Sunday, July 31, 2011

Irons in the Fire

14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  -Matthew 5:14, 15 (KJV) 

I have for years heard the expression about having “too many irons in the fire.”  We all know what this means.  It refers to having so many responsibilities going on in our lives that we begin to feel overwhelmed.  This is not a good feeling, and most would agree.  These days I have more going on than ever before and I find my gifts and abilities are often stretched to the limit.  Yet, do you want to know something?  Right now this is all right.  I know my limitations, and if I begin to feel I am attempting to do too much I will take the needed steps to slow down. 

What I am learning is we must be careful of spreading ourselves too thin (another nice word picture), yet we need those irons in the fire.  Being involved, connected, and a part of the work of the kingdom of God is good for us as followers of Christ.  When Jesus said we are to be His light and His witnesses in the world He meant for us to be out among the people who most need the gospel.  Not only are we blessed in being connected through sharing the love of Christ, but we are also enriched through the relationships we build and the lives we touch. 

The challenge comes in striking the right balance between doing what God would have us to do and doing too much.  For most people, they need not worry about doing too much in their service to Christ.  Most of us could be doing far more than we are right now.  Do not be afraid to reach out in the name of the Lord.  Let us walk forward in bold and confident faith that the Lord is with us and He will bless us as we minister to others in His name.   

Too many irons in the fire?  Maybe, maybe not.  If our service to Christ is lacking, then go ahead and add another iron in the Lord’s service.  Christ will empower us to serve Him with zeal and devotion.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Overcoming Barriers

5Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; 6That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. -Philemon 1:5, 6 (KJV) 

Have you ever noticed just how confusing and complex the English language can be?  I always feel empathy for anyone who comes to America and has to learn English from scratch.  There are more phrases, slang, idioms, and double- meanings than we can imagine.  We can only wonder what it must be like for the non English speaker to wander in a maze of words such as “to” “too” and “two,” “know”  and “no,” “right,” “write,” and “Wright,”  or “cord” and “chord,” to name a few.   

I know this will sound like a stand-up comedy routine, but I was chucking to myself the other day as I pondered the difference between being “locked up” and “locked down.”  I guess if someone were to go out in public and “act up” he would find himself in the “lock-up.” And while there if he didn’t follow the rules he could be on “lock-down.” You see what I mean?  These odd twists of the English language seem to go on and on. 

Consider how the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to be communicated with others.  Not only does the gospel break down language and cultural barriers, it also breaks down barriers of fear, doubt, anger, and mistrust.  Many people in the world struggle with fear and uncertainty in their lives.  The gospel can shine the light of Christ into troubled lives and provide peace and stability in these difficult times.  People also will sometimes be mistrustful of the gospel and of us.  This is why it’s so important to do as the Bible says and, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”  (I Peter 2:12).   

What sort of barriers are you facing today?  Are you in doubt about God’s power to help you through the challenges and difficulties you are going through?  Perhaps you wondering how you will overcome the difficulties you are experiencing and you are filled with conflicting thoughts.  Take heart, for Christ has come to bring peace, joy, and hope even during our darkest nights.  Do not fear and do not panic.  The Lord is with us.  

May we commit ourselves anew to walking by faith, sharing the gospel with others, and letting the Lord have His perfect will in our lives.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Of Hummingbirds and Butterflies

11The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?  12Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?  13Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. -John 4:11-14, (KJV) 

As you may recall my saying in other posts each year I enjoy placing hummingbird feeders outside my house and then watching them throughout the season.  The past spring we were off to a great start with so many hummingbirds coming to my two feeders I could barely keep them filled.  At one point I even considered adding a third feeder.  However, over the last month or so the hummingbirds have just stopped coming.  I have tried keeping the feeders refilled with fresh nectar, and I have tried placing them in areas closer to the woods which I thought might allow the birds to feed with more security.  Sadly, none of these tricks has worked.  The hummingbirds continue to stay away. 

The other evening I went out into the back yard and saw what I thought was a hummingbird on the feeder closest to the woods.  I slowly walked that direction and then realized it wasn’t a hummingbird, but a beautiful butterfly.  Feeling disappointment, yet amusement, I walked over and watched as the butterfly drank its fill of the sweet nectar of the feeder.  I figure if the hummingbirds don’t want to partake of what’s been provided some other creatures will. 

Consider this is similar to the way countless people are in their attitudes toward Christ and His Word.  Untold numbers of churches across the country make available the Word of God and the sweet waters of its truths, yet many people decline to come and partake of these blessed riches.  As Jesus said, what He offers satisfies the deepest spiritual longings of our souls.  Christ is able to fulfill us in times of spiritual and emotional drought.  As we hunger and thirst for righteousness the Lord will gladly give us our fill. 

Sadly, people will choose to stay away and they will decline the offer to share in what the Lord offers.  We cannot make or coerce people to come to faith in Christ nor should we ever attempt to do so.  Coming to faith in Jesus Christ is a personal choice each one of must make.  And as following Christ is a choice so is walking in faith and growing in His Word.  However, let us nor shirk our responsibility to proclaim the gospel and seek to encourage those who have grown cold in their faith.  Perhaps what is needed is for someone to encourage them to come back. 

