Monday, April 29, 2013

God’s Gift of Grace

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.  –Ephesians 2:8, 9 (KJV)

God gives His grace to us as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ.  We cannot earn it.  Our employer pays us for our work; therefore, we have earned our pay.  The grace of God is different from this.  Anytime we do something considered work, and our employer compensates us for our services, we call this money paid for services rendered.  Should we make enough of these funds the IRS becomes interested in us, and should we fail to pay taxes on these funds the IRS will come calling.  Many years ago I heard about a pastor in another state who was being paid in cash by his congregation and he was not reporting his income on the grounds it was a gift from the church each week.  The IRS disagreed.  They ruled those were funds paid for services rendered.  The IRS ordered the pastor to pay back taxes with penalties assessed and it was a substantial amount. 

Grace is God’s gift to us.  We do not earn a gift and neither do we pay it back.  A gift is given and received.  The Bible says we were dead in our transgressions (Ephesians 2:5).  Because of sin we were spiritually dead.  However, Christ has spiritually quickened us.  Quickened means dead, but made alive.  We hear sometimes of someone losing consciousness because of an accident or some other reason, and after a few minutes of not breathing or no heartbeat, the person is revived.  I was wondering who holds the record for being dead the longest and then coming back to life.  I believe Jesus’ friend Lazarus holds the record at four days.  Now, there have been other documented cases of people dying for a time, and then coming back to life, although I was unable to determine what the record is apart from Lazarus.  One report said a man was once pronounced dead and woke up at the morgue 14 hours later (What a disagreeable surprise!). 

All of us were dead in our trespasses and transgressions.  Nevertheless, Christ quickened us – He made us alive.  It all comes back to the grace of God in Christ.  Since God has given us grace through Christ, He then calls us to live for Him and give to Him our all.  John Wesley said, “I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.”

Let us not squander the grace of God we have been so freely given.  Serve the Lord with gladness, rise up in faith, and walk forward in spiritual victory.  Claim the victory that is ours in Jesus Christ.

God bless you today.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Need for God’s Word in the World Today

And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.  –I Samuel 3:1 (KJV)

We have known for a long time that the rarer something is then the more valuable it becomes.  People understand this about such items as antiques.  If a particular item is extremely old, and there aren’t many of them left, then chances are it will be worth a lot of money.  Who would have thought that all those old comic books, baseball cards, Barbie dolls, GI Joes, Matchbox cars, Hotwheels cars, and numerous other items which we played with 30 and 40 years ago would be so valuable today?  Many people, by virtue of simply keeping these things in good condition over the years have been able to turn a profit from them today.  I recall reading a couple of years ago that a comic book which featured the first edition of Superman sold for one million dollars at an auction.  Makes me wish I had kept all those comic books from my childhood.  The rarer something is, the more valuable it becomes.

In the Old Testament book of I Samuel we find the same situation regarding visions from God.  And why was that?  The prophets had grown silent and God’s Spirit was not moving through them or the people.  A spiritual darkness had settled upon the land.  You know that times are bad spiritually when the people you are going to for spiritual guidance are corrupt, ungodly, and interested only in power and wealth.  Nevertheless, that was the state of affairs when a little boy named Samuel was born to an Israelite family around 1100 years before Christ.  At a time when visions were rare, God raised up a prophet who would boldly proclaim God’s Word – and at a time when the people needed it most. 

Few people were actually preaching, speaking, and teaching the Word of God.  Not only that, but also not many people wanted to hear the Word of the Lord.  Any time such a situation exists the results will be spiritual drought and moral famine.  I trust you understand what I mean by those metaphors.  People lose their moral compass when God’s Word is not proclaimed.  They start to turn away from God and begin to go after what is contrary to God’s Word.

The Word of God has the power to keep people grounded, their heads on straight, and their lives heading in the right direction.  Anyone who has the Word of God in his or her heart will be a better person.  Such is the power of the Word of God.  When a nation loses its desire to hear God’s Word, that nation is headed for trouble.  However, I want to point out that God’s Spirit can break through the most dry spiritual drought and if the people will open their hearts, repent, and seek the Lord, then a healing rain of revival will fall.  And not just a trickle, but a veritable downpour of God’s grace.  Let our prayer be that such a rain would indeed fall upon us.

