Friday, September 28, 2007

09 28-07 Count the Costs

“Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’”
(Luke 9:23)

If I ask how many people are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, no doubt many, if not most of you reading this would respond with a resounding “I am!” If I asked how many followers would gladly give the 10% tithe, many still would probably respond with an “I do!” So far so good…... Now for the hard questions: Would you give you next week’s lunch money to the visiting missionary? Would you support a needy family at Christmas and sacrifice the new video game system? Would you give up weekly night out with friends for time with family? Would you consider a week-long mission trip in place of a week at the beach? Would you sacrifice a promising and comfortable secular career for a life in the mission field or in other full-time ministry for God’s people?

What is it worth to you and me to follow Christ; really follow Christ? A week’s worth of lunches ($50.00); a video game system for the family ($300.00); a week’s vacation at the beach ($1,500.00); hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant, great is your reward” (PRICELESS…ENDLESS…ETERNAL)! Are we able to count the costs? Do we even realize the price Christ paid for our sin debt? Can we even calculate the number? Do we have a calculator big enough (you guys who took calculus, trigonometry, and those other outrageous classes!). Why do we take our salvation so casually then? Why won’t we give freely of ourselves and our resources? Who are we to hoard what isn’t even ours to begin with?

Count the costs! Keep what we have. Give away only what we can afford. Even save a little for a rainy day. The needy will be taken care of. There are enough government programs to feed the poor, care for children and shelter the homeless. Give the minimum and never go beyond what we can figure out. Does that sound like the Christian Jesus was calling? Is this why He suffered so viscously at the hands of the soldiers? Is this why he was beaten, bloodied and drug through the streets to the cross at Calvary?

..…. he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me…… Are we following a financial plan or following the Savior?

…… whoever loses his life for my sake will save it……are we following our dreams, or God’s plans for our lives?

Count the costs and ask, “Is it worth it, for the Savior’s sake, the way I am living today?” I won’t kid anyone anymore. It’s terribly expensive to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It cost Jesus His life on the cross and it costs me my selfish dreams and desires. My life is not my own anymore, but I am tying to live out my days for Christ’s desires through me. At times it hurts. At times it brings me to tears. But it’s a cost I am willing to pay. It’s worth the price. Because the SON will soon rise and a new DAY is coming!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

09 27 07 Let’s be Serious

“Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.”
(1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NET Bible)

Just for once, let’s be serious. Paul is addressing the carnal Corinthians and has finished answering a series of questions posed to him. Now he goes on to challenge them. Is the Gospel really clear to them……is it clear to us? This is a challenging, yet very serious question even today. With all the means we have to hear the Gospel and see it lived out, are we hearing and seeing the real Gospel, or a phony representation of the Truth?

I must admit, I am very suspicious of many people who simply declare I am a Christian yet so no evidence of ever hearing or believing in God’s Word. Let’s be serious, the Gospel is not a promise of good health, a providing husband, a lovely wife, a dependable job, or a new home for our family. It doesn’t promise us happiness or great health. It doesn’t guarantee a college education for our kids or a life free of trouble. The Gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of man’s sin! We must believe it all, not part of it. No death; no resurrection; no resurrection; no forgiveness of sin. It’s God’s promise from back in Genesis 3:15 and reiterated throughout the Old and New Testament. It’s what the Old Testament saints looked toward and what we look back upon.

Paul pleads with the Corinthian brothers and sisters (believers) to hold firm to their belief; unless they believed in vain (without cause or without effect). Maybe it’s just the way God wired me, but I want to know for sure if you are a believer. I want to know I’ll see you in eternity. I don’t want you to be thinking you know Jesus and that’s it, you just know of Him! Please, we must be serious about the message of Paul here!

Is our belief in the Gospel simply a statement we made to please others, to wipe away emotional guilt, to satisfy a need for relationship, or was it a heartfelt desire to be free from the penalty and guilt of my sin and to seek a relationship with our Creator God through Jesus Christ, our only hope?

We can’t lead others to Christ and leave them dangling at the foot of the cross asking what now? We have to take seriously the role we play in the Gospel. We have to teach the Truth, challenge one another to love and good deeds, to a deeper relationship with the Lord and with one another, and a serious belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus had not gotten out of the grave, we’d all be hopeless. But HE GOT UP! What are we doing to convince a world of the real Truth? There is no room for compromise. Let’s be serious!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

09 26 07 Been Pierced Lately?
"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
(Zechariah 12:10 NIV)

God promises to Israel what He promises to every one who will accept His words: He will freely give grace to anyone who accepts His gift of the Savior, His Son Jesus Christ. Every sinner (you and me included) had a hand in piercing Him upon that cross, yet God offers the gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit, to convict us of our sin and seek after His forgiveness, through His precious blood. The cross may not mean much to the casual observer, but to the born-again believer, we weep bitterly at the pain we caused our Lord, as one would grieve for the loss of a son.