I think tonight I’ll refill my hummingbird feeders and give it another try.  Perhaps they’ll come back.  If not, I know some butterflies which seem to be benefiting from the feeders.  Be faithful, my friends, and never stop sharing the gospel.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

God’s Blessings Even During the Hard Times

11Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.  12The LORD hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron.  13He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. -Psalm 115:11-13(KJV) 

Psalm 115 is a reminder of how the Lord has promised to bless us.  Our problem comes when we fail to open our hands and our hearts and receive the blessings the Lord intends for us.  We often equate problems and crises with the absence of blessings.  Why can’t God bless us in the middle of our most serious problems, our darkest days, and our most desperate hours?  According His Word He does and He will!   

I was thinking of the Russian man I read about who was arrested for being a believer and spent years in a Russian Gulag.  Every day he would sit and pray, and one day another prisoner asked him how he could pray every day to be released from the gulag knowing it probably wasn’t going to happen. The man looked up from his prayers and replied, “Who said I am praying to be released?  I am praying for God to bless me while I am here.”  This is the faith to trust God even in the worst kind of circumstances.  I am literally being held prisoner, yet I will trust God and expect His blessings.   

Remember that wealth is a relative term.  Many of us when compared with a Bill Gates or a Donald Trump it may not look like we have much.  Yet when we are compared with countless people in the world who live day to day without even the basic necessities, living in cardboard shacks, eating what they can scrounge from other peoples’ trash, and their only clothes are what they are wearing, we are the ones who are like millionaires.  I have plenty to eat every day, more clothes than I can wear in a week, a car to drive, and a warm, dry place to sleep each night.   

God can and will bless us beyond what we would have believed possible and He will bless us in the midst of our difficulties.  Walk in faith and the blessings and power of God and we then bless others around us by our faith and commitment.  We in turn are blessed beyond measure.  One of the greatest blessings we have in the Kingdom of God is being a blessing to others.  Whatever our station or position in life and regardless of what we are going through we can be blessed and we can be a blessing to others.  This is God’s promise to us.   

Do not despair if you are going through hard times.  Trust God and continue looking to Him.  The Lord will bless us even in our darkest hour.  We have Jesus, and He is enough – more than enough to sustain us through the trials of life.  Be encouraged and be of good cheer.  The Lord is with us.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don’t Let Life’s Problems Bring us Down

The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.  -Isaiah 60:19 (KJV) 

Now that I am back from taking a week off I realize I have what appears to be an endless list of tasks, responsibilities, and problems which require my attention.  This isn’t a complaint, but a statement of fact.  I may have taken time off to rest, regroup, visit with family, and put my problems aside for a while, yet life forged ahead at its usual pace.  I am grateful for the visit I had with my aging parents as well as the opportunity to relax and refocus.  What an exciting day I am facing; it’s a good thing I spent an extended period in prayer this morning.  Otherwise I would feel most overwhelmed. 

I suppose when many people take vacations they try to forget about their jobs back home.  While I attempt not to stress about what might or might not be getting done back home while I’m away I do try to learn during my time off.  Allow me to share something I learned while on vacation which I found to be most interesting.  I heard a radio program about a study which was done in England regarding the way people handle problems.  The study found that the more people vent about their problems the worse they feel about them.   

It’s human nature to talk about our problems, right?  To some degree this can be healthy.  However, people reported when they vented to family, friends, or co-workers about a new problem or frustration they were facing they felt worse about it.  They felt more stressed, angry, and upset than before.  Indeed, we can talk too much about our problems and in the end we feel worse about the situation.  The researchers reported those who coped better with their problems practiced the following strategies:
  • Humor.  If we can find something to laugh about, even about a problem, we will come through it better.  Humor is a wonderful tool for coping with stressful situations.
  • Positive re-framing.  Try to consider what good may have come out of the situation. What have you learned from it?  How have you grown through it?  Seek answers to these questions and you will find your outlook will improve.
  • Acceptance.  Accept that the problem, whatever it may be, has happened and then move on.  Seek to be unshackled from the chains of asking why along the burden of guilt and self-pity.   
Christ has not called us to walk in darkness.  Instead He has called us to walk in His glorious and blessed light.  As the Lord has promised, He will be to us an everlasting light.  Claim this promise today and walk forward in confident and certain faith.  The Lord is with us.  Claim His peace today.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Giving our Burdens to the Lord

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  -Matthew 11:29 (KJV) 

As I have said many times before, everyone needs rest and time away.  I have not taken much vacation time this year and I realize this isn’t such a good idea.  What is a good idea is to take a little time off to get rested and refreshed, which I will be doing for the next week.  My hope was to have my daily blog entries updated so that you would have one each morning I am away, yet due to a hectic schedule this was not possible.   

I love writing this daily blog and it continues to be a blessing to me and I pray it is to you as well.  The daily entries should resume next week around Tuesday, July 26.  Until then I invite you to go back and review any of the blogs of recent weeks or months which have blessed you.  Please pray for me as I take some time off to rest, reflect, and spend time with family.  Know that I am praying for you, my faithful readers, and my prayer is you will grow in the love, grace, and knowledge of God.  Should you ever have a prayer need and would like for me to pray for you please email me at  Any request you share with me will be kept in the strictest confidence.   

