Sunday, September 15, 2019

Give Me Backup

15 September

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  (2 Ti 4:18; NIV)

If you were to read the verses before this one, you would find Paul telling Timothy that during his last defense, no one came to support him.  In fact, everyone left him except for the Lord.  The Lord stood by his side and gave him strength so he could proclaim the Lord's message. 

How often are we found alone because everyone has left us?  Or maybe I should say, we "think" we are alone because God is always with us.  He is always there to give us strength, to guide us, and to help us carry on with our task.  We should take great comfort in what Paul says in verse 18: "The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom."  That's really powerful!

When I was in the military, I couldn't help but notice that in many cases where there was a fight, it was started by a small person picking on a larger person.  Right away, this does not make sense, except for the fact that the smaller person would always have a larger one backing them up.  This second person would always come alongside in the last seconds and rescue their friend in one way or another.

When it comes to this world, I may be 6 foot tall and weigh in at 210 lbs., but I am a small person, and I have the greatest backup that has ever been or will be.  He's always with me no matter what.  When I tell others about Christ, he is there giving me support and encouragement.  I take great joy in knowing God has rescued me and will continue to do so until he sees me safely home in his kingdom.

When we are by ourselves, we are just one, but with God, we are never alone.  Keep backing me up, Father!!


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Gardening

14 September

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  (Jn 12:23–24; NIV)

Some years ago, I was told a story about some teens who had busted a pumpkin on a person's sidewalk.  The next day before the homeowner could clean up the mess it snowed.  Of course, everything got shoveled off the sidewalk on to the ground.  In the spring the owner had forgotten about the pumpkins and decided to do some yard-work, turning under his yard and reseeding it.  When he got done with his yard-work, he had some dirt leftover, and so his neighbors wanted some.  It is now September, and the whole block looks like a pumpkin patch.  We tend to think of seeds as being dead, but really they give more life.  One seed produces a plant that has two seeds; those two turn into four, four to eight, and so on.

Jesus was one seed that everyone thought was dead, but when he rose again on the third day, he produced many seeds, and they have been producing ever since.  Today his garden is enormous!!  From one seed, Jesus the Christ, has come a garden of Christians that only through the grace of God keep producing seeds.  And it is through the work of the Holy Spirit that those seeds will continue to grow and produce more seeds until he gathers us all home.


Friday, September 13, 2019

What's Your Wealth?

13 September

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.   (Pr 3:9–10; NIV)

Over the years, I have met many wonderful followers of Christ who look at verses like this and read them differently than I do.  I read the first part of this passage as saying we should honor God with our income and talents.  I believe "wealth" is not just money but includes all those gifts the Father has given us which include; teaching, speaking in public, hospitality, prayer warrior, play a musical instrument, and the list goes on.  All of these are part of our wealth.  The rest of the passage makes perfect sense; if we honor him with our wealth, he will continue to honor us, not just a little bit, but with an abundance.

This is how many of those followers of Christ read that first part.  I will honor the Lord by giving him a portion of the talent he has given me.  Don't get me wrong, we should give back and use the talents he has given us, but the other part of that wealth IS the monetary part.  It is hard to send people out into the world to proclaim the gospel without the finances to do so.  It is hard to help the poor and provide for the elderly and young when we do not have the resources to do so. 

Many years ago, before I got into full-time ministry, we were attending a church where the piano player made it public that she gave a tithe, not of money, but of her talent of playing the piano.  The passage says with your wealth, your talents, and finances, we are to honor God.  It takes both to reach our world for Christ.  So let's honor the Lord with our wealth, both finances and talents, and just watch how he will increase them even more.



Thursday, September 12, 2019

Other Altars?

12 September

 “Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.”  (Jos 22:29; NIV)

It's still hard for me to imagine there are people in this world who worship and follow anything other than the one true God.  It's not just people from other lands which are doing this, but people from our own country; those we think would know about the one and only God.  They make altars to other so-called gods, they consult with mystics and fortune-tellers, they sacrifice things, even loved ones to a 'god' that has no power.  They build altars in the worship of money, jobs, cars, sports.  You name it, and people will build altars to it and sacrifice on it.  The funny part is this -- no amount of sacrificing on our part can do anything; our God sacrificed for us.  He does not ask for us to take the life of our children, because he already gave his son so that we all might live -- that's the true God.  All he asks of us is that we believe and put our faith in him.  After all, he not only gave his son as a sacrifice but he also raised him from the dead, and he is alive and well, seated at the right hand of God waiting for our Father to say, "Go and get my children.  It's time!"


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Love Builds Up

11 September

We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.  (1 Co 8:1; NIV)

Ted Stallard undoubtedly qualifies as one of "the least."  Turned off by school.  Very sloppy in appearance.  Expressionless.  Unattractive.  Even his teacher, Miss Thompson, enjoyed bearing down her red pen -- as she placed Xs beside his many wrong answers.  If only she had studied his records more carefully.  They read:
     1st grade:  Ted shows promise with his work and attitude, but (has) poor home situation.
     2nd grade: Ted could do better.  Mother seriously ill.  Receives little help from home.
     3rd grade: Ted is good boy but too serious.  He is a slow learner.  His mother died this year.
     4th grade: Ted is very slow, but well-behaved.  His father shows no interest whatsoever.

Christmas arrived.  The children piled elaborately wrapped gifts on their teacher's desk.  Ted brought one too.  It was wrapped in brown paper and held together with Scotch Tape.  Miss Thompson opened each gift, as the children crowed around to watch.  Out of Ted's package fell a gaudy rhinestone bracelet, with half of the stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume.

The children began to snicker.  But she silenced them by splashing some of the perfume on her wrist and letting them smell it.  She put the bracelet on too.  At day's end, after the other children had left, Ted came by the teacher's desk and said, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother.  And the bracelet looks real pretty on you.  I'm glad you like my presents."  He left.  Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive her and to change her attitude.

The next day, the children were greeted by a reformed teacher -- one committed to loving each of them.  Especially the slow ones.  Especially Ted.  Surprisingly -- or maybe, not surprisingly, Ted began to show great improvement.  He actually caught up with most of the students and even passed a few.

