Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hectic Times Equal Opportunities for Growth

Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.  –I Samuel 1:17 (KJV)

I have heard all my adult life the expression “I have had a crazy week.”  What this means is someone has had a week that did not stop with activity and the stress of getting it all done was beginning to test the limit the person’s patience and coping abilities.  We know when we feel this way, for we begin to feel overwhelmed.  If you have had such a week, try stopping and giving thanks to God for allowing you the opportunity to trust Him with all your time and talents.  Next, ask the Lord for a better understanding of how best to manage your time.  Then, you will begin to grow as God challenges you to even deeper faith and commitment.  Trust in the Lord and the result is calm peace and assurance even when we are having a “crazy” week.  The hectic way we feel our lives are going will become opportunities for stretching and then growing our faith.

Hannah of the Old Testament resolved to pray to God for a child.  So fervent were her prayers and so great her commitment that she vowed that if God gave her a child she would give the child back to God.  When Eli the priest learned of her prayer, he urged her to go in the peace and assurance that God would answer her request.  Sometime later, she gave birth to a son, which she later gave back to God according to her vow.  The child, named Samuel, grew into one of the greatest prophets of the Bible.  No doubt, Hannah knew about the overwhelming feeling of having her faith stretched.  Yet, in the end, she grew in faith, the Lord honored His Word, and the world was blessed with a powerful prophet who led God’s people.

No matter what kind of week you are having or have had, trust God to keep you going in strength, faith, and integrity.  Spiritual growth comes when we are tested, and even though this testing is difficult, the result is to our benefit, for we become more like Jesus Christ. 

Keep going forward and keep thanking God.  The best is yet to come.

God bless you today.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Problem of Misunderstandings

For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged…And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.  –Romans 3:3, 4, 8 (KJV)

Have ever had the misfortune of being misunderstood?  We all have at one time or another.  Consider how it came about.  Something you said did not come out exactly as you intended, perhaps it was something you wrote, or maybe you were simply misquoted.  In any case, the results can be problematic.  According to God’s Word, Paul the Apostle suffered all three situations.  There were those who did not understand what he was seeking to convey, Paul was at times misquoted, and what he wrote was misconstrued.  In response, Paul said that some were affirming a slanderous report that he had said we ought to do evil so good will result (Romans 3:8).  Paul had said nothing of the sort.  In fact, he explained in chapter 6 how those in Christ turn away from sin as a result of the grace of God, not turn towards it.  Romans 6:1, 2, “What shall we say then?  Shall we go on sinning that grace may abound?  God forbid.  How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

The Christian life is about walking in faith rather than in ungodliness.  Walking with Jesus Christ is about turning away from the godless practices of the world and embracing the loving, compassionate, ethical teachings of the Lord Jesus.  We must always be careful about what we repeat because it may be misunderstood.  Even Paul the Apostle had to deal with this problem.  As he sought to lead people to faith in Christ, he was unfortunately misunderstood and misquoted.  There is an interesting attitude among countless people today and it is that if you receive it in an email then it has to be true, right?  Wrong!  Here are a few examples:

-Billionaire Bill Gates is not paying anyone thousands of dollars for forwarding an email.
-Cracker Barrel restaurant will not send you a gift card for a free meal if you forward a certain email. 
-Famous atheist Madelyn Murray O’hare had been dead for years.  She is not sponsoring a bill in congress to remove all religious broadcasting from the airwaves.  No such bill exists. 

Before I hit the forward button on my email program, I make sure I know the facts.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  The world will sometimes condemn us, but God through Jesus Christ vindicates us.  The world will dislike and sometimes hate us (and the gospel), but Jesus said to go ye therefore and teach all nations (Matthew 28:19, 20), which is a command and not a request. 

Most importantly, sin condemns us, but Jesus Christ cleanses us, makes us whole, and sanctifies us sinners.  We are no longer condemned, for through Christ we overcome.

God bless you today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wasted Time or God’s Will?

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.  –Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2 (KJV)

The other day, my wife asked me to stop by the local post office to mail a small package for our son who is away at college.  I was already in a rush and trying to work my way through a hectic day when I arrived at the post office.  I was sad to see several people ahead of me and only one window open.  I saw the person at the window had a stack of what looked like priority envelopes and each one was taking a couple of minutes to process.  Therefore, I waited.  After about five minutes, I began to think, “Okay, five more minutes, and then I will leave.”  I had to, actually, or I would be late for my next commitment.  During that time, I quoted various scriptures, asked the Lord to show me what it was He was trying to teach me through the experience, and tried to be patient.

Finally, I had no choice but to leave with my package undelivered.  I left it with Andrea and she was able to get it mailed when she finished work.  Imagine our surprise when our son called that evening to announce he was coming home this weekend for a visit.  Had we known, we could have simply handed it to him this Saturday.  Life certainly can be frustrating sometimes!  However, my frustration became joy over a surprise visit with our son. 