God bless you today.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How Much Does God Love us?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For 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)

One of the first truths we learn as followers of Christ is that God loves us.  The lessons we teach and the songs we sing all point to this vital truth.  From there we grow in this knowledge and understanding of how the Lord loves us.  Begin counting all the hymns which deal with this theme and we would quickly lose count.  The same is true of this theme in the Bible.  We know God loved His people the Israelites.  Of all the people in the world, God chose them to be His very own.  He promised them He would bless them, lead them, and be their God.  All they had to do was be faithful to Him.  This proved difficult for them, did it not?  The people struggled with this issue of faithfulness. 

We should not judge them too harshly, for we too struggle with the problem of faithfulness to God.  Could any of us say we have been perfectly faithful to God all of the time?  The answer is of course not.  The Bible says in Romans 3:23 all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  This includes us all.

When we come to the New Testament, we find a shift in God’s approach to reaching people.  No more are there plagues on people, parting of the Red Sea, manna in the desert, or the fire of God on the mountain.  Instead, we find the Word made flesh; God came and walked among us.  Jesus Christ, born of the virgin, the Son of God, the Son of Man, and as Isaiah foretold, the root out of dry ground, had come.  He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, just like us.  Can you imagine seeing Him as the people did?  Can you comprehend being the leper, the blind man, the lame man, the woman with the issue of blood, the man with the withered hand, and feeling the touch of God?  We cannot comprehend it.  Can you imagine being Lazarus, four days dead and safe in the warmth, comfort, and joy of the saints of glory when a voice thundered through heaven saying, “Lazarus, come forth!”  Christ’s command snatched Lazarus from heaven in an instant and back in the body very much alive. 

All God did through Jesus Christ He did out of love for us.  God became actively involved in the world, more so than ever before, and He did it in a way we might not have imagined.  The Word, which was God, became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  Love is a description of an emotion, and it is an active word.  When we love, we demonstrate our love.  God did this through Jesus Christ.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God commended His own love for us in this, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Here we were, still lost in sin, unable to save ourselves, and Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and me.  Any and all may come and partake of the salvation only Jesus can offer.

Should you ever start believing no one loves you think again.  God loves you.  “How much?” you ask?  “This much,” Jesus said.  And He stretched out His hands and died – for us.

God bless you today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Asking for the Double Portion

And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.  –II Kings 2:9 (KJV)

Recently I met a few friends for lunch at a restaurant that serves breakfast all day.  Along with my meal I ordered a side of fried apples, which are among my favorites from this particular place.  The server brought our food and asked if everything was all right.  When I hesitated, she asked if there was something wrong.  I jokingly said my serving of fried apples looked smaller than it used to be, which was understandable with the increase in food prices.  I then told her not to worry about it.  A few minutes later, she re-appeared with another order of fried apples – on the house.  I tried to refuse them, but she insisted.  “Praise the Lord,” I thought.  “I have received the double portion.”

The Bible describes in II Kings 9 how Elijah the prophet was preparing himself for the end of his ministry when his protégé, the prophet Elisha, asked a favor.  The younger prophet requested that once the elder prophet was gone he receive a double portion of God’s Spirit.  Elijah said in verse 10 that this was a difficult request, yet if the younger prophet witnessed him being taken by God to heaven then it would be done.  What impresses me about this passage in the Bible was Elisha’s boldness in asking for double of God’s Spirit.  He could have received half the prophet’s spiritual power and this would have been sufficient.  Yet, he asked for more.

Perhaps we do well to consider our attitude when asking the Lord for spiritual wisdom and guidance.  So often we settle for a touch of God’s spirit when the Lord is willing to give us much more.  Many believers wander about in their own meager strength when the blessed power of God is available through faith.  However, faith which brings the double portion of God’s power is faith not contented with just going through the motions.  Instead, this is bold, vibrant, and dynamic faith which comes about through daily taking up the cross of Christ and submitting to God’s will.  I confess there have been times I have wandered through my day worried, fearful, and in near agony over the difficulties I was facing.  All the while God was standing ready to provide a double portion of His strength and spiritual power.  Yet, I failed to ask. 

Christ calls us to walk forward in faith, not fear.  The high call of God in Jesus Christ is one of victory, not defeat.  We may have lost battles along the way, but in Christ we win the war.  Personally, I have had enough of half-hearted prayers and milksop faith.  No longer will I skim the surface of my relationship with the Lord.  Let us take to heart what the Bible says in Hebrews 4:16 where God challenges us to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Are you struggling in your walk with Christ?  Ask God for a double portion of His power.  Ask boldly, in faith, and do not be afraid.