Graduation came and went.  Miss Thompson heard nothing from Ted for a long time.  Then, one day, she received this note: Dear Miss Thompson: I wanted you to be the first to know.  I will be graduating second in my class.  Love, Ted.

Four years later, another not arrived:  Dear Miss Thompson: They just told me I will be graduating first in my class.  I wanted you to be the first to know.  The university has not been easy, but I liked it.  Love, Ted.

And four years later: Dear Miss Thompson: As of today, I am Theodore Stallard, M.D.  How about that?  I wanted you to be the first to know.  I am getting married next month, the 27th to be exact.  I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive.  You are the only family I have now; Dad died last year.

Miss Thompson attended that wedding, and sat where Ted's mother would have sat.  The compassion she had shown that young man entitled her to that privilege.  Let's have some real courage, and start giving to "one of the least."  He may become a Ted Stallard.  Even if that doesn't happen, we will have been faithful to the One who has always treated us -- as unworthy as we are -- like very special people.  (Courage -- You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, Jon Johnston, 1990, SP Publications, Page 111-113)

Have you ever been around someone who is smart -- I mean brilliant.  The ones who when they open their mouths pages of the encyclopedia fall out?  We all know someone like that (or someone who thinks "they" are like that).  Knowledge is great, without it we would not be able to do what we are doing now -- reading messages on the computer or even on a piece of paper.  We all possess knowledge in varying degrees, but all the knowledge in the world can not do what love can.  For many people, knowledge makes them believe they are smarter than the other person, it puffs them up.

There is something about love that cannot be explained -- it does not puff up; it does not tear down. As a matter of fact, as Paul says, "love builds up."  We learn how to love by looking at the example God set -- when we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  When we were lower than low, God said, I still love them, and I am going to send my son to take their sins upon himself and be crucified.  God's love for us builds us up.  He took lowly sinners and built us up into glorified saints -- that's love.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Full-time Christian

10 September

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.  (Ro 2:13; NIV)

Every week some people show up at churches to hear the word of God but never take it to heart and put it into action.  These same people profess to be Christian and even talk about how good the sermon was, then they go home, grab a six-pack of beer, and spend the rest of the day complaining about everything and everyone under the sun.  There does not seem to be anything connecting what they heard in church to that part of the brain (or heart) which causes action.

There are a lot of one-hour Christians out there; those who attend church services every week and appear to be the greatest Christians.  What about the other 167 hours a week?  There is no such thing as "part-time Christianity," even though that is how many people treat it.

Paul tells us that it is not the one who "hears" the law who is righteous, but the one who "obeys" it.  There's a big difference between the two.  Do you think a police officer would fail to stop someone driving 95 mph through town just because the driver "knew" what the posted speed limit was?  God is the same way. He cares that we know is law, but we need to obey it to find his mercy.  Start with what Jesus called the greatest law, love.  Love one another, show compassion and respect for each other and lift each other up in prayer.

Why not start right now.  We all know of someone who needs prayer; to find God for healing, for comfort, or maybe you would like to thank God for someone in your life.  I encourage you to pray for that person now, and every time God lays a name on your heart to do it right then no matter the time of day or night.  It is time we become "full-time Christians" every hour of every day.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Forgive Him

9 September

“If another follower sins, warn him, and if he is sorry and stops sinning, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in one day and says that he is sorry each time, forgive him.”  (Lk 17:3–4; NCV)

Do you happen to know anyone who carries a grudge; a person who whenever someone does them wrong they remember it forever even though forgiveness has been asked?  When I read these verses, I have to remind myself, God would not have us do something that he would not do.  If God held a grudge, where would we all be?  We should praise him because he doesn't hold anything against us.  Whenever we sin, all we have to do is return to him and ask forgiveness, and he is willing to open his arms wide to welcome us home.  He always forgives those who call upon him.  That's a great and mighty God, a wonderful, loving Father

So, forgive as God has forgiven you.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

He Provides

8 September

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  (Ex 16:4; NIV)

We have an awesome God!  When the Israelites were in the desert and had nothing to eat, God provided, and he continued to do so for the next 40 years.  Manna from heaven provided food and life for the Israelites. But of course, some did not believe God would continue to provide for their every need.  After they were told to only gather enough for that day, some went out and collected more than they should have.  By the next day, the extra they had gathered had turned bad.

Don't we still do the same thing today?  I mean, there are times when we ask God to provide something we need, and when he does, we want to take advantage of it and want even more.  We tend to get a little greedy and begin to wonder if he will still be there later when we need it.  The answer to that can be found by looking at the Israelites.  He was with them for forty years, providing for all their needs, and when they reached the land of milk and honey, the manna stopped.

God loves his children and wants nothing bad to happen to us.  He takes care of us and wants us to trust him.  He has been taking care of those who call him Father, for generations and generations.  He will never forsake us but will provide for our needs, afresh each and every day.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Defense Attorney

7 September

My dear children, I write this letter to you so you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a helper in the presence of the Father—Jesus Christ, the One who does what is right.  He died in our place to take away our sins, and not only our sins but the sins of all people.  (1 Jn 2:1–2; NIV)

I use to really worry whenever I would stumble and fall because of sin.  Don't get me wrong; I still don't like it, and I work to walk a perfect walk, but we live in a fallen world, and it does happen.  I'm not trying to make excuses, just telling the truth.  I use to wonder what would happen if Jesus came at the same time I fell, the moment sin caught hold of me.  How would I be able to stand before my heavenly father and explain myself?  Well, it took me a while to fully understand that there is someone who stands and speaks in our defense; Jesus.  We will still stand before the judgment throne and be held accountable for the way we lived our lives, but Jesus goes to bat for us each time we stumble, and in my case, he spends a great deal of time before the father.

John tells us, Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, he took them on himself, though he was sinless.  Not just my sins but the sins of the entire world.  He knew there would be those who would not accept his gift of grace, of his death on the cross for them, but that did not stop him.  As the song goes, "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.  Jesus loves the little children of the world."  He did not care about anything else except the salvation of his children and praise the Lord, I am one of those.

