Monday, May 15, 2017

Amazing Likeness

Amazing Likeness
“The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 NLT)
What was different about Peter and John that caused them to stand out as special before the religious leaders of the Jews? No special training—just ordinary! No fancy clothes—homespun duds! No special hairstyles—shaggy hair and beards! No fragrant aroma—smelled of fish! What then was the reason for their boldness?
   The key factor is that they were recognized as being with Jesus. What is it about being with Jesus that made Peter and John look different than those around them? What did they have that others did not have? It was the same thing that you will have if you spend time with Jesus. What exactly will these changes look like in your life?
   First, if you spend any amount of time at all with Jesus, there is bound to be a transformation. Everything about you changes. Your attitude! Your mannerisms! Your manner of speech! Your thought life! Your actions! EVERYTHING!
   Second, you will have a new boldness—a valiant spirit. You won’t be ashamed of Christ or the gospel.  You will be willing to put your life on the line for the sake of the good news.
  Third, you will imitate the loving spirit of Christ. You will think kindly, speak kindly, and do kindly, so that others may say of you, “He/she has been with Jesus.”
  Fourth, you will imitate Jesus in his holiness. You will keep your life pure, free of the taint of sin.
   To be “like Jesus” is to be fervent in prayer, submissive to his will, forgiving of your enemies, and persevering in the midst of trials.
   Is “Amazing Likeness” possible? Yes, it is feasible, but only through the grace of God. It all depends upon how much time we are willing to spend with Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, how blessed to hear someone say, “He’s been with Jesus.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Spiritual Slumps

Spiritual Slumps
“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? (Psalm 13:1-2)
Have you ever experienced a “spiritual slump”?
   Athletes hate slumps. They’ll try anything and everything to get out of those times when they can’t hit the baseball or make a free throw or catch a pass or get the puck in the net or make a putt.  Baseball players change bats, shave their beards, choke up on the bat. Basketball players change shoes, socks, head bands. Football players change their routine. Golfers change clubs or balls. They’ll try anything to get out of the slump.
   Christians should hate slumps too. We should try anything to eliminate those dry spells when we can’t seem to pray past the ceiling or when reading the Bible seems more frustrating than helpful.
   A spiritual slump can make us feel forsaken by God. We struggle with a joyless attitude. Our hearts become heavy and we feel a weariness that we can’t explain. The bright side to life seems to have vanished. If not remedied, we lose our sense of hope. We get to the place where we feel we are fighting a losing battle.
   As we read the words of David in Psalm 13, we realize that we are not alone. David found himself in just such a predicament. He cries out to God in the midst of his “spiritual slump.” How long, O Lord, is his cry! Will you abandon me forever?
   We need to take heed of David’s words in the remainder of the Psalm. He knew how to work his way out of the slump. First, he appealed to God who is the true source of spiritual refreshment in dry times (vv. 3-4). Second, he trusted in God’s unfailing love (v.5). Third, he sang praises to God, recognizing how important worship is (v. 6).
   If you fall into a “spiritual slump” follow the procedures outlined by David.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are all susceptible to “spiritual slumps.”  Help me put into practice the advice of David.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Flawless Words

Flawless Words
“And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.” (Psalm 12:6 NIV)
How reliable are the promises of your neighbors, co-workers, family members or friends? 
   The Scripture is clear when it says, Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race. Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.” (Psalm 12:1-2)
   When was the last time a neighbor or a co-worker borrowed something from you with the promise that they’d return it as soon as they were through with it, but it never returned?
   The Psalmist David must have had such an experience for he said, “The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.” (Psalm 37:21)
   I have never forgotten a time many years ago when I promised to take my grandson fishing and then reneged on the promise. Not only was my grandson very upset with me, but his mother reminded me of the broken promise. I immediately sought to limit the damage done to his trust by orchestrating an outing to make up for my mistake. It’s not the first time the Lord has used a child to humble me and teach me a valuable lesson.
   People are quick to give their word, but sometimes we can’t rely on what they tell us. It’s very possible that David was having trouble with this issue; otherwise, why did he pen these thoughts in Psalm 12. We don’t know the specific words or circumstances that prompted his remarks, but he must have felt surrounded by untrustworthy people. His lament was: “everyone lies” (v. 2).
   Everyone, that is, except God. His words are “pure and flawless,” like silver that has been through a refiner’s fire seven times (v. 6). We can believe God. His promises stand. He cannot lie.

Prayer: Dear Lord, what a joy to know that your words are forever true and trustworthy.  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Head for the Hills

Head for the Hills
“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?
What is the first inclination when facing danger of any kind? A man with a gun! Shots fired! A ferocious dog with barring teeth! The cry goes out – run, run for your life! Get away as far as you can. These are all natural or normal reactions when we are threatened or feel our life is in danger.
   People are fleeing today. Husbands are fleeing their families with the intent to get out from under their responsibilities; thus abandoning their children. Others are fleeing to the hills hoping to find peace away from crime or terror. Refugees are fleeing from their homeland because of the fear of death from anarchy or other rebel factions. If you are waiting for good to win out over evil in society, you may be in for a long wait. Things appear to be going from bad to worse. As we look around us today, we see values that used to stand for something being crumbled under foot.  You can’t blame upright honest people from feeling that they have nowhere to turn—that they must escape.
   Psalm 11 was written by David at a time when Israel may have felt that escape was the only viable action. The people feared the attacks of their enemies and sensed that the foundations of justice were crumbling. That’s why some of them were saying to David, “Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.” (v. 1-2)
   But escape is not the answer. Elimelech and Naomi tried that back in the book of Ruth and looked what happened to them. What happens when you try to “head for the hills” to get away from your problems-- “your problems go with you?” 
   David gives the solution in verse 4 – “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them.” What is David saying? Keep your focus on God—he is in control. He’s keeping his eyes on things—he will have the final word.
   Don’t “head for the hills,” instead, trust God and keep doing what’s right.

Prayer: Dear Lord, may we always remember, no matter how everything seems you are the one who is in control and makes the final decision. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Time to Move Forward

A Time to Move Forward
Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.” (1 Samuel 16:1)
Notice in the beginning of this passage that God approves of a time of mourning, but there comes a time when his plan and purpose must move forward. Grieving over a lost loved one is necessary for healing purposes, but if it turns to self-pity God is not pleased. Samuel is deeply grieved by the failure of Saul as king. But God will not permit His servant to be immobilized by grief, as we ourselves sometimes are. Samuel is told to take a flask of olive oil and go and anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be Israel’s future king in place of Saul. At first, Samuel is full of fear. He says, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.”
   I can relate to that fear. When I received my first preaching assignment in a little church in Stanton, Missouri, I was so scared that my knees were knocking together. Had it not been for the pulpit to hide me, I surely would have collapsed from fright. The Holy Spirit, however, sustained me, and I made it through the service.
   God gave Samuel help and assurance for his fear by telling him to take a sacrifice with him. Taking the Lord at his word, the Scripture says, “So Samuel did what the Lord said,…” (v. 4)
   I have felt like Samuel many times, but God always provided the necessary means and courage to take on the task. In the end, the job was accomplished and God received the glory and the kingdom of God moved forward.
   What do we learn from this? When God gives you a task to accomplish or an open door to go through, trust in the Lord and move forward in his strength. When Israel became “frightened” at the Red Sea, God told Moses, “Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” (Ex. 14:15) Because of their obedience, the people were able to walk across on dry ground. God will do the same for you.

Prayer: Dear Lord, let me always remember that you are my source of help.