Piercing hurts! Jesus did not just get a stab below the surface of the skin however. In Hebrew, the word daqar means to pierce through, as the spear went through His side and brought forth blood, bodily fluids, etc. If it sounds gross and painful, it was! And we should mourn over our sin because we did cause Him to go through that and even worse torture by the Roman soldiers.

“And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced.’"
(John 19:37 NKJV)

To me, it’s good to look upon Him whom I have pierced once in a while, and not just during Holy Week. It keeps me focused on my sin and the holiness of God. It reminds me that without the cross I am nothing. It humbles me to be at the foot of my Savior and I mourn over my sinful heart. Like Paul, I ask, “Why do I do what I don’t want to do? Why can’t I do what I should? How long will this war within me rage on?” But there is grace and His mercy flowing down from the cross to give me strength to get up and keep going.

At the cross……at the cross……down on my knees, there is no higher place to be.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” (Revelation 1:7 NIV)

But as I look, I can see beyond the cross to the other side of glory, to what Jesus saw as He took the pain, the beatings, and the piercing. I see the glorious One whom we have pierced and even though some will still mourn over their rejection of Him, we can rejoice as we celebrate the great marriage feast of the Lamb and live with Him in heaven one day! All the pain we have caused the Savior, all the mourning, grief, disappointments, and sadness will be turned to joy and celebration.

But today: do we feel the mourning? Do we feel the shame? Do we suffer with our Savior for the sake of His work? Have we allowed the memory and labor of the cross to cut our hearts? Have we BEEN PIERCED LATELY?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

09 25 07 My Part
“The man replied, ‘How in the world can I, unless someone guides me?’”
(Acts 8:31)

Just in passing, have you ever heard someone mention Scripture, sing or hum a Christian song, or play music honoring the Lord from their car? What is our reaction? Do we smile and keep going, totally ignore it, or make an attempt to point it out; saying “I like that song”, or “Thanks for letting your belief come through”. Are you thinking I’m just a little weird at this point? I often wonder what MY PART is in the grand scheme of God’s design.

Philip heard the Ethiopian reading Isaiah aloud as he passed by and simply asked the question, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” (Acts 8:30) What followed possibly led to the spreading of the Gospel to the African continent! Imagine that: showing a little interest in hearing some Scripture, seeking further conversation, perhaps even feeling a bit out of my comfort zone with someone from a different culture, led to the salvation of possibly millions of people down I history. What could one conversation do today? One minute to ask, “Do you understand?” Could this be MY PART?

On this topic we have much to say and it is difficult to explain, since you have become sluggish in hearing. For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances.”
(Hebrews 5:11-12)

Paul is addressing the Jewish believers here and admonishing them to move beyond the comfort zone of learning and start teaching! Can we hear the same message today? Stop being so relaxed and comfortable! Get out and tell somebody! Teach somebody what we know! Take an interest in the kids on the corner, the man on the subway, the clerk behind the counter at 7-11. “But they aren’t like me. They look different. They dress different. Their language, though English, seems hard to understand. They may reject my interest.” Excuses…..excuses…..excuses!

Much like the times of the early church, we live in a melting pot. We have different races, different cultures, different ways of dress, and different ways to say the same thing. We don’t even speak like our kids anymore! But do we stop talking to them, or spending time with them? We need to reach out and have an interest in people and their eternal lives!!!! That’s MY PART, your part in God’s plan: love people as God does! We don’t have time to do anything if we can’t love people. What were Jesus’ words when ask what were the two greatest commandments? Love God, love your neighbor. And who is your neighbor? The kids on the corner, the man on the subway, the clerk behind the counter at 7-11, and the child a continent away! Love somebody as Christ does: sacrifice, share, spend time, talk, embrace, reach, teach, and let them feel Jesus with skin on! That’s MY PART!!!!!!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

09 24 07 We Are Not Alone!

