Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sea of Glass

In front of the throne was shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal.  (Revelation 4:6 NLT)

   When I think of a sea of glass, a picture of emerald green Lake Louise in Banff, Canada comes to mind.  However, you and I know that everyday life is anything but smooth.  We face financial difficulties, family unrests, employee rivalries, job losses, foreclosures, and uncertainties.  The Psalmist says, "My life is full of troubles" (Psalm 88:3 NASB).  Navigating the waters of life bring challenges we are hard pressed to circumvent.  We seek solutions, but often don't know where to turn for help.

   I have found the only way to smooth the troubled water is by taking all my anxieties and turning them over to the master helmsman, Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Peter encouraged us by saying, "Cast all your anxiety on Him (Jesus), because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7 NASB).  The Psalmist also reminds us to "Cast your burden upon the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken" (Psalm 55:22 NASB).

   If you are burdened down with anxieties and circumstances, follow the advice of the Psalmist David, "Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in him, and he will do it" (Psalm 37:5 NASB).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Running Scared

He said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword.  And I alone am left, and they seek my life, to take it away."  (1 Kings 19:10 NASB)

   I ran for my life down the hill into a small grove of pine trees.  Alone and scared, I crawled under the low hanging branches and waited breathlessly.  Would the neighborhood kids find me and beat me up again?  It seemed like an eternity passed before I found the courage to emerge and find my way home to safety.

   This must have been how the prophet Elijah felt when he ran in fear from the threat of Jezebel on his life.  He thought that he alone was left of the prophets, but God said, "I have 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him" (1 Kings 19:18 NASB).  

   If you are facing difficult circumstances today, turn to the Lord for courage and strength to continue on.  He will be just as faithful in providing your needs as he was Elijah.  God is your refuge and strength.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Root of Bitterness

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God.  That no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many are defiled.  (Hebrews 12:15 NASB)

   When I lived in Colorado, I loved observing the majestic beauty of the stately pines.  During the winter months the snow covered branches would sparkle in the sunlight.  At the same time the weight of the snow caused the branches to sag and nearly touch the ground.

   These snow-covered branches remind me of what often happens to us when tragedy strikes.  We often allow anger and resentment with God to grow into bitterness.  Satan uses bitterness to draw us away from the love of God.  The snow-covered pines looked sad and lonely with their bows hanging to the ground, but warm sun finally melted the snow and they sprang back up full of life.  Unlike the trees, we have a choice to make when tragic events occur.  We can succumb to the effects of bitterness, or we can make a faith choice to trust in God's Sovereign love.  Which choice will you make?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Roller Skates Taught Me a Life Lesson

....for as long as you practice these things, you will never fall.  (2 Peter 1:10)

   My new pair of roller skates made my ninth birthday the happiest day of my young life.  My parents probably never knew what a treasure of childhood memories those skates brought.  Nor could they have known the valuable life lesson that my first-and-only fall taught me.  I learned that no matter how many times I fell, it is vital to get back up and try again.

   Perhaps you have fallen and need support to get up and try again.  No matter how many times we sin, if we take them to the Lord in prayer and repentance, he is willing to forgive and set our feet back on solid ground.

   God is able to take every issue of life and give it a divine twist.  Nothing is too hard for him.  No problem too difficult, no injury beyond his capability to cure, no sinful act that he cannot forgive.  Isn't He worthy of your trust?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Perception Becomes Reality

