Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Intentions Fail

Good Intentions Fail
Scripture Reading: Exodus 24:1-18
So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has said we will do.” (Ex. 24:3 NKJ)
The children of Israel had the best of intentions with their promise of obedience, but when Moses was up in the mountain receiving the instructions for the building of the tabernacle, the people’s good intentions gave way to the worship of a golden calf. They said to Aaron, “Come make us gods that shall go before us, for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Ex. 32:1 NKJ)  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 them by February 1st. We began our diet and exercise program with great enthusiasm; the cigarettes were tossed away, the vulgar language cast aside, the meditations faithfully kept, and daily prayers uttered. Man, we were on a roll! Then one by one, they all disappeared. What happened? Why couldn’t we maintain the momentum? What caused the procrastination? Why did we fail?
     I believe our failure is due to the fact that even though we have good intentions, we still possess the old sinful nature. We mean to follow through with our promises to God and ourselves, but something always interferes. That something is our sinful flesh. After praying to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus confronted Peter, James, and John with a startling truth. He came and found them asleep and said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:40 NKJ). The problem is that while the heart has been redeemed, the flesh has not. A war is going on with us between the spirit and the flesh. (Gal. 5:16)o
     That’s the bad news. The good news is that God knows all about our weaknesses. The Bible says, “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14 NKJ). The worst case scenario is that we can’t begin to fix ourselves. No amount of righteous works can solve our problems. 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?  
     If you want to turn failure into victory, then release control of your out-of-control life into the outstretched hands of Jesus. Give up your self-efforts and allow Christ to change you from the inside out. Placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ will initialize the change.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to cast aside my self-effort, and give control of my life over to you.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

God's Smiling on You

God’s Smiling on You
Scripture Reading: Numbers 6:22-27
“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.” (Nu 6:24-26 NLT)
In order to develop a good self-esteem children need repeated affirmation from parents, teachers, friends, and neighbors. A lack of validation can lead to self-doubt and feelings of inferiority and insecurity. A continual barrage of negative comments can cause them to lose their spiritual moorings and turn them away from worshipping God.
     My wife and I raised four boys and a girl and were ill-prepared for parenthood. The early years were difficult ones. Low wages (pastor’s salary), poor living conditions (three room house), lack of time to spend with the family (too busy meeting needs of church members), and feelings of inadequacy led to dysfunction within the family. Then, during their teen years everything seemed to fall apart. I didn’t have a clue how to deal with the problems that were present with the sixties generation. The drug culture, anti-government sentiments, rebellion to authority, and refusal to abide by our standards left me disillusioned and bewildered. If it were not for the grace of God, I doubt if we would have made it through those years. We took refuge in the fact that we had faith that God was smiling down on us.  What I learned from those experiences was that God always takes the initiative. He was faithful to us even if we weren’t faithful to him.
     Moses faced similar difficulties as he led the children of Israel through the wilderness. He was faced with constant complaints, anti-Moses protests, rebellion, and mutiny. On one occasion the people were ready to stone him. Moses’ faith was tested to the limit, just like mine was, and he responded in a similar manner by crying out to God for help. How did God respond? He answered his prayers by directing him to water to answer their complaint, “we are dying of thirst.” He sent them “manna” when they were demanding food. When they complained that they were tired of the manna, he sent them meat in the form of quail. Through all the complaints and threats on Moses’ leadership God continued to smile down on them.
     In case you are thinking, that’s Old Testament stuff, let me remind you that God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” as recorded in Hebrews 13:5. God’s heart has never changed and he is still smiling on his people today.
     Think about it! Right where you are right—whether at your work place, in your car driving home or walking through the super-market— God is smiling on you? What should be your response? Reflect upon his love and care and then smile back.

Prayer: Dear Lord, may my smile be as loving as the one I receive from you. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Getting Serious with God

Getting Serious with God
Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 7:1-17
Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “if you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtareth. Determine to obey only the Lord; then he will rescue you from the Philistines. (1 Sam. 7:3 NLT)
How many of us at one time or another has said, “Tomorrow I am going to _________.” You can fill in the blank with such statements as: lose weight, begin a daily exercise program, fix that ___, spend more time with the Lord, go over and visit my friend in the nursing home, get out of debt, talk to my neighbor about Christ, or any number of other good intention promises.
     Tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and no steps are taken to fulfill any of the promises we made to ourselves and the Lord. This type of behavior begs the questions: “Are we really serious about making these changes or keeping our promises?”
     Samuel confronted the Israelites with the same questions, “If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtareth.” For twenty years the people of Israel had abandoned God, and “during that time, all Israel mourned because it seemed that the Lord had abandoned them” (7:2b).They turned to other gods and refused to follow God’s laws. Samuel didn’t waste words—he cut right to the core of their dilemma. If you want to receive help from the Lord, then, will God rescue you from the Philistines.
     There was a time in my Christian walk when I thought that I could handle everything in my own strength. I took over as pilot and wouldn’t let go of the wheel. Everything seemed to go smooth for a spell, but then everything began to unravel. I didn’t know how to deal with the drug culture of that day. Nothing in my past life prepared me for the discovery that several of my children were participating in drugs. How do I deal with this issue? What do I say to turn them away from the influences around them? I cried out to the Lord, but no answers came. I felt all alone and unable to deal with the magnitude of the problems. It seemed as if the Lord was saying, “You wanted to go it alone without me, and here are the results.” For the first time in my life I came to realize that my control was not working, and I needed to ask forgiveness, and give control of my life over to the Lord.
     What would it mean for you to get serious about your relationship with God? It might mean removing an idol, or keeping some of the promises you’ve made to the Lord, It might mean changing an attitude, or being willing to give over control of your life to the Lord.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I give complete control of my life over to you. You be the pilot.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Getting our Attention