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
(James 1:22 NIV)

Somebody’s watching me! You ever get that feeling? Someone is looking over your shoulder, a fly on the wall, recording your every move, every word? Well, in a sense someone is watching! God sees everything! He sees the sinner and He sees the saint. He sees the good and the bad. He sees the indifferent and the apathetic. What He does about it and when He acts is up to Him. But yet we live as if it really doesn’t matter at times.

In the Bible, in the book of Amos, the Lord used the analogy of a plumb
line to admonish the Israelites of their sin, saying, “I will test my people
with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore their sins.” The character of
God was the plumb line against which the ancient Israelites were measured. And it’s the same with us.*

God holds us to His Word and one day, if not THE DAY, He will call us to be accountable for our actions. Some of us have already felt His discipline. Some of us are on the run. Others are living in total denial of an all-knowing, ever-present, and able-to-see-everything-going-on–in-this-world God! Oh, it’s true we are free to live as we choose, but we are not free from the accountability for our actions.

God is not the only one watching. As a believer in the God of the Bible, we are being watched by a world of unbelievers as well. Do we really live the Truth we speak about? Do our everyday actions reflect our Sunday actions? In a nutshell, does our talk match our walk? People want to know!

Our children are watching our every move…every day! They will follow our footsteps and they do reflect our decisions.

As a believer in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must do our part to live an honest and open life. We just can’t say one thing and do another. We must be willing to admit mistakes and confess sinful actions. Humbleness and honesty go such a long way to keep integrity in tact. Above all else, we must stand for God, because WE ARE NOT ALONE and we are not our own!

* Steve Arterburn, The Plumb Line, Copyright 2006 New Life Ministries. Laguna Beach, CA 92652

Friday, September 21, 2007

09 21 07 Part of the Plan

“Dear friend, you demonstrate faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers (even though they are strangers). They have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone forth on behalf of The Name, accepting nothing from the pagans. Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we become coworkers in cooperation with the truth.”
(3 John 1:5-8)

I don’t have time to care for people all over the world……I have a family……There’s enough work to be dome right here……I don’t have much to give……that’s the preacher’s job, the missionaries’ job, the outreach coordinator’s job, the Sunday School Department’s job……the church will care for them!

So may excuses, so many valid reasons even not to support the work of the church. John’s third epistle is a minute part of the Bible in length, but oh so important in our relationship with our Lord. Missionaries were being sent to minister and Gaius was supporting them, showing hospitality, and actually a partner in their work in many ways. Others, even leaders in the church (Diotrephes), were denying them hospitality and even leading others to ignore their needs, to the point of threatening to put them (those who supported the missionaries) out of the local church.

Have we come much further today? How many of us truly have a burden to support those who have given their lives over to full-time service for Christ? How many of us believe the church takes care of all their needs? How many think they (we) are just unemployed entrepreneurs? I must admit, before asking the Lord to accept me into His field of service, I too thought the church (or some other organizations) cared for the pastors’, ministers’ and missionaries’ needs. Eight years into the work, I realize it is all by faith and God’s promises, not man’s. There is no guaranteed salary, grocery or clothing allowance, or discount travel. There is no vehicle provided or automatic deposit into our checking account. We never know what will be available month to month or even what our schedule will look like. Imagine what it was like in Paul’s day or in this case, Demetrius’ and Gaius’ day.

Whatever we do to encourage a Christian worker is edifying. Meeting a need, whether it’s a meal, a store gift card, a tank of gas, or a sacrificial financial gift, if done for the Lord, it is encouraging and pleasing. Supporting such people, as John says, is joining them in the work! If we ALL are to see that the Gospel is taken to every nook and cranny of the earth, but if we all can’t go, then doesn’t it make sense to support the work of those who have already gone? Instead, we’d rather judge the work, much like Diotrephes and even discourage others from giving. Meanwhile, people don’t hear the Gospel! If a Christian worker has to work in the secular field to care for basic needs, than God’s work is hindered. We all need to work and give, to one degree or another! We can neither muzzle the ox nor hamstring the field worker!

Supporting missionaries and ministry leaders is becoming PART OF THE PLAN, God’s plan of salvation. We give and allow the Holy Spirit to work through the laborers. Whether it’s a short–term mission trip, ongoing outreach work such as in New Orleans, or local work within our home churches, we are to use our resources to support God’s work. You see it’s God’s work, not mine, not the pastor’s, not yours! What will we say to God when He asks, “When I was hungry did you give me to drink? When I was homeless did you give me shelter? When I was grief stricken did you give me a hug? When you had the opportunity to give so others could help me why did you say no?” We are the church so yes, it is the church’s job to care for, support, and send the workers out in a way that is worthy of our King! The harvest is so white, so ready, but the few laborers are not properly equipped to work!

