Tuesday, May 31, 2011

All is Forgiven

Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight.  Psalm32:1

   Ernest Hemingway, a classic author, tells the story of a Spanish father and son who no longer speak to each other.  The father decides to reconcile with his son who has run away to Madrid.  The remorseful father takes out the following ad in the El Liberal newspaper.  "PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL.  MONTANA NOON TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN PAPA."

   At noon on Tuesday, the father goes to the square where he finds eight hundred young men named Paco waiting for the forgiveness of their fathers.  Paco is a very common name in Spain. (Taken from After Thoughts, First Baptist of Orlando, Pastor Uth).

   Wow!  Eight hundred young men yearning for forgiveness from their fathers?  What could have been said to cause such disruption of relationships?  I am sure that both parties spoke hurtful words to each other.  I can hear the father saying, You never do anything right!  You'll never amount to anything!  You're so stupid!  And I can hear the son responding, You don't understand!  Get off my back!.  I hate you!.  Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words have a tremendous power to hurt.

   Have you ever been hurt by words spoken in haste or an unkindly manner?  Yes, we all have at some point in time.  Countless children and adults are carrying around more hurt than God ever intended.  Isn't it time that we all learn how to forgive one another?

   No matter what we have done, through Jesus, All is Forgiven.  

Thought for the Day: True forgiveness can be found only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Good and Bad Choices

But the people answered Joshua, saying, "No, we are determined to serve the LORD!" Joshua 24:21 NLT

   From the moment you roll out of bed in the morning, you're face with decisions -- some big, some small.  First, you must decide what clothes to wear.  Then comes the decision of what to eat.  These are small decisions compared to what you will face the rest of the day.  Most decisions are short term choices, but occasionally we are faced with long term ones.

   Many years ago I came to a crossroads in my life and faced a long term decision.  It seemed as if I were looking into a crystal ball and could see my whole life unfolding before me.  One road would lead me down a broad road full of twists and turns that ultimately led to a cliff with an abyss below.  The other road was straight and narrow and though I could see potholes and obstacles along the way -- a brilliant light shone at the end.  My decision to take the straight and narrow road changed my life completely.

   Not all decisions I have made turned out to be good ones.  Like the time I was confronted by the custom officials at the airport in Lima, Peru.  As they examined my luggage they found a projector that I was carrying to use with the missionary children.  They accused me of failing to declare it and pay the duty.  In their minds they thought I was trying to smuggle it into the country to sell it for a huge profit.  I could not convince them otherwise and the projector was confiscated.  My failure to declare it was a bad decision.

   Joshua, the newly appointed leader of Israel, had choices to make too.  He forced the children of Israel to make a decision whether to put their faith in local gods or in the living God.

   We make the same choices.  Every day we must decide whom we will trust and serve.  To follow the Lord Jesus Christ is a good decision, but to follow the urges of the flesh is a bad decision.  Bad decisions lead to dismal failure and repercussions that affect both you and your family.  Good decisions bring joy to the soul and a feeling of accomplishment.  The choice is yours!

Thought for the Day: God will never counsel you to make a bad decision.  

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Miserable Failures

And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the ordinances, and all the people answered with one voice, and said, "all the words which the LORD hath said will we do.?
(Exodus 24:3 KJV)

   The children of Israel had the best of intentions with their promise of obedience.  Someone has said, "Hell is paved with good intentions."

   We are no different than the people of Israel.  We make all kinds of promises beginning on New Year's Eve only to break all of them by February 1st.  We went on a diet and joined the local gym.  Cigarettes were tossed and vulgar language cast aside, meditations were faithfully kept, and prayers uttered.  Man, we were on a roll!  Then one by one, they all disappeared.  What happened?  Why couldn't we sustain the momentum?  Why the procrastination?  Why did we fail?

   The Bible tells us that we fail because we are failures.  We fall because we posses a fallen sinful nature.  We have good intentions to do what is right, but something always interferes.  That something is our sinful flesh.  While the heart has been redeemed, the flesh has not.  A war is going on within us.  The Bible calls it -- the flesh against the spirit.  (Galatians 5:16)

   That's the bad news.  The good news is that God knows our weaknesses.  The Bible says, "For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust."  (Psalm 103:14)

   The worst part of all this is that we are broken and can't begin to fix ourselves.  No amount of righteous works can solve our problem.  There is no self solution.  Self cannot redeem itself.  How then are we going to solve our dilemma?  How can we make the changes necessary to get on the right side of God?