What a blessing to have such a loving Savior who is always willing to allow us to cast our burdens upon Him.  I have felt the weight of a great amount of responsibility lately, yet the Lord is faithful and as He has promised, we can cast our burdens upon Him and find rest for our souls.  I look forward to a week of rest and renewal – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.   

May the Lord richly bless you – see you next week!  

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Blessings of Coming Together for Worship

24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. -Hebrews 10:24, 25 (KJV) 

As followers of Christ we know Sunday is a special and sacred day.  This is the day we as the body of Christ come together for worship, fellowship, and encouragement.  Consider that wherever you attend worship your pastor gives tremendously in terms of time and energy and sometimes needs a little time away.  A relative of mine was telling me about how her pastor was away on vacation recently and a supply preacher handled the service for the day.  She said the supply pastor was rather elderly and a little hard of hearing.  

During the service prayer requests were taken.  Various individuals were mentioned as needing prayer and the guest preacher repeated the names and wrote them down.  Someone then mentioned a prayer request for someone named Linda, and the pastor said, “Oh yes, we need to pray for Libya and the war and strife going on in that country.”  The person who made the request said, “No, I said Linda.” To which the pastor replied, “Yes indeed; we must pray for Libya as this country needs prayer.” 

During the prayer time as the pastor prayed he offered a sincere prayer for the people of Libya and the need for peace and healing in this war stricken nation.  The pastor prayed for peace as well spiritual renewal.  I told my relative to look on the bright side; God will touch Linda, for the Lord knew who the prayer was intended for, and the Lord will also honor the prayers for the nation of Libya – a country definitely in need of prayer.  Who knows that a great revival might take place throughout North Africa as the result of this sincere prayer? 

Let us do as the Scripture commands and come together regularly for worship and prayer.  God honors the prayers and worship of His people.  I also believe the Lord has a wonderful sense of humor.  Lighten up and take time to enjoy a good laugh today – and every day.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

God’s Peace in the Midst of Suffering

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. -John 3:16, 17 (KJV) 

I have heard much discussion over the years about the suffering which is in the world.  Many people have grown angry with God and even reached the point of bitterness.  When people pose the question about why God doesn’t do something about the suffering in the world I seek to gently remind them He has.  Jesus Christ has come and has brought forgiveness, salvation, peace, joy, and hope to a troubled and tragic world.  Through faith in Him we overcome the world and all its trials, disappointments, and heartaches.  Become angry enough with God and we run the risk of being overcome with bitterness. I have witnessed this in many people and it is not a pretty sight. 

One of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey, confessed how in years past he was angry with God over all the suffering in the world.  Yet as he met people who were believers he could not help but notice how their faith in God made them stronger in the midst of their suffering.  They were not defeated – far from it!  They were growing and vibrant as they looked to Christ to sustain them.  Philip’s spiritual journey brought him to the reality of God’s power in the midst of our suffering.  He said,”My anger about pain has melted mostly for one reason: I have come to know God.  He has given me joy and love and happiness and goodness.  It leaves me with faith in a Person, a faith so solid that no amount of suffering can erode it.”1  

When we trust Christ we are not defeated by our struggles, but we are strengthened, for the Lord is with us.  God empowers us to live the abundant life in Christ no matter what trials and difficulties we are facing.  Through faith in Jesus we walk forward in faith and spiritual victory even as the storms of life rage around us.  Like David in the 23rd Psalm, God prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.  He fills our cup to overflowing (Psalm 23:5).  Even as we see the enemy in the distance, whatever or whomever it may be, we have the peace of Christ reigning in our hearts. 

This peace is available to all.  You and I are in no way excluded from God’s grace, mercy, and the peace which follows.  Look to the Lord, stand firm, and do not give up, for Jesus is greater than any problem we will ever face.  In Him we have victory. 

1Philip Yancey, “Our Daily Bread,” Thursday, July 21, 2011, RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan.   

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jesus’ Integrity, and ours, Questioned

10And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.  11And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?  12But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. -Matthew 9:10-12 (KJV) 

We should not be surprised when people question our integrity, for they did so to the Lord.  As Jesus was going about doing good, helping people, and spreading the good news, there were critics who opposed Him.  At one point they accused Him of using demonic forces to drive out demons.  The Pharisees had less trouble with Jesus calling Matthew as a disciple than they did with Him going to have dinner in Matthew’s home.  This truly threw them for a loop when Jesus did this.   

The question I would have wanted the Pharisees to consider, and I what would want people to think about today is to whom should Jesus have been going?  Where should Jesus have been targeting His ministry?  The Lord pointed out that healthy folks don’t need a doctor; sick people need the doctor.  Had Jesus only associated with those who had their lives together and were seeking God, then those whose lives were going down the tubes would have been neglected.  The Lord demonstrated that we seek to reach all people with the gospel.  This includes the executive and the heroin addict, the religious person and the atheist, and the homemaker and the prostitute.  We simply reach out in Jesus’ name to all people without prejudice and without selectivity.  We go wherever this takes us: the slums, the country, the city, the upscale and the down-and-out.   
I love Philip Yancey’s book, “What’s so Amazing About Grace?”  In one chapter he talked about a church which allowed an AA group to meet weekly at their facility.  Philip was very honest in pointing out the potential problems with such a ministry and that it’s probably not going to work in every church.  Some of the participants would pose a challenge for the church in terms of knowing how to minister to their needs.  Yet Philip said the church reached out to them, and they ended up having a tremendous impact on those who came to the meetings.   