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:…(Proverbs 23:7a KJV)
            Our world is undergoing constant change.  It is difficult to keep abreast of all the new technical advances.  Every day another announcement is made of a new advanced software, I-pad, smart phone, android gadget that is better than the old one.  The internet is overloaded with blogs, social networks, and information devices seeking to gain your interest and attention.  Nearly 90 percent of the world’s population has a mobile phone that can send and receive messages, pictures, and video. 
            What conclusion can be drawn from all this technology?  Simply, that the world is rapidly shrinking.  No longer do you have to wait days and weeks to receive “snail” mail; it is right at your fingertips.  Millions and trillions of dollars are transacted with the push of a “key.”  The global marketplace provides instant access to worldwide products.  Isolation is a thing of the past as no country can afford to go it alone anymore.  We are all involved in the world’s affairs whether we want to or not. 
            The instability of world governments causes a feeling of fear in the hearts of many.  This perception of fear then becomes a reality.  Whether real or imagined this fear causes people to grasp for a means of deliverance.  They reach out for someone or something that can ease their fear and feeling of hopelessness.  Some try to find security in drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships, or crime.  Others give up all hope and turn to suicide.  What is the answer?
            Those of us who have encountered this feeling of fear and hopelessness know that Jesus Christ is the only source of deliverance.  He came as light to a dark world and offers hope, encouragement, and security to a lost society. 
            What is man’s greatest need?  The answer is: to love and be loved.  Jesus brings to us the love of God as demonstrated by laying down his life for us. (Romans 5:8) 
            We have a golden opportunity to bring hope to a fearful people by assuring them that God is still on the throne, and in complete control.  Nothing takes him by surprise.  He is the author of history and knows the end from the beginning. 
            To those who may be rattled and fearful in light of today’s headlines, we urge you to turn to Jesus Christ to find hope and salvation.  Jesus paid it all, all to him we owe, sin hath left and crimson stain, but he washed it white as snow.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Preventing Earthquakes from Becoming Lifequakes

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  (Romans 8;22 NLT)
            This devotion was inspired and developed from comments made in Dr. David Jeremiah’s May 2012 Turning Points. 
            The movement of tectonic plates against one another creates tremendous pressure to build until one of the plates slides over or under the other causing an earthquake.  The magnitude of the eruption or explosion determines the extent of the damage along the fault line. The greatest damage occurs at the epicenter of the quake. 
            A similar occurrence takes place in the lives of believers worldwide.  Due to the presence of the sinful nature in us, we all possess fault lines that must be controlled in order to present earthquakes from becoming “lifequakes.”  There is nothing scientists can do to prevent earthquakes, but there are steps we can take to keep lifequakes from happening in our lives. 
            First, we need to recognize and accept the fact that we all possess fault lines – not one of us is perfect.  The bible says, ”For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  (Romans 3:23 NLT). 
            Second, we need to take responsibility for the fault lines and stop “blaming our parents, our genes, our environment, our socio-economic status, our lack of education – anything but ourselves.”  (Turning Points, May 2012, p.7)
            What are some of the common excuses that people use to avoid taking responsibility for their negative behavior?  Several that Dr. Jeremiah mentions are “the devil made me do it” (popularized by Flip Wilson in the seventies), the blame game (started by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they blamed the serpent, each other, and God for their fall into sin), and pointing the finger.  Have you ever noticed that when you point your finger at someone else, there are still four left that point that to you? 
            How do we control the pressures of sin and overcome the tendency to yield causing an earthquake that disrupts the body of Christ?  One way is to immerse ourselves in the word of God that will help us resist the temptations thrown our way.  Another is to develop a regular prayer life with an accountability partner who shares our concerns.  If left unattended, earthquakes can erupt into lifequakes that cause irreparable damage.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Searching for the Meaning of Life

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”  (Ecclesiastes 1:2 NLT)
            For ages people young and old have been asking the question: “What is the meaning of life?”  Many books have been written on the subject including Rick Warren’s book--The Purpose Driven Life, Dr. Hugh Moorhead’s – The Meaning of Life, and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s –Man’s Search for Meaning.  Who of us hasn’t at one point in time inquired into the why of our existence? 
             Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, was born with a “silver spoon in his mouth” as the saying goes.  His father, David was a noted politician and military leader.  His popularity in Israel was unquestioned, and his achievement unmatched.  After his death all this was passed down to his son, Solomon who became Israel’s second king. 
The wisdom displayed by the King during his reigning years was unsurpassed.  His fame and fortune brought rulers from many countries to hear of his wisdom including the Queen of Sheba.  His crowning achievement was the completion and dedication of the glorious Temple of Israel.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could pronounce a “happy ever after” ending to Solomon’s life and the golden age of Israel, but it wasn’t to be.   
            Solomon’s devotion to God cooled as he indulged in creating a harem of foreign wives (700) and concubines (300) many of whom worshipped gods of wood and stone forbidden by God. 
            Ecclesiastes begins with a question and an answer: What is the meaning of life?  He could just as easily have asked: Is life worth living?  As he looks at the problem of life apart from God he comes to the conclusion from a human perspective that “Everything is meaningless…utterly meaningless!”
            Ecclesiastes teaches us that life apart from Jesus Christ is lonely, empty, and filled with guilt.  Only the Lord Jesus Christ can provide faith, forgiveness, belief, and eternal life.  Anyone who lives his/her life apart from Jesus Christ will be asking the same question: What is the meaning of life?  And receiving the same answer:  Life is meaningless and empty.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vanity -- All is Vanity

