Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lose in Order to Gain

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Is anything worth more than your soul?  (Matthew 16:26 NLT)

   The Bible is full of accounts of people who were willing to suffer loss in order to gain.  Jacob gained a new name when he wrestled with God at Peniel.  Joseph gained a high position after languishing in prison for thirteen years.  Abraham waited for thirteen years before gaining a son.  Rahab gained a place in the genealogy of Christ after trusting God and hiding the spies.  Space does not permit the mention of Esther, Daniel, Elijah, Jonah, Saul of Tarsus, Stephen, and Jesus of Nazareth who died in order to gain the souls of mankind.

   What do you need to lose in order to gain?  The writer of Hebrews says, "...Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up."  (Heb. 12:1 NLT).  What sin is holding you down?  Put the ax to pride, crucify self, throw out the garbage, shun gossip, and avoid impurity.  Instead, uphold the truth.

   God is pleased when he sees us losing in order to gain.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Perplexing Question

"What do you want me to do for you."  (Luke 18:41)

  What the blind beggar alongside the road to Jericho heard the noise of the crowd he asked, "What is happening?"  "Jesus of Nazareth is coming," they said.  He began to shout, "Son of David have mercy on me!"  The crowd told him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder.  Surrounded by the crowd Jesus heard his cry.  He stopped and ordered them to bring him forward knowing that he was blind.  When they brought him forth Jesus asked him a very obvious question, "What do you want me to do for you?"  He responded, "I want to see!"

   As we approach a new year, Jesus stands ready to ask you and me the same question.  How would you respond?  Would you give a quick flippant answer, or would you spend time to ponder and mull over it for awhile?  Do you have the faith to ask God for something miraculous?  What would you REALLY want God to do for you?  Would his question cause you to refocus your priorities?  Would the question expose your shallow desires while at the same time reveal deeper ones?

   At this point, I don't know how I would answer that question.  I would need a lot of time to do some serious soul searching.  Take time to reflect and then ask God to give you the faith and courage to make the proper response.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Looking Up To Jesus

...fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith... (Hebrews 12:2 NASB)

  A number of differences exist between sheep and pigs.  Sheep are easily led, but pigs have to be driven.  Sheep listen to the shepherd's voice and come when called, but not pigs.  Sheep graze and browse, but pigs only roots and grubs.

   These comparisons between sheep and pigs reminds us of our walk with the Lord. How easy it is to become burdened down and busy with the material things of this world and fail to look up to Jesus.

   During this Christmas season we need to stop and reflect upon the goodness of God.  The Bible says, "They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.  For the Lamb on the throne will be their shepherd.  He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.  And God will wipe every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:16-17 NLT)

   Keep looking up to Jesus.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Remember the Good Old Days

When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.  All night long I prayed with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.  I think of the good old days, long since ended.  (Ps. 77:2 NLT)

   Have you ever experienced times when the nighttime seemed endless?  Trouble, problems, and stress overwhelmed you.  You toss and turn, but sleep eludes you.  You cried out to the Lord and yearned for God's help, but no answer came.  You wondered, "Is God even listening?"

   The author of Psalm 77 experienced such a night and so have we.  How many of us have thought, "I'm too stressed out even to pray?"  The Psalmist felt as if the Lord had rejected him forever. (77:7)  I'm sure many of us have felt that way at times.  God seemed so far away and our efforts to connect with him seemed in vain.

   Then a "flashback" occurred in the Psalmists mind and he said, "I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs."  (778:5,6)  At times, you may think your situation is hopeless, that the problems you face are bereft of solution, and see no end in sight.  When those times come, and they will, let your mind "flashback" to the countless answers to prayers in the past.  Remember that we worship the "God of miracles and wonders." (778:14).

   He will see you through your current situation.  Just turn to the Lord and "remember the good old days."

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Place Called Home

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven's Armies.  I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. (Psalm 84:1,2 NLT)

   One of the prominent TV stations in St. Louis sponsors a program called, A Place Called Home.  The purpose is to find homes for children who do not have a family or home to call their own.  This year (2011) the call went out on the air waves seeking individuals, businesses, and churches who would provide over 3,000 "Little Wishes" for children who are in foster care waiting to find "A Place Called Home."