Getting Our Attention
Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-12
When the Lord saw that he had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” God told him. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” (Ex 3:4-5 NLT)
Moses was sauntering along with his flock of sheep when he saw a strange sight. A bush was engulfed in flames. Not just any ordinary flames, but a column of flame shooting up like a sword. As he moved closer, Moses said to himself, “Amazing! The bush is burning but it’s not burning up. How can you have fire without smoke or ashes?” Talk about getting your attention! This phenomenal sight certainly caught Moses’ attention. Suddenly, he heard a voice calling him out of the flames, “Moses! Moses!” “Who could that be and how did he know my name?,” Moses thought. He was ordered to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. Finally, the voice said, “I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” What a wake-up call! No wonder the voice knew his name, it was the Holy God of his ancestors who was talking to him.
     What would it take for God to get your attention? Would an unexplainable event like what Moses experienced do it? Would it take a miracle? It may not be as spectacular as a burning bush, but just as effective. God uses those actions and circumstances that he knows will cause us to stop and listen. Sometimes he may use drastic health issues, catastrophic storms of nature, business losses, family conflicts, wars and rumors of wars, and even death. God is not limited to a specific means, but in his sovereignty fits the attention getting devices to our specific needs. In all cases he has a specific purpose in mind and a message for us.
     God used a book and a pamphlet to get my attention. The book was entitled “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat,” by John Ortberg, and the pamphlet was from Wycliffe Associates called “Involved.”  The book taught my wife and I how to find God’s will, face our fears, manage failure, and risk our faith. It was a challenge for us to get out of our comfort zone. God used the pamphlet to point us to Peru as a place of service.
     This is exactly what happened to Moses. He was safely seated in the boat watching a flock of sheep when God called to him from a burning bush. What did God want? He wanted Moses to get out of the boat and follow him. It was time for Moses to get out of his comfort zone, and become the deliverer of the enslaved people of God in Egypt.
     Whatever means God uses to get your attention—turn aside, like Moses, and listen for his still small voice.

Prayer: Dear Lord, how thankful I am that you called my wife and I as a team to serve you.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fear vs Faith

Fear versus Faith
Scripture Reading: Exodus 14-1-31
“As Pharaoh and his army approached, the people of Israel could see them in the distance, marching toward them. The people began to panic, and they cried out to the Lord for help.” (Exodus 14:10 NLT)
When my boys were young we loved to go camping at Big Spring State Park in Missouri. In the evening we sat around our campfire watching the flickering flames and listened to the chirping of crickets, the hooting of owls, and the yapping of coyotes. Sounds at night always seem closer than they really are, and noises in the forest are especially scary. Ghostlike shadows make the hair on the back of one’s neck rise and feelings of fear emerge. Darkness has a way of doing this to a person.
     That’s what happened to Israel when they left Egypt for the Promised Land. God led the people by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea. Pharaoh allowed them to go, but then God changed Pharaoh’s mind (Ex. 14:4 NASB). The people stood facing the Red Sea and looked back and saw the Egyptian army pursuing them. They were literally trapped. Great fear gripped their hearts. What were they to do? Why did God allow this to happen? The answer is given in Ex. 14:4. “I have planned this so I will receive glory at the expense of Pharaoh and his armies. After this, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” (NLT)
     The purpose of God’s glory is to show that God is God. Our trials and tribulations are intended to bring God glory. Each difficulty we face gives us an opportunity to show the watching world that God is greater than any adversity we encounter.
     On several occasions Peter allowed emotional fear to overwhelm his faith; once when he saw Jesus walking on the water (Mt 14:30), and again while standing by the courtyard fire at the trial of Jesus (Mt. 26:74-75). It is important to note that Jesus never gave up on Peter. When Jesus arose from the grave following his death and burial, he immediately sought out Peter and restored him back into fellowship.  
     Fear is one of the tactics that Satan uses to keep us in bondage. Living in constant fear stymies our spiritual growth, and leaves us vulnerable to other destructive attacks.
How do we live free of fear?  First, we need to recognize that God is sovereign and in control of every situation.  Second, He reveals himself to us in ways we least expect. Third, he gives us a great promise, “…fear not for I am with you. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. (Heb. 13:5).  

