Friday, December 30, 2011

Removing the Idols from our Lives

2Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.  4And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. -Genesis 35:2-4 (KJV) 

Genesis 35 gives the account of a high point in the life of Jacob of the Old Testament.  Following a tumultuous time of family strife and fighting with their neighbors God told Jacob to gather his family and go to Bethel.  While there Jacob told his family and everyone in his household to get rid of all their idols.  Even though Jacob was a strict follower of God there were those in his house who still worshipped the old gods of the peoples around them.  If they were going to live under the blessings of Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then they must be totally committed to Him.  Trying to keep their old idols would only hinder them and keep them from receiving God’s blessings. 

This cleaning out process is good to think about this time of year.  We are about to close out 2011 and begin a new year.  If you are like me you may have some closets, a basement, or a garage desperately in need of reorganizing.  Un-cluttering our lives can be a tedious process, yet we always benefit from it.  Someone has said un-cluttering our lives is an energizing pursuit and I agree completely.  Getting rid of clutter from our desks, closets, bedrooms, and garages is an extremely rewarding endeavor.  We can’t help but feel we have accomplished something positive when we get rid of the stuff we do not need. 

Getting rid of the idols in our lives is also a rewarding practice.  These idols can crop up and work their way into our lives and create all sorts of problems.  The problems idols create for us can involve discouragement, worry, resentment, and weak faith.  Giving our idols over to the Lord is a powerful first step toward walking in spiritual victory.  What is hindering your walk with the Lord and keeping you from receiving the full benefit of His blessings?  It can range from anything to a bad habit, such a gossip, to a destructive addiction such as alcoholism.  Whatever the idol is we do well to remove it.   

Jacob’s problems didn’t end when the idols were buried, yet it was a positive first step.  We too benefit when we hand over to God anything which is holding us back in our relationship with Christ.  If one of your New Year’s resolutions is getting rid of clutter in your house then consider also getting rid of whatever may have become a spiritual idol.  God is faithful and He will empower us and bless our desire to live in His blessings.  Do not be sorrowful that 2011 is over.  Instead, be joyful over all the possibilities the Lord is going to provide in the coming year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finding the Right Shoes

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.  14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; -Ephesians 6:13-15 (KJV) 

A couple of weeks ago I went shoe shopping with my wife Andrea.  I guess she figured with all the Christmas shopping yet to be done she would need a good pair of shoes to get it all finished.  She suggested that since I needed a new pair of shoes for working out that I try to find a pair.  While she was perusing shoes in the ladies’ section I set about finding a pair of suitable gym shoes.  After trying on several pairs I realized I just wasn’t feeling it.  Do you know what I am talking about?  No pair of shoes I tried on felt right.  Andrea found a pair she wanted and came over to where I was.  She saw I was getting nowhere and tried to help out.  Sadly, I left the store without a new pair of shoes. 

These days I have a strict policy when it comes to buying shoes.  They have to feel good and fit right the moment I try them on or I don’t buy them.  For years I would purchase shoes which didn’t fit just right in the hope they would stretch and over time become more comfortable.  Not anymore.  These days if the shoe doesn’t feel just right it’s back in the box, baby.  Of course this greatly narrows my search for the right pair, yet I have come to believe my feet are worth the trouble. 

The Word of God makes the point of stressing the need to have our feet covered when we are engaging in spiritual battles.  As we seek to live for the Lord and live the kind of lives which honor Christ we must have our feet covered with the preparation of the gospel of peace.  Paul the Apostle had in mind a walk with Christ which carries us forward as we share the gospel with others.  Live peacefully, reach out in Jesus’ name, be kind, be forgiving, be humble, and have a close relationship with the Lord.  If our feet hurt we will have trouble walking.  In a spiritual sense, if our walk is not covered by a Christ-like attitude we will not make it far in our Christian service.   

Paul likened the spiritual armor he described in Ephesians 6 to a Roman soldier.  Every piece of armor would cover a vulnerable part of the body.  A wound to any of the areas the armor protected could bring the solider to a quick and bloody end.  In order to keep on fighting he must be able to remain standing.  The feet, if unprotected, would be vulnerable to a blow from a spear, sword, or arrow.  A similar analogy is found with our spiritual armor.  Keep it all in place so we can be effective in our Christian testimony and our daily walk with Christ.  The feet are extremely susceptible to an attack.  If the devil can knock us off our feet with temptation, discouragement, sorrow, or fear then we may find ourselves falling down despite being covered elsewhere. 