   In other parts of our war torn world you will find a soldier sitting on an army cot or alongside a military vehicle dreaming of home.  Home, where family and friends gather.  Home, with a comfortable chair or bed.  Home, where he can enjoy home cooked meals,  Home, where he feels safe and secure.

   As you read Psalm 84, you can't help but feel the writers longing for home -- to escape the hassles and cares of this world and enter into the present of the Lord.  His desire is to worship God in his holy Temple.  Just as thousands of children cry out for "A Place Called Home," and the lonely soldier yearns for home, the Psalmist had an urgent desire "to enter the courts of the Lord."  (84:2)

   How about you?  Where do you feel safe and secure?  Do you consider your house of worship a safe place?  Is it the place where you can feel loved and wanted?  Whatever situation you find yourself in this Christmas, rest assured that God has promised to not fail or abandon you.  (Hebrews 13:5).  Are you happy in his presence?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Living Example of Christ

But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you to be holy.  (I Peter 1:15)

   During a small group discussion one man said, I used to have a sign on my car that read, "If you can read this, you're too close," but I took it down when my tailgating was pointed out to me.

   After the laughter subsided, I thought of the fish sign on the read of my car, and some sobering thoughts came to my mind. Do my driving habits reflect a Christian example?  How courteous am I in traffic?  Am I willing to yield the right-of-way to others?

   These thoughts caused me to examine other areas of my life and questions arose.  How do I handle disagreements that arise within the family, workplace, church, and out in the neighborhood?  Am I willing to listen to other people's point of view, or do I insist on having my own way?  Am I a control freak?

   Jesus' words and example set the standard for righteous living.  No one said it would be easy following Jesus' example, but there are far reaching rewards for those who obey.

   Are you willing to take up the standard of Christ and live for him?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Carried in the Arms of God

Praise the LORD; praise God our savior!  For each day he carries us in his arms.  (Psalm 68:19)

   On a hot July day in 1967, Joni Eareckson Tada's life changed forever.  Diving into a shallow lake, she broke her neck and fractured her spinal cord.  From a vibrant athletic teenager she became a quadriplegic.  Dreams of athletic events before large cheering crowds vanished.

   Through a friend's witness, she discovered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a faith that enabled her to rely on God's everlasting arms.  Joni experiences everyday what it is like to be carried in the arms of God.  Every day Joni relies on other people to care for needs she cannot meet for herself.  Her constant faith has enabled her to witness to thousands of people around the world who otherwise might not have heard the "good news."

   What has happened to day that has left you feeling weak?  You don't have to be confined to a wheel chair to testify to the reality of God's care.  When life deals you a debilitating blow, rest assured that Jesus will be there to help you stand.  Just remember you are "Carried in the arms of God."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Passing the Test

It was at Morah that the Lord laid before them the following conditions to test their faithfulness to him. (Exodus 15:25bNLT)

As a school teacher, I periodically gave tests to my students.  Did they master the material given, and could they apply the principles learned?  The tests were designed to help them achieve these goals.  Tests are a necessary part of life.

   Every believer faces similar tests for the same reasons.  James tells us, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials" (1:2 NASB).  The trials James talks about are tests.  Did you notice that he doesn't say "if," but rather "when"?  We all have them.  You can count on it.  The question is, "Are you prepared for the tests to come?"

   You can be sure of one thing.  God wants you to pass the tests, and he'll be there to help you get the right answers.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fumbling Opportunities

  Then she cried out, "Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!" When he woke up, he thought, "I will do as before and shake myself free." But he didn't realize the LORD had left him.  (Judges 16:20 NLT)

   How many sporting teams have lost games because they "fumbled away opportunities?"  Whether it be baseball, basketball, football, or any other sport, games have been lost because players have dropped the ball.

   The same hold true in the lives of believers.  We fumble the ball when we fail to execute the biblical game plan, or through lack of devotion.  We concentrate too much on our own self importance and fail to promote the person and work of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

   If you check out the lives of Abraham, Lot, Samson, Saul, David, and Peter, you see instances where they fumbled (dropped) the ball in everyday decisions.  But at the same time they received restoration and forgiveness by confessing their miscues and turning back to God.  