God bless you today.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Blessing of Gratitude

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.  –Luke 17:15-19 (KJV)

Gratitude given and received is always a positive and uplifting experience.  A genuine “thank you” truly warms the heart.  I was reading an article a number of months ago about good communication and the writer suggested we do well to respond to a thank you with a simple “you’re welcome.”  If we respond to a thank you with “no problem,” “that’s okay,” or “don’t mention it,” we then run the risk of possibly devaluing the offered gratitude.  I confess I had not given it much thought, but he is correct.  These days if someone says thank you, I reply with a sincere “you’re welcome.”  You really cannot go wrong with such a response.

The Bible describes in Luke 17 how Jesus healed ten lepers of their disease.  The men were so excited over being healed only one came back to say thank you.  Instead of offering the prescribed, “you’re welcome,” Jesus used this as a teaching moment.  Jesus pointed out to those who had gathered that the one leper who had come back to say thank you for his healing was of the hated people known as Samaritans.  Jesus reminded them of how the grace of God extends to all who believe regardless of race or ethnic background.  Jesus may not have used those nice words “you’re welcome,” yet He truly received, and appreciated, the man’s gratitude.

I wear many hats and one of them is part-time school bus driver.  My sister suggested I write a book about my experiences driving a school bus, and believe me there is ample material, yet I have not found the time to pursue this project.  Last week I was driving a group of 30 or so rambunctious elementary school boys to the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club when I received a call on the radio asking me to go back to the school and pick up a child who had missed the bus.  I circled the block and after picking up the child, a little boy named Billy*, resumed the drive.  Along the way, my charges became loud and unruly and it was only with numerous threats of giving names to the school principle I was able to restore something which resembled order. 

Upon arriving at our destination, the boys all got off the bus.  I noticed Billy, the little boy I had to go back to pick up, had waited to speak with me.  Once all the boys were off the bus, Billy said, “Mr. Dan, thank you for coming back to get me.  I’m sorry I made you late.”  A few minutes earlier I was exasperated, yet I felt tears in my eyes over this child’s words (“Were there not ten cleansed?”)  I could think of no other response.  “You’re welcome Billy,” I said. 

I have had many a thank you in my life.  I will not forget this one.

God bless you today.

*Name has been changed.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Overcoming the Power of Sin

13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  –Romans 6:13, 14 (KJV)

The first part of verse 14 should get our attention.  Sin shall no longer have dominion over you.  God’s Word promises that the believer’s enemy of sin will no longer control us.  We might ask if this is so, why we then struggle with sin.  The answer is two-fold.  First, we live in a fallen world where sin does have dominion over people.  Secondly, we still have to contend with the flesh and its influence.  We are still in the body, and while Christ has cleansed from sin, we still dwell in frail, fallen bodies that are subject to the darkness of the world.

The good news, though, is that because of Jesus sin no longer rules us.  We have the power to resist and rise above it.  We also have power over sorrow, fear, worry, doubt, and bitterness.  Consider for a moment if any of these ever did you any good.  The answer is they have not.  In fact, sorrow, fear, worry, doubt, and bitterness only created problems for us, and those problems multiply the more we give into these insidious forces.  We are taught in Romans 6 since Christ died for us we should count ourselves dead to sin.  If we are dead then we are not under the power of anything.  What happens to someone accused of a crime, but the person dies before the case goes to trial?  The answer is nothing; those charges are useless, for the accused is dead.

Since we are dead to sin, but alive in Christ the power of sin no longer rules us.  So, why is it still so easy to become servants to sin?  Recall what Jesus said in Matthew 26:41 about the Spirit and the flesh.  The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Giving into sin is easy – it always has been.  But resisting in the power of the Spirit requires faith and effort.  The Holy Spirit willingly gives us power to resist, but we have to claim this power, not in our names, but in Jesus’ name. 

When it comes to sin, we sometimes think in terms of larger and smaller.  Understand sin is sin and it’s all unacceptable to God.  Various sins have varying degrees of consequences, but sin is always to be resisted.  For example, imagine if I were working around the house one day and I dropped a brick on my foot and in a moment of exasperation said something unfortunate.  This would be sinful, but most likely the consequence would be an aching foot and feelings of shame over my loss of self-control.  On the other hand, were I to cheat on my taxes and get caught the consequences would be far more reaching and serious.  Both are sinful, yet both have different consequences.  Let us be careful about categorizing sin as if some are okay and some are not. 

We have died to sin and have risen in Christ; therefore, Christ calls us to live accordingly.  Walk in faith and the power of the Holy Spirit and we will have the peace and joy which victory in Christ brings.