Living for Jesus Christ involves having the right shoes.  Keep the feet covered by always being prepared to walk forward in faith as you share the gospel with others.  The gospel, the right attitude, a loving spirit, and vibrant faith –  a perfect fit!  Try them on today.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christ Brought Hope Which Overcomes Fear

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  -Luke 2:10-14 (KJV) 

Down through the ages followers of Christ have wondered about the events of Luke 2.  One of the questions which has been speculated on is this; why the shepherds?  Were they more worthy than others, were they more open to receive the message, or were they in the right place at the right time?  These men were not necessarily more worthy, nor were they more open, and it certainly wasn’t a matter of luck.  Instead, they were chosen by God to be the first to learn of Christ’s birth.  God has His reasons and we will not presume to question Him.   

I believe the shepherds were representative of all the people who need to hear the message and have hope instilled in their hearts. We all stand in need of salvation, and Christ has provided the means.  Christ has brought hope into the world, and without hope we wither and die.  Hope is the driving force which reminds us there is a purpose to life after all.  Day after day, year after year, these shepherds toiled on, looking after their sheep, and they did so without any hope their situation would ever change for the better.  They were not about to receive a promotion anytime soon.  The work involved long hours, little pay, and little recognition.  Does this sound familiar?  Countless people follow the same routine each day, toiling on and wondering if their lives will ever change or get better. 

It’s easy to see why these men might have grown discouraged in their work as so many people do when they come to believe their lives are going nowhere.  Jesus brings hope and new life to an otherwise dull existence.  A lost and troubled world needs the hope which Christ provides.  Hope in Christ calms our fears.  From fear comes worry, which produces internal strife, which in turn robs us of peace.  We all need the peace Christ offers because we are all afraid of something.  Someone might say they he or she isn’t afraid of anything, and while such boldness sounds impressive it is difficult to believe.  Everyone has something which troubles them and creates at least some fear.  Jesus Christ overcomes fear in our lives and brings about His blessed peace.  People have long believed they can find peace without the Lord, yet the peace they find will not last.  Christ brings to us lasting peace and everlasting life.   

Christ helps us to overcome our fears.  God can and will use us despite our fears – be sure of that.  However, when we overcome the obstacles fear creates we become ever more useful to God.  Our entire outlook on life changes for the better.  Instead of seeing defeat we begin to see victory – the victory Christ brings.  We may have problems, troubles, weaknesses, yet the Lord can still use us.  We might be broken, yet we are still of tremendous value in God's kingdom.   

Glory to God in the highest – Christ has come and in Him there is hope.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Living the Joy of Christmas all Year Long

13Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.  14And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.  -Romans 15:13, 14 (KJV) 

I know people often feel a little worn out after Christmas and this is certainly understandable.  Christmas is a blessed yet hectic time of year.  However, I was thinking a little while ago about how much I enjoy the day after Christmas.  The pressure is now off, there are no more gifts to buy, no more decorations to put up, no more presents to wrap, and no more Christmas dinners to attend.  Today, and probably for the next few days, we can enjoy all those Christmas dinner leftovers, which include Christmas cookies and strong coffee, and we still have all the lights and decorations to enjoy a while longer before we take them down for another year.  About those decorations; don’t be in too big a hurry to take them down.  Why not enjoy them for a few more days?  You went to a lot of trouble to put up the tree and the lights.  Relax, sit back and enjoy them another day or two. 

This time of year we celebrate the birth of Christ, and the Scripture teaches we are to live out the joy of the Lord year round.  Paul the Apostle’s prayer for believers was for them to be filled with the joy of the Lord and to “abound in hope…”   If we are abounding in hope this means we are growing in hope all of the time, day after day, and year after year.  Living out the “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10) which the angel spoke of on the night of Jesus’ birth involves an ongoing process of faith through which we live out the wonder of Christmas year-round.   

I hate to think the only time I was excited about my faith in Christ was at Christmas or Easter, or even just on Sunday.  Instead, the joy we experience in Christ is to be a continuing experience in which we have joy and we express this joy in tangible ways.  In a world filled with violence and hatred people need to know there is still hope and joy in peoples’  lives.  Jesus Christ brings this blessed hope and He empowers us to express it to those around us. 

