Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What's in a Name

What’s in a Name?
Scripture Reading: Genesis 35:1-14
“Your name is no longer Jacob, you will be called Israel.” Then God said, “I am God Almighty. Multiply and fill the earth! Become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants!” (Gen. 35:10-11 NLT)
The biblical name El-Shaddai reveals the nature and character of God. The root word El stands for God and means might, strength, and power. An article taken from the website “Hebrews for Christians” defines El-Shaddai as follows: “Jacob’s blessing given in Gen. 49:25 indicates that Shaddai might be related to the word for breasts (shadaim) indicating sufficiency and nourishment. In this case, the name might derive from the contraction of sha (who) and dai (enough) to indicate God’s complete sufficiency to nurture the fledging nation into fruitfulness.”
     El-Shaddai is associated with the Hebrew patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and is used frequently in the book of Job, who was a contemporary with Abraham.
     El-Shaddai as the Almighty God changed the names of both Abram to Abraham (Gen. 17:5) and Jacob to Israel (Gen. 35:10-12) reaffirming his promise to make of them mighty nations with kings as their descendants.
     El-Shaddai is associated with a mountain in Ps. 121:1 where the Psalmist asks, “I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there?” He answers his own question by saying, “My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth!”
     I love the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. To me, they speak of God’s strength, majesty, eternity, and grandeur. Walking among the trees and along the slopes provides refreshment, solitude, and peace. From the deck of my house at the seven thousand foot elevation on Fruitland Mesa in Western Colorado, with the use of binoculars, I would watch the movement of the elk and mule deer on the foothills across the way. In the evening twilight deer came down in our yard to graze. I sure do miss the mountains. Now, I have to be content with the Mo. Ozarks.
     Jesus urged his followers to “flee to the hills” (Lk. 21:21) when disturbed and unsettled over difficult circumstances. In the New Testament, we often see Jesus sitting on a mountainside teaching the people, or alone on a mountain top praying to El-Shaddai.
     Who do you turn to when storms of life and troubled waters appear to engulf you? If you turn to the mountains, El-Shaddai is there. No matter where you find yourself, rest assured that the Almighty God is present to give you refuge. Isn’t he someone you can trust?

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to honor you name, and enter into the presence of El-Shaddai

Monday, February 23, 2015

Whatever it Takes

Whatever it takes
Scripture Reading: Luke 22:39-46
Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, “Pray that you will not be overcome by temptation.” He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” (Lk. 22:39-42 NLT)
Many years ago I heard a sermon entitled, “Whatever it takes.” I no longer remember any of the details of the message, but I do vividly recall the title. In fact, I have adopted the sermon title as my life’s motto for serving the Lord.
     In my mind, I can imagine the Heavenly Father and Jesus discussing the Son’s coming to earth and putting on human flesh. The Father explained the purpose of his Son’s pilgrimage to earth. His created human beings were separated from him because of their sin of disobedience and needed redemption. The Holy demands of his wrath against sin had to be satisfied. Justice had to prevail. Atonement was necessary. An innocent lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus was that lamb. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane can be summed up by saying, “Whatever it takes.”
     As we study the events surrounding Jesus’ life here on earth, we see his departing prayer being fulfilled. We see the plan of God unfolding in the preaching of John the Baptist. We see it when Jesus dealt with the woman at the well, and the feeding of the five thousand. We see it in his raising Lazarus from the dead. We see it in the upper room discourse and on the Mount of Olives when Jesus was crucified. We see it finalized when he cried out to his Father, “It is finished.” (John 19:30 NLT)
     When it boils down to our service for the Lord, we need to be willing to say to our Heavenly Father, I am willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill your will for my life. God promises to supply whatever is needed to get the job done. God was certainly with us when we went to Yaounde, Cameroon for a month at a time during the years 2009-2011 to serve as pre-school teachers for Bible translator’s children. The Lord kept us safe and healthy even when storms came through and electricity failed or the city shut off the water supply. Any inconvenience can be tolerated as long as you know that God is present and overshadowing you. God used this time to deepen our trust in him, and to mold our lives in closer conformity to his Son, Jesus Christ.
     Where do you stand on the issue of whatever it takes? Are you willing to say with Isaiah, “Lord, here am I, send me?”