Jesus came as a sacrifice for us, all of us, all the drug dealers, alcoholics, abusive parents, church skippers, shoplifters, and even for the little boy next door who chases your cat or walks through your flowerbed, they are all, we are all precious in his sight.  There is no sin too great for Jesus not to be able to handle, and there is nothing we can do where he would not go before the father and speak in our defense.  What a great defense attorney or better yet, what a loving brother we have!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Childlike Faith

6 September

but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children.”   (Mt 19:14; NCV)

Children are great, and Jesus said we need to be more like them in our faith.  Children believe without trying to analyze everything; they have never seen the Easter Bunny, but they know he's real.  That is until they reach a certain age then things change.  When they are young, they believe their parents can solve any problem they have, that their parents are the wealthiest people on earth, that their dad is stronger and can "whip" any other dad on the block, and their understanding of God and his will in our lives is without blemish.

One of our sons, even at an early age, was a great thinker, you could see the wheels turning in his head at times as he pondered the mysteries of life.  At the age of about 4, while at the dinner table one night, we could see those wheels turning and we waited for the words of wisdom that would flow from our son.  We had fried chicken that night, and he was contemplating his chicken. Finally, he spoke up and said, "I know why God made chicken bones."  Jonie and I were almost afraid to find out why, but we asked, "Why did God make chicken bones?"  And with a very thoughtful look on his face, he gave us this answer, "So when you are eating chicken and you fall asleep, your teeth will hit the bone and wake you up!"  How can you argue with that logic?

We say children have a simple faith, they trust too easily.  But isn't that what we are called to do?  To have faith in God and believe that he will be there, just like he said.  We like to make things really hard instead of looking at them the way they really are.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  It sounds simple enough for me!


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Bless Them

5 September

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  (Ro 12:14; NIV)

This may be one of the hardest things for us to do, or at least it seems to be that way for me.  It is so easy for us to bless and love those who are kind to us but those who persecute us, well, that's another story.  Paul goes on to quote Prov. 25:21-22, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

Now, this does not sound like a Christian thing to do but stop and think about it.  When I was younger, there was always someone who for one reason or another, wanted to tease and make jokes about me.  When this happened, I would laugh right along with the others, and this seemed to really upset them.  As a matter of fact, their joke on me ended up being a joke on them because it bothered them more than it did me.  So, I guess I was feeding their hunger and at the same time heaping burning coals on their heads.  Of course, this was a self pouring of coals, which is even better.

If we start blessing everyone we come in contact with it will be much easier to bless those who come against us.  We can also bless for selfish reasons.  It seems when I go around praying for and blessing others, I feel better than if I were to go around complaining and being mad at them.  Just try it this week, bless everyone you come in contact with and see if you don't feel better.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Prayer

4 September

On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”  So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar.  The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.  There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a human being. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!  Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.  (Jos 10:12–15; NIV)

When Robert Louis Stevenson was a boy, he once remarked to his mother, "Momma, you can't be good without praying."  "How do you know Robert?" she asked.  "Because I've tried!" he answered.  This reminds me of another young boy, one who had been sent to his room because he had been bad.  A short time later, he came out and said to his mother, "I've been thinking about what I did, and I said a prayer."  "That's fine," she said, "if you ask God to make you good, he will help you."  "Oh, I didn't ask him to help me be good, " replied the boy.  "I asked him to help you put up with me."  (Our Daily Bread)

Prayers are so misunderstood.  Many people will only say a prayer if they are in trouble, thinking they just don't have the time to say one unless the situation calls for one.  But the truth is any time is a good time for prayer.  Here are a few times that I have personally used: driving to/from work, waiting at stoplights (what else do you have to do?).  We don't have to pray that the sun would stand still, though there are days when I could use a few more hours.  On those days what I have found is when I pray I don't feel as rushed, I do only the things God wants me to do, and the rest will be waiting for another day.

God said, "Be still and know that I am God."  That's good advice.  Slow down and take time to pray.  Remember who it is we are praying to and how he answers prayer.  If nothing else, pray like the little boy, that God will help others put up with you.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Foundations

3 September

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.  (1 Co 3:10–11; NRSV)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy is going to fall.  Scientists travel yearly to measure the building's slow descent.  They report that the 179-foot tower moves about one-twentieth of an inch a year, and is now 17 feet out of plumb.  They further estimate that by the year 2007 the 810-year olf tower will have leaned too far and will collapse onto the nearby ristorante, where scientists now gather to discuss their findings.  Quite significantly, the word "pisa" means "marshy land," which gives some clue as to why the tower began to lean even before it was completed.  Also -- its foundation is only 10 feet deep! (Unknown) --- update -- it is now 2019 and if you did not know - the tower did not fall in 2007 because of a 30 million EUR cost and a decade of work (1990-2001) where the tower was moved from a 5 degree lean to 4 degrees.  (It is still an interesting bit of information).

We live in a world of constant change.  Each person is out to do their own thing; laying their own foundation.  Paul tells us that the only foundation he laid was the same one Jesus laid, all others are no good.  Like the Tower of Pisa, some foundations are too shallow to do anything or hold anything up.  But the foundation Jesus laid is deep and strong, and it is still around today.  His foundation was laid before the beginning of time and will continue even when time itself means nothing.  According to my Bible, when we all get to heaven, we will not care about time because we will be with Jesus and our heavenly father forever.

You cannot have a secure building without a strong foundation; it's just impossible.  There has to be something for the building to connect to and keep it on a firm footing.  The same is true with our Christian faith.  If you build on the foundations that some churches have set up, your faith is going to collapse.  Why?  Because those churches are building their own foundations and not building on the one, Jesus gave.  But if you build on the foundation he laid, your faith will be strong no matter what comes along trying to destroy it.  His foundation has been around for thousands of years, and there is not one chip in it!

So if you find you're building on a foundation which is too shallow or one which is not in the right location, move and build on the true foundation; Christ Jesus.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Always With Us

2 September

They did not understand that Jesus was talking to them about the Father.  So he said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that ‘I Am Who I Am’; then you will know that I do nothing on my own authority, but I say only what the Father has instructed me to say.  And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.”  (Jn 8:27–29; GNB/TEV)

Isn't it sad that teachers and rulers of Jesus' day could not see he was the son of God?  They would be blind to that fact until they lifted him up on the cross, and even then many did not come to understand who he was.  Even after he rose from the dead many were still unable to see that the long-awaited Christ was among them.  Jesus even tried to tell them it was not by his authority that he was able to do the things he did, but by the authority of his father.  Then he says something really profound, "He who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him."

