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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Everything Belongs to God

Scripture Reading: Luke 20:20-25
He saw through their trickery and said, “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God.” (Lk. 20:23-25 NLT)
The dining room table was filled with shoe boxes of checks, receipts, invoices, and bills. A faint smell of farm manure permeated the room. Dad, with his cigar in his mouth, didn’t seem to notice, but I sure did. I sorted the checks and put them in numerical order while Dad’s fingers moved over the adding machine with lightning speed. I often marveled at how he could manipulate that machine without even looking at the keypad. The farmer sat over in the rocking chair smoking his pipe. It was income tax time again.
     The people in Jesus’ day didn’t like taxes either. It was even worse being under the domination and thumb of Rome. The tax collectors were some of the most despised and hated people in Israel. The scribes and priests tried to trick Jesus into opposing the Roman taxes, and thus, accusing him of sedition. Jesus wasn’t so easily fooled as he was able to see through their trickery and turned the table on them. “Whose picture and title are stamped on it,” he asked? The moment they said, “Caesar’s,” he knew that he had them boxed into a corner. “Give to Caesar what belongs to him, but everything that belongs to God must be given to God.” he said. The second half of that statement is the hardest to follow. Did you notice the word that he used—everything? Wow! Are you kidding Lord? Do you really mean everything?
     Are you aware that the stuff you claim to possess isn’t really yours? It all belongs to God. Everything you have—your job, home, car, children—all came from the hand of God. Do you remember the words of ancient Job, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The LORD gave me everything I had, and the LORD has taken it away, Praise the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:23 NLG)
     Randy Alcorn in his book Treasure Principle tells us we are the managers of God’s stuff. We put this principle to the test in 2005 when the door of opportunity opened to return to Peru on a Kid-Zone children’s mission trip with Wycliffe Associates. We needed to raise the necessary funds so we took all the “stuff” that belonged to God and raised the needed funds by selling it at yard sales, and to friends and neighbors. It really wasn’t ours because we had dedicated it to the Lord.
     How are you managing the things God has loaned to you? Are you paying the God-tax?

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for showing us the Treasure Principle. We recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from above. It is on loan—help us to be good managers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Essentials of Life

Scripture Reading: Exodus 15:22-27
Then Moses led the people away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. (Ex. 15:22)
Food and water are the two basic essentials of life. Man can exist for many days without food, but only a short time without water.
     The children of Israel traveled in the desert of Shur for three days without water. By this time most of them would be dehydrated, dizzy, and bordering on shock. Bodily functions are slowing down, heart rate is increasing, and heat stroke imminent. They would be desperate for water. When they finally reached water they found it to be bitter. They didn’t realize it at the time, but this was one of God’s tests of their faith. Like many of us, they failed miserably and turned on Moses demanding, “What are we going to drink”? Moses, in turn, cried out to God for help, and He performed a miracle to give them fresh water.
     Do you remember the story of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, a W.W. I flying ace who was adrift at sea for 24 days. He and several crewmen ran out of food and water after three days. On the eighth day, a seagull landed on Rickenbacker’s head. He warily and cautiously captured it and divided it amongst the crew, saving some for fishing bait. They lived on sporadic rain water that fell, and similar food “miracles”. They were finally rescued by a US Navy float plane. All were suffering from hyperthermia, sunburn, dehydration, and near starvation.
     Life giving water is also needed to establish a relationship with God. Jesus offered this life- saving water to a Samaritan woman at the well outside Sychar. She came to the well for physical water, and went away with spiritual water. In her conversation with Jesus she came to realize her sinful condition and the need for a new spiritual relationship. When the life-saving water of God’s grace was offered, she gladly accepted it and her life changed. She was so excited that she went into the neighboring village and told everyone that she had met the Messiah. As a result of the woman’s testimony many believed.
     Souls are starving for the essentials of life. You and I have in our hands the life-saving water in the word of God. The Apostle Paul calls it “the word of reconciliation,” and encourages us as God’s ambassadors to share it with others. We can either hoard it for ourselves, or we can spread it abroad. Would you be willing to hand out a cup of that everlasting water to someone you meet today?

