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.