Monday, September 30, 2019

Near to Him

30 September

But as for me, it is good to be near God.  (Ps 73:28; NIV)

Some years ago, I met with a couple of men from the church for a time of prayer and devotions.  One of them read this passage as part of his devotions.  I thought about it and had to agree it is good to be near God.

Have you ever watched a young child in the park?  They start out playing close to their parents, but as time goes on, they get further and further away.  All of a sudden, they look up and realize they have gone too far and can no longer see mom or dad.  Panic sets in and they start to cry as if to say "Where are you?  I need you to save and protect me!"  I feel the same way when I try to do things without God.  I walk out on my own and leave his comfort and protection, and after a while, I find I am all alone, and I realize I have gone too far.  I cry out for him, and like the father he is, he comes to my rescue.  He picks me up and holds me close so that I feel secure again.  As we get older, it seems like its a lot harder for us to admit that we need someone to come to our aid.  But aren't we all God's children?  There are unwritten rules of behavior when it comes to the relationship between parent and child.  One of those rules is that as a child, I have the right to call on my parents for comfort, support, and love.  Even though many earthly parents fail to abide by this unwritten rule, our heavenly Father has it etched on his heart, and when I call out, I find he is right next to me with his hands reaching for mine.  It is good to be near God!! 


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Mercy

29 September

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  (Tt 3:5–7; NIV)

Can you imagine this? We are the ones who should be calling out to God and making the first step toward reconciliation.  Yet, it was God who did nothing wrong that took not only the first step but many steps towards us for reconciliation.  God actually went the entire distance and met us where we were at the time.  That's called love.  When he has every right to sit back and say, "You hurt me, so you need to come to me and beg my forgiveness."  At least this is what many of us would say or think, but our God is not petty.  He understands the human heart and knows it is hard for us to "go" and ask someone's forgiveness, and many of us never would have in our sinful state.  So, he meets us face to face.  He has taken all the steps and is even reaching out his hand to us saying, "Come back home.  I love and miss you."

Have you ever noticed children that have gotten into trouble at home?  They will do everything they possibly can around the house to show how worthy they are of forgiveness, at times making a mess just so they have something to clean up.  A parent loves their child so much that all their wonderful deeds don't make a difference. The forgiveness is already there, as soon as the act was found.  All they had to do was say they were sorry.

God says he does not want us to run around doing righteous things, because that, in itself self does not save us.  It is his mercy, freely given that does, and the righteous acts that come about are because we want to do them.  He pours out his mercy in the form of the Holy Spirit through his Son, Jesus Christ, so that we might be heirs to the Kingdom of God and having hope and confidence in life eternal.

What a loving, caring, merciful Father, we have!  Who is willing to come to us, ready to take all the steps and meet us face to face.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

Leaders

28 September

The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”  But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.”  (Jdg 8:22–23; NIV)

In order to be a leader, a man must have followers.  And to have followers, a man must have their confidence.  Hence the supreme quality of a leader is unquestionably integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, on a football field, in an army, or in an office.  If a man's associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail.  His teachings and actions must square with each other.  The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose. (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

I find it kind of funny that mankind always wants a leader, yet the very best leader has always been there; God.  For some strange reason, most don't want God to be their leader, but I sure do.  It is easy to follow a leader who, as Eisenhower said, has integrity.  A definition of integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.  Sounds like God to me.  We know what he stands for, and that never changes.  Those that follow God find he is faithful and that he is always there.  You never have to make an appointment to see him because you are extremely important to God. What a leader he is!  When the children of Israel were leaving Egypt, God led them as a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of smoke by day.  He was always with them.

Today I know he is still with me at all times, I never have to look around to find him because he is right beside me.  When I'm scared, he goes before me to clear the way.  When I'm weak, he picks me up and carries me with his strength.  I believe this world would be a lot better off if we would put our trust and faith in the Creator of the universe for there is no one better to follow than the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Great I AM, the Leader of leaders.


Friday, September 27, 2019

Love

27 September

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  (1 Jn 4:7–10; NIV)

Love is such a strange word because it can mean so many different things.  I love banana pudding.  I don't just like it, I love it.  I will eat banana pudding until I'm sick (this has been proven on many occasions).  Yet I love my wife in a very different way compared to banana pudding.  I love my wife differently than I do my children and them differently than I love my dog.  So, how do we define love?  The American Heritage Dictionary defines love as an intense affectionate concern for another person.