Prayer: Dear Lord, Help me to remember that you are greater than any fear. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Disruptive Moments

Disruptive Moments
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
“Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”                         (2 Cor. 12:10 NLT)
Have you ever experienced a disruptive moment?
     Disruptive moments are those times when unwelcome events occur in our lives that usually involve pain, inconvenience, failure, set-backs, or humiliation. These difficulties pop up unexpectedly and find us totally unprepared. I would liken them to pot holes or bumps in the road of life. Sometimes they are short in duration while at other times they linger endlessly.
     I experienced a disruptive moment while on a mission trip to Peru in 2008. I was bending over to get into a tiny taxi and bumped my left ear on the door frame smashing my hearing aid. To some this may seem like a small bump, but to me it was devastating. Not only did I ruin a $2,000 hearing aid, but now I could only hear out of one side of my head. Would I be able to teach the children and hear their responses? Other bumps in the road appeared when each of our team members got a twenty-four hour sickness with flu like symptoms. How were we going to handle these disruptive moments? Those of us that were not sick met together for prayer. We also searched the Scripture and decided to claim the verse in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We determined to trust the Lord in spite of the bumps in the road.
     The Apostle Paul experienced a lot of disruptive moments in his life. He was beaten and left for dead, shipwrecked on his way to Rome, bitten by a poisonous viper and survived, put in chains and cast into prison, suffered a thorn in the flesh, endured hunger and hardships, and numerous other failures, disappointments, humiliations, and set-backs. How did he manage to keep going?
     He did the same thing that we did when we were hit by disruptive moments. He prayed and trusted the promises of God, especially the promise the Lord gave him in 2 Corinthians 12:9;
      “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
     Why does God allow us to experience these disruptive moments? What could be his purpose? I can think of at least two reasons: (1) to cause us to turn to him in total dependence and faith, (2) to allow us to experience the power of God in the midst of our weakness. When bumps in the road appear in your life allow God’s grace to overshadow you and bring you peace.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I know disruptive moments will come, help me to fully trust in you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dad Can Fix It

Dad Can Fix It
Scripture Reading: Luke 18:35-43
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.” (Lk 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 scooter. I found him sitting on the sidewalk with tears running down his cheeks. “What the matter?” I asked. “I broke your scooter,” 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.
     The same statement could be made about our heavenly Father. God’s son, Jesus Christ was a great fixer upper. He fixed a woman who had a threatening issue of blood disease. One touch of his garment and she was healed. He fixed the loaves and fishes through prayer and over five thousand people ate until they were filled. He fixed his friend Lazarus when he raised him from the dead.
     I remember the first time that I took my grandson fishing. He didn’t know how to bait the hook or cast the line into the water. I gave him a few lessons and after a little practice he managed to make a pretty good cast. I walked off a few yards to sit down and watch. It wasn’t long before I heard his pleading little voice saying, “Grandpa, my line is all tangled up, can you fix it?” Needless to say, I spent a lot of time untangling lines that day.
     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. Jesus is our supernatural fixer-upper. He voluntarily went to the cross and fixed our sin problem by giving his life for us. When we occasionally sin, we can go to the Lord in prayer and confession and say to Him, “Father, I sinned, can you fix it?”
     Regardless of where our troubles come in this life, whether from a broken relationship, a failed assignment, or a discouraging report from a doctor, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that our Father in heaven can fix it.
     After all, he’s in the “fix it business”.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are the one that is able to fix all my problems. Help me to remember to take them to you by faith.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Celebrate

Celebration
Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 6:12-19
“Then it  happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of her window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.” (2 Sam. 6:16 NASB)
The people in Yaounde, Cameroon celebrate the Lord with gusto. When I first attended one of their worship services I was amazed at the sheer joy they showed in their singing. It seemed impossible for them to stand perfectly still and sing. They clapped, shouted, twirled around, and swayed to the music. It was not done in a disorderly manner, nor was it disrespectful to the Lord. It reminded me of David’s experience when the ark of the Lord was brought back to Jerusalem. The Cameroonians did not show any inhibitions or negative emotions. To them celebrate really means celebrate. We see the same kind of enthusiasm in many of our African American churches today.
     For other people, praise and worship are internal processes with little or no show of emotion. Songs are sung while standing or sitting without any body movement. They clap to certain songs and some will sing with uplifted hands, but not everyone partakes in the same manner. They are just as joyful, but worship in a silent manner. That may not be the way it is in all Caucasian churches, but it is what I have experienced in the churches I’ve attended over the past fifty years.
     King David definitely fell into the first group. He showed his joy and praise by leaping and dancing before the Lord. He wasn’t deterred by the criticism of others. All that mattered to him was raising his voice and lifting up his heart to God. David didn’t mind making a fool of himself as long as God was being glorified. Michal didn’t like what she saw and held him in contempt. God was pleased and accepted David’s actions, but punished Michal by withholding children from her for the rest of her life. She paid a bitter price for her hatred and despite.
     I thoroughly enjoyed worshipping with the African people in Cameroon. It is impossible to stand like a statue when all around you people are clapping and singing so joyfully to the Lord. You could see in their faces and body movements how much they loved the Lord and desired to celebrate him.
     What kind of worshiper are you? Do you stand like a statue and sing with your lips barely moving, or do you vocalize with great joy and enthusiasm? It is not my place to pass judgment on what your method of worship might be, but I do believe that God wants us to celebrate and glorify him in our worship. If our worship does not have the Lord as the sole object of affection and devotion, then it is not really worship.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to worship you with joy knowing that you are worthy of my praise. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Carried on Eagle's Wings