Although the religious leaders of the day did not take much comfort in what Jesus said, I sure do.  It is just as true today, God is always with me and has not left me alone.  Life is tough, and there is no way I could make it all on my own.  I  know God is with me, holding my hand, and helping me over the rough spots. 


Sunday, September 1, 2019

And The Winner Is . . .

1 Sept

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. (2 Th 2:7–8; NIV)

WOW!  We know lawlessness is at work in our world and will continue until Jesus returns, but look again at what is going to happen when the lawless one is revealed: The Lord Jesus will overthrow him with just the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.  That's power!

I love cheering for the underdog, and though Jesus is by no means an underdog, he does stand for everything the underdog does.  When he came to earth, he came to a humble family.  He worked with his hands until he started his mission.  Though comfortable with every class of people, he spent most of his time with the lower class of society.  And when faced with trial and death, no one came to his defense.  Here is where I start cheering because when the trial was over, he took everything they could possibly throw at him.  When he was nailed to a cross like a common criminal, he kept going.  And after they had laid him in a tomb, all the religious leaders of the day breathed a sigh of relief.  But you don't count an underdog out until it's all over because Jesus, although dead, defeated death, broke its grip and returned to life by the power of our loving and gracious God.  The story does not end there because he told us he was coming back to get us. 

Even in his coming back he seems like an underdog. But I've read the end of the book and guess what?  He wins!  Paul gives us a glimpse of what is going to happen.  Jesus will overthrow the lawless one with just the breath of his mouth (I know I keep repeating that -- I love it!).  He won't even break a sweat.

So keep cheering for each other, lifting each other up because the game is not over yet, but we are on the winning team!


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Amazing Grace

31 August

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: 
  “Who am I, LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 17 And as if this were not enough in your sight, my God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You, LORD God, have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men.   (1 Ch 17:16–17; NIV)

These two verses inspired John Newton to write "Amazing Grace," and I can see why.  I can easily remove the name "King David" and replace it with mine and ask the same questions he asked.  "Who am I, and what is my family that God has brought me as far as he has?  Not only that, he has looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men."  And he really has!

God has taken me from what I was, and instead of leaving me there, he saw something, he saw someone, someone I could be.  He lifted me up as though I were exalted and brought me out of my despair and gloom and set my feet on the path of righteousness by his grace.  God treats us all as if WE were the exalted ones when it is God who should be exalted.  He comes to us and waits, he does not even ask that we make one step towards him.  All God asks of us is that we accept his gift of grace and believe in him.  The One that should be exalted exalts the ones that should not be.  THAT'S amazing grace!!


Friday, August 30, 2019

All God Created Is Good

30 August

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,  because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.  (1 Ti 4:4–5; NIV)

Have you ever looked around you and suddenly realized that in one way or another, God has created everything you have seen.  He may not have physically formed your house, but he gave us intellect, and someone used theirs to build your home, or your computer, your car, and the list goes on and on.  Of course, some waste the mind God has given them by using it for wrong or for hurting people.  We can also look at nature and see the hand of God in most everything though some seem to escape us, like this story I recently read:

At a summer camp for children, one of the counselors was leading a discussion on the purpose God has for all of his creation.  They began to find good reasons for clouds and trees and rocks, rivers, animals, and just about everything else in nature.  Finally, one of the children said, "If God has a good purpose for everything, then why did he create poison ivy?"  The discussion leader gulped and, as he struggled with the question, one of the other children came to his rescue, saying, "The reason God made poison ivy is that he wanted us to know there are certain things we should keep our cotton-pickin' hands off of."

Isn't that the truth, though.  Sometimes we have to look beyond what we know or how we see things to find its beauty and goodness.  Now, I'm not sure why God made poison ivy, but what the child says makes sense to me.  Sometimes we must remind ourselves that everything God created is good and we should receive it with thanksgiving (even poison ivy).

So, look around you at all God has created and then thank him for doing it.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Sure Thing

29 August

The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.  (1 Jn 5:5; The Message)

Some people spent their entire lives trying to find ways to overcome the world and its effects.  Some believe money and power will give them everything they need.  Others think if they can keep their bodies in top physical condition, they will live forever.  Still, others ponder over books to find the answers to everlasting life.

All anyone would have to do is read 1 John to find the answer. John asks the question, "Who is it that overcomes the world?"  Then he answers the question, "Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."  That's way too easy.  There must be a trick."  This is what most people say when they hear how to overcome the world.  They would instead look to the stars and have someone tell them what is in store for their future. Instead, why not look to the One who created the stars?

I'm a lazy person.  When I find a sure thing, I don't go looking around for something else to take its place.   Jesus is a sure thing!  For those who believe he is the son of God, you will overcome the world and have eternal life.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Real Benefits Package

28 August

The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.  Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,  (Mt 14:21–23; NIV)

My first job interview after retiring from the military came with all the usual questions and answers.  When they decided to offer me the job they threw in something they hoped would sway me to join them; a benefits package.  Employers use the benefits package to entice a prospective employee to come work for them and not the competitor. 

The same is true in life.  We decide on which benefits package we want.  One package looks very appealing.  It says we can have all the things that look good in life; power, money, others worshipping you, sex, drugs, . . . And the list goes on.  For many, this is a beautiful package, but the retirement plan is the pits . . . The pits of hell.

There is another benefit package out there where you can have love, friendship, respect, freedom, and even more, all leading to holiness.  And the retirement plan?  Eternal life.  Years ago, I preached at three retirement/assistant living homes each week.  I was getting set up for a service when one of our members came up to tell me about the passing of someone else from our group.  They came up and said, "That's right.  They cashed in on the ultimate retirement plan."  Isn't that the truth. 

What a benefits package God gives us.  We are told what the wages of that other company is, that company where everything looked good.  Its wages are sin, which leads to death.  In that second package, the one with holiness, you will receive no wages, but you will receive gifts from God, and the greatest gift is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a benefits package!  Tell others about it because God is still offering it!