When we reach out to the lost as Jesus said we should, there will be challenges involved.  Some folks might come to church who have the potential to make us feel a little uncomfortable.  However, Jesus faced the same dilemma and He said sick folks are the ones who need the care of a doctor.  Sinners are the ones who need the Lord’s forgiveness.   

Let us not be discouraged when those around us question what we are doing for the Lord.  The call of God in Christ Jesus is greater than the judgment of others.  Keep reaching out in Jesus’ name.  Lost souls are in need of the Lord.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Christ’s Power Over Sin

2And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.  3And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.  –Matthew 9:2, 3 (KJV) 

We know that in the world today that people continue to question Jesus and what He has done.  They also question what the Lord has taught us.  Does Christ in fact have the authority to forgive sins and to heal the sick?  We as believers answer emphatically yes.  Jesus has the power to forgive sins, and He has the power to cancel the effect of sin.  As the hymn says, “He breaks the power of cancelled sin.”  Jesus overcame sin by offering Himself as a pure and spotless sacrifice for sin –  the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Having received Him as Savior, His blood is then upon us for our forgiveness – our sins are then washed away.  And were we to sin, the Scripture says that we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the righteous (I John 2:1).   

Think about how we can forgive one another, and Jesus said that we are to do just that. Yet, you and I are helpless to remove the stain of sin left upon the human heart.  Only Christ can accomplish this for us.  Something else to consider is the power of forgiveness in our lives.  We all need the forgiveness which the Lord offers.  When Jesus forgives us an oppressive weight is lifted from us.  I once read the following story which touched my heart: 

There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Signed, Your Father. On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. 

Countless people everywhere need the forgiveness the Lord offers.  We need not try to go through life carrying the burden and weight of sin any longer.  Christ is perfectly willing to come into our hearts and offer grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  Trusting the Lord lifts from us a heavy burden.  Stop carrying those burdens yourself; give them over to the Lord.  He is able to save us and to remove the devastating consequences of sin.  Trust in the Lord and claim His power right now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Preparation for Eternity

19For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. -Philippians 1:19-21 (KJV) 

Over the last few weeks I have learned of three men in the community, all in their 50’s, who are facing terminal cancer.  This causes me to consider what I would do if I found myself facing such circumstances.  Once the initial shock wore off I imagine I would do what these men are doing; seek treatment, begin getting my affairs in order, and prepare to meet the Lord.  As I ponder this further, however, I realize how even when not facing a terminal illness we are to be about the work of preparing for eternity. 

I recall hearing someone say that this life, all if it, is preparation for eternity.  None of us knows when we may be called out of this world; therefore, we do well to be prepared for when the time comes.  The first order is to get our hearts right with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Following this we are to make the most of life by living the kind of lives which bring honor and glory to the Lord.  Does this involve a stone-faced and stern outlook all of the time?  The answer is of course not.  Living the abundant life in Christ means taking time to joyfully smile, laugh, and enjoy life as much as we can.  As we walk with the Lord He will teach us and show us how we can honor Him in all areas of life.   

A relationship with Jesus not only prepares us for eternity but it also gives us peace, strength, stability, and true joy as we walk forward in faith.  The happiest and most joyful people I have ever known are those who have the peace of Christ in their hearts.  This peace sustains us and keeps us looking to the Lord even during the darkest and most difficult times we face. 

When I talk with people who have faced hard situations they usually say essentially the same thing; faith in the Lord and prayer was what brought them through.  Indeed, faith in Christ keeps us standing upon Him, for He is the firm foundation which will not be moved when the storms of life come our way. 

Even now we are preparing for eternity.  Let us resolve to make the most of every opportunity we have for serving the Lord and for reaching out to others in Jesus’  name.  In this way we help others as they too search for the truth and prepare for eternity.  We lead them to Jesus, for He is the true way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finding our Focus in Christ

13Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.  14But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?  15And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. -Matthew 3:13-15 (KJV) 
God has laid on my heart a burden regarding how conflicted, distracted, and confused people are these days.  We have so much coming at us that it is becoming increasingly difficult to focus on the main task at hand.  All my life I have heard terminology about the dangers of being spread too thin.  We find our example in Jesus who was always focused in the right direction.  He willingly was baptized by John and then moved forward to accomplish His purpose for coming into the world.  Jesus did not let Himself be distracted.  We do well to follow this example. 