Prayer: Dear Lord, you have given to us the life-saving water which is one of the essentials of life. Help us find ways to share it with those who are in desperate need of a soul quenching drink.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Enduring the Shame

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:1-7
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:2 NLT)
The bystanders gaped at Jesus (his face marred beyond recognition, his back lacerated from whips, and the crown of thorns piercing his brow) his face the shame of sin. Not his, but yours and mine. The shame of the cross was a humiliating experience, especially for the sinless Son of God. His mother, before him, looking on his nakedness made it even worse. They hung him between two thieves, and a murderer was set free on his account. What a shameful experience!
     Can you remember a shameful moment in your past life? A time when you were accused of abandonment, or stealing, or betraying a friend, or _____________________. Write in your own experience. Imagine the horror you would feel if everyone knew about it! What if a videotape of the event was played before family and friends? Wouldn’t the humiliation be unbearable? It is especially difficult when the accused party is not guilty as charged.
     How do you suppose Jesus felt as he bore the awful shame of all humanity? The Bible states, “Who did no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22 NASB). The Apostle Paul says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB). The innocent one dying for the guilty.
     How was Jesus able to disregard such shame and disgrace? The answer to this question may be the source God wants to use to help you and me assuage our fears. The only way we can endure our shame is to focus where Jesus focused: “because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus fixed his gaze on the prize set before him. You and I are the prizes that Jesus died for. He purchased our redemption; therefore, all who believe in him are legally his.
     I love the words to that old hymn: Now I belong to Jesus
            Jesus my Lord will love me forever, from him no pow’r of evil can sever,
            He gave his life to ransom my soul, Now I belong to Him;
     Do you belong to Jesus?

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are the one who endured the shame so that I might have eternal life through your person and work on Calvary.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Drifting Apart

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:36-46
Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matt. 26:41 NLT)
Maintaining a close relationship requires a lot of effort by both parties. Such factors as time, distance, circumstances, age, work, and interests play a large part in causing people to drift apart.
     A number of years ago a couple from England came to visit America and stayed with us at our bed and breakfast in Hermann, Mo. We established a close friendship and began communicating back and forth through the wonderful medium of e-mail. Over the course of time we visited their home in England and received a guided tour throughout the countryside around Portsmouth. They, in turn, came back to the States and we gave them a tour of Colorado. Although we still write to each other on occasion and send cards on special occasions, it is not the same as talking to one another face to face.
     We have found that without regular contact it is possible to drift apart even with family members. When our daughter was a stay-at-home mom we could get together for lunch and spend time together sharing common interests, but now that she is a working mom those times of togetherness are few and far between.
     The same thing can happen in our spiritual lives. It is not difficult to lose contact with the Lord. All it takes is absenteeism from the house of God for a few weeks, neglect of daily Bible reading, or lack of a consistent prayer time and our fellowship suffers. We begin to drift apart from the Lord. Our first reaction is that God has moved away from us, but just the opposite is true—we have drifted apart from Him.
     I remember a story about a man and wife who sat together on the front seat of the car. Those were the days when cars had bench seats both in the front and rear. The wife complained, “You aren’t sitting close to me anymore.” The husband replied, “I am still sitting behind the wheel where I always sat, it isn’t me that has moved.”
     We have the tendency to do the same thing with God. We accuse him of drifting away from us when all the time we are the one who are doing the drifting. The Lord says, “I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is the one behind the wheel—we are the ones who are drifting.
     Take stock! Are you having lunch with the Lord and his word? Are you talking to him in prayer? Being faithful in these two areas will keep you from drifting apart.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me keep a close relationship with you through your word and prayer.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Centurion of the Shipwreck