Carried on Eagle’s Wings
Scripture Reading: Exodus 19:1-6
“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I brought you to myself and carried you on eagle’s wings.” (Exodus 19:4 NLT)
People worldwide are seeking assurance and security in the marketplace, at home, at work, and even in the church. Businesses are downsizing or closing up shop, friends and families are divided, and churches are ill-equipped or unwilling to meet their needs. People everywhere are crying out for help, but none is to be found.
     Moses faced challenges of epic proportions in his leadership role as Israel’s deliverer. The people were despondent and teetered on the brink of mutiny. I’m sure Moses thought to himself on more than one occasion “how can I hold this multitude together. They are like a flock of frightened sheep scattering in all directions.” Lack of security will do that to a person. It is easy to lose ones sense of direction. What was Moses to do?
     At that precise moment, God stepped in and spoke to Moses and the people. He reminded them (we’re so prone to forget) that it was by His almighty power that they were delivered from slavery in Egypt. I love the phrase where God said, “I brought you to myself and carried you on eagles’ wings.” Isn’t that great?
     If you are a believer, it is because God sought you out and chose you to be one of his children. Paul clearly tells us in Romans 3:11-12, “No one is seeking God, all have gone wrong. No one does good, not even one.” (NLT) Those words certainly applied to Israel.
     I remember a time when I was in need of God’s eagle wings. I was fishing high in the mountains of Colorado miles away from any medical facility. I felt tightness in the upper chest area. I was scared and frightened. No one was there to help me. I thought for sure that I was going to have a heart attack and die. Due to the altitude I could only take a couple steps before stopping to catch my breath. I called out to God for help. Slowly, I made my way back to the car where my wife was waiting for me. We ended our vacation and drove back to Missouri. Three days after arriving home I was in the operating room of Boone Hospital in Columbia, Missouri having quadruple bypass surgery. I definitely believe that I was carried home on God’s eagle wings.
     It is not by accident that God chose the eagle as his symbol of deliverance, and it is not surprising that seventeen countries have chosen the eagle as their coat of arms symbol. I doubt if I would be here today, if it were not for the protection of God’s eagle’s wings.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I can’t thank and praise you enough for providing eagle’s wings for me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Brokenness

Brokenness
Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-19
“The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 NLT)
The world places no value on broken things. People who are broken are often discarded by our society like shards of glass. We live in a culture that idolizes youth, beauty, outward appearances, and self-reliance. If a fetus in the womb has a defect—abort it. When people get old and unable to care for themselves we hide them in forgotten old folk’s homes. It’s like the old adage: “out of sight is out of mind.”
     What is brokenness? Tony Evans in his book “Free at Last” says, “Brokenness is the work of God by which he strips us of our pride and self-sufficiency so that the beauty of the life of Christ will shine through.” (p. 170, para. 1)
     Mr. Evans goes on to say, “true brokenness is God striking a blow to the flesh in such a graphic way that we have no strength left to fix ourselves” (p. 170, par. 4). This is a great definition because our unredeemed self-life (flesh) is never able to please God. The flesh is at war with the Spirit, and no common meeting ground exists between the two. That’s why the Apostle Paul said to the Galatians, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh, for the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for they are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:16-17 NASB)
     Once we come to realize that God alone is all we need for daily living, we are on our way to true brokenness. Self-sufficiency is so engrained in our self-life that even after salvation it clings to us and prevents the life of Christ from shining through.
     A few years ago I searched and found my sister (who I hadn’t seen for over twenty-five years) in a nursing home in Panama City, Florida. She is now ninety-one years old. At first, neither one of us recognized each other. I was saddened to see her sitting in a wheel chair and all alone. I asked her, “Do your children come to see you?” She answered, “No, they never come around.” How terrible to be broken and cast aside!
     Can God see the beauty of brokenness in your life? Are you daily crucifying the flesh and walking in the Spirit? What are some ways you can reach out to the broken-hearted? Do you know of someone who could benefit from an encouraging word?

Prayer: Dear Lord, There are over a hundred seniors living around me in this over fifty-five mobile home community. Help me to be a friend and reach out to them with encouraging words.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Is God in Everything?

Is God in Everything?
“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.”  (Ephesians 4:5,6 NLT)
            Have you ever come to a point in your life when you could say without hesitation and absolute conviction – GOD IS IN CONTROL?
            It was in July 1989 that I was lying in a hospital bed in Columbia, Missouri facing quadruple by-pass surgery the next morning.  I didn’t even know if I’d see the morning light, but I was confident that the Lord was in complete control.  I remember praying that the Lord’s will be done, but I dearly would like to go on telling others about Jesus.  The Lord heard my prayer and now 22 years later I’m still serving him teaching children about Jesus, writing devotional articles to challenge and encourage others, and supporting those who have answered the call to ministry.
            Is God in every area of your life? 
            Paul encourages the Thessalonians by saying, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (5:18 NASB)   If God is not in everything, how can we honestly give thanks for every circumstance, struggle, and trial of life. 
            King David believed that God was in everything for he said, “For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”  (Psalm 34:7 NLT)  It is obvious from the context that David experienced this on a personal level.  How many times was he protected from his enemies while running from King Saul in the wilderness?  David knew that God was in control.
            Does this mean that we are encircled by the presence of God?  Yes!  Even in times of testing and trial?  Yes!  When we face financial or family difficulties?  Yes!  God is in everything – even the things we don’t like and that give us pain and distress. 
            Nothing – absolutely nothing ever takes God by surprise.  Everything that takes place in our lives whether it be good or bad is allowed by God for a purpose.  The purpose may be for instruction in righteousness, or it may be for disciplinary reasons, but it is always profitable, and the ultimate aim and purpose is to glorify the Father.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
            When we face situations and difficult circumstances that are out of our control, let us remember that God is in everything and has all things under his control.  