Seek to be more loving, kind, compassionate, patient, and forgiving.  Do something nice for someone with no thought of a reward or getting anything in return.  As Jesus said, be willing to go the extra mile for the one who asks (Matthew 5:41).  The light of Jesus was meant to shine from our lives, so shine it.  The joy Christ brings was meant to be experienced, so start being joyful.  Joy comes when Christ reigns in the heart.  Let Christ reign in your heart today and all the coming year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The light in the Darkness

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.  -Isaiah 9:2 (KJV) 

As far as the weather is concerned this has been an unusual Christmas season.  Instead of cold weather and snow we have had here in southwest Virginia a great amount of rain and warmer temperatures.  The other day as I was trying to clean the mud off of my dogs’ paws before letting them back into the house I was singing, “I’m dreaming of a muddy Christmas, unlike about any we’ve had before.” Ada and Leon could only smile and wag their tales and I know the irony of my song was wasted on them, yet it described my sentiments at the time.  Perhaps this cloudy, dreary, and rainy weather will pass and it will begin to feel like winter. 

I will be the first to say how much I depend on sunshine.  Even if the weather is bitterly cold as long as the sun is shining I am okay and my mood usually remains high.  However, when we have a run of rainy and cloudy days I begin to feel a little down.  When it comes to our spiritual condition we will remain in a state of darkness until the light of Christ comes into our hearts.  The Scripture foretold of Christ’s coming as a light which would shine on those wandering in spiritual darkness.  This darkness is an oppressive force from which there is one escape and one remedy; a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Life is filled with enough trouble to leave us feeling trapped in a state of hopelessness.  Christ’s coming brought a blessed light which pierces the darkness of the soul and lets the powerful light of God shine into our hearts.  Just as sunshine energizes us on a clear day so does the light of Christ lift us up and give new and certain hope.  We no longer have to stay captive to sin and despair.  Instead we can rise up and walk forward in confident faith.  Jesus’ coming shows the world how God’s gift of salvation is available to all.  We don’t have to pay for it because Christ has already done so.  Ours is to receive the gift freely as it was freely given to the world. 

Today Andrea and I met some old friends for lunch who were in town for Christmas.  We had not seen them in nearly three years so we had a good amount of catching up to do.  During the meal our friends gave us a very precious gift which touched us deeply.  The gift was given out of the kindness and love they feel toward us.  There were no strings attached, no hidden agenda, and no thought of receiving anything in return.   

This is the attitude which God gave to the world the greatest gift of all which is the birth of Jesus Christ.  A wonderful light has dawned.  Cease from walking in the darkness and begin today walking in the light of Christ by receiving Him as Savior. 

Christmas is a wonderful time, and may we never forget the true reason we celebrate.  Jesus Christ has come and as the angels sang, “Glory to God in highest”  (Luke 2:14).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Power of Having God’s Word in our Hearts

8I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.  9Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.  10With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.  11Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. -Psalm 119:8-11 (KJV) 

Most of us have been raised on music and movies of all sorts.  I have so many song lyrics and movie quotes in my head that they frequently make their way into daily conversation.  The other evening Andrea and I were Christmas shopping and she was looking over a display of men’s corduroy pants.  She asked me if I might want a pair for Christmas.  I never wear corduroy, so I said “Honey, I don’t want to be the boy in the corduroy pants.” Her brow wrinkled in concentration as she mulled this over.  “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!” she said.  “Correct!”  I then sang the verse for verification; “I’ll be the boy, in the corduroy pants, you be the girl, at the high school dance.”  It could be the crowds and excitement of the season was making us a little giddy.   

Countless songs and movie lines make their way into our collective consciousness, but what about the riches of God’s Word?  This treasure trove of wisdom, truth, counsel, spiritual guidance, and the ways of righteousness goes overlooked by scores of people who could greatly benefit from it.  The Word of God speaks of the power of placing the Word within our hearts.  Doing so empowers us to stand firm and resist the temptations which daily assault us.  God’s Word provides spiritual strength we can rely on when faced with temptation, heartache, frustration, and discouragement.  We know these will come and we do well to be prepared. 

One of the wonders of a vibrant relationship with Christ is the spiritual power He gives to stand firm in the face of life’s trials.  No matter who you are or your station in life Christ can become personal to you.  Consider all the ways Christ relates to us: 

To the artist, He is the One altogether lovely.
To the architect, He is the Chief Corner Stone.
To the astronomer, He is the Sun of Righteousness.
To the baker, He is the Living Bread.
To the banker, He is the Hidden Treasure.
To the biologist, He is the Life.
To the builder, He is the Sure Foundation.
To the Carpenter, He is the Door.
To the doctor, He is the Great Physician.
To the educator, He is the Great Teacher.
To the engineer, He is the New and Living Way.
To the farmer, He is the Sower and the Lord of the Harvest.
To the florist, He is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.
To the geologist, He is the Rock of Ages.
To the horticulturist, He is the True Vine.
To the theologian, He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
To the toiler, He is the Giver of Rest.
To the sinner, He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.
To the Christian, He is the Son of the Living God, the Savior, the Redeemer, and Lord. 