Devotion Three—Centurion of the Shipwreck                                                                                      Acts 27-28
Thus far we have looked at two of the four centurions mentioned in the New Testament. Both of these Roman officers were men of great faith. The faith of the centurion at Capernaum was commended by the Lord when he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” The faith of Cornelius at Caesarea not only resulted in salvation for himself and his entire household, but it also opened the door of faith for other Gentiles to enter the kingdom of God.
     Today, we turn our attention to a third centurion by the name of Julius. This centurion along with a cohort of soldiers was assigned the task of delivering the Apostle Paul as prisoner along with several hundred others to Rome for trial before Caesar.
     Julius showed great favor to Paul, but at the point of their departure, he was not a believer in Christ. When Paul warned him and the crew of impending destruction, he chose to believe the captain and the crew.
     The narrative in Acts 27 is more about the Apostle Paul as a courageous leader than it is about the centurion. Dr. Warren Wiersbe in his commentary on Acts entitled “Be Daring” pictures Paul in four important roles: (1) Paul the Counselor (27:1-20), (2) Paul the Encourager (27:21-44), (3) Paul the Helper (28:1-10), (4) Paul the Preacher (28:11-31). We will attempt to summarize what Dr. Wiersbe has to say about the first two roles.
1. Paul the Counselor (27:1-20).
    After leaving Caesarea the party sailed eighty miles to Sidon where Julius, in his kindness, allowed Paul to visit his Sidonian Christian friends who provided him with provisions for his trip. From there they sailed to Myra where Julius found an Egyptian grain freighter bound for Italy. The ship carried 276 passengers including the captain and crew. With strong winds hindering their progress, they finally struggled into a small harbor called Fair Havens.
     The centurion faced a decision. Should he winter at Fair Havens or take his chances and proceed to Phoenix, a safer harbor? His approach is a classic illustration how not to determine the will of God. Paul admonished them to stay at Fair Havens.
     What were the factors that governed Julius’s decision? Safe harbor, advice of captain and owner of the ship, the ship’s crew all played a part in his decision. He took a vote of the captain and crew and the majority vote of 3 to 1 was a deciding factor. The clincher was the change of wind to “gentle breezes.” Can’t you just see the little snicker on Julius’s face as they set sail for Phoenix ignoring the warnings of Paul. He looked at Paul as if to say, “See, you were wrong!” After all, the majority can’t be wrong, especially when it includes the experts.
2. Paul the Encourager (27:21-44)
    It wasn’t long before the “Gentle Breezes” turned into a northeasterner driving the ship twenty-three miles to the south. The raging storm was threatening to sink their skiff so they brought it aboard the ship. Ropes or chains were wrapped around the ship and the cargo was thrown overboard in an effort to save the ship.
     Sometimes we get ourselves in storms due to impatience (27:9), accepting so-called expert advice that is contrary to God’s will, following the majority, and trusting “ideal” conditions (27:13). The Scripture says, “He that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa. 28:16). It pays to listen to God’s word.
     They faced a crisis situation. No one knew what to do. All seemed lost. The centurion, captain, and crew were without hope of ever coming out of the raging storm alive.
     Have you ever been through a storm in life where you lost hope? Did you feel like the situation or struggle was going to sink your boat? If you have, then you know what these men were going through and how they felt. You may have thought, “if only I had listened to God. If only I had obeyed.” That is what happened to the crew of Pauls’ boat. Because they did not listen to Paul’s warning, they lost all their cargo and profits. Because they didn’t listen, they lost the ability to navigate the ship. Because they didn’t listen, they now found themselves in a raging storm in fear for their lives. If only…
     Even though Paul knew the outcome would be disastrous, he still prayed. God sent an angel to assure Paul that all would not be lost. They would lose the ship, but their lives would be spared (27:23-26).
     Not all storms of life are caused by disobedience to God. Many times we go through a storm when we obey God because the devil is trying to discourage and draw us off course. Many times God uses storms to strengthen our faith and bring us closer to him. Storms are an inevitable part of life (James 1:2).

