Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Screaming Demons

The Screaming Demons
As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell to the ground before him, screaming, “Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:27-28)
The encounter of the demon possessed man and Jesus provided another opportunity for Jesus to show forth his power and authority as the Son of God. The man’s name was Legion which revealed that he was controlled by as many as two thousand demon spirits.
   Take notice that the demons spoke through the man and recognized immediately who Jesus was namely, “The Son of the Most High God!” They were also aware that he had the power and authority to send them to the bottomless pit, the place of eternal punishment, and begged him not to send them there. Instead, they pleaded for him to allow them to enter a herd of pigs. Giving them permission, the herd of pigs stampeded down a cliff and drowned in the sea.
   The question for us to consider is: Why did Jesus allow them to enter the herd of swine? What lessons was he trying to teach to the disciples and people in the area? Here are few suggestions:
First, if the herd of pigs belonged to the Jews, Jesus’ action would be a rebuke because they were forbidden from eating or keeping unclean animals such as swine (Leviticus 11:7).Second, if the herdsmen were Gentiles, Jesus’ action showed them the malice of the evil spirits under whose influence they lived. Third, Jesus’ action revealed, to the huge crowd that was assembled, his power and authority over creation and the demon world.
   The townspeople who came were awestruck, but unrepentant and wanted Jesus to leave which revealed the hardness of their hearts and desire to remain in sin. On the other hand, the healed man who was clothed and sane begged to follow Jesus. Instead, Jesus sent him back home to tell them the wonderful things that happened.

   Have you been changed? If so, are you telling others about the changes that have taken place in your life since Jesus saved you? 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Seeking Magi

The Seeking Magi
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem…” (Matthew 2:1a)
What do we actually know about the Magi?  Were they just a bunch of astrologers? Were they magicians or sorcerers? What was their nationality? Where in the east did they live?
   There is much about these guys that we don’t know, but the little bit that we do know reveals to us a group of people who truly believed in the coming Messiah.
   Who were these guys? They are correctly called Magi in the bible. The Magi were a tribe of eastern people who go way back into antiquity. They were the tribe that was given the responsibility of being the religious leaders—the priests of the culture. It was their job to study the holy books, study the stars, interpret dreams, and advise the kings.
   Racially, they were from a tribe of people called the Medes. The Medes lived in the area now called Iraq and Iran. You can trace their lineage all the way back to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees. Remember it was the Babylonians who captured Jerusalem and took the people captive. One of these was Daniel who became an official in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Later when Medo-Persian Empire captured Babylon, Daniel became a member of the Medo-Persian court. In that court were Medes who were a part of a ruling religious tribe known as the Magi.   Isn’t this amazing? Daniel had contact with the Magi over 500 years before Christ was born.
   After Daniels success in interpreting the king’s dream, he was made the chief Magi, the head of all the wise men in Babylon. What’s so amazing about all this? Here’s my point! Daniel a Jewish exile was placed by God in the same court with Median Magi for the purpose of teaching them about the coming Messiah. For 500 years the Magi were looking to see how the God of Daniel would send the Messiah. Make no mistake, these guys were VERY powerful. They were basically the “king-makers” of their time.

   God was working behind the scenes throughout history preparing the way for Jesus’ arrival. When He arrived—the Magi sought him out—to worship Him.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bob Delaney: The Star in the East

Bob Delaney: The Star in the East: The Star in the East “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him.” ...

The Star in the East

The Star in the East
“Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  (Matthew 2:1)
What was the Star in the East?
There are many explanations about what the star seen by the Magi in the east was. Some say it was a supernova, which is an exploding star which shows up as a new, very bright star. Others have suggested that it could have been a comet or a meteor. One theory even holds that the star was actually the conjunction of Saturn, Venus and Jupiter, in which all three planets line up to make what appears to be one very bright star.
   Here’s another explanation about the appearance of a star shining over the birthplace of Jesus that is plausible, but might surprise you.
   Keep in mind that the Magi saw what appeared to be a star or bright light from where they lived in the east. When they arrived in Jerusalem and discovered that the King of the Jews was born in Bethlehem they made haste to go there. Matthew 2:9 says, “Once again the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem.” Is it possible for a real star to move? (No!) They are fixed in space. What could the Magi have possibly seen?
   Do you remember the story of the shepherds in Luke 2:9, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.” What do you think the “glory of the Lord” looks like?
   Throughout the Old Testament the glory of the Lord was called the Shekinah Glory of God. How did God’s glory appear back then? In the journeys of the Israelites, it appeared as a pillar of fire and a cloud, and moved from place to place. When it appeared to Moses it was so bright that he couldn’t look upon it.
   The Magi saw a supernatural phenomenon that specifically led them to the house where Jesus lived. They came with a specific purpose—to worship Him.