When we delve into God’s Word and place it within our hearts the Lord Jesus becomes deeply personal to us.  The Lord will help us move forward and face whatever challenges await us.  Don’t be afraid.  Instead, walk forward in faith with God’s Word in our hearts and Christ abiding within us.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What’s Your Hurry?

30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  -Isaiah 30:30, 31 (KJV) 

We dwell in a world which is always in a hurry.  People are in such big hurries we have forgotten how to slow down and enjoy the moment.  We have a difficult time enjoying where we are because we are in such a hurry to get to where we want to be.  And once we’re there we get in a rush to go to the next place.  It’s no wonder stress related health problems are on the increase.  When we live in a hurry our priorities can easily become out of order.  We begin to rush through time with family, time for ourselves, and we also rush through our time with God.  Or worse, we neglect this vital discipline all together.  Why do we think we will accomplish more if we rush our way through life?  In the end we accomplish less and what we do finish we don’t do as well. 

When we trust Christ day-by-day and move forward in His will our spiritual resolve is strengthened.  Learning not to get in a hurry makes us stronger spiritually.  Do you know why?  The answer is we learn to wait on the Lord.  The waiting brings spiritual strength and resolve.  We cease from trying to rush God’s will and instead we learn to wait for God’s will to be done.  We do well when at all possible to slow down and not get in a hurry.   

There is no indication in Scripture that Jesus ever got in a hurry about anything.  He took the needed steps to ensure His heart was always attuned to the Father’s will so that He would accomplish what He came into the world to do.  We are called to follow Christ’s example.  God is calling His people to pray, witness, get excited about knowing the Lord, reach out in His name, and confront the apathy which exists in the world and the church today.  None of this happens quickly.  It happens when we trust Christ day-by-day. 

Slow down my friend.  Take time to enjoy the simple and free blessings which are all around us and are there for the taking. 
Rise up earlier so you will have more time to pray and you won’t have to rush to work.
Smile more often at people around you.
Practice random acts of kindness.
Write a letter to an old friend.
Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time.
Tell others how much you appreciate them and how important they are to you.
Stop just thinking about getting your heart right with God and do so today. 

We are called to be faithful, and we must leave the results with God, for He is always faithful.  Slow down, learn to enjoy the moment, find rest in God, and let God have His perfect will in your life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Listening for the Voice of God

8And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child.  9Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  10And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.  -I Samuel 3:8-10 (KJV) 

My wife Andrea and I have had a disagreement in recent years about whether or not to have caller ID on our phone.  I would like to have it in order to screen out telemarketers and sales calls.  Andrea, on the other hand, declares that having caller ID is wrong.  Her reason is it enables you to see who is calling and if it’s someone you don’t want to talk to you simply don’t answer the phone.  My response is, “Yes, you’re correct!  That’s caller ID!” You may be pleased to know we still do not have this feature on our phone.  When the phone rings we go ahead and answer, and it’s always kind of exciting; “I wonder who this could be?!” Caller ID truly does take the adventure out of answering the phone.   

Samuel of the Old Testament first experienced the call of God in is life when he was a child, and when the Lord first spoke to him he was unaware God was speaking.  Samuel mistakenly thought his mentor, Eli the priest, was calling him.  The entire scene is sort of comical.
Samuel: “Hey, Eli; here I am.  You called me.”
Eli: “No I didn’t (yawning from being awakened from sleep).  Go back to bed.”
(A few minutes later)
Samuel: “Here I am Eli; you called me.”
Eli: “Go back to bed son, I didn’t call you.” 

It took three episodes of this little drama before old Eli finally caught on.  God was calling Samuel.  Eli instructed the lad to go back and lie down, and if he heard the voice again to tell the Lord to speak because he was listening.  God then revealed His will to the young boy.  This revelation was the beginning of a lifetime of hearing and responding to the voice of the Almighty.  I confess I have never heard the voice of God speaking in audible form as did Samuel, yet the powerful convictions I have experienced in my heart have been at times so clear as to be like the very voice of the Lord.  Some wag might ask me if I am hearing voices in my head. My answer would be, “No, just one.” As I seek the Lord He has a wonderful way of communicating His will.   