     Julius, the centurion responsible for delivering Paul to Rome for trial, was reluctant to accept the apostle’s counsel at first. During the shipwreck experience, however, he was exposed to the vitality of Paul’s faith and saw the power of God in the miraculous, and saved Paul’s life when it was threatened. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Centurion at Caesaera

Devotion Two—Centurion at Caesarea                                                                                            (Acts 10:1-2,22,44-48)
In our previous devotion we learned that a centurion was a captain over one hundred men. He gained this position either by purchasing it (rarely done), or by an appointment from a Roman official. The majority were promoted by the tribunes over them after fifteen to twenty years of meritorious service in the Legionnaires.
     We also learned that the duties of a centurion fall into two basic areas. In combat, the centurion was responsible for implementing military strategy. Like king David in the Old Testament, he would always be on point, leading the charge into battle. Away from the battlefield the centurion administered discipline in the ranks, mediated interpersonal conflicts among his men, provided security and protection, supervised police actions in occupied territories, maintained order among the populace, put down threats of insurrection, and oversaw executions. As a general rule, these executions were done by sword of Roman citizens (Romans 13) and by crucifixion for non-Romans. (Harper’s Bible Dictionary)
Centurion at Caesarea
     This brings us to our second centurion mentioned in the book of Acts.
            “Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian regiment.” (Acts 10:1)
     Acts chapter ten is a pivotal point in the history of the church. We see Peter using the “keys of the kingdom” for the third and last time. He had opened the door of faith for the Jews (Acts) and also for the Samaritans (Acts 8), and now he would be used of God to open the door of faith to the Gentiles.
     Caesarea is located sixty-five miles northwest of Jerusalem and thirty miles north of Joppa (Jaffa). In that city lived Cornelius, the Roman centurion, whose heart had tired of pagan myths and empty religious rituals. He had turned to Judaism in hopes of finding salvation.
     At no time in the New Testament does Jesus rebuke a military person for being in the military. God wants Christians to reach others in many walks of life, including those in military service. It was during my tenure in the U.S. Navy that I came to know Jesus Christ as Savior. I thank God for the Navigators organization that was reaching out to servicemen with the gospel. I firmly believe that God needs and uses Christian teachers in the public school system to live and promote moral values to the children of our nation.
     There are four commendable traits that we see in the life of Cornelius:
First, we are told that he was a devout man. (v2a) Webster defines the word “devout” as pious, earnest, serious, reverent, goodly, religious, and worshipful. Cornelius displayed all of these virtues.
Second, he is described as “one who feared God with all his household” (v2b). The term God-fearing is a technical term for a Gentile who attended the synagogue and followed the Jewish laws but had not been circumcised. This is different from a “proselyte,” who was more thoroughly committed to Judaism and, thus, often harder to reach for Christ.
     It is interesting to see how religious a person can be and still not be saved. The difference between Cornelius and many religious people today is this: he knew that his religious devotion was not sufficient to save him.
Third, “he gave generously to those in need” (v. 2c). Cornelius was well off financially and shared his wealth with the poor. His acts of generosity were an active outreach of his God-fearing mindset. He put what faith he had into motion.
Fourth, he was a man of prayer. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon which was the normal time for prayer in the Temple. The record seems to indicate that Cornelius had used this time for prayer on a regular basis. He knew that his prayers had been heard because “About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in the saying to him, ‘Cornelius!’ And when he observed him, he was afraid and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ So he said to him, ‘Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:3-4).
 
What life lesson can be learn from the experience of Cornelius?
1, Cornelius believed in one God—not gods. He was a monotheist. Even before he heard the gospel message from Peter, Cornelius had turned from idols to reverence a living God. (Acts 14:15; 1 Th. 1:9)
2. He believed that God was an observer of human activity.
3. He showed his love for family by bringing his whole household together to hear the message of the gospel.
4. Cornelius wasn’t saved by being a God-fearing man or giving of alms; he was saved by hearing and believing the gospel message as given by Peter.