Won’t you join us? PLEASE!

TSN Ministries
Box 2305
Bowie, MD 20720

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

09 20 07 Lessons Learned?

I had an opportunity to respond to a discussion question concerning the consequences of the Crusades for my on-line Humanities class. Let me share my opinions with you. It became a time of worship for me!

“How blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen to be his special possession…...”
(Psalm 33:12)

Are we still reaping the consequences of the Crusades?

Oh this is a great topic for sure; one that will no doubt step on toes! I do feel we are still reaping the consequences of the Crusades, since every Sunday morning we still have a battle over the First Gospel, the First Baptist, Full Gospel, Half Gospel, the Church of the Left-Handed retired quarterbacks....., whatever! My church is better than your church.....Only one denomination has the name right, and they are nothing but a cult. Are we Christians the supposed to be the church of Jesus Christ and are we not the latter day saints?

Being raised Roman Catholic for the first 20 some years of my life and not allowing the Lord to grab hold of me until I was 33, I come from good (or bad) experience. After accepting Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and yes, being born-again, I realize all the selfish and bigoted things an organized denominational church can put on people. Many lives have been sacrificed for what they believed was biblical, because they were told so, not because they believed it in their hearts!

Catholics murdered Muslims, Muslims murdered Catholics, and now Muslims are murdering anyone who isn't Muslim! When will it stop?! Christ died and rose for liberty from the law and freedom to worship in Spirit and Truth! This is what we need to fight for and what we need to share with people. If we fight, we need to fight for peoples' freedom to worship the living God and a right to hear about Him. We won't even fight for our kids' rights to hear the Gospel in public schools and in the public square, yet Paul was able to debate these things in the middle of the Roman cities and seemed to enjoy it, thank you very much. I sometimes think what it would have been like to be Paul!

How far have we come? Have we learned any lessons? Not really, we're still fighting for all the religious reasons, instead of a right to a relationship with the One who is Peace!
09 19 07 In My Opinion…or HIS Opinion

“But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me,
because she is the right one for me.’”
(Judges 14:3 NET Bible)

Samson ignored his parents’ advice, as well as God’s law in wanting to marry a Philistine woman. He thought it was right in his eyes however. Boy do we get in deep trouble when we begin to do what seems right in our own eyes! And it’s not just men in this day and age. Lust drags both men and women down in to the muck and mire in today’s culture! As they say, “It takes two to tango”. It must be the man, the Christian man, who steps up and takes a stand; draws the line; this is it: from here on out I will follow God’s will for me!

The Bible tells us that it is better to have an eye removed than to allow it to continue to cause us to sin. In Samson’s case, since He did nothing to control his lust, the Lord allowed the Philistines to capture him, gouge his eyes out and take every ounce of strength from him. Once Samson lost all he had, then he prayed! (Judges 16:21) We have to call upon the Lord while it’s still time, before He has to take action against us. Too often, we embarrass the Lord by our actions and simply assume He will understand. Oh, He understands all right! But do we? How patient will He be? How much grace will He continue to grant us? How long do we believe we will continue to escape the consequences of compromise? How long will a holy God put up with our unrighteous and ungodly actions? How long will continue to live IN MY OPINION rather than by God’s Word?

“In his opinion, she was just the right one.”
(Judges 14:7 NET Bible)

We all need to examine our lifestyles, public and private. It’s what God knows about our behind closed doors life that really matters. Are we living to please people, gain friends, obtain a promotion, or to honor God? My opinion is worthless. My plans are nothing. Only what we do for Christ will last! HIS OPINION is all that matters! What is HIS OPINION of you and me today? We all have time to change, but by His power, according to HIS OPINION of things!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

09 18 07 The Master’s Plan
“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result.” Genesis 50:20 NIV)

The overall purpose and plan of God will always prevail. Question is, will we embrace His plan for us and allow Him to work through us, or circumvent His perfect will for our lives by intervening for our personal degree of comfort? Joseph could have easily given up hope in the dessert; as a slave, or while in prison, but he held out hope and trusted God. He even forgave his brothers who meant to do away with him for good, and promised to care for them and his family. Joseph now stands as a witness for us all to the glory of God!

So what does this account of Joseph’s life say to us in 2007? Jon Walker, in the Purpose Driven Life on-line devotional says this:

You can accept the past.
You can embrace the present.
You can look expectantly toward the future.