This experience left me thinking I would like to have back the ten minutes I wasted standing in line at the post office.  Yet, was the time wasted?  God’s Word reminds us there is a time for everything.  When we are walking with Christ, He is leading the way.  What looks like wasted time to us can actually be the working of God’s plan.  God might have saved me from a calamity by having me stop by the post office.  On the other hand, the Lord might have given me yet another opportunity to learn love, grace, and godly patience. 

Make the most of the time we have in this world, for it will pass by in a moment.  Walk with the Lord in faith knowing He directs our lives. 

God bless you today. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Christ-like Humility and a Servant’s Heart

22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. 24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.  –Matthew 20:22-24 (KJV)

Start praying for greatness and we are going to be humbled.  Start praying for a servant’s heart and we will be exalted – at the proper time.  After this request, Jesus turned to James and John and said, Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.”  Jesus was talking about a cup of crucifixion, suffering, sacrifice, pain, humiliation, and martyrdom.  How many at that point might have said, “Okay, maybe not,” and walked away.  Nevertheless, what is amazing to me is that the two remained and without hesitation said, “We are able.” I will give these men an “A” for guts and courage.  How many of us would endure the lashings and then the horror of the cross?  I would not wish it on my worst enemy. 

Jesus said something that again I am surprised did not send them running for their lives, “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with:” Again, be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.  Jesus told them they would indeed share His cup and His baptism, which was figurative language for self-sacrifice and a martyr’s death.  However, Jesus reminded them that who will sit at His right and left hand in glory is in God’s hands.  Do not try to circumvent God’s plan, will, or purpose.  Not even one of the apostles had such power. 

Are you surprised that when the other disciples heard all of this they became indignant?  They began to grumble and in essence said, who do they think they are?  Their response is understandable.  Anytime we perceive someone’s desire is to rise above us in some way we feel put off, do we not?  Jesus decided to teach them all a lesson on humility.

We are not like the world and the world’s methods for exercising authority over people.  We win the world to Christ though love.  Our authority is not from ourselves, but from Jesus Christ and the Word of God.

3 key truths in Matthew 20:26-28

  1. Whoever wants to be great must be a servant.
  2. Whoever desires to be first must be a slave, or be like one.
  3. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.  He is our example. 
God bless you today.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Mother’s Request

20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask…  -Matthew 20:20-22a (KJV)

Is this really so odd that a mother would make a request such as what we find in the above passage of Scripture?  I do not think so.  Parents will go to great lengths on behalf of their children.  How many parents have gone to a teacher and asked if their child might receive some special help?  How many parents have gone before a judge and asked leniency for their grown child?  We have no way of knowing, but the numbers are large I am sure.  The mother of James and John came to Jesus with a request; I would like my sons to sit on either side of your throne in your kingdom.  They were already what we might call Jesus’  right hand men, but she wanted them to have the same status in the coming kingdom. 

Jesus led her to a completely different way of thinking, which was to go spiritually deeper.  Jesus told her she did not know what she was truly asking.  Have you ever heard the old saying about being careful what you ask for?  Why is this?  The old answer is because you just might get it.  Back in 1902, WW Jacobs wrote his classic horror tale, “The Monkey’s Paw,” in which he took this line of thought to a literal sense.  The elderly couple had three wishes, and while their wishes came true, it was not in a way they had hoped for at all. 

Jesus was letting James and John’s mother know she did not fully comprehend the scope of what she was asking.  If I were to ask the Lord to allow me to be great in His kingdom, I believe I know the answer.  The Lord would say, “Okay, but you will have to start on the bottom floor.”  Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant (Matthew 23:11).  I try to take an attitude of just being glad to be here.  Let us content ourselves with being lowly servants of God, because when we humble ourselves before Him, what does He do?  He will lift us up.  I would be happy to be the lowliest servant in God’s kingdom because I know if I am faithful, He will promote me at the proper time.  Wherever God has placed you, grow, thrive, serve the Lord, and commit yourself to your calling.  God will then move you on to something different, perhaps better, in His time.  Serve the Lord with gladness and patience.

God bless you today.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Seeking and Finding the Lord

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  –Isaiah 55:6, 7 (KJV)

We have a son who is away at college and ever so often, the school sends a newsletter in the form of a magazine to the parents.  I sometimes scan this publication for any relevant information, but I confess I am usually looking to see if there is something there about our son.  I imagine all parents do this.  During my years of study in seminary, my sister received a newsletter from the school I was attending and she confessed that she did the same thing; she would peruse the publication looking for any news about me.  It’s nice to be proud of someone, especially to the point of expecting his or her accomplishments to be noted in the school paper.  This shows we care and are paying attention.

While I may not always find something about our son in his school newsletter, I will find something relevant to me in God’s Word.  The Bible challenges us in the book of Isaiah to seek the Lord while he may be found.  This means we are to seek God now.  Do not put this search off until we think the time is right, for the time is right now.  Many people make the mistake of thinking they will seek a relationship with God at some hazy future time in their lives.  If they are not careful, the years become decades and they reach the end of life having missing the peace and joy Jesus Christ brings to our lives. 