Try to do too much, try to keep too many things going at one time, and we run the risk of not accomplishing much of anything.  We can be busy, our lives, loaded with activities, our schedules full, and our energies always being used.  Yet if we are not careful we end up accomplishing little.  The reason being we are running here and there, trying to do so much at once that no one achievement ever gets truly finished.  This can be an extremely frustrating way to live.  We start making statements that sound like this:  
  • I work all of the time, but I can’t seem to get caught up. 
  • I work daily to try and keep my house clean, but it always appears to be a mess. 
  • I have something going on all of the time, but I’m not really sure if I’m accomplishing anything.
  • I’m surrounded by people, but I often feel lonely.
  • I have goals, but I never move toward them.
  • I have dreams, but they never come true.
  • I possess hope, but I remain unfulfilled.
Maybe you have been there; maybe you are there right now.  When we begin to focus upon Christ, then we come to understand where our priorities lie.  As we seek Him first, everything begins to line up in its proper place (Matthew 6:33).   Do not give up; keep looking to the Lord and trusting in Him, for He has a plan for your life.

A closer walk with the Lord can take place – regardless of where we might have been or what struggles we may have endured.  Christ has not called us to lay down in defeat, but to rise up in faith and victory.  Christ has not called us to stagnate, but to grow. He has not called us to stay where we are, but rather to move forward. The Lord has not called us to cower in fear, but to rise up in faith.  Christ has not called us to the mundane, but to the miraculous. 

Resolve to trust the Lord and walk forward in victory – today. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Power of a Heart Fixed on God

1O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.  2Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.  3I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.  4For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds.  -Psalm 108:1-4 (KJV) 

We use the word “heart”  to describe a number of situations and feelings.  The psalmist David said that his heart was fixed on God.  So fixed was his heart that he would sing, praise, and worship God with all of his soul.  This is what David meant regarding praising the Lord with his glory.  He would hold nothing back in his adoration of God.   

Many years ago while serving in another congregation I let a young man in the church sing a solo, and it wasn’t until he began singing I found out he actually couldn’t sing.  It was certainly not the best public performance I have ever heard, yet according to the Word of God if the young man’s heart was fixed on God, and I believe it was, then his praise would be acceptable to God.  It would have been more pleasing to the ear had he been a better singer, yet it was pleasing to God because the heart of the worshipper was fixed on God.   

Fixing our hearts on God accomplishes great purposes in our lives as found in Psalm 108: Praise and worship is awakened within us (v 2).  We become witnesses to the church, the community, and the world (v 3).  We become better aware of the eternal nature of God (vv 4, 5).  We become more aware of our need for God and our dependence upon Him (v 6).  We become more attentive to the voice of God (v 7).  We come to better understand the world and how all which is in it belongs to the Lord (vv 8-9). 

David’s prayer was that God would be exalted above the heavens and His glory would be over the earth.  This is what happens when we fix our hearts on the Lord; He is exalted in our midst and we are blessed.  Let’s not forget how God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).  We don’t have to be spiritual paupers, for we are children of the king.  I recall when I as boy going to Menifee County, Kentucky to visit family.  My Uncle owned a store and my cousin and I would go into the store where we were sometimes allowed to have a soft drink and a pocket full of candy – free of charge.  I thought this was the greatest experience in the world!  You see, I had permission from the owner to partake of his riches.   

To me this is a picture of God’s blessings in our lives.  God owns the whole store –  He wants to give us of its blessings.  We are to open our hearts and receive those blessings. Let us fix our hearts on the Lord, for blessings will surely follow.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Key to a Happy Marriage

18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”… 23And Adam said:
      “This is now bone of my bones
      And flesh of my flesh;
      She shall be called Woman,
      Because she was taken out of Man.”  -Genesis 2:18, 23 (NKJV)

Andrea and I have been enjoying a wonderful weekend.  We have been celebrating our 29th wedding anniversary all weekend and thanks to some dear friends it was extra special.  It also explains why I am behind on my daily blog posts.  Friday we spent the day on beautiful Watauga Lake, courtesy of our friends who own a houseboat and invited us to celebrate our anniversary with them.  We swam, relaxed, enjoyed wonderful fellowship, and ate delicious food courtesy of our hosts.  
The next day, Saturday, we traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the day where we also met with friends who helped us celebrate our anniversary.  We arrived home late Saturday night and today the Lord blessed us with an exciting and uplifting day of worship.  I am exhausted, yet it’s a good kind of tired. 

The Lord is faithful, and Andrea and I are blessed to have shared 29 years together.  It seems hard to believe that 29 years ago we began our lives together.  We have been through a number of dark valleys together and we have also experienced mountaintop journeys of faith and blessings.  We have seen the Lord work in our lives in ways which can only be explained in light of His provision and grace.  Truly we have been blessed beyond measure. 

Our youngest son, Ben, gave us a card with read, “If someone were to ask me what it takes to have a successful marriage, I’d tell them I haven’t a clue.  But it’s clear you two do.  Congratulations!  I love you!”  Thanks Ben, and we love you too.  And to everyone who helped make this anniversary special, thanks to you as well. 

What has been the key to our staying together and remaining happy all these years?  I will tell you; firm and unwavering faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have built our lives, and our marriage on the solid rock of Christ.  Do this, and as Jesus promised, the house will stand when the storms come.   