And He proposes this question:
What will you allow God to change?

In the midst of present distress of this world, Paul has suggested God’s future promises as a source of hope and strength. The Spirit of the living God within us gives us strength as well. We also can find strength in knowing God is working every detail of our life to His perfect end, His perfect and eternal purpose. This promise is not for everyone, but only to those who love Christ and are justified by His precious blood.

So as a believer, what are we holding onto, what is keeping us from a full and trusting relationship with the Lord? Is it our past, a present struggle, or fear of what’s coming? What do we need to give over to the Lord? If God says we are His and He has a plan for us, why are we allowing someone or something else tell us “NO”? Is that not what Satan did back in the Garden? Do we still believe his same lies? You and I must trust THE MASTER’S PLAN!

“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
(Romans 8:28 NET)

Monday, September 17, 2007

09 17 07 Motive

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV)

As we go through life, each of us is motivated by some one or some thing to do the things we do. We go to work to care for our family. We eat to satisfy a hunger (or a craving!). We exercise to keep healthy or even improve our health. We rest properly to be able to carry out our basic duties. These are things we do for the basic necessities of life. Everyone does them. But what are our real motives; the deep set inspiration, that drives us harder, faster, without sleep at times, and despite hardship? What makes us do the extraordinary?

Paul is encouraging the Corinthians that since we have victory in Christ through His resurrection, we can and should be motivated to keep pushing despite the obstacles we face. Check out the following translations:

Do not be moved! (NET Bible)
With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. (The Message Bible)
…be strong and steady, always enthusiastic… (New Living Translation)

Yes, as Christians we face stumbling blocks which are capable of knocking us off our feet. We face unexpected challenges, sometimes every day it seems, which may tempt us to withdraw and even run and hide. We’ll even face bouts of depression and disappointment, causing us to battle to remain joyous and enthusiastic about serving Christ and completing His will for us. But we must press on; we must STAND! Our prime MOTIVE is not to be happy, healthy, rich, satisfied, or even popular. Our number one MOTIVE is to please our Savior and carry out His task for us this day, this very minute!

I don’t know if it’s ever easy! But we have already won the battle, IF we allow the Lord to fight for us and with us. It is His battle after all, not ours. He will continue the perfecting work in and through us until the Day He returns. Our job is to simply give Him complete control. Our labor is not worthless if we’re working to please Christ. It may be hard, thankless, and even seem fruitless, but never worthless or in vain! We may not really see the victory until we reach glory, but nevertheless, we must be steadfast and unmovable, seeking to please God alone. This is our goal, our only MOTIVE!

Friday, September 14, 2007

09 14 07 Keep An Eternal Perspective

“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ so that – whether I come and see you or whether I remain absent – I should hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, by contending side by side for the faith of the gospel, and by not being intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of their destruction, but of your salvation – a sign which is from God. For it has been granted to you not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him, since you are encountering the same conflict that you saw me face and now hear that I am facing. (Philippians 1:27-30)

We all know how Paul suffered. He also pleaded with those he taught to suffer along with him……for Christ’s sake! We can’t expect to be pain free, anxiety free, or disaster free in the world we live in today. We have to KEEP AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. It’s no different than in Paul’s day. We are faced with one decision after another, one emergency, one illness, a death in the family; something will come up which challenges our faith.

Here are Charles Swindoll’s wise words:

I am going to challenge you to keep an eternal perspective even though you are surrounded by a host of success-oriented individuals who are urging you to ignore your conscience and grab all you can now. You want joy? You really want what is best? Simply consider yourself having different priorities than your associates and go God’s way. His is the most reliable route to follow when life gets complicated. It will have its tough moments, but you will never regret it.

As James reminds us, we are not to suffer in vain. Things happen in this world at times simply because of the sin in our very nature. Other tings happen as a consequence to sinful behavior. We are also affected by things simply by association. Regardless, we are to be reminded to honor God in all we do…..even in suffering and other such trials. We have the Holy Spirit; we have the example of folks like Paul; we have each other; we are not alone! Imagine the satisfaction we will get knowing we honored the Lord through it all. Imagine the witness we portray to others as to the power, mercy, and love of God as we go through. Imagine the “well done” we’ll hear on the other side when greeted by our Savior!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

09-13-07 Who Am I Compared to I AM?
“’Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let the person who accuses God give him an answer!’
Then Job answered the LORD:
‘Indeed, I am completely unworthy– how could I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth to silence myself.
I have spoken once, but I cannot answer;
twice, but I will say no more.’” (Job 40:2-5 NET Bible)

At times we all contend with God in one way or another. We don’t understand why we are experiencing this or that. We question His timing. We disrespect His authority. We ignore His pleadings. What if God would come to us and ask, “Who is it that doubts the One who created him? Who is it who denies the Lord of Hosts’ authority? Who is it that questions the timing of He Who holds time in His hand?” WHO AM I anyway, compared to the great I AM?