God’s Word further issues a challenge to those walking in a life direction contrary to God’s ways.  God urges the wicked man to forsake his wicked ways and seek the Lord.  The unrighteous man may renounce his ungodly thoughts and find peace and contentment in the Lord.  This latter challenge has become even more difficult in the present age.  Countless men fall prey to the insidious forces of evil available on the Internet.  There is much good, useful, and valuable information online.  Sadly, there is also more unspeakable wickedness than we care to imagine.  Those desiring freedom from these dangerous forces practice Spirit-led discernment and self-control by keeping a safe distance from them.  Never give into the temptation to view something online just to “check it out.”  Countless people have done so only to regret such a decision.

Remain in daily communion with God, keep in the Word, pray daily, and maintain healthy relationships with other believers.  Through such spiritual strategies we find strength to resist the temptations that are all around us.  The world is in need of a great spiritual renewal, which is why the challenge in God’s Word remains in force.  Are you out of fellowship with God?  Seek Him today.  You will surely find Him.  Grace, mercy, new life, and forgiveness will follow.

God bless you today.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sin that Lies at the Door

And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.  –Genesis 4:6, 7 (KJV)

There is a shed behind the church where I am pastor and in it we keep a collection of grass cutting equipment.  Since I take care of the grass around the church parsonage, I am in this shed ever so often.  I did something I realized was a mistake.  At the beginning of the season, there was a wasp’s nest forming, but I did not take the time to get rid of it.  As the summer wore on, the nest grew and I kept thinking I would bring down a can of wasp spray, but I never seemed to find the time.  I told a neighbor about the nest and he said his policy has been as long as a wasp nest does not bother him he will not bother them.  I laughed and said I did not believe this principle would work for me much longer.

As it turns out, I was correct.  The other evening I went into the shed to retrieve the lawn mower when a wasp did a sort of dive bomb at my head, which sent me running for safety.  The nest had grown to the size of a softball and was covered with a small swarm of angry looking wasps.  I knew I had to take action.  I went back to the house, brought back a can of wasp spray, and rid the shed of the wasps.  My mistake was waiting so long to confront the problem.

Consider how often sin is handled in the same manner.  We let it go thinking it will be all right, when all the while the problem is growing worse and getting larger.  We ignore sin and ungodliness to our own detriment.  Anytime we allow sin to continue in our lives we are in rebellion against God.  Furthermore, we are living a lie, for we convince ourselves we have control over the sin.  Eventually, we discover the sin controls us.  Cain of the Old Testament suffered the same problem.  Jealousy overcame him because of God’s acceptance of his brother’s sacrifice over his own.  The Lord warned Cain that sin was crouching at his door and desired to enslave him.  Eventually, sin consumed Cain and he murdered his own brother.  All of us face the problem of sin, but the good news is that through faith in Jesus Christ sin no longer rules us. 

By the power of Christ, we overcome sin and anything that hinders our forward progress of walking by faith.  The Word of God challenges us to examine ourselves and see if there is anything in our lives keeping us from a right relationship with God (II Corinthians 13:5).  When some sin, attitude, or habit is hindering our walk with Christ, we are empowered to rid ourselves of it.  Take a bold step of faith and trust Christ with all your life.  The result is vibrant and dynamic faith.

God bless you today.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Seeking Spiritual Vision

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)

I love studying Samuel of the Old Testament.  He was a tireless servant, an outspoken prophet, and a fiery preacher of God’s Word.  He began as a baby, dedicated to God from his birth.  Can you imagine his mother Hannah’s feelings as she took the child she had so earnestly prayed for and gave him back to God (See I Samuel chapters 1 and 2)?  I cannot imagine such depths of faith, love, and personal sacrifice.  She promised God that if He gave her a child she would give the child back to God.  She was good to her word.  Because of her faithfulness, God blessed her.  Moreover, God blessed the nation of Israel because they soon had a prophet of God among them who spoke the truth, a man of God unlike anyone they had seen for a long time. 

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Unless there is a vision, a word from God, the people will indeed perish.  We lose hope, we lose sight of what God calls us to do, and we lose our zeal for proclaiming the gospel.  We need the word preached with prophetic voice and God-inspired vision. 

The Bible says in I Samuel the child Samuel was ministering before the Lord.  Imagine that; a little boy doing the work of a priest.  However, he was doing a far better job than those in charge.  I Samuel 3:1 says the Word of the Lord was precious (rare) in those days.  There was no open vision.  Try to imagine a world where no one preached the gospel or proclaimed the truths of God’s Word.  This is a harsh judgment upon the world and upon a people.  When this happens, people lose all hope of a better and brighter day.  What is it that has long given people hope of a better and brighter day?  It is hope in the Living God – hope and faith that God Almighty will again pour out His Spirit upon an unworthy people.  He has done it; He still does it, and let us pray God continues to do so.

Do not lose your God-given vision, my friends.  Seek the Lord and you will find Him.  Pray in faith and listen for the still, small voice of the Lord.  Renewed spiritual power and a fresh touch from God are available.  Be encouraged and walk forward in faith.

God bless you today.