Prayer: Dear Lord, as we count the cost, help us to be willing to do whatever it takes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Total Darkness

Total Darkness
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:1-30
The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface. Then God Said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” (Gen. 1:1-4 NLT
 Have you ever experienced total darkness? Of all the people that Jesus healed while here on earth, I would think that giving sight to the blind would rank high on his list of achievements. Can you imagine what it would be like to lose you sight after being able to see?
     One time my wife and I took a tour through Marvel Cave at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. The guide took us five hundred feet down into the earth and at one point in our walk he turned out all the lights. Total darkness! Not one shred of light, not even a glowworm. We could not even see our hands in front of our faces. We felt closed in and helpless. A scary feeling crept into my stomach, and I was so relieved when the lights were turned on again.
     That’s what millions of lost souls will encounter when they face an eternity in hell without Christ. Peter in his second epistle reveals the destiny of false teachers when he states, “They are doomed to blackest darkness” (2 Pet. 2:17 NLT). Jude reminds us that the evil angels who “did not stay within the limits of their authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged are chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the day of judgment” (Jude 6 NLT).
     The Bible states that complete darkness covered the earth from noon to three o’clock as Jesus hung dying on the cross. Satan rejoiced thinking he had won a great victory only to find instead his destiny sealed and Jesus alive on the third day—just as he said.
     During a visit to the war museum in London, England my wife and I entered a room where all the lights were turned off. We sat in total darkness and experienced the falling of bombs and scream of sirens simulating the blitzkrieg of London in World War 2. What a horrifying experience that must have been for the people of England! We could see fires burning and buildings destroyed. It seemed so real that we could almost feel the anxiety and fear of the people.
     Jesus came to bring light and life to a dark and decadent world. He said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life. (Jn 8:12 NLT).
     My dear friend, if you have received Jesus as personal Savior, you can rejoice in the gift of eternal life. If not, then darkness awaits you. Jesus said, “All who come to me, I will in no wise cast aside” (Jn 6:37 NLT). Won’t you consider inviting Jesus into your heart and life today?

Prayer: Dear Lord, may I allow the light of Christ living in me shine so all the world can see.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Forgotten Shut-Ins

The Forgotten Shut-Ins
Scripture Reading: Genesis 7:11-24
“Two by two they came into the boat, male and female, just as God has commanded. Then the Lord shut them in.” (Gen. 7:15-16 NLT)
I feel sorry for all the thousands of people who are shut-ins at nursing homes or sanitariums. Many are physically incapable of hearing, seeing, or walking, and some are even confined to a bed or wheelchair. They are often ignored, abandoned, forgotten, and isolated. How awful it must be not to get outside to feel the warmth of the sun, hear the chirping of birds, and seeing the playful antics of squirrels and rabbits.
     In the early 1940s my family was quarantined on two different occasions. Once when our neighbor exposed us to scarlet fever and the other time when my sister Delores and I caught a case of the old fashioned German measles. The local health department came out and nailed a quarantine sign reading contagious disease KEEP OUT, onto our door. I don’t remember how long we were shut-in, but I do remember the feeling of isolation. In those days we didn’t have television, Nintendo, play station videos, or music CD’s. All we had was a small radio, player piano, and a few phonograph records. Believe me, being confined is not a pleasant experience.
     I wonder how Noah felt after God shut the door of the ark. Noah was six hundred years old when the flood waters covered the earth and he was confined to the ark for one year before dry land appeared and the door was opened. Besides feeding and taking care of all the animals what did they do for entertainment? How did they function as a family? Did tempers flare or tensions arise during their closed environment? It would seem inconceivable that a whole year would pass without some sort of complaint or disagreement.
     Jonah knew what it was like to be a shut-in. He spent three days and three nights in the stomach of a great fish before being spit out onto the beach. I can’t even imagine what he went through while in that fish. The acidity, stench, and garbage that flowed around in that fish must have been unbearable. No wonder he prayed to the Lord for forgiveness and release. How would you like it if you were confined in a great fish with seaweed wrapped around your head? When he was spit out on the beach it was like rising from the dead. What a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ!
     Let me encourage you to pray for all the forgotten shut-ins. Many of them are without hope and waiting for the day that they will die. What a blessing it is when people spend time visiting and talking with them! In some areas pets are taken to these facilities for the shut-ins to cuddle, pet, and embrace. Their faces light up with joy, and they experience a moment of happiness.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I ask you to bring some joy into the lives of the forgotten shut-ins. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Finish Line