The Lord will speak to our hearts – through His Word, when we seek Him in prayer, and through the mouths of His servants.  It’s easy to grow discouraged when we think the Lord isn’t speaking to us.  Even sincere believers will confess they are not hearing the voice of the Lord in their hearts.  My advice is to by faith keep seeking God and keep listening.  The Lord is faithful and He will speak to our hearts with calm and reassuring words.   

Perhaps you are trying too hard.  During your prayer time seek to stop, clear your mind, and just listen for God’s voice.  “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Seek the Lord in faith.  You will not be disappointed. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Take Time, and Make Time, to Pray

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.  -Mark 1:35 (KJV) 

I have been dealing with a head cold which doesn’t want to go away.  One round of antibiotics didn’t quite get rid of it and this lingering sinus stuff which creates runny nose, sore throat, and coughing appears to be hanging on.  One of my sons was telling me about his theory of how over the counter cold medicines only make the symptoms last longer.  His advice is to stay hydrated, exercise, take vitamins, and rest.  In other words, tough it out (or suck it up, if you prefer a harsher idiom).  Armed with my son’s advice I have been “toughing it out” and coping with these nagging symptoms the best as I can. 

The latter part about getting rest proved to be problematic last night.  I woke up this morning around 3:30 with my head seriously congested and after trying in vain for around 15 minutes to go back to sleep finally got up.  Our two dogs, Ada and Leon, watched me as I wandered around the kitchen, blowing my nose and sipping strong coffee, and I got the impression from their questioning looks that 3:45 AM was a little too early even for them.  Dogs are wonderfully adaptive creatures however, and after I sat down on the couch in the glow of the Christmas tree lights they settled into a comfortable doze beside me.  It was around then it occurred to me how the Lord may have waked me up for a reason.  Perhaps there was something in my heart which I needed to hand over to God.  As I began to pray and meditate on God’s Word I was flooded with a wonderful peace.  My stuffy head was soon forgotten in the blessed communion which was experienced with my Lord. 

These days I get up most mornings around 5:00 AM, yet this morning, thanks to my head cold, I was given an extended time to pray and seek the Lord.  What followed was a spiritual strengthening which I desperately needed.  Isn’t it something how we will make time for so many pursuits, yet the pursuit of God is often neglected?  This is even more common during these hectic days of Christmas dinners, shopping, family gatherings, and church events.  We seem to be able to find time to do just about everything except spend extended time with the Lord.  When I have a day where I neglect my prayer time I imagine Christ sitting alone somewhere, a sad look on His face, waiting disappointedly because I failed to show up.  He sighs heavily and says, “Dan has stood me up again.  Oh well, maybe he will show up tomorrow and we will have that talk I’ve been looking forward to.”  

Yes, my friends, it’s  that personal.  I am so often too busy to spend time with the Lord, yet He is never too busy to spend time with me.  What about you?  When was the last time you laid aside your hectic schedule, just for a little while, and communed with Christ?  Begin to observe this vital discipline each day and it will make all the difference in your life.   

Take time to meet with the Lord.  He will be waiting for you.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Power of Words

19But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.  20For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. -Matthew 10:19, 20 (KJV) 

Words are powerful.  They can heal, tear apart, sooth, inflame, calm someone down, and stir others up.  I recall when I was a little boy and I heard the old saying about "sticks and stone can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” I thought to myself even then; “I don’t think I really believe that.”  Words are too powerful to have no effect on us whatsoever.  The right combination of words can make us laugh or make us cry depending on how they are used.   

All the gospel needs is to be told, and while we are to demonstrate the love of Christ in the way we live we will also communicate the gospel with words.  Once the gospel goes out it accomplishes the purposes for which it was sent.  Let us never underestimate the power the gospel when we testify in the name of the Lord.  In fact, Jesus promised the disciples that when the time came the Holy Spirit would give them the words to say.  This applies to us also in the present time.  When we are called upon to testify the Lord will give us the right words to say.  Does this mean a preacher doesn’t have to prepare his sermons?  My friends, the pastor had better be prepared when it comes to preaching the Word.  We as pastors do well to have prayed about and planned what God would have us to say when we step into the pulpit.  We also desire to be open to the leadership of the Spirit as well.  Many times I had planed to say something in a sermon and yet the Lord led me not to.  Other times I had not planned on saying a certain word and the Lord lead me to do so.   