   Are you spending time worshipping our Savior King this Christmas season?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

No Room in the Inn

No Room at the Inn
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Lk. 2:7)
Every good story has a beginning, a conflict or tension, and an end. The story of the birth of Jesus began with Joseph and Mary making an arduous journey from Nazareth to the city of David, Bethlehem. No one has to tell us what a difficult trip that must have been, traveling over mountain paths littered with stones, pitfalls, and crevices. It would be a strenuous task even for a healthy person; yet God brought Mary, laden down with a nine month old pregnancy, safely to Bethlehem.
   When they arrived the conflict of the story begins. They went from inn to inn and all they found were “no vacancy” signs. One innkeeper in particular told them in a not so friendly tone “there was no room for them in the inn.”  You can’t blame him too much because the little village was overcrowded with people there to pay their taxes. The tax was levied by Caesar Augustus to help defray the expenses of his two hundred and fifty thousand man army.
   A study made by the University of the Holy Land describes for us the architecture of the family home at the time of Jesus’ birth. The most common dwelling was a courtyard home which was multi-leveled. A lower room or cellar was used as a storeroom. In the hilly areas like Bethlehem, a cave adjacent to the courtyard might often be adapted for keeping the family’s prized animals sheltered at night. The average nighttime temperature during the early winter season would range from thirty-four to fifty-five degrees at night. This cave-like area would provide protection from the cold, thieves, and predators. The main living area, partitioned into several sections, was on the upper level. It had a work and kitchen area, where the children often slept, and a separate bedroom for the parents. In Luke 2:7 the Greek word kataluma can be translated either “inn,” or “guest room” and may have referred to this room in the family home.
   No doubt by the time the Magi arrived at “the house” (Mt. 2:11) where Jesus was living, the family would already have been moved upstairs.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are so gracious in providing a cozy place for Jesus’ birth.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What's in a Name?

What’s in a Name?
“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  (Matthew 1:21)
Names are special and given for specific purposes!
   Take the name given to the newborn son of Mary. God told Joseph to name him Jesus. In the Hebrew it is the name YESHUA, which means “salvation.”  Jesus emphasized this purpose on more than one occasion during his earthly sojourn. He responded to Zacchaeus’s promise to give half of his wealth to the poor, and four times as much to the people he might have overcharged in taxes by saying, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. ‘And I, the son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost.” (Luke 19:10 NLT)
   The prophet Isaiah gave the newborn child another name: “All right then, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:14 NLT).
   Immanuel is certainly a special name! The meaning behind the name Immanuel (God with us) has been a source of hope to people from ages past clear up to the present time. God with us not only signifies the eternal presence of God among us, but assures us that God is fully in control of all things including our world and our life.
   Parents down through the ages have given their children Biblical names. Names that stand for righteousness, integrity, and truth. I think it is safe to say that there is not a name in the Bible that has not been used by someone.
   The Puritans made particular use of Bible names to mark their children as differed from the godless masses. They even used strange names like “patience, desire, resolved, love, purity, joy, and praise-God.” 
   What was behind the name your parents gave to you?

Prayer: Dear Lord, there is no other name under heaven more special than JESUS.   

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Fullness of Time

The Fullness of Time
“But when the fullness of the time has come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that he might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5)
What does the Apostle Paul mean when he says that Christ would be born when the “fullness of time had come?”  Perhaps he could have stated it in another way, “When the time was right.”  This leads us to ask, “How did God set the stage on Earth for the birth of His Son?”
   We have often heard it said, “Timing is everything!” This is not only true of the things that happen in our present age, but it was true in the days leading up to the birth of Messiah Jesus. What specific events took place that made the birth of Jesus the right time?
   In order for the birth of Jesus Christ is be effective and reach the maximum number of people, there had to be a universal language. God used the Roman Empire to make this possible. We need look no further than the inscription placed on the cross which said, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” We are told in John 19:20, “Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, (some translation say Aramaic) Latin and in Greek.” What does this tell us?
   Latin was the legal language of the Roman Empire while the Greek (Koine) was the international language that most people used. The Hebrew or Aramaic was the local language that both Jews and Gentiles could read and understand. This reveals that God was working behind the scenes preparing the world for the intrusion of the gospel through the birth of Jesus Christ and his ultimate death on the Cross.
    Another factor involved in the phrase “fullness of times” was the explosion of the population. At the time of Christ’s birth an estimated 300 million people lived in the known world. About 1 percent (3 million) of them were Jews, with about 50,000 living in Jerusalem.   

   Yes, “timing is everything!” God saw to it that “when the time was right” a Savior would be born who was and is the “King of the Jews!”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Perfect Gift

The Perfect Gift
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.”(Mt. 5:48)
I wonder if other people encounter the same problem that I do every Christmas. That is, finding the “perfect gift” for someone who seemingly has everything. My wife is a very difficult person to buy for. She can’t find dresses or shoes that fit her petite frame. She is not big on jewelry or make-up. Perfume is not high on her list. What am I to do? How can I find that “perfect gift”?
   God gave us his perfect gift in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. Born in a stable (or cave) with nothing but straw (or hay) for a bed, no obstetrician or nurse to help with delivery, the task of cutting and tying the umbilical cord fell to either Joseph or Mary herself.
   What kind of gift can we give Jesus seeing that he is perfect and has everything? The Scriptures state, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens, and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16 NASB) So, what kind of perfect gift can I get for one who is perfect?
   Not to be outdone, God has given us a list. It is found in Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” God wants you and me to exercise justice, kindness (love), and humility.
   There are two aspects to justice: (1) Inward character of right and goodness, (2) outward actions that show it. Love or kindness involves our willingness to show mercy to others. Both justice and love are connected and operate together—never independently of each other. (See Psalm 84:14; Dt. 10:18; Zech 7:8-10) Humility speaks of submission and honor. This is our ultimate purpose in life.

