Wednesday, June 18, 2014

God's Unfolding Plan


Scripture Reading: Proverbs 16:1-11
We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:1,3,9 NLT)
A future date to remember. A savings goal. A vacation trip planner. A reservation confirmation. A sightseeing guide. An island paradise brochure. An anniversary celebration. A backpacking adventure.
     What similarities can you detect in all these fragment statements? Answer: They all represent the need for a plan. Everyone needs to develop a plan. Without a detailed set of plans construction of a building would prove to be a nightmare. A plan keeps everything on track and assures completion of the project.
     In order for a business to function successfully and grow it needs to develop short and long range goals. Such things as management, work force, inventory, cash flow, product creativity, and the ebb and flow of the marketplace have to be taken into consideration. Plans for future expansion must be developed. The need for a larger work force and future product development are a must. Most businesses will not survive without careful planning.
     Planning is vital in Christian service to a community. Churches develop annual budgets based upon past performances and projected future growth. The need for additional parking or people space must be taken into consideration. New program needs or expansion of present outreach needs to be addressed. As needs in the community change so must the plans of the church to meet those needs. A well thought out five or ten year plan is vital for a churches success.
     God is a super planner. In eternity past the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) got together and formulated a plan of redemption knowing that mankind would fall into sin and need to be rescued from its consequences. The plan was put into operation when God sent his beloved son to earth as a virgin born baby in a manger. As his plan unfolded, Jesus performed many signs and wonders to validate his claim as Son of God. Finally, when his “time had come,” Jesus willingly gave up his life on the cross to complete the redemptive process. This process was sealed when three days later Jesus arose from the grave triumphant over death.
     You and I are the recipients of God’s Unfolding Plan through faith in the redemptive work of his Son, Jesus Christ. Can I get a “witness?”
Prayer: Dear Lord, how I praise and thank you for the plan of redemption provided through your beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dancing with the Stars


Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 31:1-14
I will rebuild you, my virgin Israel. You will again be happy and dance merrily with tambourines. They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem. The young women will dance for joy, and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration. I, the Lord, have spoken! (Jeremiah 31:4,12,13 NLT)
The promise made to Israel in Jeremiah. Chapter thirty one is that the people will return to the land. Once again dancing and singing will be heard in the streets of Jerusalem. Not just ballroom dancing. Not line dancing or a hoe down, but a spiritual dance with great exuberance and celebration. Why? Because peace has come to Jerusalem—the King has arrived.
     When we look at the turmoil in the Middle East today that seems like an impossible task, but with God nothing is impossible. When will such a time come? Will it take place during this generation, or is it destined for a distant future?
     The Lord reaffirmed his promises to Israel in Jeremiah 31:1 by stating, “At that time,’ declared the Lord, ‘I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.”  What time? A present or future time? God goes on to say, “Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth” (31:8). This process of re-gathering began back in 1948 when Israel became a nation once again, and is still going on today. God is not through with his people Israel. There is a remnant that will survive even the severest hatred and persecution from the nations and peoples of the world. God says, “I, the Lord, have spoken!” 
     God has a plan for His chosen people of Israel. It is not impossible for him to turn mourning into dancing and sadness into joy. But what about the Gentiles? Does he have a plan for you and me? Our future destiny was determined at the Cross of Calvary. Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantee the believer’s future destiny in heaven where sickness, death, tears, and sorrow will be vanquished. In that day, he will present us to his Heavenly Father perfect and complete.
     Whatever your plight is today, stay focused on Jesus and gain God’s eternal perspective. Join in the celebration and get ready to dance with the stars.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thanks to you, I have reason to rejoice. You have rescued me time and time again from situations and circumstances not of my making as well as those I brought upon myself.
     