The Finish Line
Scripture Reading: Acts 20:1-24
“But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the good news about God’s wonderful kindness and love.  (Acts 20:24 NLT)
It takes determination, dedication, and commitment to run a marathon.  My daughter took up the sport of running, and trained for months in preparation for a marathon race in Olathe, Kansas. It was a cool November morning as we waited at the starting line for the beginning of the race. We met her at the twenty mile mark and urged her to continue. I told her, “We’ll be waiting for you at the finish line.” My wife and I waited anxiously for the first sight of her coming down the home stretch. We shouted with joy as she crossed the line and received a medal for her effort. Afterward we asked her how it went, “She said, the first half of the race went well, but the last half was a grueling battle between mind and body. The last six miles, when the legs begin to cramp and the body threatens to shut down, were the worst.”  What an achievement!
     A runner has one goal in mind—the finish line. In a hundred yard dash, one quick glance back at an opponent can mean the difference between first and fourth place. This is why coaches emphasize over and over—keep your eye on the tape at the finish line. Only one person can win the gold medal—the victor.
     The Apostle Paul made it his life’s goal to tell everyone the good news that Jesus came to save them from their sins. He feared that if he looked back or turned aside he’d become a castaway. Nothing could deter him from his assigned mission. No amount of beatings, prison cells, shipwrecks, or trials could cause him to lose his focus. The finish line was always in view.
     Why is it that in the race of life we are so easily distracted and lose our focus on the person who has called us to spread the good news? If we have divided loyalties between serving Jesus and self-interests, those self-interests will surely cause us to lose the race.
     We see this in the life of the wealthiest, wisest, and most powerful king who ever lived—Solomon. Twice God visited him and blessed him more than any other man in Israel’s history. In his later life, Solomon allowed his foreign wives to turn his affections away from the true God to other false gods. He lost his focus and failed to keep his eyes fastened on God’s finish line.
     The key to success in winning the race of life is—commitment. What is your level of commitment? Are you prepared for a marathon? Begin your training today by exercising in the word of God. The Bible is our training manual, and it’s precepts worth mastering.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to endure and keep my eyes focused on the finish line. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Role of Leadership

Role of Leadership
Scripture Reading: Matthew 20:20-28
“What is your request?” he asked. She replied, “In your kingdom, will you let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one at your right and the other at your left?” (Mt. 20:21 NLT)
There are two possible motives why a person would want to be in a leadership role. Either a person wants to serve others, or they want to serve themselves. Unfortunately, there are some who are in leadership positions solely to fulfill personal ambitions regardless of the needs of others. This is especially true in the marketplace. Perhaps you have witnessed those who seek to climb the ladder of success and notoriety by stepping over those below them. I’ve heard it said that in the business world it is a dog eat dog affair.
     The mother of Zebedee’s sons had the same self-serving motivation when she asked Jesus to put her two sons in positions of authority in his coming kingdom. It is obvious from the context in Matthew 20 that her two sons were privy to this request. When Jesus asked them if they were able to bear the same suffering that he was about to endure they responded, “We are able” (v.22). “You will indeed drink from it,” he told them (v. 23).
     How do you see yourself as a leader in God’s kingdom? God has chosen you and me to be leaders in our homes, workplaces, communities, and churches. These leadership roles require people to be in positions of authority over the lives of others. How they exercise this authority is the real test of their character. Will they seek control in order to lord it over the brethren, or for the purpose of serving them?
     Jesus stated his purpose in coming down to earth in Mark 10:45. It would be well for each of us to commit this purpose to memory and practice it in our lives. Jesus said, “For even I, the Son of Man, came here not be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (NLT)
     The Apostle Paul’s advice is well worth following: “Don’t be selfish, don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.” (Ph 2:3-4)
     What kind of leader will you choose to be? Are you committed to serving the welfare of others? Or will you use your God given authority for a self-serving agenda? If we desire to lead, we must be willing to follow the example and leadership that Jesus exemplified while here among us.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you modeled the kind of leadership that you want us to follow. Help me be a leader that shows compassion, humility, and grace. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Prisoner in Chains

