Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Consuming Passion

When I heard this, I sat down and wept.  In fact, for days I mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven.  (Nehemiah 1:4 NLT)

   One thing I admire about Nehemiah is his consuming passion for the people of Israel who were under extreme distress.  They were in danger from neighboring enemies because of the broken down walls and gates surrounding the city.  If something wasn't done, the work on the temple would come to a screeching halt.

   John Wycliffe was another man with a consuming passion.  He wanted the common people in England to have a copy of the word of God in the English language.  In 1382, he began to translate the bible from the Latin Vulgate into English.  He took young priests (called Lollards) to preach the word to the masses, and to make copies of his English Bible beginning with the gospels.  The Roman church opposed his work and severely persecuted the Lollards.  Many were captured, tied up in chains, and burnt at the stake.  Wycliffe's English Bible was completed early in 1384 whereupon he was condemned by the Roman church as a heretic. John Wycliffe died on 31 December 1384 at Hipswell near Richmond, in Yorkshire, England.  He was so hated by the Roman church that forty years later his bones were exhumed, burnt into ashes, and tossed into the river Swift.

   What is your passion?  Everyone has one, you know.  Is it to gain fame and fortune, sports, reading, traveling, or is it to reach your neighborhood, family, fellow workers, and those you meet in the marketplace with the gospel of Christ.

   Jesus said, "You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere -- in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  (Acts 1:8)

   Wherever you live is your Jerusalem.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Trip with a Purpose

With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, "If it please Your Majesty, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried."  So the king agreed, and I set a date for my departure.  (Nehemiah 2:4b,5,6b NLT)

   For the past eight years my wife and I have taken a trip.  Some trips are leisurely excursions for the purpose of pleasure, relaxation, or getting away from the cold northerly climates.  Other trips are for the purpose of serving the Lord.  Our trips were a combination of both.   We called them "working vacations."

   Nehemiah's journey was a Trip with a Purpose.  When the report reached him that the returnees from captivity in Jerusalem were in great trouble and disgrace he sat down and wept. For days he mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

   Payer has a way of helping us isolate the problem and put things in proper perspective.  When we take our problems and needs to the Lord, he reveals a course of action and shows us how we can get involved.  The Lord has chosen to work through his people.

   Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem with a sense of urgency and passion.  The walls needed to be rebuilt and the temple project protected from outside interference.  He got personally involved and put his energy to the task.

   Are we willing to get involved?  Regardless of where we go, or what we do, we will be fulfilling our passion as a servant of the Lord.

Mind the Gap

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3 NASB)

  When my wife and I visited London, England, we face many new challenges.  Getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road, navigating the "tube" (subway to us Americans), getting through the roundabouts.  When getting off the "tube" we heard the loudspeaker say, mind the gap  Now what does that mean?  I was pretty sure they weren't referring to a clothing store.  An Englishman explained that "the gap" was the space between the train and the platform.  Signs were confusing until we learned their meaning.

   The Bible contains many similar warning signs, and some can be confusing.  There is no confusion with David's warning sign in Psalm 141:3 where he said, Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.  That's a warning worthy of my attention.  All of us need a guard to keep our lips from speaking words that cause destruction of unity among the brethren, and hurt the cause of Christ with the unsaved world.

Prayer: Dear Lord.  Help me today to say only those things that will bring honor and glory to your name, and help advance the kingdom of God.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Midnight Tragedy

You do not know about tomorrow.  What is your life like?  For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and than vanishes.  (James 4:14)

   I woke with a start.  Was I dreaming or did I hear a scream?  Then I heard it again and raced upstairs to find my mother stretched across my father crying hysterically.  It seems my father had gotten up to open the heat register, and when he got back into bed a blood clot in his leg had moved to his heart.  Nothing could be done to save him.  My father was dead.

   After the funeral when things settled down, I began to contemplate what had taken place.  I turned to the bible for answers to my many questions.  I discovered we have no guarantee of a tomorrow let alone today.  Life is uncertain, and I needed to take advantage of each moment.  I felt the fear and loss of hope that the disciples of Jesus experienced.