Prayer: Dear Lord, since you are in control of all things, help me accept whatever circumstance comes my way today.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jehovah Alone is Worthy

Jehovah Alone is Worthy
Read: 2 Kings 17:7-41
Worship only the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt with such mighty miracles and power.  You must worship him and bow before him; offer sacrifices to him alone.  (2 Kings 17:36 NLT)
            Disaster came upon the nation of Israel because the people worshipped the gods of the pagan nations around them.  They turned away from the God of their forefathers, built shrines, set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles, sacrificed their sons and daughters in fire, consulted fortune-tellers, and used sorcery arousing the anger of the Lord. 
            Is this how the people of Israel thought about worship?  Their actions reveal that they rejected God as the object of their affections and substituted worthless idols.  What was the result?  The Scriptural record says, “They worshipped worthless idols and became worthless themselves.  They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the Lord’s command not to imitate them.”  (2 Kings 17:15b NLT)
            Therein lays the danger for us today.  We live in a world full of idols and false worship.  No longer are God and his Son Jesus Christ the center of worship around the world.  No longer is Jesus the object of man’s affection.  He has been relegated into obscurity by secularism and humanism.  Feel good and prosperity gospels have replaced the good news.  Sin is only a figment of the imagination and rarely mentioned in public debate.  Greed and lavish lifestyles have replaced modesty and reverence. 
            It is a well-known fact that our style of worship shapes the character of the worshippers into a likeness of the object worshipped.  Though created in the image and likeness of God, when we worship false gods of any kind, our souls become infused with the substitute deities.  As a result, our worship becomes a mockery to the very God who created us. 
            “Holy, Holy, Holy,” a hymn written generations ago is our call to worship.  “Only thou are holy; there is none beside Thee, Perfect in power, in love, and purity.”  It is God alone whom we worship.  He alone should be the object of our affection.
            Are you worshipping the great Creator God?  Is his son, Jesus Christ the object of your affection?  Jesus is lord of all and Lord over all --- including you –

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for revealing to us that you alone are worthy of worship.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jesus is the Final Word

Jesus is the Final Word
Read: Hebrews 1:1-14
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.                           (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV)
            Did you know that one of the titles for Jesus is “the Word”?  John says, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  (John 1:1 NASB)
            When Jesus came to this earth he took upon himself human flesh, that is, he inhabited a human body.  It was a human body that possessed both a divine and a human nature; yet without a sinful nature.  That’s what is called the Incarnation (John 1:14).
            The Scripture declares that God “made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf…” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  1 John 3:5 says, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.”  Peter also testified in his epistle that Jesus also “committed no sin.” (1 Peter 2:23)
            God in his infinite wisdom took deity and poured it into humanity.  The book of Hebrews opens with the words, “God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days had spoken to us in His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world.”  (Hebrews 1:1,2 NASB)  These words reveal that “Jesus is the Final Word.”  In times past God gave a part of his message to Adam, and parts to Noah, Moses, David, Solomon, and various prophets.  At no time did he reveal the complete revelation to any one person.  But now in these last days, he is speaking to us by his son. 
            Throughout the book of Ephesians, Paul talks about the mystery that was hidden in past generations.  Then to the church in Colossae, he reveals the mystery to be –Christ in you, the hope of glory.  (Colossians 1:27)
            Just think of it – Christ in you!  No person in Old Testament times, no matter how great they were, knew or experienced this blessed truth.  The one who is declared to be Lord of Lords, and King of Kings lives in us who believe.  How remarkable is that?  Truly, Jesus is the Final Word.

Prayer: Dear Lord, how thankful we are for your Son, Jesus Christ, and his willingness to come and give his life as a propitiation for our sin. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sunrise--Sunset

Sunrise – Sunset
Red: Matthew 16:1-4
He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow, red sky in the morning means foul weather all day?  You are good at reading the weather signs in the sky, but you can’t read the obvious of the times!”            (Matthew 16:2-3 NLT)
            On the way to St. Louis this morning I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen in Missouri.  It seems as though our great Creator God took his finger and drew streaks of red, orange, yellow, and pink across the eastern horizon.  In the background you could see the pale blue-gray of morning light.  Hovering overhead like a huge umbrella hung dark gray clouds giving the entire scene a 3-D effect.  The soft rays of color reached out from the clouds like sunbeams radiating their colors at various angles earthward.   I thought to myself, where is my camera when I need it?
            My mind was captivated with thoughts of the glory, splendor, and majesty of a God who would paint such a picturesque scene.  As the colors began to fade a prayer of praise and worship formed on my lips.  I felt like shouting the words of David found in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  (NIV)  All day long flashbacks of color kept skipping across the front of my mind.  What a glorious God we serve!
            On my way home from work I was once again brought face to face with the heavenly artist with a repeat performance of the morning sunrise with a stunning evening sunset.  Brilliant hues enhanced the sky as the sun dipped below the horizon.  Never before had I experience two awesome scenes of beauty on the same day.  What was God trying to say to me in this glorious splendor? 
            In the morning rush hour traffic God’s beauty lifted my spirit and helped me prepare for a tough day of work.  Now that the day was over and the spirit sagged, God gave me a new experience of his glory by painting another picture of brilliance to refresh my tired body and spirit. 
            How can we ever thank God enough for the way he provides strength for a wearied spirit, encouragement for the downfallen, and comfort for the disheartened?  His way of meeting our individual needs is unfathomable, but always on time.  In all my years of following the Lord, I have never known him to fail. 
            If you are in need of encouragement or strength to make it through the difficulties of life, look around you and see the great Creator God at work.  Ask him to open your spiritual eyes to see the glories of his presence.
Thought for the Day: God is everywhere around you; set your eyes upon Him.
Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for the beauty provided for us in nature. 