   Are you willing to give God these perfect gifts? They must be genuine and useful. God will be looking to see them practiced in your thought life, family life, work life, and friendships. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Unwanted Gift

The Unwanted Gift
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” (Mt. 1:18-19)
Have you ever received an “unwanted” gift? How did you respond? Did you give it back or hide it away where no one could see it? Did you trash it? What do you do with an “unwanted” gift?
   Joseph of Nazareth came face to face with a similar problem. He had chosen a young Jewish girl to be his wife. A formal contract was drafted between families and was considered legally binding. Many cultures enforce stiff penalties for breaking the marriage contract. In Jewish tradition, for instance, breaking the contract is considered to be equal to divorce.
   When Mary came to Joseph and said, “I am pregnant,” a huge problem surfaced. I’m sure Joseph did not want a child out of wedlock. What would he do? What could he do? By Jewish law, if Mary were unfaithful and found to be pregnant with child by a man other than her husband she could be taken and stoned to death. When the news came Joseph was stunned, but being a righteous man he decided rather than disgracing her he would dispose of the “unwanted gift” by “sending her away secretly.”
   Before Joseph could execute his plan, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).
   Joseph obeyed the messenger from the Lord and the marriage was consummated. The “unwanted gift” now became a “wanted gift.” That which he wanted to cast aside as unworthy turned out to be Jesus, the Savior of the world.
   Aren’t you glad that God saw to it that events turned out the way they did? We received a Savior, and God was glorified. I can’t think of any better gift than that.

Prayer: Dear Lord, how we thank you for your glorious gift, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Unexpected Gift

The Unexpected Gift
“He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant.”(Lk 2:5)
Have you ever received a strange gift? One that was a shocker—totally unexpected!
   It happened to me one year while teaching fifth and sixth graders. Children love to give a gift to their teacher at Christmas; a hankie, a tie, an ornament, or pen and pencil set. But on this occasion I received a shoe box wrapped in (newspaper comics). It felt rather heavy and rattled when I shook it. My curiosity was rising by the minute. It was given to me by a student from a very poor family. As I opened the box, I steeled myself for the unexpected. Inside was a small bundle of black coal. Without hesitation, I smiled and said, “This is the most practical gift I’ve ever received.” Little Jimmy gave me the most valuable possession he could find in his home.
   When God gave us His Christmas gift it took people by surprise and came in a totally unexpected manner.
   Who would have expected a Holy Righteous God to choose a young virgin teenager to bear his long awaited Messiah? When the angel Gabriel came to Mary at Nazareth he said, “Greeting favored one! The LORD is with you.” (Luke 1:27) This greeting caught Mary by surprise and she was confused and disturbed. I’m sure she wondered, “What kind of greeting is this and what does it mean?” Fortunately, Gabriel didn’t leave her in that state of mind, and said, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
   Was Mary shocked at this unexpected announcement? Yes! Did she consider herself worthy? No! Did she wonder, “Why me?” Don’t we tend to utter the why God question when the unexpected happens? To think that God would entrust his most valuable possession to an inexperienced young teenager baffles the mind.
   What will you do with the unexpected gift of Jesus Christ this Christmas? Will you keep his Messianic birth to yourself or share it with others?

Prayer: Dear Lord, praise your Holy name for giving us your Messianic gift.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Miraculous Gift

The Miraculous Gift
“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel! Which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Isaiah 7:14 NLT)
To all mothers near and far: Do you remember the day your doctor confirmed your pregnancy? Do you remember the long wait as the new life grew within you? Do you remember as the day drew near how the expectation grew?
   As a father, I remember all too well the events, the nervousness, the fear of that fateful night. My wife did not have the usual cramps that signaled oncoming labor. She complained of a back-ache and pain, but didn’t seem able to gauge the contractions. I became anxious and decided it was time to head for the hospital. I drove like a crazy man down Natural Bridge Boulevard in a steady rain. I dodged in and out of traffic as my wife sat moaning beside me. I raced into the emergency entrance of the Normandy Osteopathic Hospital as attendants came out with a wheelchair. Before I could even sign the admittance papers, I heard a shrill cry from the adjoining ER room. Wow! A five pound, four ounce baby girl was born. Our Christmas baby was born six weeks prematurely. My first reaction was a huge sigh and the words, “It’s a miracle baby!”
   I wonder what the first words were that Joseph and Mary uttered when their baby boy was born. Did they consider Jesus to be a “miracle baby?” After an arduous four day eighty mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Mary would be close to exhaustion. It’s a miracle that Mary did not have her baby on a cart along the road just as I almost had our baby in the car traveling to the hospital. But God overshadowed them and saw to it that all prophecies surrounding the Messiah’s birth were fulfilled. (See Gen. 49:10; Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2; Jer. 23:5)
   The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was a Miraculous Gift brought about by the supernatural power of God.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank you this Christmas for your Miraculous Gift of salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of the lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

;The Lowly Shepherds

The Lowly Shepherds
“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby guarding their flocks of sheep.” (Luke 2:8 NLT)
It was a clear starry night and a group of shepherds sat huddled around a campfire with their cloaks drawn closely around them for there was a chill in the air. The sheep were bedded down in their enclosure and the guard dogs were watching them. All was quiet and still. A light wind began to stir when suddenly an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (Luke 2:9)
   Have you ever wondered why shepherds, out in a field on night guard, minding their own business, were the first to receive the good news of a newborn Savior? Why would God choose to make this historical announcement to such lowly despised shepherds?
   Why indeed? If God saw fit to choose lowly shepherds, the outcast of society, to reveal his good news, shouldn’t it erase all doubts as to why he chose you and me, just ordinary people of the world to be his ambassadors to this generation?
   So, why the shepherds?
   Jesus identified with the shepherds. He is called the Good shepherd because he gave his life for the sheep (John 10:11); He is called the Chief shepherd because he oversees other ministering shepherds (1 Peter 5:4), and He is the Great shepherd because we are saved through his blood sacrifice (Heb. 18:20)
   When the angelic host left and all had quieted down, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15)
   No one ordered them to go. Undoubtedly, their faith had been awakened, and they wanted to see for themselves if what the angel said was true. Their discovery changed their lives forever.