   When life's storms and trials come your way, and they will, how will you deal with them?  Will you turn to Jesus for answers to your questions?  Will you cling to him as your only hope.  I felt assurance through the words of the famous hymn -- The Solid Rock -- "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fathers Needed

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  (Proverbs 27:17 NASB)

   A boy needs a father image.  A dad who will teach him, admonish him, encourage him, play with him, and be his friend.  Many of our homes today, including Christian homes, are fatherless.  You can go to web sites and see the frightening statistics about fatherless homes. Children from fatherless homes are 20 times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.  These are tragic statistics that were posted on Ethnic Baby Geocities.com.

   The Apostle Paul mentored young Timothy while Barnabas took John Mark under his wing.  We need dads who are willing to be Boy Scout leaders, Little League coaches, craft teachers, or leaders for any number of other activities.  Most of all we need dads who are willing to be mentors and friends to their sons.

   What will your son or daughter remember most about you as a dad?  Will it be your absenteeism, or the time you spent doing what they desired?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Memories of the Good Old Days

I recall the good old days; I meditate on all you have done; I reflect on your accomplishments.  (Psalm 143:5)

   Several senior citizens were sitting in the food court at the mall reminiscing about the good old days.  One senior said, "Remember the old crank up phones, wringer washers, wood burning stoves, and ice boxes"?

   Another said, "Yes, and we didn't have cell phones, text messaging, or palm pilots, and everyone had two hands on the steering wheel."  Everyone laughed!  A group of teenagers listening nearby said to one another, "Where are they from -- outer space?"

   David and other psalmists were given to meditation and reminiscing.  Over and over again we hear them saying, "I remember" (Ps. 42:4;63:6;77:10;119:52;143:5).  Like the seniors, David may have been thinking of his childhood days as an obscure shepherd boy.  Perhaps the lion and bear episodes filled his memory, or his bout with the giant Goliath.

   Memories of God's faithfulness are a source of infinite strength.  I plan to hang on to my memories and praise God daily for bringing me out of the horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and setting my feet on the rock. (Psalm 40:2)

How about you?  Do you have good memories of God's saving grace?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Right Kind of Manure Promotes Growth

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation.  Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness.  (1 Peter 2:2-3 NLT)

   During the 80s I taught in an elementary school outside the small town of Berger, Missouri.  Across the road from the school was a chicken processing plant.  When the wind blew from a southernly direction, we had no difficulty identifying the source of the smell.  I asked and received permission to get a pick-up load of chicken manure for my garden.  I spread the fertilizer over my garden and planted tomatoes, onion, and beans.  You wouldn't believe the size of those tomato plants.  I used seven foot stakes to keep them from falling over.  I found out that chicken manure was one of the hottest types of fertilizer.  However, there was one problem; I had huge plants, but very little fruit.

   This reminds me of Christian growth.  In order to grow spiritually healthy lives that produce good fruit, we need the right kind of spiritual food.  Too much of the wrong kind will provide a lot of fluff, but very little fruit. God is looking for consistent steady growth, not a flash in the pan.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Majesty of the Mountains

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)

   Jesus showed his love for the mountains as he often went there to rest and pray.  On one occasion, prior to selecting his twelve disciples, he spent all night in prayer with his Heavenly Father.  Together they decided who would make up the special group of twelve.

   Nothing draws me closer to the Creator than the majesty of the Rockies.  Hiking and exploring mountain trails provides time to reflect upon God's creative splendor.  Casting a line into the cool clear waters of Blue Mesa Reservoir gave me a sense serenity and peace.

   Each week after preparing my Sunday School lesson I would go over to the West Elk Loop mountain across from our house and sit on a stump to practice teaching the lesson to anyone or anything that would listen.  I don't know if any of the animals every got saved, but I do know they heard the Scriptures being taught.  The forest was my pulpit and the wildlife was my audience.

   If that sounds weird, then Jesus must have been weird, because he taught while sitting on mountain sides, out of boats, walking along roads, beside wells, and in other out of the way places.