            

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Young Maiden

Read: Luke 1:26 – 38
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!” You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”  (Luke 1:30-31 NLT)
            The first promise of a redeemer took place when God passed judgment on
the serpent (Satan) in Genesis 3:15.  God said to the serpent,
“Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals, cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life.  I’m declaring war between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers.  He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.”  (The Message)
The fall of man caused a separation between God and man.  Isaiah says, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.  Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.”  (Isa. 59:2 NLT)  The only way to repair the damage done by the disobedience of Adam and Eve was for God himself to come down from heaven in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ and offer himself as a blood sacrifice for the sins of mankind. 
To fulfill the plan of redemption, God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in search of a young maiden by the name of Mary. 
The first question that comes to mind is:  Why Nazareth?   Nazareth was located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee.  It was not known as having any Jewish spiritual significance.  If the Messiah was to be from the tribe of Judah and lineage of David, why not have him born in Judea?  Why would God bypass Jerusalem, the place of the Temple, ignoring the seat of worship?  Nazareth was not on any major highway and was so unpopular that Nathaniel said in his response to Philip, “can anything good come out of Nazareth.”  (John 1:46)
By bypassing royalty, splendor, religiosity, and choosing a common, run-of-the mill town, God was showing that Jesus came for the ordinary – common people. 
The second question is: Why Mary?  Mary was already betrothed to Joseph, a local carpenter.  She was not a person of position, wealth, or culture.  The situation was further complicated by the fact that she was a virgin. 
Luke 1:26-27 says, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”  (NASB)
A betrothal was not something to be taken lightly.  Most Jewish girls were married by the time they were 15.  Mary was likely 14 or 15 when the angel Gabriel appeared to her.  Can you imagine God placing his divine son in the hands of an inexperienced mother? 
Think of the humiliation and shame if Joseph chose to publicly divorce the young maiden.  It was vital that the marriage be consummated in order to legitimize the child’s birth and inheritance. 
Mary’s response to Gabriel revealed her faith, humility, character, and courage.  Her youth and inexperience did not get in the way of God’s plan.  I’m sure Mary must have wondered – how can I become pregnant not knowing a man!  In order to ease Mary’s doubts and fears the angel said to her, “Nothing shall be impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:37)
This is a statement that calls for faith in action.  How many times have you faced obstacles that seemed impossible to overcome, but through faith and perseverance victory came?  God’s timing is always perfect – we need patience to wait for it. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to pay homage to your son, the Lord Jesus Christ as we celebrate his birthday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Feed My Sheep

Scripture Reading: John 21:15-25
After breakfast Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. (John 21:15 NLT)
What do we know about sheep? Sheep are among the dumbest of all creatures. Most animals will survive if left to wander alone in the wilderness. Not sheep! Sheep are notorious for wandering off and getting lost. They seem to have no sense of direction. The old saying, “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” applies to sheep. Sheep have no survival skills. They cannot defend themselves and are not swift of foot. They are totally dependent upon the shepherd—just like we are. The prophet Isaiah says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa. 53:6).
     Both the Old and New Testaments refer to Jesus as the shepherd of the sheep. The Psalmist said, “Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps. 100:3 NLT) while in Matthew 9:36 Jesus expresses his great love and compassion for his sheep, “Seeing the people, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” The Apostle John in his great chapter on the shepherd and sheep says, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock he walks ahead of them, and they follow him, because they recognize his voice.” (Jn 10:3-4 NLT)
     After his resurrection, Jesus confronted a despondent Peter and said to him three times, “Peter, feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). What was he trying to show Peter? I believe Jesus’ words to Peter were designed to convince the apostle that he was not damaged goods. In these words of encouragement Jesus was saying to Peter, “Your failure has not changed our relationship—you are still a vital part of my family.”
     A number of years ago while serving on a lay renewal team I ran across a fellow believer who considered himself a total failure. I remember him saying, “I’m as far down on the ladder as any man can get.” Like Peter, he felt defeated and useless. Nothing was going right for him. His family was a shambles. He needed to hear the words that Jesus spoke to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”
     Jesus offers the same words to you and me when we fail; “Take care of my sheep.” It’s never too late to make a fresh start. Yesterday is gone forever; today is a new day with the Lord.