5. The angels bring message to people, but they don’t preach the gospel—we do. It is our duty and responsibility to present the “word of reconciliation” as we are ambassadors for Christ. (2 Cor. 5:19-20)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Centurion at Capernaum

Devotion One—Centurion at Capernaum
In these four devotions we will look at the lives of the four centurions mentioned in the New Testament, and see what effect Jesus Christ had on each of them. What we shall ultimately see is the Power of the Cross.
Setting the Stage
     The Army of Rome consisted of three types of soldiers: The Praetorian Guard (Caesar’s bodyguard), The Legionnaires (infantry soldiers and officers made up of citizens), and The Auxiliaries (non-citizen troops or what we call Mercenaries).
     The backbone of the Roman army was the centurions. These men were legionnaires who worked their way up through the ranks and were promoted for their dedication, courage, and leadership skills. The position could be purchased or granted by a prominent friend or political leaders, but most were gained by merit of service.
     The word centurion comes from the Latin word centuria or centum, meaning “one hundred.” To help us grasp the significance of his role, we need to understand the design of a Roman legion.
     According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary a legion consisted of from 3,000 to 6,000 men. Each legion was further subdivided into cohorts, the cohorts into three maniples, and the maniples into two centuries of one hundred men each. There were sixty centuries in a legion, each under the command of a centurion.
     The centurion received pay that amounted to more than twenty times the ordinary soldiers pay, about five thousand denari per year. Some centurions of higher rank and service received ten to twenty thousand denari per year. The common soldier received between two and three hundred denari per year. Thus we see that centurions were men of financial means and highly respected in their communities.
     With this understanding in mind, let us look one at a time at the four centurions mentioned in the New Testament.
Centurion at Capernaum     
Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10
     Jesus had finished his teaching in Luke 6:46 by asking the Jews, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and then do not do what I say.” The Jews were guilty of not recognizing Jesus’ authority.
     Jesus is now on his way back to Capernaum where he will perform a miracle for a Gentile Centurion who does recognize his God given authority.
     The two accounts of Jesus’ confrontation with the Centurion are portrayed in two different ways. Matt. 8:5 says, “When Jesus arrived in Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him…” The account in Luke 7:3 says, “he sent some respected Jewish leaders to ask Jesus to come and heal his slave.” It doesn’t really matter whether the centurion goes to Jesus himself, or sends representatives, both were under Roman authority. What does matter is that the Centurion believed in Jesus’ power.
      By sending Jewish leaders to Jesus on his behalf, the centurion was in keeping with the Old Testament economy. The fact that the Roman officer built a synagogue shows his desire to worship the God of the Jews. Being a gentile, he could not go into the Temple, but he could worship God in the synagogue.
     The centurion shows his humility by putting himself under the authority of Jesus. He feels he is not worthy (Lk 7:6-7). The Jews on the other hand with their self-righteousness think they are worthy of God’s blessings.
     The centurion being a man of authority knew that the word of Christ and his faith were sufficient to heal his servant. (Mt. 27:28-29)
     What can we learn from the life experience of the Centurion at Capernaum?
(1) Belief in the authority of God’s word and the sovereignty of God brings results.
(2) True faith is demonstrated in a humble approach to God.
(3) Don’t be critical of a man because of his job.
(4) Rejection of God’s truth may bring replacement in God’s service. The Jews rejected Christ and were replaced. (Rom. 9-11)
(5) A man is a good leader when he is a good follower.