Read over some of the lyrics from Casting Crowns:
Who Am I
Casting Crowns)

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart……
Who Am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who Am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me……

“So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’" (Isaiah 6:5 NKJV Bible)

The NET Bible reads this way when translating Isaiah’s attitude when in the Lord’s presence: “I am destroyed for my lips are contaminated by sin, and I live among people whose lips are contaminated by sin.” When I realize that I am living in the very presence of God, oh how I am disgusted at myself at times. How can I possibly do the things I do after all God continually does for me? Woe is me indeed! I am destroyed, if not for His grace and mercy…..His love for me. I don’t know why He loves me, but I am so glad He did and still does and forever will!

So how do we answer the world? How do we answer the enemy when he attempts to sway us? Tell him to Whom we belong to and Who sent us:

“And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’" (Exodus 3:14 NKJV Bible)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

09 12 07 My God, My Trust
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust……He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.” (Psalm 91)

Luther called this psalm the most distinguished jewel among all the psalms of consolation. Though we may not know exactly who penned this psalm, it is the practice of the Jewish interpreters to assign it to Moses, the author of Psalm 90. We can see the relationship to Moses’ life: pestilence, terror, enemies falling by the ten thousands, yet all the while the protection from evil by the Lord.

I want to make it personal to me as well. As I attempt to walk under the covering of the Holy Spirit, I can feel His presence. I know of times that it has been God and God alone who has brought my family and me through. He is my refuge, my hiding place, my fortress, my rock and my shield. He is my provider and my enabler. He is my strength and my consolation. He has made a way so many times when things seem ready to blow. He is my God……even today, right this very moment!

As my deliverer, he will deliver me from this life to the next, with sweet fellowship with Him forever. That is my goal, but in the meantime we seek to serve Him right here, in the thick of the battle. Jehovah Nissi is still leading the charge and Jehovah Jireh is still providing according to His riches in glory! Jehovah Shalom still provides the peace beyond all understanding. He is MY GOD and MY TRUST!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

09 11 07 Who Died For You?

“You will be hated by all the nations because of my name. Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will appear and deceive many, and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold. But the person who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:9-14 NET Bible)

Here is a headline from the AP wire on September 11, 2007, the sixth anniversary of the dreadful attack on U.S. soil

Osama bin Laden urged sympathizers to join the "caravan" of martyrs as he praised one of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers in a new video that emerged Tuesday to mark the sixth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Here is a terrorist leader urging more bloodshed from innocent people to justify a false religion! It wasn’t enough that thousands from every nationality in the world died on September 11, 2001. Christians died, Muslims died, Jews died. Today, many children seek to remember a mother or father that they never really knew, except for news reports and family stories of their real-life hero. Wives are still suffering from losing a husband. Husbands are still grieving over the sudden loss of their wife. Friends and co-workers are still wondering why, how, when……..

Remember how filled the churches were on the Sunday following 9-11-01? Everyone ran to the churches, to the Christians, asking for prayer and answers to their questions. We even prayed as a nation once again. It was politically correct to mention God…..the GOD of the Bible, of Abraham, of ISAAC, and of Jacob. Now, six years later, we don’t know why we went to war as a nation, don’t allow the mention of Jesus once again in public, and we have other things to do on Sunday mornings. Well, as Jesus spoke in Matthew 24 above, many false prophets are twisting the truth, Christians are the enemy once again, and people are growing cold. The TRUE Gospel needs to be preached without fear and lived out in public!

It’s not a terrorist’s leader who will give his life for an enemy, but he will tell you to die for his cause! My Bible says Jesus, the only begotten Son of Almighty God, willingly laid His life down upon a cross for the sin of all mankind, that whoever believes in Him shall be saved from an eternal hell. That’s a promise from the God; the loving God, the merciful God, the God who seeks a relationship with us all, that not one of us be lost! Lets’ believe the TRUTH, live the TRUTH, and tell the TRUTH until He comes! Never forget 9-11, but also remember, God is till on the throne!