As Christians shouldn't we have this "intense affectionate concern for others?"  We tend to pattern ourselves after people we know, usually a parent or a hero or someone exceptional in our lives.  The most magnificent pattern for love is the pattern God laid down.  We have to go back to the dictionary definition of "an intense affectionate concern for another person" and change the words, "another person" to "all people."  God has an intense affectionate concern for all people.  His love for us was so great that he sent his one and only son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  There is no way we could ever ask him to do it, he did it out of love.

God loves us so much that he went the full distance.  He did not ask us to meet him half-way, he came all the way to us, and all we have to do is accept the forgiveness he offers.  He paid the price and opened the doors to heaven, all we have to do is say thank-you and enter.  That's love!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Love Those That Hurt You

26 September

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’  But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.   If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong.   (Mt 5:43–46; NCV)

It seems that when we look at this passage, we tend to focus on the first part where we are told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  This is when I hear some say, "no one can do that."  They are dead wrong because God can and does do it.

God does not select who will and who will not receive his blessings, he leaves that up to each individual.  He gives freely to all, everything that he has, and all he asks is our love in return.  We could easily change the passage and have it say, "God loves those that persecute and hurt him."  Jesus showed this same quality.  He loves all those who hurt him, and he even asked the Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing.

If you are like me, we need to spend more time showing God 's love to those we come in contact with.  We are to be a reflection of Jesus, in all that we do and say, showing his love to everyone.























































































































































































































































































































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 nb v cv


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Not Just Words


25 September

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Co 13:1; NIV)

A 1992 publication of Bits and Pieces had this article: Independence, MO made public 1,300 recently discovered letters that the late President wrote to his wife, Bess, over the course of a half-century. Mr. Truman had a lifelong rule of writing to his wife every day they were apart. He followed this rule whenever he was away on official business or whenever Bess left Washington to visit her beloved Independence.

Scholars are examining the letters for any new light they may throw on political and diplomatic history. For our part, we were most impressed by the simple fact that every day he was away, the President of the United States took time out from his dealing with the world's most powerful leaders to sit down and write a letter to his wife. (bits & Pieces, October 15, 1992)

Paul speaks volumes in this one verse. A person may be the world's most eloquent speaker, but if they don't have love, they're nothing but noise. It has been said, "love makes the world go round," and I would say that's true. We are here because our heavenly Father loves us. He provided the world and its orbit. He provides us with the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the love to share with one another.

I wonder if Paul was trying to say something else here? Maybe he was saying love is not just words. Love is something that must be felt, both the giving and the receiving of it. I find it hard to express love in words, but in my actions, that's a different story. You see love in action when you watch a new mother pick up her baby. She does it so tenderly as if it were something the slightest breeze could blow away. That's love. You see love in action when a father takes a young child's hand because the child says, "Here daddy, take my hand, and I will help you cross the street." The father didn't need to do it, but does it because the child asks. That's Love. When parents work out their problems by respecting and listening to one another instead of yelling or bringing up "divorce" as the first thing to do, children learn to love. When a husband, after fifty years of marriage, still holds his wife's hand as they're walking down the street or sitting on the sofa watching television. That's love.

There are a lot of four-letter words out there that we should not say, but love is one four-letter word we should be saying and showing others what it really means like Jesus did when he took our place on the cross.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Just Believe

24 September

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.  The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.  (1 Jn 3:23–24; NIV)

"You Christians have so many rules and regulations, why would anyone want to become one?" says the non-believer.  I recently heard of a church that turned their back on a new Christian who had slipped in their Christian walk.  The isolation this person felt was overwhelming, and they left the church.  I have to stop and wonder how Jesus would have handled a situation like this.  I really think if Jesus were talking to the person who had slipped, he would ask only a few questions, "Do you believe in the name of Jesus Christ?"  "Do you love others the way I commanded you?"  "Are you trying with all your might to live the life I want for you?"  If the answer was yes to these questions, I think the next thing Jesus would say is, "Great!  Come, give me a hug!"