   We all fumble the ball at times, but aren't you glad have we worship a Savior who stands ready to forgive and restore us when we recognize and admit our sins?  Our God is a God is second chances.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Night Sky Ablaze with Light

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them.  They were terrified.  (Luke 2:9 NLT)

   If you were standing on a hillside in total darkness with only the stars for light and the night sky suddenly blossomed with glorious light, how would you react?  Would you be frightened?  Then you hear voices of praise and singing.  Now you are really terrified.  What is happening?  The sheep are bawling as your eyes are fixated upon the heavens.  Suddenly they hear a voice, "Don't be afraid!"  "The Savior -- yes, the Messiah, the LORD -- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David."    The shepherds are so astonished that they leave the sheep and hurry into Bethlehem to find the new born child.

   Every Christmas I am challenged again by the shepherd's response to the good news of a Savior being born in Bethlehem.  Not so much that they went and saw for themselves baby Jesus, but that after seeing and worshiping him they left and told everyone they saw what had happened.  They refused to keep the "good news" to themselves.

   Isn't it the responsibility of each believer to share the "good news" that Jesus has come to redeem mankind?
How do you approach Christmas this year?  Do you see it as an opportunity to broadcast once again that the Jesus is the reason for the season?


Monday, December 12, 2011

Living a 3-D Lifestyle

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  (1 Cor. 2:2 NASB)

   To effectively live a 3-D Lifestyle, we need to put into practice three qualities: Determination, Devotion, and Demonstration.

   Determination is defined as "the act of coming to a decision or conclusion, a fixing of one's position, to resolve or purpose to do something."  To my mind, the most outstanding example of determination was Daniel and his three friends.  "But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the King..." (Daniel 1:8a)

   Devotion is defined as "a state of being dedicated and loyal.  It involves religious fervor."  True devotion requires an intimate relationship with Christ.  That's why it is so important to find a place of solitude where time can be spent listening to the voice of our Creator.

   Demonstration is a quality that put Christ on display in the marketplace.  It's determining to put James' command to be "doers of the word" into practice.

   What kind of 3-D Lifestyle are you and I living?  Are we determined to show our devotion by demonstrating Christ to the world?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Light to Guide the Way

Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.  (Psalm 119:105)

   I have been in many caves in Missouri.  When the tour guide turns off all the lights, it is impossible to move.  You can't see your finger in front of your face.  Total darkness.  It's scary.  One small step is an invitation to disaster.  But light a match and the darkness flees.  Light is always supreme over darkness.

   The writer of the Psalms knew that God's path was dangerous and light was needed.  He mentions that the "wicked set traps" (v. 110), that "evil lurks" (v. 133), that "darkness means stumbling" (v. 165), and there is a "danger of wandering" (v. 175).  No wonder he pleads for the light of God's word to guide his path.

   The world is in spiritual darkness. How can people hope to find their way to God without his word to light the way?  That's why Jesus said, "I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won't be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life" (John 8:12 NLT).

   Do you have the light of life shining ink your heart?  Everyone needs a "lamp for their feet and a light for their path."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Legal U-Turn

If wicked people turn from their wickedness, obey the law, and do what is just and right, they will save their lives.  (Ezekiel 18:27 NLT)

   Ezekiel is talking about repentance.  What is repentance, and why is it important?  According to Webster's dictionary repent simply means "to change one's mind," or "to turn from one's sin."

   When Jesus began to preach he said, "Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near" (Matthew 4:17).  A person can't turn from something without turning to something.  Therefore, repentance is a change of heart and mind - a new course or direction.

   The truth is you can't change yourself no matter how hard you try.  A change on the outside does not necessarily mean a change has taken place on the inside.  Renovation of the old man won't cut it.  A new heart and new spirit is needed.  In Ezekiel 36:26 God says, "And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender responsible heart."  

   So, how are you doing today?  Have you repented and received a new heart and spirit?  If you have, take a few moments to dot down a few words of praise.  If not, now is a good time to address the issue of sin and confess Christ as Savior.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Least Likely -- Chosen

But the Lord said to Samuel, Don't judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord doesn't make decisions the way you do!  People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at a person's thoughts and intentions.  (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)

   Have you ever been passed over and left out of the mix?