   God chose to reveal himself to the lowly, the outcasts of society. The religious leaders rejected him and weren’t invited to his birthday party, but you and I were. What better gift can you give to the Savior this Christmas than that of YOURSELF!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Joseph of Nazareth

Joseph of Nazareth
Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”          (John 1:45-46)
One of the most interesting and little known persons in Jesus’ family was Joseph, his earthly father. Joseph was a simple carpenter who had little money, no kingdom, and no glory. But he loved his neighbors, walked in humility before God, and possessed a faith that looked beyond the human to the divine.
   What a shock it must have been to mild-mannered Joseph when he learned that Mary, to whom he was betrothed, was pregnant. The Bible says: “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” (Matthew 1:18-19 NLT)
   Joseph faced a terrible dilemma! What should he do? He loved Mary, but the news of her pregnancy was devastating.  Before Joseph could break the engagement privately “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21, cf. Isa 7:14)
   Joseph had nothing the world would admire today. But throughout eternity he will be known as a man of faith, mercy, humility, and service—qualities that constitute greatness in the eyes of God.
   God is still looking for men and women of courage who are faithful followers of Jesus Christ. What better gift could we give to our blessed Savior this Christmas than a new commitment to follow in the steps of Joseph?

Prayer: Dear Lord, it is refreshing in this world of wickedness to see a man like Joseph who never shirked his responsibilities and was a just man. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Man on a Mat

Man on a Mat
Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to push through the crowd to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him. So they went up to the roof, took off some tiles, and lowered the sick man down into the crowd, still on his mat, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “So your sins are forgiven.”       (Luke 5:18-20 NLT)
One of my favorite miraculous works of Jesus is the healing of the paralyzed “man on a mat.” This man was totally disabled. He could do nothing to help himself. Couldn’t walk! Couldn’t work! Perhaps couldn’t even feed, clothe, or bathe himself!
   Fortunately, he had four friends who were committed to take care of him 24/7. These were men of great faith as is recognized by Jesus in Luke 5, verse 20—“Seeing their (four men) faith, Jesus said to the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
   This brings up the question: How many of us can count on four friends who would be willing to drop everything and come to our aid anytime 24/7? Could we count on 3, 2, or even 1? If you were in urgent need for help during the wee hours of the morning, who would you call? Just suppose an ambulance is not available. Would you feel comfortable in calling on a neighbor? How would a family member feel being awakened at 3 A.M. to come? Could you count on a member of the church to come?
   Considering the makeup of today’s society where “independency,” and “privacy,” reign supreme, it would be doubtful if such friends could be counted upon. There no longer seems to be a thread of commonality among neighbors and neighborhoods. An invisible sign is posted on the yard reading “don’t invade my space.” It was not this way in the small town where I grew up. Neighbors helped each other. They communicated on a daily basis. If you weren’t seen around the house, a knock would come to your door to see if everyone was okay. No longer do we have that kind of comradery or interest in people’s needs. It’s everyman for himself.
   The paralyzed man was fortunate indeed to have such faithful friends. If you have this kind of relationship with those around you, consider yourself fortunate, and continue to cultivate that relationship—because you are few indeed.

Prayer: Dear Lord, how thankful that You are a friend that sticks closer than a brother. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Being Led by the Spirit

Being Led by the Spirit
Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit to go into the wilderness, where the Devil tempted him for forty days. He ate nothing all that time and was very hungry. (Luke 4:1 NLT)
What do the terms “walk by the Spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal 5:16, 25), and “led by the Spirit” (Mt. 4:1; Lk. 4:1; Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18) mean?
   These two phrases are not related to life guidance in terms of hearing God’s voice on where to work, who to marry, what to buy, or where to move to next. Being led by the Spirit refers to our conduct as believers. The moment we accept Jesus Christ as Savior the Holy Spirit indwells and begins leading us. Our task is to listen and follow his leading. But how do we know when it is the Holy Spirit leading us? The average Christian doesn’t realize WHEN it is actually God the Holy Spirit who is speaking to them. They do not recognize his voice.
   Just as children must learn to recognize their parent’s voice and follow their instructions, so also we must learn how to hear and follow the Spirit’s leading. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my words, and I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn. 10:27) How do we know when it is the Holy Spirit speaking to us?
   May I suggest that we need to practice? Practice! Are you kidding me? Listening, hearing, following is a learning skill. It is just as much a learning skill as it is to learn to be a good reader. It takes practice. You will no doubt make mistakes—that’s why we practice.
   Have you ever noticed while reading the Bible that oftentimes another verse or passage of Scripture comes into your minds? Or maybe, you will see a word, or a phrase that jumps out at you? It is NOT just your mind—but I would suggest that it is the Holy Spirit of God attempting to guide (lead) you into a certain area or direction. But most Christians don’t realize this—so they don’t follow.   If they had followed the leading, perhaps a problem could have been avoided or easily dealt with.