   Are you seeking a change in your life?  Are you still struggling through the energy of the flesh to please God and miserably failing?  You may as well admit that you can't please God through self-effort.  Do you want to know the solution?

   Release control of your out-of-control life into the outstretched hands of Jesus on the cross.  Give up your self-efforts and resolve to allow Christ to change you permanently from the inside-out

   Thought for the Day:  God is in the life changing business.  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Clay Jars

But we have this treasure in clay jars, to show that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  (2 Corinthians 4:7)

   I stood transfixed as the potter took a lump of clay and began fashioning a vessel.  His moistened fingers glided up and down as the clay began taking shape.  The potter worked and worked, but the object would not conform to his desires.  With a quick movement of his hand, he flattened the object and it was again just a lump of clay.  An apparent mar had appeared that would render the object unusable for future tasks.  Patiently he worked the clay until he was satisfied with its pliability and began again.

   In Paul's day cheaply made clay jars leaked, chipped, cracked, and appeared unattractive.  Nevertheless their functionality proved their worth.  These pots held everything from food to fuel and could be seen in open windows, near cooking fires, and in marketplaces.  How amazing that a perfect God would choose to put his treasure -- the message of the gospel -- in fragile, ordinary, unattractive clay jars!

   In order for God to fill these clay jars, they must first be emptied of everything pertaining to self and the world.  God works through the weak, the imperfect, and the powerless to show that this "extraordinary power belongs to him and does not come from us."  My flaws, cracks, and imperfections allow the all-sufficient grace of God to leak out.

   I continued to watch as the potter coated the clay jar with glaze and put it into the fiery furnace.  Under extreme heat and pressure the ordinary looking clay jar underwent a transformation.  When taken from the oven, an object of beauty emerged.

Thought for the Day:  An empty clay jar waits to be filled.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Life is Full of Choices

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serves:...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  (Joshua 24:15)

   Life is a series of choices and consequences.  Step in front of a car, and you will face the consequences of that choice.  If you choose bitterness because of something someone said or did, you will suffer the by-product of bitterness -- a dried up soul.

   Consider for a moment some of the could haves of Joseph's life.  Joseph could have been bitter for what his brothers did to him -- and with good reason.  He could have shaken his fist at God for the injustice of prison.  He could have been angry with God for not answering his prayers the way he wanted.  But in each case he chose to do something else.  He gave god the glory for bringing good out of bad.

   Joshua was faced with a choice either to follow God and lead the people into the promised land, or to stand aside and let someone else do it.  He was God's chosen leader to take the place of Moses, and he chose to fulfill his commissions.

   Life is a matter of choices, not chances.  The choices we all face today may be similar to those of Joseph.  Bitterness or forgiveness.  Self-promotion or seeking God's kingdom.  Self-pity over the past or putting the past behind you.  Let's practice making faith choices instead of selfish ones.  Chances are good you won't find yourself standing before the world's most powerful leader.  But then again, you will ultimately stand before God and answer to him.

Thought for the Day: Faith choices should be our daily goal.    

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chew Your Food

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!  Psalm34:8

   Have you ever watched the Biggest Loser program on TV?  I have to admire the effort and determination the contestants put into losing weight.  The latest winner when interviewed on the Today program said that she had to make the decision to change from the "inside out" in order to stay with the program.  Taking time to thoroughly chew your food is one of the ways to get the most out of the ingredients.

   I find that reading the Bible requires a lot of chewing in order to assimilate the truth contained therein.  A casual, hurried glance does not do it for me.  I need time to roll the truth around in my mind in order to digest it.. Sometimes I write out particular verses to memorize, or put on the refrigerator for easy reference.

   The prophet Jeremiah seemed to agree when he said, Your words were found and I did eat them, and your words became for me the joy and delight of my heart.  (Jeremiah 15:16 NASV).

   Do you take time to allow God's word to get into your heart?  By doing so you are drawn closer to him.

Thought for the Day: Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sing against you.  