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Helping Hand

27 August

But when he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. “Save me, Lord!” he cried.  At once Jesus reached out and grabbed hold of him . . .  (Mt 14:30–31; GNB/TEV)

The story of Peter's attempt to walk on the water is a familiar one.  When the winds and the waves came up and Peter started to pay more attention to them and not to his Lord and Savior, he started to sink.

Peter was like many people today, as long as things are going good our faith is strong.  The second we run into a little difficulty we take our eyes off the one who can set things right and start to sink.  Verses 30-31 are the verses we need to remember in this story: "he was afraid and started to sink down in the water.  "Save me, Lord!" he cried.  At once Jesus reached and grabbed hold of him."

All Peter had to do was call out to Jesus to save him and that is exactly what both did; Peter called for Jesus and Jesus saved him.  Keep in mind, nothing has changed here.  When we start to sink, and we will at times, all we have to do is call out to the one who can save us.  Immediately Jesus will reach out his hand to grab us and set our feet on solid ground.  I'll take that helping hand.


Monday, August 26, 2019

A Dress Code?

26 August

So go to the street corners and invite everyone you find to come to my feast.’  So the servants went into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.  “When the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man who was not dressed for a wedding.  The king said, ‘Friend, how were you allowed to come in here? You are not dressed for a wedding.’ But the man said nothing.  So the king told some servants, ‘Tie this man’s hands and feet. Throw him out into the darkness, where people will cry and grind their teeth with pain.’  “Yes, many are invited, but only a few are chosen.”
(Mt 22:9–14; NCV)

We have been given a great commission; go and invite everyone to come to the feast God has prepared, both good and bad.  Before the feast starts, God will look over those there and see who is wearing the correct clothing; a robe washed clean by the blood of the lamb.  That is how they are chosen.

I was in Australia some years ago when a friend and I went to a casino.  We knew there was a dress code but thought we were dressed nicely and would have no problem getting in.  We caught a cab and fifteen minutes later were dropped off in front of the newly opened building.  We got about two steps inside of this beautiful building when a couple of men stopped us.  We were told we were not dressed correctly to come into their establishment and that we were to leave at once.  We were "chosen not to enter."  We knew what the requirements were and thought we were good enough.  We were wrong.

We caught a cab back to our hotel, changed clothes, and returned to the casino.  We were about two steps inside when we ran into the same two men.  They looked us over and said, "Now you are dressed the way you should be.  You may enter and enjoy yourselves."

Many people are not wearing the right clothes for the feast which God is preparing.  The good news is that it takes a lot less time to change for the feast than it did for us to change when we were in Australia.  All we have to do to change is accept the love of God and his wonderful mercy.  There's no running around to different places to get the right clothes, just get down on your knees and call upon the name that is above all names; Jesus.  And you will be told, "You may enter and enjoy yourself."


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Read Every Word

25 August

Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law.  There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.  (Jos 8:34–35: NIV)

Have you not heard of the madman who lit a lamp in the bright morning and went to the marketplace crying ceaselessly, "I seek God!  I seek God!"  There were many among those standing there who didn't believe in God, so he made them laugh.  "Is God lost?" one of them said.  "Has he gone astray like a child?" said another.  "Or is he hiding?  Has he gone on board ship and emigrated?"  So they laughed and shouted to one another.  The man sprang into their midst and looked daggers at them.  "Where is God?" he cried.  "I will tell you.  We have killed him -- you and I, we are all killers!  But how have we done this?  How could we swallow up the sea?  Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the horizon?  What will we do as teh earth is set loose from its son?" (Friedrich Nietzsche,1889).

Nietzsche's point was not that God does not exist, but that God has become irrelevant.  Men and women may assert that God exists or that he does not, but it makes little difference either way.  God is dead not because he doesn't exist, but because we live, play, procreate, govern, and die as though he doesn't. (C. Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict, p. 181)

Where is God?  There are countless people out there asking the same question, and many of those people attended church this past weekend.  Where is God?  We have become a generation of people who do not want to hear the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  We only read the words of the Bible, which makes us feel good.  We avoid those words which make us look at ourselves and see the things that need to be changed.  The passage said Joshua "read all the words of the law -- the blessings and the CURSES" (emphasis mine).  We don't understand how great the blessings are unless we know the curses.  When we are driving through town, and the speed limit is 25 mph, many people don't have a problem of increasing their speed to 30 mph because they know the fine would not be too significant.  But those same people who would go 30 mph would never think of going 50 down the same street.  Why?  One of the reasons is because they understand the punishment (curses) will be higher.

We need to know the blessings and the curses that's why God gave them to us in his word.  But of all the blessings and all the curses listed they can be summed up in one of each.  The blessing: God loves us so much he sent his one and only son to become a sacrifice for all mankind and those that call upon his name will have everlasting life with the Father!  What a blessing!  The curse -- Those who do not call upon the name of Jesus and accept the blessing which God so freely gives, will stand before him on judgment day and be condemned to eternal death.  That's a curse!  As for me, I like the blessing a whole lot more.  So I will continue to read his word, the blessings, and the curses, and I will continue to preach them -- showing and proclaiming God to everyone.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Wonderful Power

24 August


Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  (1 Co 1:22–25; NIV)

Isn't it funny how Paul wrote this so many years ago but it's still true today?  We can change the names from Jews and Greeks to just plain "people," because everyone is looking today.  They are looking for miraculous signs and wisdom.  For wealth and power, and even for friendships but they tend to look in all the wrong places.  I read a report which stated, even though there are 65 million adult Americans who attend church services in a typical week, there are still 25 million agnostics and atheists out there.  What are they searching for?

There are many out there, like Paul says, who find the account of Christ crucified both a stumbling block and foolishness.  But to those of us who have answered the call of God, we have found the power and wisdom.  Do you remember when you were a kid and the conversation would come up where someone would say, "I have more brains in my little finger than you have in your entire body?"  I never got to say except one time and that was to the family dog . . . she proved me wrong.  But God is greater in wisdom and strength than anybody who has ever or will ever live.  Even on a bad day (if God was to have one of those) he would be greater than us.

How can someone look at the story of Jesus the Christ and doubt God?  How can they look at the resurrection account and not believe in the power of God?  How can they look at all the lives which have been changed and not see the glory of God?  Maybe we just need to let them know again, that God LOVES us so much that he sent his one and only son to die for us.  And it gets even better because he rose again, conquering the bonds of death.  That's love!  What's so hard to understand?