Monday, June 16, 2014

Believer's Legacies


Scripture Reading: Revelation 14:1-13
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (Rev. 14:13 NLT)
Emma was a saint in every sense of the word. I remember seeing her at the age of 99 coming every Tuesday to Child Evangelism’s Mailbox Club (now known as the Truth Chaser’s Club) and grading Bible correspondence lessons for children. She always had a radiant smile, and if you were downcast, discouraged, or feeling a little blue--talk to Emma. Her lively spirit would make your frown disappear, and her humorous stories (at age ninety-nine she had plenty) would keep you in stitches with laughter. Emma’s presence brought a much needed joy into our world of sadness and gloom. Emma is with her Lord now, but her legacy lives on in the memories of countless volunteers.
     There are other great saints whose testimony and ministry during their time on earth lives on even though they are presently with the Lord. I think of great preachers such as Charles Wesley, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Harry A. Ironsides, James, D. Kennedy, and Adrian Rogers just to name a few who brought millions to the foot of the cross. They are no longer with us, but their legacy lives on. Then I think of personal friends like Rod and Wanda Gossett, Lloyd and Blanche Prichard, and Lorraine Bachelor whose earthly testimonies for Christ left an impact on my life and helped to shape my service for the Lord.
     Old Testament saints like Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, Elijah, and Daniel left us legacies of faith and obedience. Their labors for the LORD still inspire people today to give their lives to serve the King. What can we say of the labors of Jesus’ disciples?  Peter, James, John, and Paul all wrote letters of inspiration and courage. They suffered many hardships, but none of them considered their service to be laborious. The Apostle John was in his nineties when he penned the words of the Book of Revelation.
     The testimony that you are living today will follow you even after you leave this earthly life. Will it inspire others, or will it cause those who hear it to turn away from following the Savior? We have only one life to live—live it in obedience to the Lord and “your good deeds will follow you after death” (Rev. 14:13).
     I challenge you to live your life in total commitment to the Lord so that those who come after you will want to follow your example.
Prayer: Dear Lord, may my labors for the Lord be done in the spirit of love and kindness. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wind Power

Scripture Reading: Acts 2:1-13
Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:2)
I’ve traveled in many different directions across the United States and I can’t remember a state where the wind didn’t push or pull on my car. The wind coming off Lake Michigan along lakeshore drive in Chicago roars like a mighty lion. I remember going into Chicago on liberty while at the Great Lakes Naval training center and got caught in a November blizzard and the wind plastered me with snow. Traveling west across Kansas we have to fight the winds blowing at an angle across the highway. I’ve been in Florida and watched the ocean waves roll in on the wind. The same is true of the Pacific Ocean where surfers ride the wind driven waves. And what about the hot desert winds that can cause dangerous sand storms. The winds have a lot to say about the changes in weather around the world.
     God used the wind to bring locusts in to Egypt during the ten plagues. He brought quails to the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings. It was a violent northeasterner wind that blew the ship that the Apostle Paul was riding off course and onto the rocks. The wind brought rain clouds in answer to Elijah’s prayer at Mount Carmel.
     When the time came for the promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming, the wind was God’s instrument of deliverance. We can’t control the wind any more than we can the movement of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. He speaks to us in a still small voice. We listen as he teaches us, guides us, and instructs us in God’s word. He is a silent help that comes alongside to show us the way to God.
     There is great power in the wind and God describes that power in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NASB)
     Are you willing to allow the Holy Spirit to control your life, your actions, your speech, your conduct? He is the wind power that we need to get out the gospel of Jesus Christ. God is looking for Spirit-filled believers to act as his agents of salvation.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me make use of the “wind power” that you have placed within me through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Favor Line


Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-19
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sin. (Ps. 51:1-2 NLT)
Wayne Jacobsen in his book He Loves Me has a chapter entitled the Tyranny of the Favor Line. What is the favor line? He defines the “favor line” “as that invisible line that tells us whether or not we’ve met enough of someone’s expectations to merit their approval. It’s impossible to live in this world without recognizing its impact on every area of life.”
     My parents had a favor line. When I did things that pleased my father such as mowing the grass, taking out the ashes, and spading the garden he would show his approval by making homemade ice cream. But when I failed or was slow in responding, the only thing I could expect would be a reprimand.
     My school had a favor line. High grades brought praise and special privileges whereas poor grades meant more homework. Kids knew how to play the favor line too, especially if you helped them with answers on a test.
     My friends had a favor line. As long as I let them play with my toys I enjoyed the benefits of their friendship, but if I withheld them they would turn on me like a cat would turn on a canary.
     My work place had a favor line. Those who achieved or exceeded expectations found themselves in the bosses’ good graces, with all the perks that favor brought.
     We’ve learned to survive in this world by currying the favor of those in important positions of power. We see this in government with the activities of special interest groups. We see it in the marketplace, in the schools, in the workplace, in churches, and in homes. When we see this all around us it is natural for us to assume that God has a favor line as well. But when trouble, disappointments, and failures encroach upon us, we begin to wonder how God feels about us. We think: Does he love me? Have I offended him? What can I do to get back into his good graces?
     Are there events in your past that have left you disappointed and questioning God’s love for you? Are you overwhelmed with your failures? Ask God to show you how thinking you had to play the favor line with him was misguided and anti-biblical. Come to the realization that finding favor with God has nothing to do with what you can do for him, but has everything to do with what he has already done for you.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to find favor with you like King David did from a heart that is in tune with you. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cup of Suffering