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?                  (Ecclesiastes 1:1,2 NKJV)
            The word vanity catches our attention in the book of Ecclesiastes, and appears over 30 times. 
            Vanity is defined as “excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, etc.”  A person who is vain has a lack of real value.  The word carries the connotation of hollowness, worthlessness, and selfishness.  Activities related to vanity are trivial and pointless.  “In its modern sense, vanity is considered a form of self-idolatry, in which one rejects God for the sake of his own image, thereby divorcing himself from the graces of God. (Wikipedia, article on Vanity)
            Solomon’s use of the term vanity refers to emptiness like a vapor that appears and soon vanishes.  The Message paraphrases verse 1 and 2 as follows: 
            These are the words of the Quester, David’s son and king in Jerusalem.  “Smoke, nothing but smoke (That’s what the Quester says.)  There’s nothing to anything – it’s all smoke.”

            Can you imagine the great King Solomon reaching the pinnacle of his career and finding that the meaning of life to be nothing but smoke, illusion, vapor, nothingness, and emptiness? 
            Dr. David Jeremiah asks the question in his book “Searching for Heaven on Earth,” What did you find at the Everest of your own life?  Perhaps you received a promotion, won the lottery, made the dream vacation, got the book published – all for the thorny crown of unexpected despondency.”  (xxi) 
            I remember the feeling of exultation and let-down after self-publishing my first devotional book, “A-Z Daily Devotional Journal” back in 2010.  Joy is often followed by emptiness after reaching a climatic experience.  That is apparently what happened to Solomon as his sensual appetites pulled his attention away from God, and focused it upon worldly things.  “The drifting came slowly, deceptively, but the further he moved from the Lord and Creator, the greater became his emptiness, frustration, and confusion.”  (Searching for Heaven on Earth, Dr. David Jeremiah, p. xviii)
            How many are there in this world who feel life is worthless and empty – nothing but smoke?  Jesus is the only answer to the true meaning of life.  Do you know him?  Have you claimed his promise of salvation through faith in his work on the cross?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How Shall They Hear and Believe?

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him?  And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him?  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?    (Romans 10:14-15 NLT)
            The Scripture verses cited above are an enigma to many people.  What is the Apostle Paul trying to convey in these verses?  Is it the urgency of the call to go or is it the message itself?  Or is it a little of both?  Is Paul referring to the gospel message in general terms, or does he have specific truths about the gospel in mind? 
            Let us deal first with the question: “How shall they hear?  There seems to be a sense of urgency behind the use of this question.  This sense of urgency is felt in other New Testament passages, namely: Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is great but the laborers are few…” (Matthew 9:37a NLT)  (See also: 2 Corinthians 5:18; Ephesians 2:17)
            Jesus came down from heaven on a search and rescue mission.  “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who were lost.”  (Luke 19:10)  Jesus also so said, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  (Luke 15:4 NLT)
            God has deputized every believer to be a part of his search and rescue mission.  Each one of us has to answer the question posed to Isaiah by the Lord of Hosts, “Who will go for us?”  The Lord expects us to answer as Isaiah did, “Here am I.  Send me.”  (Isaiah 6:8)
            The second crucial question is: “How shall they believe?”  There are specific truths contained in the gospel that must be communicated.  In order for a person to be saved, they must believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)  It is our responsibility to present these truths in a believable  format.  They must be clearly stated so that no one can go away saying, “I didn’t understand the presentation.”  Jesus said, “The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it.”  (Matthew 19:13a NLT)
            The search and rescue mission Jesus set in motion is now up to us to carry out.  The lost of this world are counting on us to go, pray, give, and preach the gospel.  Are you fully involved in this process?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Helping the Helpless