   Put this concept into practice during your daily Bible reading. Begin to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. If He brings a Scripture to mind during your reading—look it up—follow it. The result will be greater knowledge and growth. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Using a Net to Catch Fish

Using a Net to Catch Fish
“Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets, and you will catch many fish.” (Luke 5:4b NLT)
Many modern-day churches today are using the “net” method of fishing for people. Gone are the days of hook, line, and sinker fishing. The emphasis seems to be on reaching the masses. Perhaps that’s why new church building projects include gymnasiums, community and conference centers, playgrounds, carnivals, and other attractive structures. We have our massive programs to reach the public such as large scale musical productions, huge lighting displays, electronic billboards, TV advertisements, etc. This is not to say that these methods are bad or anti-Biblical. After all, Jesus had his first disciples use “nets.” But it does seem that the emphasis on fishing for people has changed.
   Back in the fifties and sixties and even into the seventies personal soul-winning involved the use of gospel tracts, street meetings, and door-to-door evangelism. A number of training programs were instituted to teach people how to do personal evangelism. The Navigators organization introduced the “reach one-win one” method of reaching people for Christ, especially men in the armed services. I remember well my experience as a saved serviceman memorizing the Navs topical memory system of three verses a week.
   Of course there were the Billy Graham crusades where thousands of people were reached with the gospel, but even then personal soul winners were trained and needed to deal with the many people who came forward at the invitation to receive Christ. They were taken through the Bible account of salvation and given materials for discipleship.
   I have fished a lot in the mountain streams, lakes, and beaver ponds in Colorado and Montana, and never used a net. It was always the old-fashioned way with hook, line, and sinker. One time I did catch two fish on a single lure, but that was a rarity. How exciting!
   It is just as exciting when we cast out the bait of the gospel and an individual comes to accept Christ as Savior. Sometimes the fish get off the hook, but we keep on trying. Our task is to “cast out the net”—it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to “reel in the fish.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to keep baiting and casting out the line to fish for people.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Fishing for People

Fishing for People
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” (Luke 5:10b NLT)
As I was reading the account of Jesus’ teaching the people while sitting in Simon Peter’s boat, the Holy Spirit brought a new train of thought to my mind.
   The normal focus of this story is on the miraculous catch of fish. The nets were so full they began to break. Help was needed to land the catch. Simon called for more boats and they were so full that they were on the verge of sinking. No wonder Simon was afraid.
   How many times have I read this account as a fisherman and marveled at the enormous catch of fish! This time, however, a new phrase caught my attention. It’s in the statement made by Jesus to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets, and you will catch many fish.” (Lk. 5:4b). Several factors about Jesus stand out to me that I missed in previous readings.
(1) Jesus knew exactly where the fish were located. Location is always a vital factor when fishing. That’s why serious fishermen use a sonar type fish-finder to identify fish and tell how deep they are from the bottom.
(2) Jesus knew they had fished all night close to shore and caught nothing. Fish usually come in close to shore at night to feed.
(3) Jesus guaranteed that they would catch fish. His words “you will” indicates their success. All that was needed was Simon’s willingness to obey. Even though he had some doubts, Simon said, “If you say so, we’ll try again.” (v. 5)
(4) Jesus assured Simon that they would catch “many” fish. It wouldn’t just be a few, but an enormous catch.
   At first Simon addressed Jesus as “Master,” but after the catch he addresses him as “Lord.” What a change!
   It is important to note that Jesus instructed Simon to “go” out where the fish were located. He didn’t tell him to sit in the boat and wait for the fish to come to him.

   Are you out looking for the fish or sitting back and waiting for the fish to come to you?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Completing the Mission

Completing the Mission
He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “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 14:35 NLT)
Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals, without a shadow of a doubt, that He was on a mission and the completion of that mission was close at hand. This is evidenced by such phrases as “if it were possible,” “the awful hour,” and “might pass him by.” During the entirety of Jesus’ earthly sojourn he had one goal or mission in mind and that was “to seek and save those that were lost.” He established his authority to accomplish this mission by the many miraculous events that took place.
   The final hour has arrived. He is about to be betrayed into the hands of the hate-filled priests to be arrested, tried, and falsely convicted. After the verdict he is thrust into the hands of the brutal soldiers where he is beaten senseless and then executed in cold blood. And why? For what crime? For speaking words of grace and truth.
   Jesus, knowing the extent of the suffering before him, willingly volunteered for this mission. His very words in the garden, “my soul is crushed with grief to the point of death, make me cringe and shed tears of remorse.  How can anyone fault him for the dread and horror that descended on his soul when the moment arrived.
   What did Jesus see when he looked into that awful cup of suffering? The enormity of the wrath of God filling that cup was almost more than even he could bear. The dregs of sin were so repulsive, so vile, so horribly inhuman that even the Son of God cringed at the sight. Can’t you just hear his cry, “Father, please take this cup of suffering from me” (14:35). We must always remember that Jesus was both God and man at the same time. He was a unique person.
   The mission was completed. Salvation was secured. Redemption purchased by the blood of an innocent lamb without spot or blemish. If you are one of the lost sheep that has been found and redeemed, rejoice. If you have never fully trusted in Jesus, do it today.