Scripture Reading: Mark 14:32-41
“Abba, Father”, he said, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” (Mark 14:36 NLT)
Everywhere you look today there is some kind of suffering. We see people with cancer, dementia, blindness, deafness, unable to speak, and mental disorders. Bodies walking around with twisted limbs and those with no limbs.
     God has implanted within man an indomitable spirit. Intense suffering has a way of bringing into focus this spirit of courage beyond human capacity. Kyle Maynard, a quadruple amputee, whose arms ended at his elbows and his legs topping at his knees accomplished the feat of climbing the twenty thousand foot Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, on his shortened arms and knees. What an astounding feat! What determination! What courage!
     Jesus understands suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane he looked into God’s cup of suffering. What he saw was so vile, so repugnant, so agonizing that he fell to the ground in agony praying, “Father, please take this cup of suffering away from me, nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” What did he see in that cup? All the past, present, and future sins of all mankind that have festered and rotted.
     Have you ever gone on vacation and left old coffee grounds in the filter or failed to put food away into the refrigerator? What hit you as returned and opened the door was an obnoxious smell that threatened to turn your stomach upside down. What Jesus experienced for you and me was even worse. His suffering led to his death on a cross.
     What kind of suffering are you facing today? Is it physical, mental, social, emotional, psychological, or financial? Is it family, church, community, or work related? Do you need someone to come alongside to comfort you? Fancy clich├ęs won’t bring relief. Denial of its existence won’t help either. Ignoring it won’t take it away. You need someone who is willing to stand by your side and say, “I’m here for you.” That, my dear friend, is JESUS.
     When pain and suffering come knocking at your door, reach out and take the hand of Jesus and hang on to him. There is no one I’d rather have at my bedside in a time of crisis than Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord.
Prayer: Dear Lord, you partook of the horrible cup of suffering so that I would not have to face eternity apart from you. I am so grateful for your willingness to pay the price for my redemption.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tell Your Story--by the Written Word