God bless you today.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Do Not Fret

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.  –Psalm 37:7-9 (KJV)

Baseball season is now in full swing and with it comes my annual dilemma.  My problem is I love to watch baseball, but lack the time to watch entire games.  Being from Dayton, Ohio makes me a lifelong fan of the Cincinnati Reds.  Many of my fondest childhood memories are of going to games at the old River Front Stadium, which has been gone for many years now.  My older brother, Tom, can recall going to games with our father at the old Crosley Field, it too is long gone, where the players would sometimes hit homeruns out of the park and into the parking lot.  Yes, I love to watch a good baseball game, especially if the Reds are playing.  The problem, however, is my schedule seldom permits me this luxury.

Perhaps I will throw you a curveball (no pun intended), and pose a baseball trivia question.  Who is the youngest player ever to play in the majors?  While you are thinking about this I will give you a hint.  He was only 15 years old at the time and he played for the Reds.  On June 10, 1944 he only pitched a few innings of one game, which the Reds lost (they were already losing), yet that is a tremendous accomplishment for such a young player.  This young man was called up at the last minute, pitched a few innings, and was then taken out of the game.  He didn’t pitch another major league game for several more years, but he went on to a successful career with the Reds. 

I am trying to get my mind around the pressure he must have faced.  I wonder if was fretting as he stepped up to the pitcher’s mound?  While few of us know what it’s like to play for the majors. We do know all about fretting.  This is the awful process of not being able to concentrate on anything because we cannot let go of a problem we are facing.  God said in His Word that fretting is never what we should do.  We should not fret, for it leads only to evil.  If we fret, we are liable to take our eyes off of the Lord, which in turn may cause us to launch off on our own way and out of God’s will. 

We are always better off trusting Christ and walking forward in faith no matter the circumstances.  The next time you feel problems closing in take time to pray and claim God’s promise that He is always with us and will not forsake us (Matthew 28:20).  God has a plan for our lives.  Our best response to the trials of life is to wait upon the Lord and trust Him at all times. 

Now, the answer to my trivia question; the player’s name was Joe Knuxhall, and if you visit the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati you will find a statue in his memory.  Great faith requires courage and commitment.  God is in control.

God bless you today.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Filled to Overflowing

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  –Jeremiah 29:11-13 (KJV)

I am just old enough to remember the days of paper bags at the grocery store.  I miss those paper bags.  Now we have these plastic bags that seem to accumulate in the hundreds in various places in the house.  We have a larger bag hanging just inside the basement door, but it’s always overflowing.  Try as I might, I cannot find enough uses for them.  I use them as trash bags in the bathrooms and for other various odds and ends, yet as I said, we always have an over abundance of them. 

Andrea has a number of cloth bags we often take to the grocery store, but these are not designed for their system of bagging and usually it takes longer at the checkout.  Some cashiers take it in stride as if supporting our efforts at being environmentally friendly.  Others appear to be groaning inwardly as they fill our cloth bags with our groceries.  Some people just do not appreciate a good conservationist. 

Last week I had an inspiration.  I recalled how at one of the supermarkets they have a large container in which people can place their unwanted plastic bags.  Since we have enough to fill a dump truck I thought I would relieve us of at least a few.  As we left for the store, I brought along one of our large plastic bags which was tightly filled with these little nuisances.  Andrea waited patiently by the store entrance as I placed the bags in the receptacle.   I glanced over and saw she had a look on her face that said, “What are you doing?” (I’ve seen that look many times).  It was then I realized I was taking the bags out of the larger one when I could have just thrown in the entire bag.  I quickly recovered, threw in the bag, and headed into the store.  Andrea’s only comment was, “I wondered when you’d figure that out.” I had no reply as none was needed.

I cannot help but think that countless people view their lives like those grocery bags; they are filled to overflowing, yet feel useless and empty.  A relationship with Jesus Christ fills our lives with the blessings of God.  As the Lord has promised in His Word, He has plans for us involving peace, joy, and hope.  The Lord’s desire is for our lives to be filled to overflowing with the abundance of His grace and blessings.  Understand these blessings can take all sorts of shapes and come in the most humble wrappings.  Through faith in Christ we learn the joy of having the Lord with us in the dark times of life, and we discover the true power of faith in the trials we face.  We are then empowered to “Count it all joy when we face diverse temptations (trials)” (James 1:2). 

God has a plan for your life, and it’s all good.  Believe it and trust in Him.