Prayer: Dear Lord, use me today to help feed a sheep who is lost in sin.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

God is on our Side

Scripture Reading: 2 Chronicles 32:1-8
Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are just men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us! (2 Ch. 32:7-8 NLT)
If there were ever a day when believers in Jesus Christ need to heed the words of King Hezekiah, it is today. Christians are being hunted down and murdered like a pack of wolves on a scent, and the world leaders, including those in so-called “evangelical churches” don’t care. Hundreds and thousands have been killed by Islamic extremists and those with the liberal mainstream media don’t raise an outcry against it, as if to say, “it deserves them right.”
     What is alarming in our present day culture is the increasing antagonism against Christianity. Elwood McQuaid in his book “Persecuted” (Harvest House 2003, p62) says, “In major areas of the American Culture orthodox religion and evangelical Christians are identified as a pox on the life of the people of the United States.”
     According to Mr. McQuaid, we are living in a society where every “religion, cult, jungle paganist, and God-denying element is equally credible and acceptable in their own right.”
     What does the future hold for Christians who believe and follow the dictates of the Great Commission to evangelize the world? Will missions cease to exist? Will the land be purged of believers? Will persecution become open and rampant in America? Will “zero tolerance” laws be enacted?
     American Christians have been spared for centuries the kind of persecution we are seeing in other parts of the world. We have come to believe that the freedom, peace, and security we have enjoyed for centuries is a guaranteed permanent possession. But as people in other lands have learned, much to their dismay, it can be taken away.
     That is exactly what King Sennacherib was trying to do the inhabitants of Judah. He threatened them with annihilation, but King Hezekiah encouraged the people by saying, “Don’t be afraid of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side!”
     If and when dark threatening clouds appear over America and the Christian community, let us hold fast to this Biblical truth, “we have a greater power on our side! He is the God of heaven who will fight our battles for us.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, strengthen our faith so that we might be able to stand when the going gets tough. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Time for Celebration

Scripture Reading: 2 Chronicles 30:10-27
So the people of Israel who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy. Each day the Levites and priests sang to the Lord with all their strength. (2 Chron. 30:21 NLT)
What a difference the Scriptures give of the celebration of the Passover compared to the mood in most churches during the observance of the Lord’s Supper. We sing heartily during the opening ceremonies then dig out our somber masks and put them on when the Lord’s Supper is observed. It’s like we walked from a festival of joy into a funeral.
     Strangely enough, the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper at the end of a “love feast.” It was viewed as a happy, joyful occasion for both the church family and friends. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament was equivalent to the celebration of the Jewish Passover in the Old Testament. After all, both the Passover and the Lord’s Supper are reminders of the salvation and freedom that comes through the shedding of the innocent blood of a lamb.
     While it’s true that the people in the Corinthian church went overboard and turned the “love feast” into a shameful orgy thus sinning against the Lord; the Apostle Paul dealt harshly with their sin and set the “house in order.”
     The passage in 2 Chronicle 30 describes a party like atmosphere during the celebration of the Passover festival. King Hezekiah sought to honor God with instruments and song. The Scripture says, “The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, including the priests, the Levites, all who came from the land of Israel, the foreigners who came to the festival, and all those who live in Judah.” (2 Chronicles 30:25 NLT)
     Pictures drawn of Jesus while hanging on the cross show him as torn, bleeding, and bedraggled. His human body was marred beyond recognition, and he is shown as a defeated foe at the mercy of the crowd. Nothing could be further from the truth. Never at any time was Jesus not in full control of his destiny and held our destiny in his hands as well. We are assured of this by the words recorded in Hebrews 12:2, “He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward.” (NLT) In addition, the seven words spoken from the cross reveal that he was in charge of the situation.
     How do you celebrate the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper? Are you joyful or sad? Do you see it as a celebration or a funeral? I believe we should rejoice knowing that Jesus willingly laid down his life so that we might enjoy eternal life with him in heaven.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you gave up your Son so that I might rejoice in his victory over sin.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Firm Foundation

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
…like a wise master builder I laid a firm foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. (1 Cor. 3:10)
The Church’s One Foundation
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord                                                                  She is His new creation By water and the Word                                                                         From heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride;                                                       With His own blood he bought her, and for her life He died.
     The Apostles were diligent to establish a firm foundation for the New Testament church. They knew the chief cornerstone had to be the Lord Jesus Christ or else the foundation would collapse. Peter, quoting from Isaiah 28:16 said, “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in him will not be disappointed.”
     This reminds me of a past building project. At age fifty-one, along with my wife who was forty-eight, we built our first house. We dug footings deep into the Missouri subsoil. After the concrete walls were poured, we added six inches of rock before pouring the basement floor. In Missouri, a firm foundation helps to prevent slippage and sliding when the heavy rains turn the clay into liquid mud.
     The same principle needs to be applied to the Christian life. Unless our lives are securely grounded in the word of God, the temptations of life, the attacks of the evil one, the struggles of daily living, and the pressures of our worldly culture will erode the foundation and cause us to fall. That’s why it is important to “Let Jesus Start Your Day” (Found on Amazon.com),
     The disciples saw the need for this when they said in Acts 6:2-3, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.”
     What better advice could a follower of Jesus Christ adhere to? We have the “sword of the Spirit,” Paul says, “which is the word of God.” As the songwriter wrote so long ago, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord.”
     Do you have a solid foundation? Have you made Jesus Christ your chief cornerstone? Make Jesus the object of your devotion today and every day.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me establish your word as the foundation stone of my life. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Father Absenteeism