Dive In—Tell Your Story
By the Written Word
     What has happened to the distribution of the word of God in written form? Is it a lost art? Has it been phased out of existence? Is God no longer using gospel tracts to win the lost?
My Experiences with Gospel Tracts
     Back in the fifties and sixties when I came to a saving knowledge in Jesus Christ, gospel tracts were very popular and widely used.
     My first experience in using gospel tracts was on lower Georgia Street in Vallejo, California. Lower Georgia Street was the party place for the sailors at Mare Island Naval shipyard, and the airmen from Travis Air Force base in Sacramento. It is said that forty bars and numerous houses of ill repute lined the two and a half block area of lower Georgia Street. It was one of Satan’s strongholds and a den of iniquity. Its reputation was so widespread that I heard about it even before I left basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center in North Chicago.  
     Right in the middle of this vile scene was a Christian Servicemen’s Center located two flights up over one of the bars. It was a “Home Away from Home” for servicemen. Every Friday evening we would set up a loudspeaker down on the street in front of the entrance. Pastor Bill Graves or one of the elders or deacons would present the gospel message. I can still remember Pastor Bill getting right down in the gutter with the Bible in one hand and shouting out the message of redemption. While the preaching was going on, the rest of us would stand on the street corners and pass out gospel tracts and try to engage passersby in conversation. My favorite gospel tract was: “Four Things God Wants You to Know”. I would ask the person, “Do you know what the four things are that God wants you to know?” If they said, “No,” then I’d open the tract and go through each step with them. At the end, I would ask them if they wanted to believe in Christ as Savior.
     Another outreach activity involved putting gospel tracts in a bottle. We rolled up a tract in colored cellophane with John 3:16 in several languages along with a post-paid decision card (with a return address) into a sealed bottle. When a sailor was shipped overseas he took a case of bottles with him and once well at sea he’d put them overboard and let the currents take them wherever God wanted them to go. One such bottle was found on a beach in Hawaii and a man sent in the decision card asking for our Bible correspondence course. He accepted Christ by reading John 3:16 in his language. Space does not permit me to relate other stories of similar decisions.
     Another activity involved passing out tracts on Sunday morning to military men we met on the street and inviting them to our JAVA club at the YMCA. We offered them donuts and coffee and several of us would give our testimonies. Afterwards we invited them to go with us to the Vallejo Bible Church for services. I can still visualize servicemen walking down the aisles during the invitation to receive Christ as Savior.
     There are many ways to use gospel tracts. I used to put them in envelopes when I paid my bills. They can be used at restaurants when you give tips, or give to a clerk at the sales counter in the stores. I would always put a tract in a letter that I sent to my mom. When I was discharged I took my wife, Elaine, and went back to Pennsylvania to determine what God’s will was for our lives. While there, I had the privilege of leading my own mother to a saving knowledge in Jesus Christ. She is enjoying heaven today.
     Years ago I laid a gospel tract on the coffee table in Bert Scagg’s home in Maryland Heights. His wife, Delores, was a dedicated Christian, but Bert was resistant to the gospel. Sometime after we left, he picked up the tract and read it, and the Holy Spirit got a hold of his heart and he knelt down and received Christ as Savior.
     Do not underestimate the power of the gospel in written form. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Personal Story


Dive In—My Personal Story
Before Coming to Christ
I was raised in a religious home where both parents were heavily involved in the good works of the Masonic order. God and the Bible were revered, but I don’t remember ever hearing the name of Jesus Christ mentioned in the home. I believed in the existence of God and marveled at his creation, but the gospel was foreign to me. At age eighteen I became engaged to a girl from a strict Catholic family and went through the Catholic catechism. We went to confession and mass together and often discussed what we were going to tell the priest. A year after my father suddenly died of a blood clot to the heart I joined the U. S. Navy.
My encounter with Christ
After basic training I was assigned to a submarine group at Mare Island Naval Shipyard across the bay from Vallejo, California Since I had good typing skills I was classified as a Yeoman, and spent my days typing up instructions to upgrade the World War 2 subs we had in mothballs.
 During this tour of duty I met identical twins from Texas who were shipmates. They began witnessing to me about the need for a relationship with Jesus Christ. This was my first encounter with the gospel. At first I resisted their efforts because I believed in God and felt that was all that was needed to get to heaven. However, as Ron and Don continued to bring verses like Romans 3:23; 6:23, and 5:8 to my attention, I came to realize that belief in the existence of God was not sufficient, and I needed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
On the night of November 13, 1953 while Don and I had duty watch he kept reciting Rev. 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.” I now know that Jesus was talking about the church, but back then I thought he was speaking to my heart and every time I heard Don repeat the word “knock,” I felt as if he were knocking on my heart’s door. Don urged me to kneel and confess my sins and invite Jesus into my heart, so we knelt together and I poured out my heart to God and asked Jesus to become my Savior. When we rose from the steel deck of that ship, I felt as if the burden of sin had been lifted. When I went home that evening I told my wife, Elaine, what I had done and she looked at me and said, “How do you know you are saved?” Immediately, I had a glimmer of doubt, so I rushed from the apartment and ran down to the barracks to get Don out of bed to find out the answer to that question. He took me aside and showed me Scriptures on the assurance of salvation that convinced me that what God said in his word and true and he could not lie.
Several weeks later I invited Don over to our apartment for dinner and afterwards he got out his Bible and led Elaine to the Lord. Now we were a spiritual family on a journey with the Lord.
My Life with Christ
After believing in Christ as Savior, my whole life, attitudes, and outlook changed. Slowly, my interest in worldly pleasures waned, and my desire for spiritual things increased. I began studying and memorizing the word of God and sought fellowship with other believers. Time and space do not permit me to mention  the twists and turns that have taken place over the past sixty years, but I can testify that God has been with me every step of the way.
If you are reading this and have not come to grips with your sinful condition before the Lord, I urge you to turn to the Bible and read out loud Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9,10, and John 1:12. These verses reveal our need for salvation through Jesus Christ and what happens when we put our faith and trust in Him.
I recommend that every believer write out his personal story of how he/she came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Introduction to sharing Your Story