God bless you today.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Mansion or a Shack?

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  –John 14:2, 3 (KJV)

After 17 years of living in the church parsonage, Andrea and I have decided the time has come to purchase our own home.  However, nothing has come available to us yet.  Either someone else bought the house or it just did not “feel right.”  I also believe the Lord is teaching us patience in the process as well.  Just last week, we were about to look at a house and the realtor was having trouble getting into the lockbox, so he called another realtor to make sure he had the correct code.  I watched as his expression changed.  “I see,” he said.  “I’ll tell him.”  He then said to me, “I am so sorry, but an offer has just been accepted on this house.” 

I think the realtor was bracing himself thinking I would be upset.  Instead, I burst out laughing.  I assured him this was not a problem and the Lord was simply closing the door on yet another house.  When we have the peace of Christ in our hearts, even disappointments become blessing because we know all things work together for the good  for those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). 

These days, thanks to the Internet, people can search for a new house with a few clicks of a mouse.  I was searching homes on a web site the other evening when I came across something that made me smile.  I saw one listing, a beautiful home just a few miles from us, with a price tag of 1.2 million.  Further down the page I found another, in a less expensive neighborhood, for $13,000.00.  Next to the online listing were the bold letters, “Reduced!”  I couldn’t help but look at the pictures of this home being let go at such a bargain basement price.  The humble little house appeared ancient with wood siding, tin roof, and several boarded up windows.  The pictures made me think a strong wind might blow the entire structure over. 

As I compared the two houses, one a veritable palace and the other a shack, I thought of my pastor friend who spent a few weeks on mission in Africa.  He told of a pastor there who lived in a house where there was no running water, no electricity, and few amenities of any kind.  The pastor’s home had a dirt floor and scant furnishings.  While there, my pastor friend told of how the African pastor was able to acquire a bicycle to use for visiting the members of his congregation (They met in an open air building which was little more than a roof on stilts).  The pastor was thrilled with the bicycle and praised God for the blessing of his new form of transportation.  No doubt, the African pastor would see the $13,000.00 house as living in luxury.  The million-dollar house would be incomprehensible to him – as it is to me as well.  For countless people living in the world, what we would call a shack, they would call a mansion.

My friends, Jesus promised to provide for us a mansion in heaven one day, better than anything we can imagine.  In the meantime, let us be thankful, for God has provided and He knows what we need.  As for Andrea and I, we’ll keep looking.  Our “mansion” is out there somewhere I am sure.

God bless you today. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Deprived of Sleep by the Worries of Life

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; -Psalm 13:2, 3 (KJV)

The other night I spent a difficult night suffering from the age-old problem of insomnia.  I usually sleep well; within minutes of my head touching the pillow, I drift off to sleep.  However, the other night my body and my mind had different plans.  After an hour or two of tossing and turning, I got up and went out to the living room to try to start my night over again.  The situation only deteriorated as I could not relax and fall asleep.  Eventually, I fell asleep on the couch and slept fitfully at best.  Have you ever had a night like this?  If so, you know how frustrating it can be.

Psalm 13 speaks of the troubles which can enter the heart causing sorrow and yes, sleepless nights.  This is the result of fear and worry, for these insidious forces can settle in our minds and rob of us peace and joy.  Our problems can so multiply that when we most need rest we are unable to sleep, regardless of how tired we are.  A friend of mine was telling me how one night his wife was having trouble sleeping.  She admitted that she felt overwhelmed by all the pressure and challenges she was facing.  She wondered aloud why during the night we are so vulnerable to worry and fear.  Her husband wisely answered that the devil loves the darkness, and this is when he is liable to attack. 

Like David the psalmist, we too can feel overwhelmed with the trials we are facing and we begin to wonder if we will ever get through them.  Take heart, for there is a divine resource of spiritual comfort the Lord will provide through faith in Christ.  We have the resources of prayer, the Word of God, and unquestioning faith.  The next time you are having trouble sleeping, take a moment and ask the Lord to calm your heart.  Trust God to bring the peace you desire.  Believe the promise of the Lord that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). 

Seek the calming presence of Christ.  The Lord knows we need rest.  Resolve to not worry at the time when your body needs sleep.  Find a verse and claim it as you lie awake in your bed.  Psalm 23 is ideal.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters, He resoreth my soul…”

God is near.  Trust in Him and rest in His comforting presence.  You are not alone, for the Lord is with you.