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Making a Mess of Things

So that night they got him (Lot) drunk, and the older daughter went in and sleep with her father.  He was unaware of her lying down or getting up again.  (Genesis 19:33)

   Have you watched the series of movies about Beethoven, the beloved dog of the Newton family?  Beethoven, the loveable St. Bernard made a mess of the Newton household.  His drooling, disaster prone antics left everyone laughing, except the father, Mr. Newton.  Beethoven's disasters were never done intentionally.  They just happened.

   The messes we make in our lives aren't necessarily deliverate or intentional either.  They often happen because of bad decisions and wrong judgments.  I am thankful that God understands when I mess up, and willingly forgives me when I confess my wrong to him.  I worship a God of second chances who is willing to give me a new beginning.  Like beloved Beethoven -- even though he mressed up big time -- he always found a way to save the day. 

Thought for the Day: God is in the mess-up cleaning business.  


Monday, May 23, 2011

A Couple Hypocrites

There was also a man named Ananias who with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.  He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount.  His wife agreed to this deception.  (Acts 5:1-2).

   God is intimately familiar with who we are as David said, for he himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. (Psalm 103;14).  Why then do we foolishly pretend to be someone we are not?  Why do we try so hard to convince others that we are spiritual when we know in our hearts that we miss the mark?  The Bible calls it hyprocrisy!

   Ananias and Sapphira were guilty of being hypocrites.  They saw Barnabas being praised and elevated for his generous gift of money to the church, and saw it as a way for them to gain spiritual status.  So they contrived a scheme to sell a piece of land and give all the money to the church, but held back part of the price for themselves.  This was their way of crashing the party. Their deceit, however, did not work because the crashers were exposed.  Then Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  No getting around it, their deception has been discovered and they are about to pay the price for their sin.  The Bible says, And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.  (Acts 5:3).  The crashers were removed from the assembly and their names stricken from the roll.

   How many times have I been guilty of hypocrisy?  When I point my finger of judgment at a brother or sister in Christ, am I not being a hypocrite?  When I sit in judgment upon our fallen society, but partake of its pleasures, am I not being a hypocrite?

   Are you pretending to be someone you are not?  Beware of hypocrisy!   It is deceptive and insidious.  Satan loves pretense -- guard against it.  Make every effort to be real. 

Thought for the Day: God loves a real person; not a pretender.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

When we just don't get it

   We serve a big unfathomable God who simply is.  He always has been.  He always will be.  He operates outside the confines of space and time and everything that helps us keep things in order in our mind.  He is beyond our wildest imaginations.  He will not fit within the confines of our minds.  In Isaiah 55:9, He actually tells us that, "...just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

   But what if that's not enough?  What if we desperately want to gain a deeper understanding of our God and His ways?  What if the desire of our heart is simply to know Him more?  What does Jeremiah 33:3 say that we should do? 

   "Ask me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here."

   Take a moment and talk to our great God.  Ask him about thethings you do not understand.  His word says that he will be faithful to reveal them to you!

(Devotion taken from the After Thoughts of First Baptist of Orlando).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Worry Solves Nothing

So I tell you, don't worry about everyday life -- whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes.  Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing? (Matthew 6:25 NLT).

   The definition of worry is: "to feel or cause to feel anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems."

   Unless you are a newborn baby we pretty much all have plenty to worry about.  Parents worry about their children who are surrounded by the temptations of drink, drugs, and worse.  How will they pay for college?  Our children worry about their parents, about their failing health and their ability to care for themselves and make ends meet.  Younger children and teens worry about school, their grades, friendships, boyfriends and girlfriends.

   In additon we carry our past around with all our failures, our mistakes, our guilt, sin and shame, dragging us down to the point of despair.  God made us and we all worry, so on that basis He must have wanted us to worry, right?  So why does He say "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life"?  Is He kidding?  Does He not know about or understand our troubles?

   Fortunately for us, He does understand and wants us to know He's already taken care of our needs - all of them, so don't even begin to worry.  If we will let Him, if we will seek Him and put our trust in Him, He will be there when we need Him; always (Matt. 11:28).  We only have to ask.

   What area in your life are you worrying about that you need to lean on God for today?  Ask Him today to open your heart and help you to trust Him more.  