Prayer: Dear Lord, praise your holy name for seeking me out and rescuing me from sin.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Putting Love in Motion

Putting Love in Motion
And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law. (Mark 12:33 NLT)
During one of Jesus’ many teaching sessions a teacher of the law asked him, “Of all the commandments which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28NLT) This opened the door for Jesus to emphasize to the Jews the importance of following the command given by God in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”
   The teacher of the Law agreed with Jesus, even going so far as to admit that Jesus had spoken the truth. He then proceeds to say that he has followed the command. If this were true, then what was keeping him from becoming a follower of Jesus?
   “Talk is cheap,” as the saying goes. It is one thing to know the right answers, to be able to quote chapter and verse, and to discuss the finer points of theology. But it is another matter entirely to put the words into practice, to be doers of God’s word.  It has been said that many people are only eighteen inches from heaven. Intellectualism will not get a person into heaven. What is needed is a heart transformation.
   The young man in today’s discussion knew the truth in his head: Loving God with all that we are and have. Thinking of him. Pursuing him. Ordering our lives around him. Serving him. Seeking to honor him. Obeying him. And out of that consuming love, loving others compassionately. The man understood all this and could articulate it. He just wasn’t able or refused to live out the truth.
   The discussion that Jesus had with the teacher of the law gets right to the heart of worship. What’s the bottom line? Why have we been created in the image of God? How should we spend our lives? Of all the good things we could focus on, what is the best?
   If you are struggling today to love God as he wants you to and show that love to those around you, call on him to fill you with his compassion.

Prayer: Dear Lord, give me the insight and power to live out your love today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Lifetime Commitment

A Lifetime Commitment
Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. (Mark 1:17-18)
Abram, a business man in Ur of the Chaldees, the son of a father who worshipped idols, heard a voice from heaven telling him to uproot his family and move south to a land that only God knew about. And because Abram had just enough faith to obey this crazy wild call, he found eternal treasure and changed the course of human history.
   Then we find a man named Moses, out on the backside of nowhere, tracking along after a flock of smelly sheep, just killing time, when out of the corner of his eye, he sees a flaming bush that was burning but wasn’t burning up. He steps aside to check it out. And his life—and the world—are changed forever.
   History is filled with men and women who heard God’s call and dared to give up their earthly ambitions to pursue eternal treasures. Where would the world be without the likes of Hudson Taylor, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, Dwight L. Moody, Billy Graham, and others. Countless saints and ordinary people like you and me who hitch their wagons (and lives) to God’s star and attempt outlandish, impossible tasks.
   Wasn’t this what happened to the disciples who were ordinary fishermen? Jesus gave a simple summons—only four words, “Come be my disciples!” Come, leave your families, livelihood (boat and nets), your favorite work to do what? Follow a lowly carpenter-turned-preacher/teacher? But what about…what if…what if?
   What about you? Christ is still looking for disciples who are willing to leave all and follow Him. And, more amazingly, his invitation to still to average—dare I say “flawed” folks who have the faith to join his cause. His only promise—“I will make you fishers of people!”  When we pursue Jesus, our lives will take on a new and different urgency, and go in new directions. Our gifts and abilities are suddenly focused on kingdom building and opportunities.
   Where does his call find you today in God’s overall plan for the kingdom?

Prayer: Dear Lord, give me an urgency to follow your plan for me in your kingdom.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Is Your God Awesome?

Is Your God Awesome?
The Israelites at the foot of the mountain saw an awesome sight. The awesome glory of the Lord on the mountaintop looked like a devouring fire. (Ex. 24:17 NLT)
Have you ever said, “Wow! That’s an awesome sight?” Of all God’s attributes, his awesomeness has taken the greatest verbal mangling by the younger generation. Around your home or on TV, this word has probably been hurled at you more than any other. It’s overused and applied to anything. You see TV advertisements for new cars with people gazing and following them with their eyes, and their expressions are saying, “Now that’s awesome!” The same scene is portrayed by advertisers of other products, all with the goal of drawing you into the marketplace to make a purchase. The time has come to reclaim this word, because in all honesty, God and his creation alone are totally awesome.
   To be awesome is to command both fear and adoration. In the Bible, God chose certain situations to highlight different parts of his character, including his awesomeness. With Moses and seventy other leaders perched on Mount Sinai, God chose to demonstrate this characteristic in the hearts of the people standing below through a consuming fire.
    Earlier, Moses experienced the awesomeness of God through a burning bush that was on fire, but was not burning up. Certainly the “pillar of fire” was an awesome sight as it hovered over the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The awesomeness of God could clearly be seen on the Mount of Transfiguration at described in Matthew 17. Truly we worship an awesome God.
   Instead of attempting to force a respectful response in worship, begin by look inward. Seeing God’s awesomeness means acknowledging the truth about yourself—seeing your own frailty and dependence on him for everything. Picture yourself standing before God, insignificant in the light of his glory. Let God’s greatness resonate in your spirit and change your posture. God yearns to greatly impact and work in the lives of those who humble themselves in this way.

Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive me Lord, for attempting to puff up my status and importance instead of acknowledging your awesome glory. Teach me to view myself honestly. I depend on you for my daily needs, and I give you the praise for my successes. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Let My People Go

Let My People Go
This is what the Lord says; “Let my people go, so they can worship me.”    (Exodus 8:1b NLT)
The statement “Let my people go, so they can worship me,” contains several important truths:
   Truth #1 – There is no getting around the fact that the children of Israel are God’s chosen people and belong to him. Many places in the Scriptures God has spoken, “Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.” (Deut. 7:6b NLT)
   This same truth can be said of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. John the Apostle writes, “You didn’t choose me, I chose you.” (15:16 NLT) Again the Apostle Paul states: “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” (Eph. 1:4 NLT) The Apostle Peter affirms this when he says, “You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.” (1 Peter 2:9a NLT)
   Truth #2 – When God gives a command to one of his creative beings he expects them to obey. This was certainly true of his creation of our first parents Adam and Eve. Unfortunately, both Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and the whole creation fell under God’s curse. It wasn’t long before the sin of disobedience was evidenced again in the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.
   Obedience on the part of believers in Christ is an evidence of their faith.
   Truth #3 – God’s sole desire in giving this command to Pharaoh was to allow the children of Israel time and a place to worship him. Israel needed to find out that worship was the key to their relationship with God. The same is true for believers in this present age.
   As you contemplate your daily activities, don’t forget to plan a time for worship.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I know that worship is a top priority on your daily agenda. Help me make sure that I set aside a time for worship today. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What's Your Excuse?

What’s Your Excuse?
Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt. But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.” (Ex. 3:10-11 NLT)
Forty years have passed since Moses killed an Egyptian and fled from the sentence of death placed on him by Pharaoh. His pride and status have been shattered. His occupation is watching over a flock of sheep on the backside of the desert. Suddenly, he sees as amazing sight. A bush is burning, but it is not burning up. No smoke, no ashes, just flame. As he goes over to get a closer look, a mighty voice speaks to him from the midst of the flaming bush.
   The voice says, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” God goes on to tell Moses that he’s seen the suffering of his people Israel. Then he says, “I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” (Ex. 3:8,10) Did you note that this was not a “request” by God, but a “command?”
   How did Moses respond? Was he willing to take on the task? How do we respond when we are asked by someone in a leadership position to do something for God? Do we like Moses give excuses? Do we say, “Get someone else?” Maybe we’re not quite that blunt. We just say, “I’ll have to pray about it!” (That usually is translated: I don’t want to do it). Or we say, “I don’t feel capable, or I don’t have the time. Or I’m too busy.” These are all similar excuses to what Moses said to the Lord.
   What is an excuse? According to the dictionary, an excuse is “an effort to get released from an obligation.” Why do we give excuses? For me it was always the fear of failure. Once I decided to trust God, the fear would dissipate and God would provide the tools and means to get the job done.
   Don’t be like Moses and say, “Lord, please! Send someone else.” (ex. 4:13) Trust in the Lord and he will supply the need.

Prayer: Dear Lord, don’t allow fear to keep me from serving you. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Not One Kind Worxd

Not One Kind Word
Now Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day he gave Joseph a special gift—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because of their father’s partiality. They couldn’t say a kind word to him. (Genesis 37:3-4 NLT)
“Not one kind word!” Can you imagine an individual who wouldn’t say even one kind word to someone? I can understand sibling rivalry, but how can you go through your daily activities and not say one kind word? How does one react when he comes in contact with the other person? Does he scowl at them? Are nasty words thrown their way? What a terrible way to live one’s life; yet that’s the feeling I get when I read of the actions of Joseph’s brothers.
   Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones that acted in such a manner. Take for instance the actions of Cain whose sacrificial offering was rejected by God, and killed his brother in a fit of rage. Then there was Esau who lost both his birthright and blessings to his brother Jacob and said, “When my father dies I am going to kill my brother Jacob.” King Saul became jealous of David and tried on more than one occasion to kill him with a spear. He even turned against his own son Jonathan because Jonathan loved David. He certainly didn’t have any kind words to say to David. The children of Israel didn’t have any kind words to say to Moses during the wilderness wanderings, and wanted to kill him and go back to Egypt.
   A number of years ago I knew two brothers who worked together at the Shell station on Ashby road in St. Ann and they never talked to each other. What brought that on I do not know, but whatever it was it resulted in a deep bitterness between them. Their attitudes toward each other eventually affected customer relations and both of them had to quit their jobs.
   What a tragedy it would be to go through life without saying one kind word to someone! Jesus was persecuted, harassed, oppressed by religious leaders and yet he showed compassion and kindness. A ready smile will go a long ways in helping people see Jesus in you.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to display a Jesus smile to every person I meet today.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Time of Crisis

A Time of Crisis
At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. “Hurry,” they said to Lot. “Take your wife and two daughters who are here. Get out of here right now, or you will be caught in the destruction of the city.” (Genesis 19:15 NLT)
People react in different ways when faced with a “time of crisis.” Take the case of Abraham and his nephew Lot. Both of these family members are declared in the Scriptures to be “righteous;” yet they both acted differently when a time of crisis came into their lives.
   God, in the person of his pre-incarnate son Jesus Christ, confided in his faithful servant Abraham that catastrophic judgment was coming upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham was visibly upset. He was in a desperation mode. Why? Because he had family members living in Sodom who were about to be destroyed.
   As you read through Genesis chapter 18 take notice of what he doesn’t do. We don’t see him wringing his hands. No stomping of feet! No blaming of anyone!  Instead, he turned to the Lord and boldly engaged in a plea of mercy for the innocent. Abraham’s faith was rewarded by God who agreed to spare the city of Sodom if ten innocent people could be found.
   On the other hand, we see how Lot dealt with this “Time of Crisis.” When the crisis came and the men of the city demanded that the two men be brought out for their sexual pleasure, Lot made a feeble attempt to sway them, then offered his own daughters in exchange for the men. His actions and behavior are not what you would expect from a righteous man. To top it all off when the angels insisted that they leave immediately Lot “hesitated.” (Gen. 19:16a)
   How do we react in a time of crisis? Do we rant and rail against God? Do we point the finger at God and blame him? Or do we react like Abraham and turn to the Lord and plea for mercy. Hebrews 4:16 tells us to “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us where we need it.” (NLT)