Friday, August 23, 2019

Why Fear Death?

23 August

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.  But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.  And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  (Lk 12:4–10; NIV)

Most people fear death.  They exercise, take vitamins, and even change their eating habits to live longer.  Don't get me wrong, these are good things, but only so we can live a healthier life.  Jesus hit the nail on the head when he said we should not fear the death of the body, but we should fear the One who can cast us into hell.  If you stop and think about it, death, like human life, is just a passing thing.  It's what happens after death that should cause many to fear.

Jesus goes on to tell us that even though God has the power to cast us into hell, he does care genuinely for us.  He cares about the sparrows, and yet we are so much more to him.  We are his creation, the ones made to commune with and to worship him.  And all God asks is for us to love him and invite him into our lives.

By loving God and acknowledging his son, Jesus the Christ, Jesus will acknowledge us before the angels of God.  He will go to them and say, "I know these people, they are our brothers and sisters.  They are God's children coming home."  But to those who do not acknowledge him, he will not recognize before the angels, and in fact will say, "I do not know you."

It seems to me God has made the possibility of everlasting life so easy to receive.  All we have to do is accept and acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And Love and honor God, as well as each other.  Sounds easy to me!



Thursday, August 22, 2019

Preach It

22 August

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  (Mt 10:7; NIV)

One pastor never prepared during the week, and on Sunday morning he'd sit on the platform while the church was singing the hymns desperately praying, "Lord, give your message, Lord give me your message."  One Sunday, while desperately praying for God's message, he heard the Lord say, "Ralph, here's my message.  You're lazy!"

Jesus told the disciples as you go preach the message, "The kingdom of heaven has come near."  We have been called to preach the same message that the disciples were given.  But how many of us prepare to do it?  Maybe we are more like the pastor Ralph in the story.  We want Jesus to do all the work for us, and we use the verse where we are told that the Holy Spirit will give us all the words we need.  The Holy Spirit will provide us with the words we need when we need them, but we have to do our part.  We need to know what the Scripture says, we need to apply it to our lives, we have to live the word of God.  When we do these, then and only then will the Holy Spirit come and give us the words we need.  

So live the word of God. Do what Jesus has called all of us to do, proclaim this message, "The kingdom of heaven is near."  Live it, proclaim it, and don't be lazy about it.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

We Have The Victory

21 August

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   (1 Co 15:51–57; NIV)

Have you noticed what some people do when they win a game or sporting event?  They do that funny little dance and strut around making all kinds of noise.  They're happy, they have been victorious.  I've been there on more than one occasion.  While stationed in Germany, I was put in charge of a maintenance team that took two aircraft back to the states for competition.  There were teams from all over the world, and every branch of service was represented.  This competition happened every two years, and the last time it was held our organization won.  This was the first time an active-duty U. S. Air Force unit had won the award, it usually went to a reserve or national guard unit.  All we heard for two years was that our winning was a fluke because we had never come close to winning before.

After the week of competition at the awards ceremony, it was announced that 1/2 point separated the 1st and 2nd place teams.  We came in second, but we made more noise than the first-place team.  Why?  Because we proved, the first time was not a fluke.  No, we did not win, but with less than a point separating us from the winner, in our minds, we were victorious.  Yes, we did the silly little dance.

That victory, as sweet as it was, is nothing compared to the dance and shouting I did when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior!  Do you remember that day?  Wasn't it great?  But guess what, that's only part of the victory the rest happens when we are called home.  "When we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be.  When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory!"*  We will trade in this 'old body for one that will never fail, the perishable for the imperishable.

Because of what God did for us through his Son, Jesus, we can ask, "Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?"  And then with a great big smile and a silly little dance, you say, "It's not here, because the grace of God has given me everlasting life!"

So do this for yourself, think about the day you accepted Jesus.  Then do some singing and shouting, even do the silly little dance because we have won the victory!  Satan has been defeated, and we are on the winning team!  We are victorious!  Praise the Lord!


*When We All Get To Heaven
Songwriters: DON WYRTZEN, EMILY D. WILSON, E.E. HEWITT
© Warner Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

United

20 August

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  (Ro 6:3–10; NIV)

We go through life uniting ourselves to one thing or another, this cause or that.  We unite ourselves to those we work with, to different organizations, our families, and for those married, spouses unite themselves together.  We become one with whatever organization or people we are joining with.  When I was in the military, no matter which organization, we would work and train so we could become one complete unit, all working and moving towards one common goal.  The same thing happened when I got married.  Jonie and I worked together, we became one unit, one person.  When one of us feels pain, sorrow, or happiness, the other shares in it.

When we become Christians, we become one with Christ.  We are buried with him through baptism into death so we can, like him, be raised from the dead for the glory of the father.  We can receive a new life, an everlasting life.

Paul tells us that by being united with Christ, dying with him, we can also live with him.  Because death no longer has a hold on us.  Praise the Lord!  "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God."  As Christians, we should let those old sins die and stop bringing them up. God has forgotten our sins and we should too.  Let the old sins die and start living for God!  Become one with the One that counts.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Unfailing Love

19 August

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Ro 8:35–39; NIV)

Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  You may be wondering about the person who has not accepted Christ, does he love them too.  The answer is, "yes."  God's love is still there, it does not change.  There is nothing that can prevent him from loving all of us.  It is only the return of that love to God, which can be stopped, and in that area, we are in charge.

People have always put stipulations on their love, and now in some marriages, contracts are even signed.  These contracts state the requirements of that love, putting conditions on it that if it is broken, the marriage is over.  God gives his love unconditionally.  He freely gives it, and all he asks in return is to be loved back, with no stipulations.  Like Paul says, there is nothing that can stop the love of God, nothing!  He loved us so much he sent his only son to take our place.  Even to the point of dying in our place.  But because of the power and love of God, death could not keep its grip on Christ, and he overcame the grave and is not sitting at the right hand of God.  That's love!