New Christians are often referred to as "babes in Christ" and rightfully so.  They're trying to do something they have never done before and need tons more patience, support, and love.  We need to remind ourselves that they are just like normal babies.  Turning our backs on a new Christian when they stumble and fall is like turning our backs on a toddler who is learning to walk.  It would be like thinking, as long as they are up on their feet I will believe in them, that they can do it.  But the second they trip and fall (and a toddler will), I will give up on them.  No parent gives up on a child because they fall the first time they try to walk, so why do we give up on new Christians who are trying to walk godly life?

As long as a person believes that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God and loves his neighbor as himself, and are trying to walk the Christian walk with all their might, I believe Jesus loves and accepts them and we should too.  Remember, the more a child walks the greater confidence they find in themselves and before long they are running like an old pro and the "stumbling" is long gone.  The same is true for the Christain.  The more they are supported and encouraged by the church, the stronger their walk will be.

I love to watch babies learn how to walk because out of their falling comes determination and strength to run the distance.


Monday, September 23, 2019

I Hear A Voice

23 September

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.  (Jn 5:25; KJV)

Some people ask, how can this be?  How can there be a time coming and one that is already here when the dead will be able to hear the voice of the son of God and live?  Well, as sinners, we were already dead.  The life we were living and the things we were doing had already sentenced us to death.  I always see in the movies where a man who is condemned and sentenced to death is taking that final walk down the hall, they always announced, "Dead man walking."  This might be just in the movies, but it is powerful.  When you get right down to it, that is what we were, dead men and women, walking.  But by the grace of God, we were given a chance to change all that.  We were given the opportunity to live again by hearing the words of his son.  When we really hear his words and act upon them, we are saying we want to live.

So yes, the time is now when the dead can hear the voice of the son of God and they can live.  They can live a life of love and compassion, hope, and fulfillment, all because of the wonderful grace of God our Father.


Tempted

22 September

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  (1 Co 10:12–13; NIV)

This survey came out in 1992; it is now 2019, and there does not seem to be an update on this so I will continue to use it.  This survey came from the Discipleship Journal, where readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them.  Here are the results:

1. Materialism.  2. Pride.  3. Self-Centeredness.  4. Laziness.  5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.  5. (Tie) Sexual lust.  7. Envy.  8. Gluttony.  9. Lying.

Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81%) and when they were physically tired (57%).  Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84%), avoiding compromising situations (76%), Bible study (66%), and being accountable to someone (52%).  (Discipleship Journal, 11-12/92). 

Temptation.  It's all around us.  But how we handle it is the key.  I have talked to some dear saints who tell me they're never tempted.  I am always a bit shocked when I hear this.  I ask them, "You're never tempted to speed up when you see the light turn yellow or when you know the speed limit is going to go from 35 to 55 mph, just up ahead?  You're never tempted to say to someone with green hair or face piercings, what were you thinking?  You're never tempted to yell at the neighbor's dog when its been barking for the past two hours?" 

You see, temptation is all around us.  Paul says, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall."  All he was saying is that we need to know what to do with it or better yet, what not to do with temptation.  Remember, when you are tempted, God always provides a way out so you can stand under the pressure of temptation and stand tall, but you need to look for it and follow it.


Saturday, September 21, 2019

How Majestic!

21 September


LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  (Ps 8:9; NIV)

When we look back over time and think about all the great names of people who have walked this earth, we can come up with some great ones.  Some left good marks on history while others left a bad make.  Some of the names I came up with, in no particular order) Caesar, Washington, Columbus, Churchill, Hitler, Lincoln, Edison, Bell, Kennedy, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul, John Glenn, John Wayne, and the list goes on and on.  But there is only one name that deserves praise, and that is the name of our Lord.  His name is majestic in all the earth!

Of all the inventors and creators that have lived or will ever live, none can compare with the Creator of the universe.  What the Lord did at the beginning of time cannot nor will it ever be done by anyone else; the heavens and the earth, the plants and animals, man and woman, sun, moon, and stars.  We may now know how to clone, but God started with nothing and created, no one has been able to do that.

