this cult is to surrender one’s life completely to their control.  One day a brother in Christ, who was also a fellow student, approached one of the cult members and attempted to engage him in a conversation about the Bible.  When the cult member saw my friend was a devout Christian with knowledge of the Word of God he turned and walked away.  Clearly these people do not want to hear the truth regarding God’s Word. 

As I reflect on this I recall the words of Scripture which refer to those who in these latter times have departed from the faith and given heed to “seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.”  As the Bible says, their consciences have been seared to the point they no longer will listen to the truth.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with being a vegetarian or choosing to remain unmarried.  However, to base one’s salvation upon such practices stands in direct opposition to the Word of God.  Jesus Christ came to liberate us from the chains of legalism which hinder people from walking forward in the abundant life Christ has promised.   

In Jesus Christ we have been set free, yet our freedom is not to be abused or taken for granted.  In Jesus we are freed from the bondage of sin, guilt, and the burden of trying to earn our salvation.  The Scripture teaches such freedom was bought with a price, which is the shed blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary.  Let us never use our freedom as a license to sin.  Galatians 5:13 gives this charge: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty (freedom); only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” 

What a blessing to have been set free in Jesus Christ!  In Christ we are free to love one another, serve the Lord, forgive, and live each day in Christ’s power.  We are also freed from carrying around the weight of grudges, hatred, and bitterness. 

My friends, Jesus is calling us to joy and peace in the midst of life’s struggles.  Claim His peace today.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Called to Grow in Faith

1Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.  4So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him… -Genesis 12:1-4 (KJV) 

No sooner are we introduced to Abraham of the Old Testament do we find him to be a man of tremendous faith.  The Lord told him to leave the land where he had been living and go to the place the Lord would show him.  How many of us would have been hesitant about such a move?  No doubt many of us would have wanted at least some idea of where our new home was going to be.  However, Abraham went as the Lord had instructed him.  Abraham already had a relationship with the Lord, and God desired to draw Abraham closer in a way he had not experienced.  The Lord still does the same for us when we are faithful.  

A vital aspect of faith is a willingness to trust the Lord in any and all circumstances.  Anytime we find ourselves facing difficulties and trials we are called to continue trusting the Lord and looking to Him in faith.  God is going to reveal His will to His faithful servants, yet the Lord always does so in His time and according to His plan.  Ours is to be faithful and wait upon Him.   

This all sounds like a great challenge, and indeed it is.  However, our spiritual power comes from a daily walk with Christ as we seek Him in prayer and devotion.  How easily we can become comfortable where we are.  Rising up and following God’s leading always takes us out of our comfort zones and into new levels of faith and commitment.  While the Lord may not be calling you to leave your home or the place you are living right now, He is calling you to a deeper and closer walk with Him.  Complacency has ever been an enemy of vibrant faith.  Christ calls us out of complacency and apathy and into a living, breathing testimony of Christian devotion. 

Do not be like the man who sat inside his house as the floodwaters were rising.  He finally went to the second floor, and then as the waters continued to rise he went to the roof.  A rescue boat came along and they told him to get in.  “No thanks,” said the man, “I’m fine right here.”  Such a position is precarious and uncertain. 

The Lord calls us to step out on faith and be committed in ways we have never before experienced.  Trust the Lord, stay in His Word, seek Him in prayer, and make the most of the opportunities He has provided to serve Him. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Reaching out in the Love of Christ

9For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.  11Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.  -I Thessalonians 5:9-11 (KJV) 

You don’t have to look too far to find a news story about someone losing his or her temper.  These are difficult and troubled times and often peoples’ tempers get the best f them.  I read the other day about a man who disputed a bill he had received from his doctor’s office.  When the $25.00 bill could not be resolved to the man’s satisfaction he went to the doctor’s office and proceeded to pour 2500 pennies onto the secretary’s desk.  He was arrested for disorderly conduct.  Now he undoubtedly has more to think about than the original $25.00 bill. 