Monday, September 10, 2007

09 10 07 Faith, Patience and Wisdom

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be give him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. (James 1:2-6)

We are going to face all sorts of trials and testings in our lifetime. Three key words are echoed over history here by Jesus’ brother James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. He knew a little about doubt, faith, trials, and the wisdom it took to persevere. He at first doubted who Jesus really was, then after the resurrection he came to trust Christ as the Savior and Lord. Oh, did he go through trials, even to give his life for the faith he claimed in Christ! His wisdom was founded in Christ and the Word of God. His life was lived to completeness, the perfect work of Christ through him.

It is our faith, the conviction that God exists and is the Creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ, which is the foundation we build upon to live this life. A strong faith allows patience, an enduring, sustaining perseverance, to grow us according to the will of God. But if we find ourselves weak and in danger of falling at times (and we will) we have the permission of God the Holy Spirit to seek wisdom, the wisdom of God Almighty, and expect to receive it.

The true test of a Christian comes when we are faced with the storms. When the waves of trials are cresting at our hearts and we are in danger of going under the pull of the waves, where do we turn; what do we do; whom do we trust? God is right there for us He wants to walk us through the storm and through the lonely valleys. He has also put others around us to strengthen us and buttress us with prayers, acts of kindness, and wise counsel. We are not alone! Faith in our Savior is our foundation. Patience is the tool He uses to perfect us. His wisdom teaches us how to carry it through. All to His glory and for His honor, so others may see Him at work and come to know Him as well!

Count it all JOY!!!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

09 08 07 A Time to Change

“Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare. Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze! But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides.

Therefore, dear friends, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence. And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of these things in all his letters. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned men and fall from your firm grasp on the truth But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.” (2 Peter 3:8-18 NET Bible)

Just let these words of the Apostle Peter resonate within our hearts. We all talk about the times we live in, as did Peter. Truth is we are closer today than ever for the return of Christ! We may have delayed some decisions, waited on some changes we need to make, or postponed long anticipated plans. The time is now! We need to all decide where we stand and what we really believe; then LIVE IT! Today is A TIME TO CHANGE!

If you deny the accuracy and Truth of the Bible, then so be it; but you will suffer the consequences of not knowing the Savior and Creator of the world. He will come to judge the wicked as well as those who call Him Lord. Difference is, the wicked (those who deny Christ) will suffer an eternity in hell. The believers will be judged not by the sin which has been forgiven, but by their works for Christ.

We may not understand it all, but we must continue to grow and develop as His followers. We have choices to make for sure: Do I even believe in Him; Will I put away the silly choices and really follow Him; Will I commit to study and grow in His Word; Will I live like He’s coming back today? It’s not enough to say we believe. We must repent……and live the Truth. It’s A TIME TO CHANGE!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

09 05 07 Chilling Affect of Sin

“Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough – you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed." (1 Corinthians 5:6-7 NET Bible)

From what I know of icebergs, 4/5 of the total mass is under water, unseen to the human eye. As it becomes heavier, losing its snow layers over time (as result of tumbling over and over, as much as 1/10 of the iceberg can be hidden! Sin can grow in the same manner over time. As Paul directed his correction to the church in Corinth, who were tolerating sexual sin rather than correcting and disciplining the persons involved, sin needs to be dealt with before it grows and affects the entire church body! Pastor Chuck Swindoll says it this way: “Don’t wait. Before such sin eats deeper into our souls, we need to ask the Great Physician to excise it—to cut it away so that we can become spiritually sound and healthy”.

Sin is in fact like cancer. Others may not see any sign at all of the sin in our lives. We may be getting by with minimal complications, minimal consequences. So we convince ourselves it’s ok; we tolerate the sin (our or others’ around us) and it takes root and grows into the very core of our being, even to out heart. Like the iceberg, like the cancer, once discovered, sin goes much deeper than what the eye can see. The deeper we examine and probe, the more chilling things become (like the iceberg), the denser the mass (consequences of sin) is and more complicated the fix becomes, if any cure at all. We must therefore purge the sin and surrounding influences much like a surgeon cuts away not only the cancerous tissue, but surrounding living tissue as well.

Sin cuts deep, much deeper than we expect. It hurts people, those we love the most! It sometimes causes premature death, either by consequences or the direct hand of God. People don’t like to hear this, but it’s true. God does indeed get upset at what we do to hurt Him and at times He will say, “Enough is enough!” It’s in His Word in both New and Old Testament.