(6) Jesus doesn’t have to be present for healing to take place. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Love Never Fails

Scripture Reading: John 15:1-17
I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. (John 15:9 NLT)
How many times in the past sixty-two years has my wife or kids asked raised the question, “Do you love me?” It may not have been said in so many words, but their demeanor spoke volumes. A scramble on the floor to get dad’s attention is a means of asking, “Do you love me?” A wife who is sullen and unresponsive may be thinking, “Does he really love me?”
     I remember a time when I was away on business for several days. I came home tired and distraught. Things had not gone well, and my patience was exhausted. The boys were arguing and squabbling. I was about to send them to their rooms when I caught myself thinking, “Are they looking for a little attention and love from me?”
     Have you ever questioned God’s love for you? Maye you have lost a loved one, a close friend, a wife or husband, and your heart cries out, “God, where is your love?” or “Where were you when I needed you?” In the sadness of the moment, you forgot all the times when He showed his love for you, comforted you, protected you, and wrapped his arms around you.
     We all ask those questions from time to time. Be assured that God is not taken by surprise when those types of feelings emerge. He is used to the “why” questions. Job asked them over and over for thirty long chapters, and God never answered him, not even once. Then in chapters 38 to 41 God challenges Job. Job is forced to “put his hand over his mouth in silence.” What is remarkable to me is that God loves me no matter what I do or what I say. I believe what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love will last forever.” (NLT)
     When I was growing up love wasn’t expressed verbally in our home. My parents showed their love for me by the things they did for me. My dad took me hunting and fishing, he helped me build scooters and box cameras. My mother loved to bake raisin filled sugar cookies (my favorite) and we churned homemade ice cream. We went to baseball games, shot billiards, played cards, and other board games. There are many ways to express love that often go unnoticed.
     Everyone needs the assurance that God loves them. If you are tempted to ask, “Do you love me?” remember that God’s love never fails. Jesus himself assures us with the promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) He also said, “I will be with you until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I know there is nothing I can do good that will cause you to love me more, or anything I do that is bad enough to cause you to love me less. God’s love never fails.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Distracted

Scripture Reading: Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed  him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” (Lk. 10:38-42 NLT)
Distractions are something we live with every day of our lives. Drivers are distracted by messages coming in on smart phones, and the corresponding attempt to answer by texting a message in return. Billboards are a nuisance distraction along with flashing lights, sirens, and speeding drivers. Social media is a major distraction and pulls us away from more important functions. Mainstream media is filled with distracting advertisements intended to lure us into spending money we don’t have. It all sounds easy until the end of the month when the bills become due.
     When Jesus came to Martha’s home, he faced a similar situation. Mary, the younger sister of Martha, chose to sit at Jesus’ feet in devotion and worship, while Martha busied herself in the kitchen. It wasn’t long before Martha got bogged down with her preparations and stormed into Jesus’ presence to complain about Mary’s lack of help. This is typical of “big sister” lording it over the younger sibling. It is apparent that Martha allowed the distraction of making a “big splash” for Jesus to cause her to miss an opportunity for worship.
     Jesus, knowing that pride had overtaken Martha’s better sense of judgment, seized the moment to point out the distraction that led to her complaine by saying, “Martha, Martha, you are concerned with doing, but Mary has chosen the more important part of being” (Luke 10:41-42 paraphrase mine). Jesus commented Mary for her devotion, and mildly rebuked Martha for her busyness.
     Likewise, we face daily distractions that tend to pull us away from devotion or service. I have found that starting my day with Jesus and the Word of God provides the jump start needed for a successful day. Spending time with Jesus in prayer and meditation enhances my relationship with Him and allows time to pause and listen. Just as Martha needed to learn to put aside the distractions around her, so too, believers today need to learn that service is an extension of devotion to Christ. Our “orders for the day” come through quiet meditation away from the distractions of the world.
Don’t let the distractions of this world keep you from taking time to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me put aside the distractions that seek to pull me away from your word.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dissatisfied