Many if not most of us can relate to such frustration.  Admit it; have you ever felt like doing something like what this man did?  Such thoughts have crossed my mind at times, yet I realize there are better ways to resolve a conflict.  Christ calls us and compels us to seek a prayerful, thoughtful, and gentle approach to the trials we face so that Christ may be glorified in us and we will receive spiritual victory.  Indeed, life isn’t fair, and these trials are going to come our way.  However, the more we seek the Lord the more spiritual power we have for taking the Christ-like approach.   

Earlier today I had to visit the DMV to have my driver’s license renewed, and even though there were only a handful of people in front of me it was taking a long time.  I kept thinking it would be nice if they could develop a system wherein more people could be processed faster.  When my turn came, however, I did not allow my frustration to show, but instead sought to be pleasant with the lady who handled my transaction.  In the course of our brief conversation she found out I am a pastor.  We had been joking about driver’s license pictures, wearing glasses, and getting older, yet just before I left the counter the woman became serious.   

“Would you please pray for me?”  She asked.  “I am having some problems and it would mean a lot to me if you remembered me in prayer.”  She told me her name and I promised to pray for her.  Had I allowed my frustration to control me I would have missed out on an opportunity to minister to someone in need. 

When we reach out in Jesus’  name we overcome, for Christ already has won the victory.  Now go and claim the victory today.  Let Jesus Christ shine through at all times.  Countless people need to know there is hope in Jesus.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Going Deeper in our Prayer Lives

11Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. -II Thessalonians 1:11, 12 (KJV) 

I have read about cathedrals in Europe which were designed to allow a speaker to be heard anywhere in the building.  Before the days of electricity and amplification the sanctuaries were designed to echo a speaker’s voice back down to the listeners.  Have you ever felt this way about your prayers?  Have you had the feeling your prayers were reaching no higher than the ceiling and were bouncing back down on you?  No doubt we have all experienced the frustration of not being able to concentrate or move our prayers higher than our own heads.   
This is why we are challenged in the Scripture to pray, seek the Lord, and never give up on doing so.  Prayer is our spiritual power source for moving forward in faith.  There will be days when we do not feel like our prayers are getting through; keep praying anyway.  The call of God in Christ Jesus is to seek the Lord faithfully.  God will bring about the breakthrough, even in those times when we feel our prayers are ineffective.  Prayer empowers us to focus our thoughts on God and when we do so consistently over time we discover the power of daily prayer in our personal lives. 

Prayer is a spiritual discipline which we may all grow in over time.  The results will positively influence every aspect of our lives. The more we pray the more focused on Christ we become.  And the more focused on Christ we are the better equipped we are to take on the daily challenges of life.  Christ has called us to spiritual victory.  He has not called us to timidity and defeat.  Pray boldly, yet humbly, and with confidence, for the Lord honors the prayers of His people.   

Be prepared, however, for a spiritual battle.  The devil is always going to throw distractions at us when we try to pray.  He will dangle all sorts of temptations before us even during the sacred period of our morning prayers.  Stand firm and resist the devil.  Claim the power of God which allows us to bring into captivity every thought and make them obedient to Christ (II Corinthians 10:5).  Be willing to embark on a new journey of devotion to God.  I have been challenging people these days to take on the 40 day prayer challenge which involves rising earlier than you ever have before over a 40 day period to pray.  Jesus set an example we are meant to follow when He dedicated Himself to daily prayer. 

Let the Lord take you deeper into your prayers than ever before.  Spiritual victory and blessings will follow.   

Monday, June 6, 2011

Building on the Right Foundation

11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. -I Corinthians 3:11-13 (KJV) 

I once met a man who described the challenges of building his own house.  I asked him where he learned how to do construction.  He replied that he learned the craft from his father and had also picked up the needed skills along the way as he worked and learned.  I point this out because I can barely drive a nail in straight, let alone build a house from the ground up.  As with many other skills, being able to build a house involves possessing God-given talent in this area. 