Christ is faithful, and we are blessed when we commit our way to Him.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Offensiveness of the Gospel

10And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.  12Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?  -Matthew 15:10-12 (KJV) 

When I was a college student I studied Hebrew under a professor who was a very kind and dear Jewish lady.  She was fluent in Hebrew and also practiced Orthodox Judaism.  One day before class we were having a conversation and I told her of a group of Christians I had read about who had observed a Passover meal.  She appeared to be offended and asked why in the world a group of Christians would observe a strictly Jewish observance.  I explained how for us the Passover represents Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.  I also explained how at the last supper Jesus shared a Passover meal with His disciples instructing them to “Take and eat, this is my body” (Matthew 26:26).  And the Lord then instructed them to drink the cup saying, “Drink all of it” (Matthew 26:27).   

As I explained this I realized she had never considered such an application to this observance.  As we witness for Jesus we will find ourselves facing situations in which our hearers and those to whom we minister we be offended.  The gospel itself is offensive in nature, for people are confronted with the hard truth of being sinners in need of salvation.  Some receive this news joyfully, others become offended at the notion, and some will even become downright angry with the news.  Being confronted with the terribly real possibility of spending eternity in hell is unsettling.  Our hope is those with whom we share the gospel will open their hearts and receive Christ as Savior.  

Jesus did not allow the fear of offending others to hinder Him in sharing the truth.  The Pharisees were deeply religious men who didn’t take kindly to being challenged on their beliefs, practices, and traditions.  Yet Jesus did not hold back in letting them know that while they held a head knowledge of God’s righteous requirements they had never experienced a true heart-changing experience with the Lord.  This, my friends, is what Jesus brings.  He moves us from head knowledge to a transformed heart.   

What Jesus does is change us from the inside out.  Through faith in Him we are thoroughly cleansed.  When the Scripture speaks of our justification it means we have now been justified in God’s sight.  We no longer stand condemned before God (Romans 8:1).  Instead we have been made fit to come into God’s holy presence.  This was done completely through Jesus Christ and His redemptive work upon the cross of Calvary.  Only Jesus Christ could accomplish this for us. 

As we witness we will inevitably offend people.  Respond with kindness, grace, mercy, and compassion.  Let the love of Jesus shine through to a lost and hurting world. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

God’s Grace – Greater than our Sacrifices

5Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.  6For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. -Hosea 6:5, 6 (KJV) 

The Old Testament book of Hosea shows us how God’s people the Israelites had gotten themselves into a mess of idolatry and unfaithfulness to God.  Like an unfaithful spouse they kept turning away from the Lord, yet in His mercy He kept forgiving them and taking them back.  God demonstrated this in a powerful way when He commanded the prophet Hosea to take a prostitute named Gomer for his wife.  Hosea was faithful and did what the Lord commanded.  He loved Gomer so much that even though she kept leaving him and returning to her life of prostitution Hosea continued to forgive her, take her back, and love her. 

We can only imagine the anguish the prophet felt as he wandered the lonely streets and alleyways at night searching for his wayward wife.  And when he found her he lovingly forgave her and brought her home.  Truly this is a love which defies human understanding.  Such love, mercy, and grace are rooted in the power of God which sees beyond our faults to our greatest need – salvation and grace.  How sad that countless people believe such grace is something to be purchased.  I will say a few prayers, attend church from time to time, try to be a “good person,”  perhaps even donate money to charity, and in the end maybe God will receive me into heaven.   

God made it clear how a changed heart is greater than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.  Nothing we can do will erase the stain of sin which is upon our souls.  We can try as hard as we can, bring all the offerings we can gather, and we can observe every ritual available.  In the end these works will not purchase our salvation.  This is why Jesus Christ came into the world.  He did what we could not do for ourselves; He paid the penalty for our sins through His death upon the cross of Calvary.  Jesus fulfilled for us the righteous requirements of God’s law.  Through faith in Him we have a changed heart and we become new creations with a clean slate and brand new start. 

The time to cease from wandering through life with no real hope of salvation is now.  Through faith in Jesus Christ we are released from the chains of trying to save ourselves.  We are liberated to serve God with joyful hearts and a new outlook.  This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of knowing the truth and being set free (John 8:32).  To know Jesus Christ is to know true spiritual freedom. 

Have you begun the 40 day challenge of rising earlier to seek the Lord in prayer?  If not begin today.  Spiritual growth will surely follow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stones of Remembrance

5And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: 6That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?   7Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. -Joshua 4:5-7 (KJV) 

There is a cemetery in eastern Kentucky where a number of my relatives and ancestors are buried.  In a corner of the cemetery there are graves so old they are marked only with a stone.  My late aunt was one of the few people who could walk through the cemetery and tell who was buried in those graves.  Sadly, she is now with the Lord and I do not know anyone else in the family who possesses this information.  Those grave markers, even though they are simple stones, mark the graves of real people who once lived their lives. 

The Bible says after the Israelites ended their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness they crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land.  The Lord instructed them to take from the Jordan stones to set up as a memorial commemorating their passage into the Promised Land.   Years later when their children would ask, “What do these stones mean?”  They would tell them of the great works God had done in bringing them out of slavery, and then out of the wilderness and into the Land of Promise.   