Father Absenteeism
Scripture Reading: Genesis 19:1-29
Do you have any other relatives here in the city?” the angels asked. “Get them out of this place—sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone else. For we will destroy the city completely. The stench of the place has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it.” So Lot rushed out to tell his daughters’ fianc├ęs, “Quick, get out of the city! The Lord is going to destroy it.” But the young men thought he was only joking. (Gen. 19:12-14 NLT)
There is a major crisis in America today—father absenteeism. According to the U.S. Census Bureau twenty-four million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological dad in the home. Consequently, this “father-factor” has led to the likelihood that children growing up in a fatherless home are more likely to live in poverty, suffer emotional and behavioral problems, face greater risk of infant mortality, end up in prison (often with their fathers) face abuse and neglect, abuse drugs and alcohol, and drop out of school.
     What are some of the reasons for absenteeism of fathers?
(1) One father named Dwayne on an episode of “Oprah’s Lifeclass” said, “The reason I walked away is because, at the moment, I wasn’t the man that I wanted to be for (my kids).” In other words, he did not see himself as a perfect dad.
(2) Children are often left fatherless because of the death of the biological father. This creates instability and a lack of security in the home.
(3) Another reason is that a large number of fathers are incarcerated. The prison population in the U.S. has risen to over 2.3 million with the highest number coming from the south and west.
     During the Awana “Returning Hearts Celebration” in May 2014 at the Angola State Prison in Louisiana over 800 children came to the prison to spend one day with their prisoner fathers. For some it was the only time during the year that they got to spend time with their fathers. It was a day of reconciliation, fun, and loving each other.
     Roland Warren of the “National Fatherhood Initiative” says that good fathers do three things: provide, nurture, and guide.
     My earthly father has been gone for sixty-five years, but I have a heavenly father who has nurtured, provided, and guided me for over sixty years. He has promised, “I will never leave or forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

Prayer: Dear Lord, how I thank and praise you for being a father to me these many years. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Faith Choices

Scripture Reading: Joshua 24:1-28
But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. (Josh. 24:15 NLT)
You are running for your life when you suddenly come to a crossroads! Decision time—which path will you choose? You can’t follow both. One offers a clear way, while the other appears to have some twists and turns. Which one will you take? Will it be the one that appears to be a clear path, or the one with twists and turns? From the moment we wake up in the morning, we face decisions—some are big, some small. We must decide what clothing to wear, food to eat, chores to do, places to go and people to see. Should I spend time with the Lord, take a walk, visit a neighbor, bake, study, shop, read—all are choices waiting to be made.
     We can cite countless choices that Old Testament Bible characters faced. Here are just a few:
Adam and Eve—should we eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or remain obedient?
Abraham—should I tell the Egyptians that Sarai is my wife, or tell them she is my sister?
Lot—should I choose to live in Sodom and Gomorrah or remain in the plains?
Moses—should I speak to the rock like God said, or strike it in my anger?
 Joshua and Caleb—should we give a good report or go along with the crowd?
David—should I confess that I have sinned against Uriah and his wife, Bathsheba, or cover it up?
Samson—should I trust in Jehovah and live for him, or live for my own selfish interests?
*You will notice that each one of these choices carries with it a positive or negative result.
     Paul faced a similar faith choice on his way to Damascus. A blinding light struck him down, and a voice said, “Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” Paul was on his way to arrest and imprison Christians. He thought he was doing the will of God. He said, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.” Wow! Paul was faced with a life-changing decision? Would he submit to Jesus’ authority, or remain persistent in his quest?
     If we want to please God and obey him fully, we need to make good “faith choices.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, I am determined to make a faith choice and follow you in obedience today.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Faith Alone

Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 2:1-20
Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked; but the righteous live by their faith. (Hab. 2:4 NLT)
“One small step for man, one giant step for mankind”—Neil Armstrong.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”—J.F. Kennedy.
“Give me liberty, or give me death”—Patrick Henry.
“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away”—Douglas MacArthur
“Here I stand”—Martin Luther.
     Most Americans can identify with these famous quotations. The men played a significant role in changing the pages of history. Some spoke in the midst of war; others in more peaceful times.
     Lesser known but just as powerful are the words spoken by the prophet Habakkuk in 600 B.C.
“The righteous will live by faith.” These words were echoed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:17 and 3:11. They were quotations taken from the Old Testament.
     The great reformer, Martin Luther, discovered the truth, “The just shall live by faith,” as stated by the Apostle Paul and Habakkuk and made them the core of his reformation theology. The doctrine of justification by faith alone sets Christianity apart from all other religions of the world. All other religious beliefs have “works” as a major tenet of their teaching concerning eternal life. Last week in an address given to the inmates, children, and volunteers at the Angola State Prison in Louisiana, Governor Huckabee said, “It isn’t how much good you do that will get you into heaven, and it isn’t how much bad you do that will keep you out of heaven. It all depends on what you do with Jesus Christ that God sent to redeem mankind on the Cross.”
     Salvation is the gift of God and there is nothing we can do to earn it, nothing we can add to it; all we can do is receive it by grace through faith—period. Paul said it best in Eph. 2:8,9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
     Write a short version of your salvation by faith alone and share it with an unsaved friend.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for the gift of salvation that comes through faith alone.