Thought for the day: Take your worries to the Lord and let Him handle all of them.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Canine Loyalty

Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.  (1 Samuel 18:3)

   Loyalty is fast becoming a vanishing virtue.  People in Montgomery, Pennsylvania , where I grew up, treated each other with respect and dignity.  Neighbors talked to one another over the backyard fence, and when a need arose everyone pitched in to help.  Loyalty was once something we could count on, but nowadays it has given way to self-interest.  Everywhere you look loyalty seems to be dying.  People aren't loyal to their spouses, companies aren't loyal to their employees, and employees aren't loyal to their companies.  What are the roots of loyalty?  My first lessons about loyalty came from Captain Midnight. 

   Captain Midnight was the name we gave to our full blooded Cocker Spaniel.  He had a beautiful black coat of curly hair, and a family friendly disposition.  Our family dog showed his loyalty and devotion to my mom and dad on two separate occasions.

   When my mother got sick and had to be confined to her bedroom, Captain Midnight laid down beside her bed and refused to move or be moved.  The second occasion took place when my father and I went fishing.  We got caught in a thunder storm down by the river.  Dad slipped on the muddy bank and reached up to grab a tree limb for support and dislocated his shoulder.  We walked several miles, he in great pain before reaching home.  When the doctor arrived he found Captain Midnight on guard at my father's side.  Both of these incidents instilled within me a desire to show loyalty to friends and family. 

   Recently a friend came to me and said, "Bob, I want to thank you for sticking with me when I was going through some tough stuff.  Your loyalty meant a lot to me."  Can you imagine how his statement encouraged me and bolstered my confidence? 

   Loyalty may be a disappearing virtue, but don't despair, there are still a few of us who are holding on tight to this principle.  You too have a loyal friend, one that sticks closer than a brother -- Jesus Christ. 

Thought for the Day: Loyalty is virtue worth pursuing. 





Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bread of Life

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst."  (John 6:35 NASV)

   During the Exodus the children of Israel grumbled to Moses, "Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." (Exodus 16:2-3 NASV).

   Moses prayed and God provided bread called manna.

   In the gospel of John we find thousands of people following Jesus and listening to his teaching.  When it was late in the day, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?"  Hearing this, Andrew brought a lad with five barley loeaves and two small fish to Jesus.  Jesus prayed and his Heavenly Father multiplied the food to feed them all, plus twelve baskets of leftovers.  (John 6:5-13).

   These two Scriptural accounts teach me two things: (1) That God is the supplier of all my needs, and (2) that physical bread alone is not enough to sustain my life. 

   My stomach puts forth hunger pains saying, feed me, but my soul cries out for spiritual nourishment.  Where can I go to get the spiritual food needed to sustain me?  It can be found only through the Word of God.  Unless I daily search the Scriptures, my soul will shrivel and die.  

   Where do you go for nourishment -- to the refrigerator or the Word of God? 

Thought for the Day: God is the manufacturer; we are the distributors.  


Monday, May 9, 2011

Boyhood Memories

They shall eagerly utter the memory of your abundant goodness and will shout joyfully of your righteousness.  (Psalm 148:7 ASV)

   As I think of boyhood, I wonder what Jesus did when he was a boy growing up in the small village of Nazareth.  Did he play with wood blocks? (His father was a carpenter).  Did he write or draw pictures in the sand? (He did at the age of 32 -- John 8:6).  Did he walk around the village and play with the children his age?  (He walked a lot with his disciples.).

   I have to think that Jesus' boyhood wasn't much different than mine.  I had chores to do and he had to sweep up the shavings in his father's carpenter shop.  On numerous occasions I had to wash the dishes and dry them with a towel, and Jesus took a towel and washed the feet of his disciples.  I had to attend school to learn how to read and write, and as a boy Jesus was in the Synagogue talking to the teachers.  I got into trouble at times, and the Bible says, "Even though he was God's Son, he learned obedience fromthe things he suffered.."  (Hebrews 5:8 NLT).

   In his humanity, Jesus was tempted in all points the same as I am, yet without sin (Hebrews 2:18).  He is perfect in his divinity, and totally human as far as his humanity is concerned.  He possessed a human nature, but not a sinful nature.  I don't believe he did anything as a boy that brought and taint upon his relationship with his Heavenly Father.  That's why I want to be more like Jesus. 