When it comes to rulers and kings, He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Every ruler we have ever had could take lessons from him.  He is a fair Judge and only gives out punishment when he really has to and then only after many warnings about what is to come.  No one can stand in his way; he is the great Conqueror.

Compassion is a valuable asset, and our Lord has cornered the market on compassion.  He loves us so much that he sent his one and only son to take our place in death.  He shows his love for us in the way he has taken all the steps toward reconciliation even to the point of holding out his hand to us, the ones who do not deserve his love.  All he asks is that we reach out and take his hand and accept the gift he has so freely given.  He truly is magnificent!

O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth!


Friday, September 20, 2019

Help Celebrate

20 September

“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”  (Lk 15:31–32; NIV)

This is the last part of Jesus' story about the prodigal son.  The son has come home, and the celebration is going on, but his older brother is in the fields working.  Soon he hears the sounds of a party going on.  His father meets him on the road and tells him that his brother has come home, but the older son does not see a reason for the celebration.  The whole time the younger brother was wasting his money on wine, women, and song, the older one was working in the fields of his father.  Then his father hits him between the eyes with this reason, "It's because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."

We can easily see some members of the church in this story.  I have been to some churches were the older members, (the older brother in the story) cannot see the reason for the special attention paid to the new members or those who have come back to the church (the younger brother in the story).  The older members will say things like, "I have been a Sunday school teacher for twenty years, and they have never paid that much attention to me" or "I have been on the church board for thirty years, every time the doors were open I was here.  I have never missed a day in those thirty years" (working in the fields while the younger brother was off doing his own thing).

Jesus tells us, "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7), and that's the way it should be here on earth too!  We need to celebrate the return of our younger brothers, but we also need to remember to invite the older ones, call them in from the fields and make sure they help in the celebration.  Include them because it is only when all the brothers and sisters are together that we can really have a celebration.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Harvest Time

19 September

You have a saying, ‘Four more months and then the harvest.’ But I tell you, take a good look at the fields; the crops are now ripe and ready to be harvested!  (Jn 4:35; GNT)

When I was younger, much younger, I would spend my summers and falls picking fruit.  I have picked apples, peaches, strawberries, and grapes, just to name a few.  It was hard work!  Sometimes the harvest was not very good, and it would be hard to find anything to pick, while at other times there was so much it seemed we would never get done with that field or orchard and move on to the next.  What I learned through this was that it made no difference what the amount in the field was it still needed to be harvested.

Some people will tell you the town they live in is so small and have so few people that everyone has already heard the gospel message and they are Christians or have refused to follow Christ.  So, they say there is no work to be done in their town.  Others will tell you they live in a town or city where hundreds or more still need to hear the Good News and be saved.  It makes no difference if it is one person or a million, they still need to hear the gospel message, and they may need to hear it over and over again until they understand they can have eternal life.  In those fields where I use to pick fruit, if there was a field where there was not much to harvest I never heard the farmer say, "That's OK, there's not enough to mess with this year so, we'll skip it and hope next year's crop will be better."  We always harvested.  If only one tree produced, we would have been all over that tree until the harvest complete.  The same should be true when it comes to harvesting souls for the Kingdom.  It makes no difference if there are one or a million and one people in your town who have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are called to harvest the field. 

Jesus tells us the "crops are now ripe and ready to be harvested," so let's get into the fields and bring the harvest home!


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

As For Me . . .

18 September

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  (Jos 24:15; NIV)

Johnny Fulton was run over by a car at the age of three.  He suffered crushed hips, broken ribs, a fractured skull, and compound fractures in his legs.  It did not look as if he would live.  But he would not give up.  In fact, he later ran the half-mile in less than two minutes.  Walt Davis was totally paralyzed by polio when he was nine years old, but he did not give up.  He became the Olympic high jump champion in 1952.  Shelly Mann was paralyzed by polio when she was five years old, but she would not give up.  She eventually claimed eight different swimming records for the U.S. and won a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.  In 1938, Karoly Takacs, a member of Hungary's world-champion pistol shooting team and sergeant in the Army, lost his right hand when a grenade he was holding exploded.  But Takacs did not give up.  He learned to shoot left-handed and won gold medals in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics.  Lou Gehrig was such a clumsy ballplayer that the boys in his neighborhood would not let him play on their team.  But he was committed.  He did not give up.  Eventually, his name was entered into baseball's Hall of Fame.  Woodrow Wilson could not read until he was ten years old.  But he was a committed person.  He became the twenty-eighth President of the United States. (Unknown)