   When the Lord sent the prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king to replace King Saul six sons of Jesse passed by and the Lord rejected all of them.  Samuel became somewhat frustrated and asked, "Are these all the sons you have?"  Jesse reluctantly responded, "There is still the youngest, but he's out in the field watching the sheep." (1 Samuel 16:11) David was brought forward and God said, "This is the one, anoint him."

   What does this tell us about the position, stature, and character of a person seeking to worship God?  No matter how much "good" we may have done, no matter the level of our earthly accomplishments, no matter how well we use biblical terminology, no matter how spiritual we may appear, God doesn't pay any attention to those outward qualities.  He's interested only in what's in a man's heart.  Our attitude of heart is what counts with God.  He sees the intent, the desire, the humility, the selflessness, and the love we have for him.

   In order to avoid being passed over, we need to get out heart right with God.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Does God Exist?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Genesis 1:1)

   The first four words of the Bible pretty much answer the question, "Does God Exist?"  If that were all that the Scriptures had to say about our Creator, it would be enough.  God is and was and is to come.  He is the Alpha and Omega. (Rev. 1:8)  None of the writers of Scripture attempt to prove the existence of God.  Instead, they simply record the evidence of His existence and the glory of His works.

   There is nothing more soothing to my soul than to stand on the top of a mountain and view the glory of a setting sun.  Even now, I can close my eyes and see the changing colors and spectacular beauty.  I have stood transfixed on mountain tops in five continents and the sheer beauty of fading sunsets confirms for me the presence of my creator.

   One of the most convincing evidences beyond the biblical, intellectual, scientific, and theological fields is the way lives have been changed.  I know from first hand experience because God radically changed my life from the inside out.  Every believer has gone through a lifestyle change.  It may not be a dramatic as say an alcoholic, drug addict, or jail bird, but all of us have had change.

What is your lifestyle change story?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Learning to Listen

Listen to me, all you in distant lands!  Pay attention, you who are far away!  The LORD called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name. (Isaiah 49:1 NLT)

   Listening is a skill seldom sought or taught today.  We attempt to teach children and young people critical thinking, public speaking, and creative writing skills, but listening skills are not stressed.  

   As I look back over my parenting years, I recall many instances when I failed to be a good listener.  I was too preoccupied with instructing the kids on the virtues of right and wrong to listen attentively to their needs.  As a result, I lost the closeness that brings families closer together.  While my parenting ideals were satisfied; their needs were not satisfied.

   Jesus was a good listener.  He showed great patience in listening to the countless questions offered by his disciples, and often remained silent while accusations were thrown at him by religious leaders.  He sits on his throne today listening intently to our questions and cries for help.

   What does it take to be a good listener?  The answer can be found in James 1:19 which says, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."  (NLT)  This is good advice for all of us to follow.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Remember what the Bible says: "Today when you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled."  (Hebrews 3:15)

   Procrastination is the thief of time.  Time is in God's hands.  He gives us today.  Yesterday is gone and we have no promise of tomorrow.  How we use the time alloted to us today is one of the building blocks of eternity.

   Time is a precious commodity.  Jesus put an emphasis on the proper use of time.  When he told new recruits in Luke 9:59-62 to let the dead bury their own dead, and that no one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God, he was teaching them to control the urgency to waste time on meaningless side issues while the important issue of service went unheeded.

   What is the Spirit saying to us?  Don't put off till tomorrow what the Holy Spirit is impressing upon you to do today.  Tomorrow may be too late.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Never Say Never

Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods. (Joshua 24:16)  Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and worshiped the Baals. (Judges 2:11 NASB)

   How many times have I messed up big time and then said, "I'll never do that again only to do it all over again later on?  Have you been subject to the "I'll never do it again syndrome?"

   The children of Israel were often guilty of the never say never mindset.  They declared on more than one occasion that they'd never worship foreign gods or set up idols of worship -- but they did.

   Peter said, "Even if everyone else desert you, I never will," -- but he did.  Before the rooster crowed twice he denied his Lord three times.  (Mark 14:29-31)

   There is only one person who can use the never and not be accused of contradiction or falsehood.  That person is the Lord Jesus Christ.  When Jesus says, "I will never leave you or forsake you"-- never means never.  Take courage in the fact that Jesus' use of the word never is an absolute fact that cannot be denied.