Thought for the Day: It is well-pleasing to God to remember our boyhood days, as I'm sure Jesus did.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Blowing Wind

Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.  (Acts 2:2)

   I've traveled back and forth across the U.S. and can hardly remember a place where the wind didn't blow.  The wind coming off Lake Michigan roars like an angry lion.  The winds crossing Kansas threatened to blow me backwards.  Along the eastern seaboard mighty winds blow rain and snow like steel pellets.  I've been in Florida and have seen the giant ocean waves roll in on the wind.  The same is true of the Pacific.  And what about the desert winds that blow sand like a solid wall?  It seems the whole earth is crisscrossed by the winds. 

   It was the wind that blew the locusts into Egypt to eat the vegetation during the ten plagues.  Wind blew Paul's ship off course, and it crashed on the rocks.  Wind brought quail to the children of Israel in the wilderness.  And wind brought rain clouds in answer to Elijah's prayer.

   When the time came for the promise of the Holy Spirit's coming, the wind was spoken of as the instrument of deliversance.  We can't control the wind any more than we can the movement of the Holy Spirit in a person's life.  He speaks to us in a still small voice.  We listen as he teaches us, guides us, and instructs us in God's word.  He is a silent help that comes alongside to show us the way to God.

   Paul says, "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kidness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control".  (Galatians 5:22 NLT). 

   Are you willing to allow the Holy Spirit to control your life, your actions, your speech, your conduct?  How I need to surrender control of my life to Him each day!

Thought for the Day: God is looking for spirit-filled believers.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

God is Near

For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him?  (Daut. 4:7 NLT).

   How near is your god?  Do you daily sense his presence? 

   We are instructed in the book of James to draw close to God, and God will draw close to you...(4:8 NLT).

   In Deuteronomy, Chapter four, Moses is about to remind the people of Israel why they should never lose sight of God's nearness. 

   "But watch out!" Moses says, "be very careful never to forget what you have seen the Lord do for you.  Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live!  And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren."  (Deut. 4:9 NLT).

   Israel was constantly surrounded by visual reminders of God's nearness:  the provision of quail and manna during their wilderness travels, his presence in the Holy of Holies, the pillar of cloud and fire, the Ten Commandments written on tablets of stone, and the collapse of the walls of Jericho.

   God repeatedly demonstrated his nearness both through anger and grace.  He revealed his anger when they worshipped the golden calf and at the same time exercised grace by not destroying the entire camp. 

   We don't have the external reminders today as Israel did -- but God is near.  In fact, we are blessed with a greater nearness than Israel because the Bible says, "don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.  So you must honor God with your body."  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT).

   The disciples learned through personal experience about the "nearness of God."  Out on the lake in the midst of a violent storm they cried out, "Lord save us!"  Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the waves -- all were safe. 

   When cares and trials overwhelm you look inward and call upon the Lord because he is near, even in your heart.  You don't have to shout -- a whisper will do.  He is listening and waiting for your call.  His 911 line is always open, and you won't be put on hold. 

Thought for the Day: God has an innumerable number of lines open to take your call.  


Friday, May 6, 2011

Dad Can Fix It

Then Jesus asked the man, what do you want me to do?  Lord, he pleaded, I want to see!  And Jesus said, all right you can see!  Your faith has healed you.  Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God.  And all who saw it praised God, too.  (Luke 18:41-42 NLT).

   When I was young, I loved to make things:  slingshots, pea shooters, bows and arrows, and scooters.  One day, my younger brother, Sterling, was playing with my scotter.  I found him sitting on the sidewalk with tears running down his cheeks.  What's the matter?  I asked.  I broke your scotter, he replied.  I could see that he was scared because I had warned him not to mess with it.  After he stopped crying I said, don't worry, dad can fix it!  I wasn't worried because I knew that my father could fix anything.

   Our heavenly father is an expert at fixing the messes that we make of our lives.  There is nothing that is impossible for God.  When we believe in God and trust Him to fix it, He will not let us down.  God has provided the ultimate fix through his son, Jesus Christ.  When we place our faith in Jesus we are adopted into God's family and can forever say, my father can fix it. 

Thought for the Day: Our heavenly father is iin the "fix it" business.