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are merciful God and I am thankful that I belong to you. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Living in His Presence

Living His Presence
“Then I bowed my head and worshipped the Lord. I praised the God of my master, Abraham, because he had led me along the right path to find a wife from the family of my master’s relatives.” (Genesis 24:48)
Great men of faith knew what it meant to live each day in the presence of the Lord. Men such as Hudson Taylor, George Mueller, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, D. L. Moody, George Whitefield, and Billy Graham—the list is endless, spent countless hours before the throne of grace in prayer and meditation.
   While secular men and women use such words and phrases like “Get busy!” “Hurry up!” “Make it happen!” “Get up to speed!” people of faith operate on a different plane. From their lips you hear words like “Ask,” “Seek,” “Knock,” “Wait,” “Trust,” “Lead me and guide me.”
   A great example of a lifestyle that utilized words of faith was Eliezer, the servant of Abraham. He took an oath to “seek” a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s son, among the relatives living in northwestern Mesopotamia. It was a long and arduous journey over dangerous terrain. At last, Eliezer arrived at a well and bowed his head and prayed, “O Lord, God of my master, give me success and show kindness to my master, Abraham. Help me to accomplish the purpose of my journey.” (Gen. 24:12)
   He uttered a specific prayer and God answered in a specific manner. No sooner had he finished praying when a young maiden came to draw water. Eliezer had prayed that the one who offered him a drink and also gave water to his camels would be the one God had chosen. Sure enough that is exactly what happened. Eliezer offered a prayer of thanksgiving by saying, “The Lord has been so kind and faithful to Abraham, for he had led me straight to my master’s relatives.” (Gen. 24:27b)
   As you go about your daily activities slow down and live in the presence of the Lord by using words of faith like that of Eliezer and other great men of faith.

Prayer: Dear Lord, may I put into practice the prayer of faith, “ask and you shall receive that your joy may be full.”

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Lord Will Provide

The Lord Will Provide
Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering on the altar in place of his son. Abraham named the place “The Lord will provide”—Jehovah Jireh.                (Gen. 22:13-14NLT)
Abraham and his son, Isaac, along with two servants and all their supplies left early one morning for a distant mountain to offer a sacrifice in worship of the LORD. As the two of them went on together, Isaac said, “Father?” “Yes, my son,” Abraham replied. “We have the wood and the fire,” said the boy, “but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” “God will provide a lamb my son,” Abraham answered. And they both went on together. (Gen. 22:6b-8 NLT)
   I remember my first mission trip to Peru with Wycliffe Associates. We formed a team and took all the supplies we would need to minister to the children of Bible translators for a week while they participated in their annual conference. Like Abraham and his son, Isaac, it was a venture of faith.
   Abraham’s experience was such an example of faith that it recorded for all to see by the writer of the book of Hebrews, “It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promise, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, though God had promised him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.’” (Heb. 11:17-18 NLT)
   God often uses trials to test our faith. Not as a means of discovering if have faith, but rather to strengthen it. We are told in James 1:2-3, “Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” Faith that is not tested is not real faith.
   Like Abraham, when our faith is tested we are assured that “The Lord will provide.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me be like your servant Abraham and trust you in the midst of testing and trial.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

No Rivals

No Rivals
Later on God tested Abraham’s faith and obedience. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you.”(Gen. 22:1-2 NLT)
What a shocker! God, you can’t be serious! Am I hearing you correctly? You must be making a mistake. Let me get this straight. You’re asking me to give back to you the son that I have longed for all my life. What about the promise? The covenant?  The descendants?  Do you realize what this means?
   These could have been the thoughts of Abraham. If we had been in the same situation, they might have been ours. Did Abraham balk at this command? Did he shy away from his duty? Did he try to rationalize a way out of the situation? NO! What did he do?
   The Scripture tells us that he began to prepare for the journey. Early the next morning, he saddled his donkey, gathered some wood for the fire, took his son Isaac, and two of his servants and off they went to Mount Moriah.
   Has God ever given you a task that seemed to go against everything you believed? Perhaps it was something that made no sense to you and human wisdom said it was impossible to achieve. It may be that God was testing your faith as he was with Abraham. How did you respond?
   The scene of Abraham and his son walking toward Mt. Moriah is a blunt and sobering truth. It teaches us that God will have “no rivals.” He must possess our heart, soul, and mind (will). (Matt. 22:37) If we do not treasure or love God in all three areas, then God will demonstrate like he did with Abraham that he is all we need by making sure that he is all we have.
   Ironically, it is when we are faced with a seemingly impossible task that we discover that God is what we hunger for most, and our relationship with him is the only thing that will satisfy.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are all that I need, and I want no rivals to come between us.