But yet there is grace and her twin sister mercy:“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NJJV Bible)

Sin has a deep and wide chilling affect upon us all. We’re all in need of a visit to the Great Physician. In fact, a daily visit would do wonders for each of us!

Monday, September 3, 2007

09 04 07 School of Life

"Therefore be very careful how you live – not as unwise but as wise..."
(Ephesians 5:15)

As believers we need to never stop learning: learning God’s Word to be able to apply it correctly, learning about the world to apply the Word properly and in the right context, and learning about people to be able to properly meet their needs.

There is a fine line between applying God’s wisdom to the world and being conformed to the world’s way of thinking! Too many believers today have watered-down, no, dummy-downed the Word of God just to appease the people to whom they are speaking. His Word is already culturally relevant. It’s we who are not up-to-date on culture. We refuse to study and be properly prepared to share correctly.

In today’s culture, we can’t simply spout off a few memorized verses of Scriptures and expect a sinner’s prayer to come from a convert’s mouth! It’s more than a planned outreach or a short-term mission trip, though these are good starting points. We first need to apply ourselves to a structured learning of His Word. Secondly we need to study the culture we are in (news reports, internet news information, being aware of surroundings at the local mall, rec centers, and schools, and be willing to invest time into people. Relationships are key in a world where no one trust hardly anyone anymore, much less a God they can not see! Each day, each conversation, each time we perform a task, is an opportunity to show Christ to a watching world. We need to expect an opportunity to share His love with someone every day!

We need to all commit to go to school every day; THE SCHOOL OF LIFE. We have a short time to make a mark in this world. What will we leave behind; a diploma, a degree, a successful Fortune 500 business, a Hall-of-Fame career, or a legacy of being willing to learn from the lessons God teaches us throughout life and taking the time to share those lessons with those He places in our path? Let’s walk circumspectly and see around our everyday life with spiritual eyes, not with blinders on our eyes. It’s a wide world of opportunity to start a relationship that leads to someone’s eternal peace with God!
09 03 07 Vain Labor?

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

Is our work worth the effort? Is all my labor VAIN LABOR? I sometimes wonder! Paul writes here and to the Philippians (below) that our labor involves hard physical work. It will get tired and weary to work at times. At times we will say to ourselves, “Is all the effort worth it?”

So why work when it seems all in vain? Why seek the lost when they seem to ridicule our efforts? Why keep getting up, sacrificing sleep at times, putting off my agenda for God’s business (not just studying the Word and evangelizing, but serving family, assisting those in need, and giving of our time and resources)? Paul shares why he did all.

“…holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Philippians 2:16)

We don’t do it to please our family, our friends, or even those in the church. We do it so that on that Day when we see Jesus, we will rejoice and be able to see the smile upon His face as He knows we did it all for Him, not for me! It’s never VAIN LABOR when it labor for Jesus!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

09 01 07 Go and Show!
“…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.”
(Matthew 28:20 NKJV)

How would the disciples teach the new disciples to observe or tereo (tay-reh'-o)? The Greek word is from the word teros meaning:

1. to attend to carefully, take care of
2. to guard
3. to observe.

So not only would the disciples go and tell others about what they had seen, heard, learned, and witnessed of Jesus, they would show it! Oh how important it is to walk alongside a new believer, be there for them as they have questions, and encourage them as they struggle in the new life of a born-again Christian! We all know there will be troubles ahead for them!

Perhaps the biggest challenge we face as believers in the sharing of our faith is not the uncomfortable feeling of talking about Jesus and sharing personal experiences, but what comes next: the responsibility of caring for another. John called his followers and student his dear children. Paul would call, Timothy and others his sons. To really build into another young believer is to spend time with him / her so they can observe us. That puts a big responsibility upon the one that shares, doesn’t it?

“…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (NASB)

So as we teach, we must practice what we teach. No instruction is worth while if practical application doesn’t follow. How can I use what I was taught? What does this look like in action? How can I live that way? All these questions and more are part of discipleship. Many of our churches today are so concerned with how many become saved, baptized, or join. The most important thing is how many of us are taught, cared for, loved, prayed for, and shown genuine love and compassion after we come to know Christ. Jesus spent time with those He chose. We are commanded to spend time with whom Christ chooses for us to go! The Great Commission (Commandment) has two parts. Obeying only one is disobedience! Let’s therefore go and show those we meet!

Storms and Faith

Jesus got into a boat. His disciples followed him.  Suddenly a terrible storm came up on the lake. The waves crashed over the boat. But Jesu...