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:10-20
Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.                       (Prov. 27:20 NASB)
Have you ever noticed while driving in the country how cows and horses stretch their necks to get the grass just beyond their reach? What is wrong with the clover or rye that is out in the middle of the field? Nothing! They are just following the old adage that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” Mankind is just as guilty of following this old adage as the animals. If we see a neighbor with a Cadillac, we want a Mercedes Benz. If they have a three bedroom house, we want one with four bedrooms. Man is never completely satisfied with his lot in life.
     It is my observation that the same practice applies to the spiritual realm. I remember years ago when we received a pin for perfect attendance in Sunday school. We wore the pin proudly and tended to measure a person’s spirituality by the number of pins they wore. In many churches today the level of spirituality is measured by the number of people on the membership rolls. If a neighboring church has a large choir and fancy robes we want a larger one. Why do we think God is impressed with bigness? God never asked us to become large or fancy. He is more interested in our humility and  love relationship.
     From the beginning of time man has harbored a spirit of dissatisfaction. It all began with Lucifer who looked in the mirror one day and decided he was greater than God. When his efforts failed to unseat God from his throne, he was dispossessed. Falling from his position in heaven he decided to get Adam and Eve to fall with him. By devious deceit he convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and she in turn gave it to Adam and he did eat. Both of them showed their dissatisfaction with God by disobeying his command to abstain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They fell into sin and the whole human race fell with them.
     I believe it is part of man’s fallen nature to be dissatisfied. He is constantly reaching out for something beyond himself. We seem to think that more stuff, more achievements, more awards, more, more, more will make us happy. The truth is that nowhere in the word of God does the Lord of Heaven’s armies promise happiness. What is promised is joy! If we have Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can experience joy in the midst of the direst circumstances.
     Do you have the joy of the Lord in your heart? Are you satisfied with Jesus? More importantly—is Jesus satisfied with you?

Prayer: Dear Lord, it is my desire to walk in the joy of my salvation throughout the day. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Lost Treasure


Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 23:12-27
Josiah also exterminated the mediums and psychics, the household gods, and every other kind of idol worship, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to all the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the Lord’s Temple.                   (2 Kings 23:24 NLT)
Are you a treasure hunter? Hundreds of people in various cities throughout the United States are busy looking for money that has been hidden by anonymous philanthropists. They hid the money and then give clues to its whereabouts on Twitter and Facebook.
     Back in the nineteenth century there were numerous stories and legends of lost treasure and some people spent their entire lives looking for the elusive pot of gold. Hollywood produced a number of Lost Treasure films such as: the Indiana Jones series, Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure of Sierra Madre, Treasure Seekers, King Solomon’s Mines, and many others. How many lost their live seeking the treasure of gold in California, Nevada, the Yukon and Klondike?
     Even as valuable as these so-called treasures were, there was an even more valuable treasure that was lost for centuries during Old Testament days. Following the death of King Solomon, the son of David, many evil kings reigned over Judah. Once in a while a king who followed the ways of Jehovah would appear. Josiah who was the great grandson of Hezekiah was one of those “good” kings. He began to repair the dilapidated Temple and during the process Hilkiah, the high priest, found a copy of the book of the law, a lost treasure, in the Temple. Following the reading of the scroll of the law, Josiah instituted reforms throughout the nation of Judah.
     Idol worship, pagan shrines and altars were destroyed, Asherah poles were burned, pagan priests were eliminated, mediums and psychics exterminated, and every other kind of idol worship destroyed. The Scripture says, “Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since. (2 Kings 23:25 NLT).
     How is it possible to lose the Word of God in the house of the Lord? By ignoring the biblical truth contained within its pages! By replacing the truth with manmade stories that have no spiritual connection to God’s word! By failing to preach the whole counsel of God! By promoting false teachers who twist the meaning of the Scriptures!
     The best way to avoid losing your treasure, the Word of God, is to spend time every day on reading and meditation. A neglected Bible is a lost Bible
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me keep in tune with your word by using it in my daily walk.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Dirty Hands