Jesus was referring to those moments when we may find ourselves under duress.  Suddenly, without warning, we are called to testify in the name of the Lord.  If someone was to take you aside and say, “Please tell me what it means to be a Christian. Tell me everything.” what would you say?  Or if they said, “How do I become a follower of Jesus?”  what would we tell them?  We do well to be able to answer such questions.  The person might even say it in a condescending, hateful, and challenging way.  Most of the persecution we endure here in America involves being ignored or not being taken seriously.  We might be laughed at, but that’s nothing.  We might be made fun of; yet again this hardly equals persecution. 

Never underestimate the power of testifying in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Keep on testifying and don’t stop doing so.  And don’t be afraid to talk about matters of faith.  We have nothing to fear, for the Lord is with us.  He will give us the words at the proper time as He promised.  You don’t have to be eloquent or a trained speaker.  You just have to be faithful and willing to testify.  What has Jesus done for you?  The answer is always a powerful testimony.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Importance of Having Knowledge of God’s Word

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.   -Hosea 4:6 (KJV) 

I have a theory that at some point in their lives all men have the irrepressible desire to restore a classic car.  This desire is in no way dependent upon the knowledge or required skills for such an undertaking.  I have observed men who possessed little mechanical skills of any kind all of a sudden purchase an old car in need of total restoration.  Then after years of tinkering and kicking at flat tires they sell the wreck to anyone willing to take it off their hands. 

I understand these forces perfectly, for I have been experiencing them myself lately.  I was thinking recently how great it would be to have my old 1974 Plymouth Satellite back, a car I drove through my late teen years and sold when I was 24.  The problem is any of this model in existence is in need of such extensive restoration as to be far beyond anything I might undertake.  A hobby such as restoring old cars requires knowledge and skill I simply do not possess.  

God told His people in Hosea 6 that a large part of their problems stemmed from a lack of knowledge of His Word.  The people had become complacent to the point of believing that the outward practice of religion would suffice.  They had forgotten that God desires a changed heart far above going through the motions.  If they had taken time to delve into God’s Word they would have gathered the crucial knowledge of what God required of them. 

Anyone can go through the motions of religion, yet God expects a transformed heart.  Anyone can mutter prayers or even verses of the Bible, yet God expects His followers to have hearts of compassion and mercy.  Most anyone can look fine on the outside, yet a relationship with Jesus Christ changes us from the inside out.  People can easily give lip service to matters of faith, yet Christ has called us to love one another, pray for our enemies, turn the other cheek, forgive those who have wronged us, and practice grace every day.  Such dedicated lives of faith require hearts which have been touch and then changed by the power of God. 

God’s Word is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge on how to live lives which honor God and bring peace to the heart.  Should we reject this vital knowledge we miss out on the blessings the Lord intends for us to have.  Look to God’s Word and begin experiencing the blessings of growing in the knowledge of God.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Finding Peace in Life’s Trials

17Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.  18He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me. -Psalm 55:17, 18 (KJV) 

Have you ever considered some of the oddities of the English language?  We say and use them so often we rarely give it much thought.  For example, the phrases, “I could care less” and “I couldn’t care less” have exactly the same meaning.  Or imagine someone trying to learn English and having to figure out the many uses of various words.  Here are a few examples: The bandage was wound around the wound.  They were too close to the door to close it.  And one of my favorites would have to be, “The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.  I like this one because so many people have no clue as to the difference in spelling “desert” and “dessert.”  

Indeed, many words in English are spelled or pronounced the same, yet have completely different meanings.  Consider also how we often make statements that while may sound different also have essentially the same meaning.  When people makes statements such as, “I am so unhappy,” “I feel like I am just barely holding on,” “I don’t know how I will make it through another day,” or “Why have all these bad things happened to me?” they are all expressing similar sentiments regarding the pain and anguish being expressed.   

We often wonder if there is any hope of getting through our problems and experiencing lasting peace.  As difficult as life is there is indeed hope in Christ.  A relationship with the Lord can lift us from the darkness of despair and into the blessed light of Christ.  Countless people are no longer living but instead are simply surviving.  This is not God’s plan for us.  Christ has the power to help us find joy in life even in the center of our struggles, problems, and heartaches.   

There is a good possibility that right now you are facing problems which seem hopeless.  You may find yourself wondering how it’s possible to have any peace and joy in the middle of it all.  My friend, you are not alone.  You need not go through these trials by yourself.  Christ stands ready to offer comfort, assurance, and hope in the midst of whatever you are facing.  Look to the Lord, cling to Him, and do not give up.  Do not despair, for a brighter and blessed day is coming.  

The Lord will bring you through and will never forsake you.  This is Christ’s promise to us.  Claim His promise today.