Thursday, October 13, 2016

Stand Your Ground

Stand Your Ground
Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:1-14
But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Ex. 14:13-14 NLT)
A growling, snarling dog is charging. What should you do? One part of your mind says, stand still, but another part says, let’s get out of here. The dog appears to be in an attack mode, and as fear whelms up in your throat your feet seem to be paralyzed. Standing your ground in the face of threatening circumstances may be the hardest thing you’ll ever be called upon to do. It certainly was for the children of Israel.
     The children of Israel faced such a situation when they came to the Red Sea. The ground was shaking from the rumble of the many chariots racing toward them. They were terrified and complained to Moses. What shall we do? Where can we hide? They were caught between the sea and the advancing army of the Egyptians. They couldn’t go back even if they wanted to and the mountains and sea had them  hemmed in on all sides. All appeared to be lost. Moses called out to God and then commanded them to, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” I’m sure they must have thought, Are you serious Moses? Don’t you hear the rumble of the chariots? Can’t you feel the shaking of the ground under our feet? Stand still , you say! We are about to be overtaken and slaughtered and you want us to stand still. That’s ridiculous! You’re out of your mind. We want to run and hide except there’s nowhere to go. That’s what fear will do to a person. Fear paralyzes our minds. Only as we exercise faith can we move forward.
     What would you have thought? How would you have responded? The growling, snarling dog is getting closer. Can’t wait much longer! If I decide to stand still, I will have to exercise faith and trust in the Lord. That’s what the children of Israel had to do. The Lord God was testing their faith to see if they would rely completely upon him for their salvation. Finally, the Lord gave the command to move forward. This was another test of their faith.
     Our faith is being tested on a daily basis. How will we handle life’s struggles? Will we try to handle everything in our own strength? Will we rely upon our own abilities to see us through? Or will we be like the children of Israel and be willing to stand still and see how God works things out? Trying circumstances have a way of showing up at our doorstep. When our paycheck doesn’t come! When our child is sick! When we are misunderstood and falsely accused! When we face circumstances that threaten our security, do we reach out by faith and lay hold upon the promises of God, or do we allow fear to immobilize us?

     The Psalmist said, “But you, O Lord, are a shield to me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high” (Ps. 3:3). Stand fast and trust the one who is fighting for you. The battle is the Lords.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sharing Christ

Sharing Christ with Others
Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:27-38
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt. 9:36 NASB)
Have you ever struggled to turn a conversation to spiritual things? I look upon every meeting as though it were an appointment set up by God. To me, the easiest way to connect with people is to get them on the subject of travel. Here’s an example:
     I met a friend at Walmart and he said, “I’m bushed. I just spent a week at an International Conference in North Carolina.” I responded, “I know what you mean. I just came back from prison.” His questioning look gave me the opportunity to tell him about our mission trip to Angola State prison in Zachary, La. Of course, there was more to the conversation, but you get the idea. If you have done Christian service assignments there is always an opportunity to share your spiritual service with others. Just get the ball rolling and let the Holy Spirit direct the conversation and you’ll be amazed how doors open to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
     The biggest hurdle that I have found in sharing Christ is the fear of rejection. What if someone shuts the door in your face? What if they totally reject what you are saying? Be polite! Thank them for allowing you to bring up the subject of Christ. Do not be discouraged. The Holy Spirit knows when a person is ready to listen to the gospel. Trust in his timing. Try to end the conversation on an amiable note. There may be other times and opportunities down the road to speak to that person again.
     Jesus used lots of different ways to get the attention of people. On the seashore he sat in a boat and taught them about his relationship to God. On a hillside he proved who he was by using the multiplication five loaves and two sardines. At a gravesite he used life giving powers. At a wedding he used six water pots of water. On the road to Emmaus he used the Old Testament Scriptures. In the Temple he used a whip. On one occasion he put a coin in a fish’s mouth, and on another occasion the hem of his garment got a woman’s attention. He even used a sycamore tree to get Zaccheus’s attention. In the final analysis, what do all these different ways and means tell us? Simply this, there is no one set method of sharing Christ with others.
     Whenever you go out into your mission field, ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your thoughts and conversations with those you meet. Every person you encounter is an appointment waiting to happen. Be prepared to give a reason to every man for your faith in Christ.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be like the Apostle Paul who said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation…” (Rom. 1:16a)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Open Letter to the Lord

Open Letter to the Lord
Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 19:14-28
After Hezekiah received the letter and read it, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. (2 Kings 19:14 NLT)
Can you hear and feel the threatening tone, the arrogance, the utter disdain directed toward Israel’s God in the letter from King Sennacherib of Assyria. It was enough to put a chill down your spine. It sounded like disaster was about to strike. What a dilemma!
     What would King Hezekiah do? How would he react to this dilemma? Would he give in to temptation and take the deal? Let’s apply the situation to our own dilemmas! How do we deal with the dilemmas of life when they occur such as: a child who is hopelessly handicapped and can’t speak or take proper care of himself. It may be through no fault of his own, nevertheless, the burden of responsibility hangs over our heads like a cloud. We may ask, “Lord, will I ever be free of this burden? Will there ever be a time when he/she will be able to live outside the home? It is a supreme test of the depth of our love and commitment. At times, we may be tempted to throw up our hands in despair and cry out, “How long, O Lord, must I bear this burden?” I wonder, “Was that how Hezekiah felt?”
     God saw the open letter full of accusations, false promises, and blasphemous words and sent a message through his prophet, Isaiah saying, “His armies (speaking of Sennacherib) will never enter Jerusalem to shoot their arrows. They will not march outside the gates with their shields and build banks of earth against its walls. For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David, I will defend it” (2 Kings 19:32,34 NLT).
     The Scriptures tell us, “That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian troops. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.” (2 Kings 19:35-36 NLT ) Later he was killed by two of his own sons, who then escaped to Ararat.
     What kind of dilemma are you facing today? Is it in a tangible form, such as a threatening letter? Is the situation taxing your faith? Are you in need of wisdom, courage, or direction? Write it on a piece of paper. Spread your open letter on the floor, and bow before the Lord in honest, pleading, persistent prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you know the dilemma I face. You know that I don’t have a solution. You alone offer rescue from desperate situations. I come to you first, not as a last resort.