   Whenever I face a problem, the mountains provide a place to walk and talk with the Lord.  It's amazing how the pure air of the mountains can help clear the mind and bring things into proper focus.  If you are facing difficult problems, try going to the mountains, maybe even a desert will do.  Find a quiet place to sit down, talk to God, and listen to his voice.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Consuming Passion

When I heard this, I sat down and wept.  In fact, for days I mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4 NLT)

   One thing I admire about Nehemiah is his consuming passion for the people of Israel who were under extreme distress.  They were in danger from neighboring enemies because of the broken down walls and gates surrounding the city.  If something wasn't done, the work on the temple would come to a screeching halt.

   Nehemiah's consuming passion was to get the walls and gates rebuilt.  He prayed and made plans to execute his heart's desires.  The biblical text reveals that Nehemiah's desires were in line with God's desires.  That is a sure fire recipe for success.

   What is your passion?  Everyone has one, you know.  Is it to gain fame and fortune, business success, sports, or is it to reach your neighborhood, help someone overcome some worldly addictios, and those you meet in the marketplace with the gospel of Christ?

   Jesus said, "You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere -- in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  (Acts 1:8)

   Wherever you live is your Jerusalem!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Maintaining Purity

He who has clean hands and a pure heart...shall receive a blessing from the Lord.  (Psalm 24:4-5)

   Missourians have a saying, "Wait five minutes and the weather will change."  The weatherman predicted a cold overcast day, with the possibility of a wintry mix.  I wrote up to a world of white.  The first snow of the year gave everything a refreshing clean look.  I wanted to get out and feel the flakes on my face, catch them on my tongue, and make a big snowman, but then I remembered that I wasn't a young kid anymore.

   Watching the falling snow reminds me of the purity of God.  I thought of God's faultless, spotless character and his perfection.  These characteristics exist absolutely in his essence and nature so that only he knows how to act accordingly.  God cannot be anything but pure.

   The Psalmist David gives us the recipe for purity when he says, "Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean, wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."  (Psalm 51:7 NLT)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fragility of a Snow Globe

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  (Psalm 51:7 NLT)

   Watching the snowflakes fall lazily from the sky reminds me of a "Snow Globe."  Give it a little shake and you create a blizzard effect inside the round glass globe.  The little white particles swirl around for a time before gently settling back down to normalcy.

   Snow Globes are fascinating fragile little glass balls enclosing a miniaturized scene of some sort, often together with a landscape.  I saw pictures of Christmas Snow Globes on the internet made by Thomas Kinkade, the famous master of light painter.

   The Fragility of a Snow Globe reminds us that we live in a broken world with blizzards swirling all around us.  These blizzards vary in magnitude and intensity.  When a snow globe is shaken everything inside appears to be topsy turvy," but then peacefully settles back down -- not so with the world.  Wars and rumors of wars continue and there is no peace.

   We will see no eternal peace in our lifetime until the Prince of Peace returns to eliminate the evil one who causes the blizzards and return our lives to normalcy.  Are you keeping the faith and looking for the peacemaker?


Friday, January 13, 2012

Magnificent Architecture

This will be a magnificent Temple because our God is an awesome God, greater than any other.  (2 Chronicles 2:5)

   The trumpet blew and work began on one of the most magnificent buildings ever constructed -- the Temple of God.

   Solomon, who was granted extraordinary wisdom, put his talents to work in organizing and overseeing the construction.  When completed the Temple drew heads of state from countries all over the known world including the Queen of Sheba who simply marveled at Solomon's wisdom.

   When my wife and I took a sixteen day tour of Europe, we marveled at the magnificent architecture of the Baroque style cathedrals.  The guide pointed out with pride the various buttresses, stained glass windows, and ornate gingerbread around the facade.

   While we might enjoy the ornate of ancient architectural design, we must not lose sight of the purpose for which God intended the church.  The true church is the people, not the building.  According to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19, "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own."  We are bought with price and our purpose is to glorify the Lord God.