Scripture Reading: Exodus 30:17-21
Aaron and his sons will wash their hands and feet before they go into the tabernacle to appear before the Lord and before they approach the altar to burn offerings to the Lord. (Ex. 30:19)
I heard my mother say, “Robert, don’t forget to wash your hands before you come to the dinner table.” Does this sound familiar to any of you? How many times as a child did I come to the table only to be sent away to wash my dirty hands?
     When my four boys were growing up, my wife would often hold spur-of-the moment room inspections prior to the evening meal. Anyone whose room didn’t meet mom’s criteria was sent back down to clean it up before eating. This didn’t mean kicking the dirty socks and shirts under the bed just to give the room a neat appearance. It meant taking time to fold them and put them away where they belonged. If you knew how much my boys loved to eat, you know it didn’t take them long to get the message.
     When Moses was on Mt. Sinai getting instructions from the Lord, he received specific rules and regulations for Aaron and his sons to follow in order to minister in the tabernacle. They were given the blueprints to fashion a bronze wash basin to wash their hands and feet before entering God’s house. (Ex. 30:17-21)  They were not allowed in the tabernacle with dirty hands and feet.
     I have heard friends say to me, “I can’t go to church with you until I clean up my life.” What a feeble excuse! Once a person I was witnessing to said, “God can’t save me because I’ve been too bad and done too many sinful things.” Such individuals don’t realize they are prime candidates for God’s grace. If truth be told, you can’t do anything to clean up your act. God never accepts human efforts for salvation. We must come as we are with dirty hands and sinful hearts, acknowledging our utter helplessness, and allowing God to do the cleansing. (Titus 3:5)
     What thought pattern, habit, or sinful activity is causing you to feel you are too dirty to enter God’s presence? Using a pencil, make a list of several habits, thoughts, or actions that you know would not meet God’s approval. Ask God for his forgiveness for each one and erase them from your list. God cleanses through the precious blood of his Son, Jesus Christ.
     Prayer: Dear Lord, I am so thankful that you have never turned anyone away who has come to you and openly confessed their need of a Savior. As the word of God says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 NLT)
      

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dead but Yet Living


Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:1-21
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:6-7)
As I sit looking out the window, the morning sun casts its rays through the naked trees. It seemed like yesterday that the trees were dressed in green, but now they stand alone and bare. Their leaves have died and fallen to the ground. Soon they will decay and turn to powder. Never again will they know life. Never again will they flutter in the breeze or provide shade. Life for them is over forever. Eventually the trees themselves will follow the same pattern.
     The animal kingdom faces the same destiny. The only species in the animal kingdom that has the capacity for life after death is mankind. God placed in man a living soul that is everlasting. Along with the living soul, God created in mankind a free will enabling him to make choices. Each person is capable of choosing to spend eternity with his maker or join others in a place of eternal damnation.
     Within the past week two of my friends have died and left this earth. Their bodies have been committed to the grave, but their souls will live on in the afterlife. The Bible clearly states, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV). Joyfully, both of my friends had placed their faith in Jesus Christ and are enjoying the pleasures of heaven’s glory today.
     I vividly remember the time when I was faced with the decision to either accept or reject the claims of Christ on my life. The decision was mine. I could either confess my sinfulness and trust in Christ as my Savior, or continue to follow my own path. I thank God that I decided to trust Christ and follow him.
     It is a comfort to know that while my two friends are dead, yet they are living because their souls are with Jesus Christ in heaven. At a future resurrection, body and soul will be re-united and we will fellowship with our Savior for all eternity.
     Where will you spend eternity? Will it be in heaven with Jesus, or in eternal darkness? The choice is yours to make. Each individual must come to the place of belief in Christ as Savior. God has provided provision for salvation and it’s up to you and me to accept his gift. (Eph. 2:8,9)
Prayer: Dear Lord, help all who read this devotion to put their trust in you.