Prisoner in Chains
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3 NLT)
Paul was chained to two rotating guards in a Roman prison. He knew what it meant to be free and he understood confinement. Unbelievers are confined by the devil’s chains of sin, but when they embrace by faith the person and work of Jesus Christ they are forever set free.
     Paul considered himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ long before he became a prisoner of Rome. He pointed to his chains to draw our attention to the need for absolute surrender. Paul urges us in Ephesians 4:1-3 to follow five principles of holy living.
Humility – as Christians we are to put aside pride and haughtiness, and walk with modesty and meekness. In order to do this we will need to have the mind of Christ as set forth by Paul in Philippians 2:5-8.
Gentleness – a gentle person is mild-mannered and amiable. He is never harsh, stern, or violent. He recognizes authority, but never uses it wrongly. David treated King Saul with respect and kindness because he was the Lord’s anointed.
Patience – is the hardest path to follow. We live in an instant-mindset society where it is an inconvenience to wait more than five minutes for a meal or five seconds for a traffic light to change. If you’ve ever stood in line at an airport ticket counter, or followed a truck up a long hill, you know what I mean.
Love – is proof of a worthy walk. It is the mechanism that causes the wheels of progress to turn, and the glue that holds everything in place. There is no unity without the love of Christ flowing smoothly in the hearts of people.
Unity – the early church was vibrant and growing because everyone was in harmony. Unity is needed for spiritual growth, and a church without unity becomes stagnant and dissentious. Jesus said, “I in them and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23 NKJ).
     These are the principles that guide my life. I can’t say that I have always been successful in following them, but I do know that with the Spirit’s help they are achievable.

Prayer: Dear Lord, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I want to follow these principles.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Pathway to Worship

Pathway to Worship
Scripture Reading: Revelation 7:9-17
“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.” (Rev. 4:11 NLT)
What does it mean to worship? How do I know when I am offering true worship? Does God really need my worship? Is there a right and wrong way to worship? These and other questions flood my mind as I contemplate the pathway to worship.
     Worship in its simplest form is assigning value to someone or something. When a person considers something valuable he or she will devote time, energy, material resources, and affection to that person or object. I’m that way with fishing and hunting. Some of my most meaningful times of worship have come while sitting in a boat on a quiet lake, or sitting in a tree stand waiting for the break of day.
     Everyone in the world is a worshiper of a person or thing. There is an inborn desire to reach out to worship something beyond ourselves. We all have relationships or objects that we consider valuable, and usually one person or object holds supreme worth. It is not a question of or if a person will worship; rather it’s who or what we will worship.
     The Bible declares that God is the one who deserves our worship. “You are worthy, O Lord our God to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created (Rev. 4:11 NLT).
     It might surprise you to find out that God does not need your worship. He is complete, independent, and self-sufficient. He is perfect and lacking nothing. The heavens themselves shout the glory of God (Ps. 19:1) and angels shout holy, holy, holy twenty-four hours a day as they surround his throne (Rev. 4:8). Failing to worship God leads to a sense of un-fulfillment and emptiness. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
     Why do we worship our Creator God? What does worship provide? Worship brings to the forefront the presence of God. Regardless of your posture, worship recognizes the nearness of God. It should be a time of celebration, joy, gratitude, and reverence.
     The next time you enter into worship do so with anticipation, excitement, praise, and gratitude for all that your “God has done for you. Thank him for sending his son, Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for your sins. It is the pathway to true worship.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to express the joy of my salvation in worshipful praise all day long.