   God is working in our lives to create a masterpiece.  Are we sending up the right kind of materials for the building?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Calamity Lurks

I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be naked when I leave.  The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.  Praise the name of the Lord!  In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.  (Job 1:21-22 NLT)

   How could Job make such a praiseworthy statement in lieu of the devastating calamity that struck his family.  How would I have responded?

   If anyone had the right to question God's love and sovereignty, it would have been Job.  He could have lifted his fist toward heaven and accused God of being unfair.  Or he could have hurled blasphemous names at God.  Take note, that he did neither of those things.  Something within Job's heart enabled him to keep a proper perspective of God.  Rather than assigning blame -- he worshiped.

   When Job-like trials come, and the rug of comfort is pulled out from under us, and the foundation of our faith is tested how will we respond?  Trials prove the genuineness of our faith.  We will either choose to stubbornly cling to the promises of God, or we will play the blame game and fall into the pit of bitterness and despair.

   Let each of us choose the path of faith and say along with Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  (Josh 24:15)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Sinister Sin of Lying

Why did you say, "She is my sister," so that I took her for my wife?  Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.  (Genesis 12:19)

   Lying always brings repercussions whether they take place within the family, in the workplace, at school, in church, or in the marketplace.  Everyone at some point has been guilty of lying.  The question needs to be asked is, "How do we deal with lying?"

   Abram was guilty of lying when he went down to Egypt and told his wife Sarai to tell them she was his sister.   Pharaoh took Sarai to be his wife and God sent plagues to keep him from committing adultery.  When Pharaoh realized that she was Abram's wife, he rebuked Abram and escorted him out of the land.

   When my kids were growing up and a misdemeanor was committed I would ask, "Why did you do that?"  That was always the wrong question because they never had an answer.  The question I should have asked was, "What are you going to do about it now?"  This question calls for confession and change, and change benefits the accused.  

   It's far better to face one's sin honestly before God, than to try and perpetrate a lie because one necessarily leads to another and another.  Make it a practice to take all acts of sin to our living and forgiving Father.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Loving Discipline

From among all the families on the earth, I chose you alone.  That is why I must punish you for all your sins.  (Amos 3:2)

   You don't love me anymore, that's why you are punishing me.  Don't love you anymore?  Surely son, you must be joking.  Then the well known statement that defies logic spilled from my lips, "This is going to hurt me more than it does you."  I don't believe there's ever been a child that understood those words.  They defy all logic.  

   God used the prophets to warn Israel of their sins, but it was to no avail.  "My people have forgotten what it means to do right," say the Lord.  "Their fortresses are filled with wealth taken by theft and violence." (Amos 3:10).  No wonder punishment was coming.

   Are you suffering because of God's disciplinary actions?  Listen to Solomon's message of love, "My child don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don't be discouraged when he corrects you.  For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights" (Proverbs 3:11-12).

   Write down three ways God has dealt with you in recent years.  What did you learn through those experiences?  Thank him for his loving ways.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Love Pat

Little children, let us not love with word or tongue but in deed and truth.  (1 John 3:18 NET)

   Our grandson is a special needs gift from God.

   A genetic brain defect left Jonathan with poor motor skills, seizures, and without speech.  To never hear her son say, "Mommy" caused our daughter unbearable inward pain.  The usual questions arose: "Why did this happen?  Where is God in all of this?  Where will I get the strength to handle this situation?  It took time for her to process the hurt and disappointment, but in time God strengthened her faith and gave the love needed to deal with Jonathan's handicap.

   After twenty-one years Jonathan's problems have not diminished.  He still has periodic seizures, can't speak, no bladder control, but possesses a gentle childlike personality.  Whenever we get together, he greets us with a big grin and a "love pat" to show his pleasure.  He loves trucks, trains, tractors, and points, grunts, and taps me whenever a semi-truck rolls by.  His radiant smile and simple acceptance of life shows me the kind of trust Jesus wants each of us to have.

   Do you have or know of someone who has a child with special needs?  Are you willing to share the love of Jesus with them?  You may be surprised at their capacity to love in return.