We too have markers in our lives to remind us of what the Lord has done for us.  We set up spiritual stones as memorials to the great works the Lord has accomplished in our lives.  When I look back on my life and I recall the wonders of God’s grace each instance becomes a stone of remembrance.  These include salvation in Jesus Christ, God’s provision during lean times, the Lord’s guidance during hard times, and the Lord’s peace during troubled times.  Every time I reflect on these situations I am reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness and love shown to me.   

As followers of Christ we have Jesus, the chief cornerstone, the stone the builders rejected, yet unto us He is the solid rock, our Savior upon whom we stand and who holds us together.  We consider the cross upon which Jesus died, which is a symbol of our faith.  When people ask, “What does this cross mean?”  Let us be prepared with the answer that upon the cross our Lord shed His blood for the sins of mankind.   

Be thankful, be mindful, and be ready with an answer; Jesus Christ is Lord. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Wounds Which Remind us of God’s Grace

17From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. 18Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. -Galatians 6:17, 18 (KJV) 

I recall when I was in seminary I met a student who had come to the United States from somewhere in Africa.  Samuel was a vibrant and outgoing believer whose goal was to receive his seminary education and then return to his native country to share the gospel with the people there.  I noticed that Samuel had a series of scars running down his face, and while I never asked I wondered if those scars were part of a tribal ritual he had undergone at some point in his life.  I have read of African people who have rituals for their young men which represent the passage into adulthood.  He did not speak of these scars, yet he did speak of the grace of God he had found through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Paul the Apostle said at the close of his letter to the Galatians of how he bore upon his body the marks of Jesus Christ.  For Paul these marks were the result of beatings, stoning, and the persecutions he had endured for the gospel.  As Paul looked at his own body and saw the wounds he was reminded of what he had suffered in the name of the Lord.  However, there is no trace of bitterness in Paul.  Instead we find him rejoicing over what Christ had done in allowing him the privilege of going and proclaiming the gospel.  His rejoicing came in being found worthy to suffer for the cause of Christ and for being a part of the advancement of the gospel. 

Could we endure such hardship and come out rejoicing?  This is the true test of faith and godly character.  So often we become bitter over the trials we endure, and yet the Scriptures teach we are to rejoice in the Lord always and in all circumstances.  The Lord is faithful, and when we trust in Him we are lead to deeper faith, peace, and joy.  Our rejoicing in the Lord becomes an overflow of glad and thankful hearts.  Had Paul surrendered to bitterness he would have quickly lost his zeal and effectiveness for the Lord. 

Perhaps you believe your faith is being tested right now.  As followers of Christ our faith will be tested on an ongoing basis.  This is how we grow stronger in the Lord.  The trials of life which test our faith will not overcome us as long as we stand firm in the Lord.  As we trust Christ we rise above our problems and find peace in the midst of them.  Each trial we face will then make us stronger in the Lord.  We too will have wounds, yet they will serve as reminders of the grace and power of Christ working in us. 

Stand firm, trust Christ, and walk forward today in faith and spiritual victory. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our Freedom was Bought with a Price

17Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.  II Corinthians 3:17, 18 (KJV) 

The Word of God speaks of the liberty, or freedom, which comes to us as followers of Christ.  This freedom is spiritual in nature and refers to our having been liberated from the captivity of sin and death.  In Jesus Christ we are now free to love, forgive one another, serve the Lord, and walk daily in peace and joy without the chains of sin weighing us down.  We are also freed from having to prove ourselves worthy of God.  Jesus Christ has accomplished this for us through the cross of Calvary.   

There is no way any one of us could ever live up to God’s righteous requirements as expressed in the law and the commandments.  Jesus Christ has come and redeemed us and has fulfilled the law on our behalf.  Through Him we now walk in spiritual victory having been reconciled to God through Christ.  Spiritual freedom is the high call of God in Christ Jesus and we can now serve the Lord having been liberated from sin. 

We also know of actual freedom to live our lives as we choose.  We indeed have laws of the land we are called to follow, so we know our freedom carries with it thoughtful responsibility.  Consider how in America we are free to worship, pray, study the Bible, proclaim the gospel, and live out our faith without the government forbidding us to do so.  These freedoms were paid for by those who fought to ensure we might remain a free country.  Today as we celebrate our nations’ independence let us be thankful for the freedoms we hold dear.  Let us not take for granted such basic rights as free speech, free expression of ideas, and freedom of worship. 

Join with me in praying for a great revival of faith to sweep across our nation in which people would give their hearts to Christ.  Pray also believers who have grown cold and indifferent in their faith would be revived and would join the cause of sharing the love of Christ with a lost world. 

Freedom is not free, but was bought with a price.  Let us therefore cherish our freedom, use it responsibly, and be thankful for it. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Temples of the Holy Spirit

16Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?  17If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.  -I Corinthians 3:16, 17 (KJV) 

The Word of God reminds us of how our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  Paul the Apostle communicated this truth to the church in Corinth in order to demonstrate to them the need to live holy lives.  These truths are still much in force for us today.   If we are in Christ then the Spirit of God does indeed dwell within us which means we are called to lives of holiness and devotion to God.  Certainly this does not mean some sort of cloistered lifestyle in which we are cut off from the world and those around us.  Such an approach to life goes against all Jesus taught about His followers being the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and His witnesses in the entire world.  The call to keep ourselves holy because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit is one of a lifestyle of devotion to Christ in which we strive for faithfulness in mind and body. 