God bless you today – and tonight as you rest.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Prayer and God’s Word; the Perfect Combination

But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.  –Acts 6:4 (KJV)

I wrote the other day how I had traveled to western North Carolina last week to visit old friends and enjoy a couple of days rest.  As I was driving through Asheville I recalled how there is a Dunkin’ Doughnuts along the way, so I thought I would treat myself.  I have shared before how I hold to a strict regimen of diet and exercise, but every now and then it’s nice to enjoy a tasty doughnut, or three.  Since we do not have a Dunkin’ Doughnuts in Bristol, I thought I would take advantage of the occasion.  And they were delicious.  What I did not know was that Dunkin’ Doughnuts has a new breakfast sandwich.  Apparently, you can now have bacon and eggs, not on a biscuit or toast, but on a glazed doughnut.  Sorry, but I do not think I will be trying one anytime soon.  I can almost feel my arteries clogging just thinking about it.

Certain foods go well together, but others not so well.  The same can be said of certain practices and disciplines.  Acts 6 shows how a dispute came about in the early church over the daily distribution of food for the needy.  The Apostles made the wise decision to appoint godly people to handle this ministry so they could devote themselves to other ministries of the church.  Their desire was to pursue prayer and the Word of God.  Here are two aspects of the Christian faith which go hand in hand and perfectly together.  Each compliments the other.  

Daily prayer and time in the Word are vital to maintaining sound spiritual health.  Many believers neglect these important disciplines and they do so to their own detriment.  Prayer and God’s Word are essential to our Christian growth.  Furthermore, as we grow in prayer and the Word, we also grow in peace, joy, patience, love, and all the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22, 23. 

As we grow in faith we become better equipped to serve the Lord and to cope with the problems life brings our way.  Adding to our daily routines the discipline of prayer and God’s Word is akin to plants having water and sunshine.  The result is life, growth, and health.  They thrive as intended.  Our faith in Jesus Christ thrives when watered with prayer and placed in the blessed light of God’s Word.

Seek to start each day with this blessed combination.  You will not regret it.

God bless you today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Renewing Power of God’s Grace

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  –James 4:6, 7 (KJV)

Thank you all for bearing with me as I try to share with you these words of encouragement, which may not always be daily, yet hopefully are a blessing.  Please forgive me for getting behind in sharing, as the last few days have been extremely hectic.  Last week I enjoyed a couple of days in western North Carolina where I visited with old friends, relaxed, and enjoyed the beautiful mountains and picturesque scenery there.  My plan was to spend a little time fishing, but the weather did not cooperate.  While it was sunny, the cold temperatures were not conducive to fishing.  However, I did enjoy some badly needed quiet time at a cabin that belongs to our friends who live there.  God knew what He was doing when He allowed me the opportunity to get away for a time of personal refreshing.  I did indeed return refreshed and encouraged.

The returning is what is often difficult after a time away.  As soon as I got back, I came down with a nagging head cold and sinus thing, which has been mostly a nuisance, but has had the effect of sapping my energy.  My 21-year-old son Aaron, who is a health and fitness enthusiast, has been urging me (as he always does when I catch a cold) to sweat it out through intense daily exercise.  He is certain this relieves the symptoms of a cold and works far better than any cold medicine.  I am not so sure.  Along with my cold, I have been ministering to a number of people in the church who are experiencing personal difficulties involving such issues as sickness, the passing of loved ones, and family conflict.  The rest I received last week came at just for right time, because I needed it for what awaited me when I came back.

We never know what tomorrow holds, yet we are joyful because we know who holds tomorrow.  The temptation is to become discouraged and fearful, but these are opposite responses to a life devoted to Jesus Christ.  God’s Word promises those who trust in the Lord will receive grace through Jesus Christ, which is sufficient in our time of need.  As we humble ourselves before the Lord, God lifts us up spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  The power of Christ has a wonderfully renewing effect on our outlook and well-being.  The temptation is to become frustrated, which in turn causes anger and bitterness.  We may become upset with what is going on around us and believe we can handle the problems on our strength. 

Recall the words of James 4:6, which says that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Submission of our will to God is the great paradox of the faith, for in submission we find release and spiritual victory.  No doubt you are struggling with something this week that has the power to bring you down emotionally and spiritually.  It may be a head cold or any number of personal struggles.  Take heart, for God is faithful and will bring you through to victory.  Do not fear, worry, or fret.  Instead, rise up in the power of Christ and humbly seek His will.  The result is peace and renewed focus.

God bless you today.