Introduction to Sharing Your Story
Last Sunday, Pastor Dair began a series entitled: Dive In:Tell Your Story. As a text, he used Paul’s story in Acts 22:1-15. What life lessons can be drawn from this passage? First, in vv 1-2 we learned to make our story personal. Be real! Second, from vv. 3-5 we learned to give a brief description of our life before coming to Christ. Third, in vv. 6-13 we learned to explain to the listener our encounter with Christ. This is where Scripture comes into play because power comes through the use of God’s word. The Holy Spirit uses the word of God to convict sinners of their lost condition and need for a Savior. Fourth, we finish our story by explaining how our life changed after receiving Christ as Savior. This is like the “icing on the cake” so to speak.
     There are many different ways that people come to a saving knowledge in Jesus Christ. It is interesting to take note of how the first disciples found the Savior. They did not all come to him in the same way. God is sovereign and does not confine himself to any one particular method or means.
     Of the four cases of conversion described in John 1:35-51, no two were the same. The first two, John and Andrew came to Christ through the preaching of John the Baptist when he saw Jesus coming and said, “Behold, the lamb of God.” (1:35) The two disciples of John the Baptist heard him speak and followed Jesus (1:37). Simon Peter, the next one, was brought to Christ by his brother, Andrew. Philip, the third one, seemed to have no believer to help him, so Jesus sought him out directly. In a personal encounter with Philip, Jesus simply commanded, “Follow me.” Nathanael, the last one, was sought out by Philip and came to know Jesus based on his brother, Philip’s personal testimony.
     It is also important to note that not only did these first converts find the Savior in a variety of ways, but also that Christ dealt differently with each one.
     To John and Andrew, Jesus posed a searching question, “What do you seek? This was meant to test their motives for following him. For Simon Peter, the convincing factor was Jesus’ ability to know all about him. All Phillip heard was a peremptory command—“Follow me” While, for Nathanael there was a gracious word to disarm him of all prejudice.
     As Sovereign, God is able to use various ways and means to bring the Good News of redemption to the lost. When the Good News first came to mankind it was presented by mighty Angels to lowly shepherds, and confirmed by wise men from the East.
     God used introverts and extroverts. He uses the very young, those that are middle age, and the very old. Everyone is unique! Everyone who knows Christ as Savior has a story to tell. Everyone’s personality is uniquely different. No two are the same. No two stories are the same.
     The Apostle Peter says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who ask you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (1 Pet. 3:15 NASB)
Are you prepared to Tell Your Story?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Crisis Praying


Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-20
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. (Colossians 4:2 NLT)
During the Korean War I was stationed at Mare Island Naval shipyard in Vallejo, California. A number of submariners were shipmates of mine. I found it interesting, but at the same time sad to listen to the “old salts,” as we called them, telling stories about their wartime experiences and crises praying while under depth charge attack. What do we mean by “crises praying?”
     Crisis praying takes place when life and limb are in extreme danger. If you’ve watched the movie Run Silent, Run Deep, you know the submariners were under heavy depth charge attack by the Japanese Navy. You could see men with heads bowed, lips moving, fingers cross, fearful looks in their eyes, and dead silence. They were in a crises praying mode. All other activity stopped while the attack was underway. No one was allowed to make a single sound so the enemy sonar could not detect where they were hiding. It is similar to the soldier who is fighting a battle from a fox hole with the enemy swarming all around him. He is desperate and turns to God in a crises prayer for deliverance.
     The problem with crisis praying is reflected in our attitude toward God. When facing a difficult situation we turn our attention heavenward, but as soon as the crisis passes our thoughts and actions turn back to the world and God is forgotten. We tend to view God as our “big daddy” in the sky who sits around waiting for a crisis to develop so that he can step in and save us.
      This was the attitude that the children of Israel demonstrated while they were marching through the wilderness. Time and time again they complained to Moses. No water! No food! No meat! One crisis after another—all because they refused to accept what God supplied. Crisis prayer was a way of life for them.
     The Apostle Paul taught the churches in Asia the true meaning of prayer. They weren’t to pray just when a crisis arose. Paul told the Thessalonians, “Do not stop praying” (1 Th. 5:17). The disciples were instructed to “watch and pray that you fall not into temptation.” I doubt if Jesus would have told them to be watchful if there wasn’t a legitimate reason. Peter says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil is prowling around seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Paul tells the Ephesians to “pray at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18).
How is your prayer life? Do you have a daily prayer time, or just when a crisis arises? God speaks to us through his word, and we speak to him through our prayers.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to make prayer a consistent habit in my life. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sweet-Savor Offerings