Now that you're done reading the illustration, you are probably asking yourself, "What has that got to do with serving the Lord?"  I say it has everything to do with serving the Lord.  Joshua had just finished leading the children of Israel to the promised land, and he wanted to make sure they understood what it was all about.  Sure, there were "gods" in Egypt, some of their fathers had worshipped them, and there were "gods" belonging to the people in the land they were not living in.  Joshua reminded the Israelites what God had done for them and then put the ball in their court.  He basically said, "You can serve these other 'gods,' ones that can do nothing for you.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (my take on the passage).  What a powerful statement!  So, how do the verse and the illustration tie together?  Very simply, serving the Lord takes dedication.  It takes a faith so strong that when others laugh at you for "belonging," you just smile and ask them, "Why don't you belong?"  The dedication that focuses on the Lord and his will.  When you've shared your faith with 50 people, and they have all rejected God's gift of grace.  Dedication steps up looking to talk to and share Jesus with number 51.  Dedication is not giving up, it is putting all your efforts towards accomplishing something; it may be to receive a gold medal at the Olympics or sharing the Good News of Jesus with those I come in contact with.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord with true dedication to completing what he has assigned me to do; sharing the gospel.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Good In All Things

17 September

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.  You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”  (Ge 41:39–40; NIV)

Isn't it amazing how God can turn things around for good?  In the story of Joseph, we find that his brothers were so jealous of him that they sold him into slavery.  He was resold and bought by Potiphar, a high ranking official in Pharaoh's rule.  Potiphar put Joseph in charge of all he had, but Potiphar's wife had other ideas, and when Joseph refused to sleep with her, she had him brought up on false charges, and Joseph was placed in prison.  For two-plus years Joseph was in the house of the captain of the guard.  Then Pharaoh had a dream no one could interpret.  That's when a former cellmate of Joseph's who was now again the chief cupbearer for Pharaoh remembered that Joseph had interpreted his and the chief baker's dreams.  So the chief cupbearer told Pharaoh about Joseph's gift.

Of course, the story doesn't end there, it gets even better.  What I failed to tell you is Joseph believed in God, and through all his hard times, he continued to believe and have faith that God would see him through.  Many people that if they run into hard times, God is not with them, but just look at the story of Joseph or even Paul if you want something from the New Testament.  God used Joseph and never left him, and it was because of God that Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, and Joseph let him know it.  Because Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream, he was placed in charge of all of Egypt, only Pharaoh was greater than Joseph.

Sometimes we forget God can use any situation for his good, and instead of letting him, we start making decisions for ourselves.  When these decisions go wrong, we tend to blame God instead of ourselves.  Let's start looking at how God used all the "so-called" bad situations in the Bible for his good and how he is still using what we think are bad situations for his glory.  So the next time you run into some trouble start looking for the silver lining that only he can make.


Monday, September 16, 2019

God's Love Is Not Confining

16 September

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  (Col 3:12–14; NIV)

Have you ever stopped and really listened to some of the reasons people give for not becoming a Christian?  One of the excuses I had one person tell me was that Christianity was too confining, and they could not conform to the Christian way of life.  I am not sure what they meant unless they were saying they could clothe themselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."  That's funny because these same people will apply for a job and work at it for years where they have to wear certain types of clothes, talk a certain way or refrain from talking a certain way.  A job where they have to show kindness, compassion, and patience to other employees and customers.  They do all this so they can enjoy life here on this earth. 

As the saying goes, "It's time to wake up and smell the coffee."  God has provided something so much better than anything we can find on earth, and there is very little we have to do to receive it.  We need to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and then we need to treat each other with the same respect we would like to be treated with (seems like I've heard this before).  When there is a problem, resolve it and forgive one another just as the Lord forgives.  What is the bottom line?  Love.  Love for God and for the people around us both at work and in our homes. Love for those we meet on the streets and for anyone else we come in contact with.  Love was and still is the reason God sent his son to earth, and it's time we start showing those around us how liberating the love of God really is.


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!