I will not delve here into a discussion about taking care of ourselves physically, although doing so does indeed honor the Lord.  When we take steps to improve our physical health we are better equipped to serve the Lord and be an active part of the work of sharing the gospel.  Recognizing our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit also carries with it a deeper understanding of what we allow and do not allow into our minds and hearts.  These days we are bombarded with media of all kinds.  The number of hours a day people spend in front of the TV or computer is staggering.  If we are not careful we will take in content with runs contrary to the Word of God.  The Internet is a wonderful resource for growing in faith and communicating the gospel.  Yet it is also a cesspool of ungodly material which followers of Christ do well to avoid. 

Here we see the need for daily discipline in how much time we allow ourselves to be online or in front of the TV.  Since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and this includes our minds, let us be careful of the need to spend less time online and more time in the Word and prayer.  Consider carefully what we are allowing into our minds.  Take time each day to sit down and engage in a thoughtful and concentrated period of meditation on God’s Word.  Enter daily into this discipline and spiritual growth will naturally follow.  Then when the temptations come we are equipped to stand firm and resist what would otherwise pollute our minds. 

God has called us to faithfulness and holiness, and this is attainable for all followers of Christ.  Joy, peace, and the power of God await those who fill their minds with the good things of God.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thank God for our Freedom

11The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.  12Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. -Psalm 33:11, 12 (KJV) 

Every Fourth of July I can’t help but think about my life history which helped shaped my love for America.  The powers that oversaw the education of students at E.J. Brown elementary school made sure we not only learned basic math, English, history, and science, but we also learned about patriotism.  This latter subject came in the form of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance each morning and in the school choir we were required to learn such patriotic songs as “America the Beautiful,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” My Country tis of Thee,” and The Star Spangled Banner.”  I can still sing these songs even today. 

As I reflect on this I can say with all certainty that this pride in America did me great good.  I learned of patriotism, and I also learned from my parents and church of God Almighty whose hand guided the Founding Fathers in the establishment of this country.  As I grew up it began to make sense to me; we are strong as a nation because of our faith in God.  To be sure, the faith I hold dear is not shared by everyone, yet this is what has made America great.  We are free to believe and pursue faith in God as we see fit or we may choose not to do so.  In either case the government cannot interfere with the individual expression of religion or the non-practice thereof.   

Freedom of religion is one of the cornerstones of our nation.  When compared with many nations in the world where the freedom to worship as one chooses is stifled and in some cases forbidden we are indeed blessed and fortunate.   I thank God for the freedoms we enjoy and for those who paid the ultimate price of their lives in gaining this freedom. 

Let us do, as the Bible says, and use our freedom to advance the cause of Christ.  We are called to be the light of Jesus Christ in a world darkened by sin.  Because of our free country we may boldly shine this light to those around us.  Take time to thank God for our freedom.  And be sure to tell a veteran how much you appreciate their service to our country. 

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.  And God bless America.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Take a Stand on Christ During the Difficult Times of Life

The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.  -Psalm 18:46 (KJV) 

Psalm 18:46 is a declaration of faith and belief.  David, in his time of trouble, proclaimed the Lord lives and would be his foundation and salvation.  Such faith has no room for hesitancy or indifference.  Rather, such strong faith comes from a made-up mind and a heart totally committed to God.  A great problem I have long observed in people is a lack of foundational beliefs.  To be wishy-washy and uncertain regarding faith in God is to set ourselves up for trouble when the storms of life come.  The Word of God challenges us to take a stand, and be sure the stand is the right one based upon the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Have you ever found yourself in a moment of indecision?  The decision could have been minor, such as what to have for lunch one day.  It could also have been major, involving life-changing results.  In either case to be stranded in indecision is a lonely, frustrating, and unhappy place.  There will be times when the Lord will help us by closing a door thus making the decision for us.  Other times He will allow us to make the decision under His guidance and direction.   

Many years ago before we answered the call to come to Virginia I interviewed with a pulpit committee with a church in my hometown.  During the process I found myself getting excited about the possibility of returning to Ohio and again living close to family and old friends.  However, after the interview the pulpit committee chairman called to inform me they had narrowed the candidates down to two; me and one other person.  They decided on the other guy. 

I was admittedly disappointed, yet also relieved.  God had graciously made the decision for us.  A short time later the Lord opened the door of opportunity here in Virginia and this has been a fruitful and blessed ministry for the last 15 years.  You see, God is faithful, and when we declare Him to be our rock and our salvation He then proves His faithfulness by guiding us through the difficult times and the hard decisions.  Do not despair when you face difficult situations or decisions.  Seek the Lord and declare His faithfulness.  He will then guide you through the process of whatever dilemma or challenge you are facing. 

What sort of hard decision are you facing today?  Take a stand on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.  Proclaim with David, “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.” The Lord indeed lives, and He will see us through and lead us to victory.