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those who are perishing.  Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, see that they get justice.    Proverbs 31:8,9 NLT
            Where in the Bible does it say, “The Lord helps those who help themselves?”  You won’t find that statement in “The Beatitudes.”  In fact, you won’t find it anywhere in the Scriptures.  What is the source of this commonly held proverb?  You’ll find it in Ben Franklin’s Poor Richards Almanac, 1757.  I doubt that Ole Ben was inspired by God to make that statement. 
            The teaching of Scripture is totally opposite of Mr. Franklin’s teaching.  The overall theme of the Beatitudes is to provide “help to the helpless.”  (Matthew 5:2-12)
            Another good example of helping the helpless is found in Proverbs 31:1-9.  In this passage the Queen mother of King Lemuel advises her son to give justice to those who are oppressed.  She urges him to rule with compassion and mercy to help the helpless. 
            The Psalmist Asaph’s instruction is: “Give fair judgment to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and destitute.  Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”  (Psalm 82:3-4 NLT)
            When a disastrous tornado struck Joplin, Missouri thousands of volunteers from all walks of life not only responded by giving money, food, and supplies, but also gave  their time and energy to go down and lend a helping hand in the cleanup. 
            Jesus had a warm place in his heart for the poor and needy.  He never turned anyone away who came to him for help.  The Scriptural record shows that he feed the hungry, healed the blind, lame, and helpless. 
            We say all this to point out that acts of service are a form of worship.  Worship is not just sitting in a church building singing and praying.  Worship is a mindset  It is a way of life.  Worship is having a heart for God and involving ourselves in spreading his message of love and forgiveness to a lost and dying world. 
            What are you doing to help the helpless?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Responding to God's Call

Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: "Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you."  (Jonah 3:1-2)

   God has a plan and a calling for every believer.  None of us will be completely satisfied until we find out what God's purpose is for our lives.  It took me many years before I finally had peace of mind about service for the Lord.  I tried all kinds of so-called Christian activities, and wasted many hours going in circles, thinking that being busy for the Lord was equated with God's call.

   All the while God was trying to tell me, "All I want is a love relationship with you."  I don't need your service, but I do want to spend time with you.  I was created for that purpose.  Whatever I do today, I do out of compelling love for my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

   You will notice in the command for Jonah to go to Nineveh that God gave him the message.  God has given us a message and declared that we are his ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:20)  When God calls us to a work, he also equips us for the task.  Have you responded to his call?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Resisting the Bait

Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  (James 4:7 NASB)

   Successful fishing requires patience and the right kind of bait. Two fish came up to my disguised bait.  One sniffed at it and swam away, but the other grabbed it and tried to swim away.  I yanked on the pole and yelled, "I got you this time."

   My fishing experience reminds me of temptation in a believer's life.  Satan lures Christians into sin by baiting his hooks with curiosity, pride, passion, and lust.  He dangled the bait of curiosity before Peter as he stood among the soldiers around the fire.  Instead of leaving the scene, Peter exploded in falsehood and cursing.

   In Joseph's case, Satan used the bait of sexual passion to try and lure him into sin, but Joseph refused to take the bait.  Instead he ran from the presence of sin.

   What should we do when Satan dangles his bait in front of us?  It looks so enticing and innocent, but the results of taking the bait are broken homes, failed marriages, scarred children, lost faith, and misplaced trust.  How can we guard against the temptations he places before us?  We can follow the Biblical principles outlined in 1 Peter 5:9; "Resist the devil and he will flee from you," and 2 Timothy 2:22; "Flee youthful lusts..."


Friday, August 3, 2012

Repetition: Is it Necessary?

You must not worship the gods of these nations or serve them in any way or imitate their evil practices.  Instead you must utterly destroy them and smash their sacred pillars.  (Exodus 23:24 NLT)

  "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times...!"  Does that statement sound familiar?  How many times have I uttered that to one of my children over the years?

   Repetition is one of the seven laws of learning and the Lord repeatedly said to Israel -- no other gods -- no carved images.  Unfortunately for them they failed to heed his warnings and eventually were turned over to the devices of their enemies.

   The same holds true for you and me today.  Whatever commands our attention becomes our god.  When was the last time you stooped to take inventory?  Have you taken out the garbage lately?  As I search my heart, I see a ton of garbage that needs to be confessed and thrown out.

   Be careful not to allow anything to come between you and your love relationship with your heavenly Father.  That's my goal today!