Does your love have limits?  It's easy for us to love someone we know, but would you die for all of them?  How about a person in another state or country that you have never met?  Would you give your life right now for someone who will not be born for another thousand years?  That's precisely what Jesus did.  That's love!  His love can not be stopped, it's freely given to everybody.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Training Camp

18 August

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  (1 Co 9:24–25; NIV)

Training, training, training, that's one thing I got used to when I was in the military.  We continuously trained for something we hoped would never come.  So after reading these verses, I thought to myself, how much more I should be training for something I know will come!  Think about all the training you've had; grade school, jr. & sr. High, maybe college or trade school.  How about on-the-job training.  If we do so much training and studying in the things of this world shouldn' t we do even more for life yet to come?

When was the last time you read the Bible, I mean really got into the word?  Most of us only skim the pages, not really reading it but just going through the motions.  Do you ever stop to understand what is going on and how it relates to you?

Another part of the training is telling others about the love of Jesus Christ.  I know, many of us are afraid of doing this but look at fighters.  They find people to spar with, and this keeps them on their toes.  Think of those people who hear you proclaim the gospel yet refuse him as being sparing partners.  They help us train for the person who is ready to accept Jesus, and maybe along the way you sow some seeds to those you spar with.

One of my favorite training exercises is the "bended knee and elbow."  The one where I pray to my heavenly father.  Many people do not know how to pray, they need to train.  The more they prepare, the better they will become, and the more they will enjoy their time with the Father!

So, join me in the training camp!  Open those Bibles and get into the word, start sparing -- tell others about God's wonderful grace, and get on your knees and pray. 



Saturday, August 17, 2019

Three Little Things

17 August

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?  Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  (Mic 6:6–8; NIV)

The prophet Micah asked the question people have been asking for years, "How do I find favor with God, what must I do?"  Of course, Micah was just echoing the questions of those around him because he knew the answer.  He reminded the people that God had shown them what was right, and he had a requirement also.  The requirement was simply this: "act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Why do we tend to make this harder than it really is?  We think to become a Christian God wants all we have.  But he already has it all, it's his.  We feel we must sacrifice all we have, but Micah even tells the people of his day that this is not what God wants.

He does not want burnt offerings, he wants us to "act justly."  Show people what being a Christian is all about.  When we belong to God, we do act differently.  We no longer want to give in to the temptations of this world, but want to show glory to God in all we do.

He wants us to "love mercy."  Show compassion to others.  Know where they are coming from but also know with God there is a way to overcome our trials.  We are to love even the ones we use to feel were unlovable.  The ones who have wronged us.  We are to love all people as ourselves.

We are to "walk humbly with our God."  We are not to walk by non-Christians with our noses in the air, thinking "I've got something you don't!"  This is not acting justly or showing compassion to our brothers and sisters.  Jesus walked humbly with God, and if he had not done these three things, we would not be saved from our sins.  Jesus is our model.  He acted justly, loved mercy, and walked humbly with God.  He showed us it can be done.  God does not want all the extra "stuff," he just wants us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him.


Friday, August 16, 2019

There's One Coming

16 August

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.  John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  (Lk 3:15–16; NIV)

The story of John the Baptist; the "voice of one calling in the desert" is a remarkable one.  Here is a man who did not let his own popularity get in the way of his godly mission.  Many people start out giving God the glory for everything that happens in their godly mission but somewhere along the way that changes.  They start believing people when they say things like, "You are great!  You move me in what you say."  Their heads start to swell up and before long something has hold of them and they start believing they're something they're not. Instead of giving God the glory, they start thinking they're the ones in charge of the message given.

John was hearing that many believed he was the Messiah, the Christ.  He would have nothing to do with these thoughts and would even set the crowds straight.  He would tell them about the coming Christ who was more powerful than he was and whose sandals he was not worthy enough to untie.  He always made sure everyone knew he was not the Messiah but that he was doing his godly mission by preparing the way for the true Messiah.

We should all become more like John the Baptist.  We should go out and "prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him."  Christ is coming again, and we are the ones who need to tell our world about him.  We can start in our neighborhoods by inviting six people to church this Sunday.  When you do this, you plant a seed.  Whether they come to church or not, a seed is planted, and the Holy Spirit can water it.  We need to plant the seed.  Ask any farmer about the initial steps in harvesting a great crop, and they will tell you; prepare the soil, and plant the seed.  There is no way to reap a harvest without planting the seed.  So let's remember, it's a godly mission we are on, so give God the glory for all he does.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Shut Door

15 August

Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”  He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.  Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’  “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’  “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’  “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’  (Lk 13:23–27; NIV)

This passage always makes me think about Noah.  All the people of Noah's day knew the difference between right and wrong but found the wide door the easiest to go through.  Some tried to go through the narrow door but found it too hard for them.  They would rather continue doing the things of the world instead of the things which God wanted them to do. 

So what happened?  God had Noah build an ark.  I can see the entire town showing up at Noah's house to laugh and mock him.  Here was Noah building this great big boat nowhere close to a large body of water.  But he was doing what God called him to do so he and his sons continued to build. 

When the animals started showing up the laughing and mocking might have died down a bit though only for a short time.  But when the rain started, I'm sure they reflected a bit on what Noah had been saying.  By this time, God had shut the door, and no one could open it.  I cannot even begin to imagine the pain Noah and God were going through as they heard the people pounding on the door to get in.  I can hear them yelling, "Noah, let us in.  We're your friends, your neighbors.  Don't you remember us?"  And God must have been thinking, "I do not know you."

People always think they can wait until the last minute to accept God, but when is the last minute?  We never really know, do we?  For some the last minute maybe years from now, for others, it may happen before you finish reading this.  We just don't know when this will be so we need to be ready.  We need to reach all those who are lost. Those who will be standing outside the door when it is shut.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Navigator

14 August

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:9–13; NIV)

Why do we tend to make becoming a Christian so hard?  Is it like that "guy thing" of not asking for directions?  I hate to admit, but I am guilty of this.  I wait until I am so lost that I don't have a choice but to stop and ask.  Once given directions, I can usually find what I was looking for quickly and wonder why I hadn't stopped earlier.  Nowadays, with the GPS systems, this does not happen as much as it once did.

Or how about getting lost at night, out away from any lights, totally lost.  Does panic ever creep in?  There was a time in my life when I was lost, in total darkness and panic was all I felt.  It was like I was doing nothing but traveling in a big circle.  While I was in this panic, Jesus used this passage to speak to me.  What the first part said to me was this: Jim, if you are lost all you have to do is ask, and direction will be given to you; then look for that location and you will find it; then knock on the door and you will be welcomed in, and you won't be lost anymore.