While I wouldn’t know where to begin with building a house I do understand building a house requires a solid foundation.  Were I to build my house on unstable and loose soil the house I built would have problems.  Jesus compared our lives with the construction of a house built on a solid foundation.  “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24).  Jesus stated if we build our spiritual houses on loose and shaky ground we will be unable to stand when the storms of life come.  However, when we build upon a solid foundation the house will remain standing even during the worst storms.   

Jesus Christ is the solid rock, the strong foundation, upon which we can build our lives.  Build on any other foundation and we are going to encounter problems and difficulties, for the house will not stand when the storms of life come our way.  Those storms will indeed come, yet with Christ as the foundation we will remain standing.  Many believers today need a strengthening of their spiritual houses.  If we are in Christ then we have the proper foundation.  The challenge is to reinforce the house with prayer, worship, the Word of God, and daily devotion to the Lord.   

Yesterday during the morning worship time I preached on the subject of the power of 40 days in the Bible.  I also relayed, as I have done in this blog, the profound spiritual impact my 40 day prayer journey had on my life.  My personal prayer journey involved 40 straight days of rising at 4:15 AM for an extended time of morning prayer.  I am continuing to reap the benefits of this wonderful experience.  After the service a dear elderly lady told me she is contemplating taking up the 40 day challenge.  I realize again how we are never to stop growing in our faith.   

Walking with Jesus Christ is an every day, long-term, and ongoing challenge.  Never let up and do not back down.  Seek the Lord each day and strengthen your spiritual house.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Walking With God

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. -Genesis 5:24 (KJV)
8But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.  9These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.  -Genesis 6:8, 9 (KJV) 

Early in the Word of God we find two men, Enoch and Noah, both distinguished by a powerful description of their lives and overall character.  They Bible says they both walked with God.  What exactly does this mean?  To walk with God means to live daily in fellowship, harmony, and communion with the Lord.  The one who walks with God is making a conscious effort, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live a life which is honorable and approved by God.  With God’s help the endeavor to live this worthy life is met with at least an identifiable measure of success.  The character and lifestyle of those seeking to “walk with God” is recognized by those around them.  The blessings and spiritual power of the Lord rests upon such persons. 

How easily we might dismiss our own spiritual strength for walking with the Lord.  We often convince ourselves we are in no way capable of attaining such a level of spirituality.  Anytime we allow such negative and destructive thinking to rule us we are placed right where the devil wants us to be.  We end up giving up without a fight.  God has not called us to defeat.  The Lord has always called His followers to rise up and walk forward in spiritual victory.  Followers of Christ face a spiritual paradox; through surrender we find victory, through weakness we are made strong, and through death we are given life. 

Here is how this applies to us; by surrendering to the Lordship of Christ we find spiritual victory (Matthew 16:24).  The Lord takes our weaknesses and turns them into strengths (II Corinthians 12:9).  By dying to self and the old ways which ruled us we find life and spiritual resurrection (John 12:23-25, Galatians 2:20).  Walking with God is not for the super-saints or the ultra-spiritual.  Walking with God is for all believers.  We walk with Jesus Christ in faith each day as we trust in Him and seek His will.  You can, with the Lord’s help, walk with Him and experience His love and grace each day. 

To try to walk through each day without the Lord’s help is to become ensnared by the world.  On the other hand, to walk with Christ is to become liberated from the power of the world.  Christ liberates us from forces which would otherwise have controlled us.  Men like Enoch and Noah experienced the power of God through and ongoing walk with Him.  Theirs was a disciplined and focused experience with the Lord.   

Consider the power of a 40 day period designed to take you to a level of faith unlike anything you have before experienced.  Commit to arise earlier for prayer for 40 days.  You will be blessed in powerful and wonderful ways and your faith will be strengthened and renewed.