Scripture Reading: Leviticus 6:1-7
Then he shall bring to the priest his guilt offering to the Lord, a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he will be forgiven for any one of the things which he may have done to incur guilt. (Lev. 6:6-7 NLT)
My wife makes a savory dish called Sweet and Sour meatballs. It is a combination of meatballs, pineapple chunks, and Sweet and Sour sauce over rice. A little Kikkoman Soy Sauce adds to the flavor.
     The Israelites received instructions for sweet-savor offerings and non-sweet-savor offerings. The two non-sweet-savor offerings were required when sin had broken their fellowship with God. The guilt offering paved the way for restoration from the sins of touching an unclean object, making a foolish vow, cheating or fraud, while the trespass offering caused sins of injury to God and others to be forgiven.
     What do a dented fender, cracked windshield, and a white spot on your favorite pair of dark pants have in common? (Hint: they nothing to do with your spouse!) Give up? All three act as reminders of less than favorable experiences: the yellow steel pole in Wal-Mart’s parking lot that ran into your car, the rock the truck slung at your windshield. And the Clorox that splashed onto your pants.
     God has given each of us unpleasant memories to remind us of our sinfulness. None of them are a sweet fragrance to God because sin is never sweet to him. Sin requires repentance, forgiveness, and restitution. In response to confession God says, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12 NASB).
     Have you given God a non-sweet-savor offering lately? He is always ready to listen to our complaints, forgive us our sins, and restore the joy of our salvation.
Prayer: Dear Lord I want to sent you a sweet-savor offering of praise for all the wonderful blessings that you shower on me and my family. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Crafted in Excellence


Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:5
Then God looked over all that he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way.   (Gen. 1:31 NLT)
In the 1980’s my wife and I were heavily involved in the craft business. I made all kinds of useful items out of wood including children’s toys, puzzles, games, and furniture. Elaine knitted baby sweater sets and made pillowcase dolls. We sold our items at craft shows around St. Louis County and as far south as St. Genevieve. There is a sense of fulfillment in being able to take a piece of raw material and fashion an item of beauty.
     Such was the case when God created the universe. Not only did He create a perfect environment, but He formed it out of non-existing materials. He merely spoke everything into existence. Once the earth and all living creatures were created, God sat back and viewed his work. He smiled and said, “It is good!” What words would you use to describe God’s craftsmanship? Would you use words like awesome, spectacular, perfect, flawless, regal, superb, or unsurpassed? I don’t believe there is a word in the English language that can adequately describe a creation that is formed out of nothing.
     We often stand and sing “I Stand in Awe of You” and other hymns of worship. When I view a sunset so brilliantly hued that it takes my breath away, I say, “Thank you, Father, for your excellent majesty.” Similar expressions of thanksgiving and praise spring forth at the sight of magnificent waterfalls and spectacular mountain formations.
     Recently I spent some time on Mount Titlus near Lucerne, Switzerland. The beauty of the snow covered peaks was beyond description. It was raining in the valley, but as my wife and I rode the gondola to the top of the mountain all we could see was snow. At the top, we even had the pleasure of walking through an ice cave. We stood in awe as we watched people from countries near the equator wallow around in the snow. It was their first experience with the fluffy white stuff.
     If you’ve ever done any wood carving or created an award-winning design, you would know how God must have felt when he brought this world into being by the words of his mouth.
     Do you stand in awe of God’s creative power? Do you thank him that you are wonderfully complex (Ps. 139:14) and made in his image? As an act of worship make a list of six evidences of God’s creative excellence that you see every day.
Prayer: Dear Lord, how I praise you for the beauty of nature. You crafted in excellence this world for us to enjoy, and may everything in it bring glory to your name. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sinful Cover-ups Exposed


Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-19
I am watching them closely, and I see every sin. They cannot hope to hide from me.        (Jeremiah 16:17 NLT)
The infamous Watergate scandal, Hitler’s secret death chambers, and the Benghazi terrorist attacks are examples of man’s propensity to avoid the truth. Political entities will use ingenious schemes to prevent the truth from becoming known. The attempts to cover-up acts of sin and misdeeds are not just limited to governments and political figures, but span a wide range of human actions and behaviors. Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with similar attempts to cover-up one’s sin.
     Adam and Eve committed the sin of disobedience and when they discovered they were naked (one of the results of their actions) they endeavored to cover-up the fact with fig leaves and hid from God in the garden. Cain murdered his brother Abel and tried to cover it up by hiding his remains. Moses killed an Egyptian who was harassing a fellow Jew and hid his sin by burying the body in the sand. David killed Uriah to cover-up his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Peter attempted to cover-up his relationship with Jesus by swearing and cursing in the courtyard. Ananias and his wife Sapphira attempted to cover-up the truth by a deceitful scheme involving some property they had sold.
     Covering up sin by attempting to hide it from God always brings severe consequences. The Bible says, “But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23 NLT)
     Watergate resulted in Richard Nixon’s humiliating resignation as President of the United States. In like manner, Adam and Eve’s sin was exposed and they were thrown out of the garden, Cain’s sin was exposed by God, and a curse placed on his life. Moses had to flee from Egypt because his sin was found out. David suffered the loss of his son born to Bathsheba. Peter left the courtyard weeping bitterly. Ananias and Sapphira both dropped dead at the feet of the apostles.
     What significant lesson can we learn from these examples of sinful cover-ups exposed? When the Holy Spirit reveals sin, we should go immediately to the Lord in prayer and confession. Confession brings cleansing and forgiveness. David understood this when he said, “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2).
     We can live a purified life by acknowledging our sin and taking it to the Lord in prayerful confession.
Prayer: Dear Lord, give me the courage to acknowledge my sin and confess it openly to you. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Discipleship


Scripture Reading: Luke 14:25-33
And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin the construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills? (Lk 14:27-28 NLT)
What is the meaning of discipleship? Is there any correlation between becoming a disciple and salvation?
     The word “disciple” is used 262 times in the New Testament. Greek Lexicons tell us that the word disciple means “one who shares a close and intimate relationship with a person.” In the passage listed above this relationship is with Jesus Christ.
     There are those who would have us believe that there are level 1 and level 2 believers. They say we are called from level 1 entry believers into a level two discipleship. According to John MacArthur there is no such thing as level 1 and level 2 believers. Every Christian, from the point of salvation, is a disciple and a follower of Christ. Some are following more faithfully than others, but every true believer has committed himself or herself to follow Jesus Christ.
     The  very heart of evangelism found in the commission from the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19 is to “go and make disciples of all nations…” and in Mark 16:15 it says, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.” These verses reveal that salvation and discipleship are bonded together into one act.
     We are told in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it.” John Strot wrote in his book Basic Christianity, “The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of half-built towers, the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish.”
     Those who fail to count the cost end up with a thin veneer of Christianity, but are not willing to endure the hard unpleasantness of life that often comes from following Jesus Christ.
     Abraham counted the cost and left his home in Mesopotamia. Lot counted the cost and had to flee from Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses counted the cost and became a fugitive in the desert. Elijah counted the cost and fled in fear from the wrath of Jezebel. Daniel counted the cost and ended up in a lion’s den. Jesus counted the cost and gave up his life on the Cross of Calvary.
     Have you counted the cost of discipleship?
Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to be strong committed believers willing to suffer for your sake.