God always knows where we are and when we are lost, he's just waiting for us to ask him for directions, and he is ready to tell us how not to be lost.  Not only does he tell us this, but he will also send us a navigator in the form of the Holy Spirit.

God wants us to know where we are going, and he wants us to help others who are lost, to find their way.  He never leaves us alone, we just have to ask him for direction.  We need to seek him out and knock on his door, and he will provide the Great Navigator to lead the way.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Great Ruler

13 August

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken.  He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.  (Zec 9:9–10; NIV)

We have an awesome God!  Many years before Jesus was even born, we were told how he would make his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Zechariah tells us he will come to us "righteous and having salvation, gentle, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."  Jesus came and proclaimed peace and love, yet he was shown very little in his last days.  Even those closest to him claimed they did not know him.  But did this stop him from dying for all mankind?  No, it did not.  He still showed them all love and compassion.

When we think of powerful rulers, good and bad, we think of people like Hitler, Napoleon, Mussolini, Churchill, or maybe Eisenhower.  However, these rulers do not even compare to the king, who will rule from sea to sea and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth.  People laughed at him while he was hanging on the cross, "So this is the great king, he can't save anybody, he can't even save himself."  But they will be singing a different tune when he "returns in clouds of glory" to call his children home!

Which ruler would you rather be under, the one who rules by his mighty army, death, and destruction or by the one who rules by the Power of God and Peace?


Monday, August 12, 2019

Tents

12 August

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  (2 Co 5:1–5; NIV)

Tents are great as temporary dwellings.  They provide a way to get out of the sun and will generally keep you dry when it rains unless that rain comes in the form of a storm.  When storms come up, tents really get blown around and sometimes blown down completely.  Some years ago, our tent was used for a youth activity at church when a big storm came up.  The wind bent poles, ripped holes in the tent, and sent the youth all running for the safety of the church (sounds like a great sermon illustration).  When the storm was over, some of the tents were blown down and those still standing showed more wear and tear.

Paul tells us this body we are in is nothing more than a tent.  It is a temporary dwelling.  Some people go through the storms of life and are utterly destroyed by them.  These are people who have yet to find Jesus.  Then there some who go through the same winds and come out the other side with some bent poles and ripped holes but they're still standing.  They have found that no matter what hits them in life, the tent we are in is only temporary.  They know there is a day coming when they will trade this temporary tent for a permanent home built by the Master Carpenter.  I know I'm ready for a change of address to my permanent home, how about you?


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Tell Them Of Life

11 August

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.  It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.  Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”  (Ro 15:18–21; NIV).

We could learn a lot from Paul.  How much time do we spend each day telling others about the wonderful love of Jesus Christ?  When was the last time you told someone about the power of God, about the miracles He has done in your life?  Sometimes it's hard for us to see them so we have to take a step back and look at our lives and then we can see God's handy work.  If you are like me, once I see what God has been doing, I can't help but tell others.

We are quick to tell someone about the ordinary things in our lives; about our favorite TV show, what we saw on Facebook, or about how the big game ended.  We don't tell them about the one who can change their lives.  If we saw someone who was starving, we would not give them a rubber chicken, we would give them food.  So why do we look at people who are spiritually dying and fail to tell them about the Giver of Life?  Paul quotes Isaiah and states that we are to tell others so that, "Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand."  Help someone out today, help save their lives, tell them about Jesus.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Tell of His Wonders

10 August

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.  (Ps 9:1-2; NIV)

Do you ever praise the Lord during the week?  I know we praise him on Sunday and at other times when we meet with our Christian brothers and sisters, but what about this morning?  Did you praise God on your way to work or school?  Sometimes I have to remind myself about the reason I should praise him.  I praise him for the beautiful gift of life, both physical and Spiritual.  I praise him for allowing me to live in a country where I CAN praise him.  I praise him for my family, though we have our ups and downs, we will always have a love for one another.  I praise him for meeting our needs.  And the "praise him" list goes on and on.

David takes it another step and says he will "tell of all your wonders."  When we look around us, it is not hard to be in a position to tell others about his wonders.  The next time you are in the store and are told, "Have a nice day," just reply back, "Thank-you.  I will because my God created it," or something else along those lines.  We need to let others know how we feel about our heavenly father and the gifts he has given us!


Friday, August 9, 2019

Taming the Tongue

9 August

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  (Jas 3:7-10; NIV)

Why is it that the part of the brain which causes our tongue and mouth to be put into motion seldom goes through the logic circuit?  They seem to have a direct path and at times say whatever they want.  This appears to be the case for me anyhow.  It's like the "Bat-Phone."  The commissioner picks up the phone, and it goes directly to Batman, no middle person getting involved, no operator, no AT&T, no MCI, no Verizon, no Ma Bell, no one.  Sometimes it seems as though the tongue even as a mind of its own and things come out of it before we have even thought about saying them.

James was right when he said we can train animals, but when it comes to the tongue, it's like we don't even try.  We have trained our dogs to do normal things like roll-over, play dead, shake, and most of this was done in just a few weeks or less.  But I have been trying to train my tongue for ages and with only limited success.  I have to keep reminding myself that before the tongue is put into motion, it needs to go through the logic circuit and be approved.  There are times when it works and then there are times where someone has hit the bypass, and I say the first thing that pops into my mouth without the logic circuit being involved.  It does work better than it did twenty years ago, and more than it ten years ago, and even better today than it did five years ago.  Will it ever be perfect?  It will in Glory.

Though things are improving, I still have to call upon the Lord to help me.  If left up to my own doing, the tongue would never get checked.  But with the help of the Holy Spirit, I seem to think more about what I'm about to say and how I say it.  Still, there are times where I play the old game, "Open mouth and insert foot," but they are fewer than they use to be.

So there is hope, and with the help of God, it can be overcome.  We need to keep our thoughts pure and Christ-like.  We need to keep songs of joy in our hearts and on our minds.  We need to keep words of praise on our tongues and not words of poison.  By keeping God foremost in our thoughts, our tongues become as gentle and manageable as lambs.