Friday, October 31, 2008

10-31 08 Gather the Harvest

“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others. He sent them out two by two ahead of him. They went to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is huge, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals. And don't greet anyone on the road.’” (Luke 10:1-3 NIrV)

Today is the day in 1517 when it is believed Martin Luther, a priest from Wittenberg, Germany, posted his 95 Thesis on the door of All Saints Church, largely in protest to the sale of indulgences (reduced time in purgatory) by the Pope and the Catholic Church. This, as most know it, marks the beginning of what we now call the Protestant Reformation. Sola Scriptura, Sola Christo, and Sola Fide: by Scripture alone, by Christ alone, and by faith alone. These are the basic premises Luther shard as to our salvation. Reading through the book of Romans, Luther’s heart and mind was illuminated to the works of Christ, His Word, and our faith in Him.

“There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God…namely the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith…Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

Luther was prepared to step out by faith against what he believed to be the wrongdoings of the Catholic Church. He saw the Book of Romans as the clearest presentation of the Gospel of Christ in the entire Bible. To Luther, his salvation wasn’t about the church, the priests, or even the Pope. It was all about Christ. He was sold out to get this point across.

Christ would tell His disciples to go GATHER THE HARVEST of souls. As His followers, we go by His Word, His strength, and by the faith He gives us. Today more than ever, we need to live these three basic premises as we go into the fields of ministry. Yes the harvest is white right now! (John 4:35) Yet we are hesitant to go, hesitant to invest in the work of the church, and hesitant to totally trust our Lord.

Be assured, just as God has guided men such as Luther to boldly step out for the Truth, he will do it yet today. As long as we live by faith, according to the Scriptures, and with Christ as our leader in battle, we can trust God to provide for us. Time is right and the fields are ripe. At times it seems we are lambs among wolves, yet we have one goal in mind: GATHER THE HARVEST !

Thursday, October 30, 2008

10 30 08 Truth in Action

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18 NET)

The NIrV version explains it this way: “Dear children, don't just talk about love. Put your love into action. Then it will truly be love.” Oh yes, there is a lot of talk going on these days. Talk of this promise and that promise. Talk of this man or that woman. Talk of what everyone else has done and how everyone else failed. Yet real truth comes in how we have lived and what we have done. I wish more folks would talk less about themselves and others and allow their actions to speak for themselves. It would settle a lot of debates!

It is so with those of us who call ourselves Christians…Christ followers. We talk about Christ. We speak His words. We teach His Truths. But what we lack most of all is TRUTH IN ACTION! I recently had to write a comment responding to a professor’s question in my communications class concerning St. Francis. He once said: "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words."

Here is my response:

I believe that St. Francis was reminding folks that communicating the Gospel is much more effective in our day to day living: how we dress, how we drive, how we handle our situations, and how we live when the church is not watching, than our preaching! More people are turned off to Christianity by what they see than what they hear. Christians (I use the term loosely) have a bad reputation of "living like the world" Monday through Saturday and then picking up the Bible on Sunday morning and doing the Christian thing.

We communicate the Gospel by getting to work on time and working productively when there. We communicate the Gospel by encouraging someone when they are hurting, by volunteering to help with the PTA, or coaching our children's teams. We communicate the Gospel by shoveling off the neighbor’s sidewalk or taking food to a family we know is struggling. We communicate the Gospel by getting involved with local kids who have no father in their home. We communicate the Gospel by sitting down to lunch with a homeless man or making our family vacation a week rebuilding homes and families in a storm-wrecked city or town. Then when asked why, we can explain the Gospel in the Words from the Bible.

In today's challenging world where relationships come and go quicker than the latest fashions, people need to have people they can trust. They need to trust character. They need to experience Christ and His words in living color, not empty promises. Every gesture, every written word, every common action, every simple step we take in life is a possible witness for Christ to a watching world. So as we live, we preach the Gospel and then use words when necessary!

We live out TRUTH IN ACTION.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

10 29 08 Lesson Learned

“Suppose you can be trusted with very little. Then you can be trusted with a lot. But suppose you are not honest with very little. Then you will not be honest with a lot. Suppose you have not been worthy of trust in handling worldly wealth. Then who will trust you with true riches? Suppose you have not been worthy of trust in handling someone else's property. Then who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters at the same time. He will hate one of them and love the other. Or he will be faithful to one and dislike the other. You can't serve God and Money at the same time." (Luke 16:10-13 NIrV)

The following is a brief description of Black Tuesday (October 29, 1929) when more than 16 million shares were traded and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost another 12 percent and closed at 198:
“Many factors likely contributed to the collapse of the stock market. Among the more prominent causes were the period of rampant speculation (those who had bought stocks on margin not only lost the value of their investment, they also owed money to the entities that had granted the loans for the stock purchases), tightening of credit by the Federal Reserve (in August 1929 the discount rate was raised from 5 percent to 6 percent), the proliferation of holding companies and investment trusts (which tended to create debt), a multitude of large bank loans that could not be liquidated and an economic recession that had begun earlier in the summer.”(stock market crash of 1929. (2008), In Encyclop√¶dia Britannica. Retrieved October 29, 2008, from Encyclop√¶dia Britannica Online:

Sound familiar? LESSON LEARNED? It doesn’t seem like we’ve learned a whole lot!

Like the rich man described in Luke 16, we as a nation have wasted our possessions, wasted our resources, and wasted our talents. We have had so much money over the years, so many natural resources at our disposal, and so much ability to bless so many, yet we find ourselves at the same crossroads we were in some 80 years ago. Investments have lost value. More money is owed than we have to pay back. Rather than use the resources we have, we buy from others and waste that! We have even wasted our ability to share the Good News with neighbors and nations and we see the world accepting all sorts of lies from cults and false religions.

What do we expect from our God for being so disrespectful and wasteful? Sadly, most of our friends and neighbors simply keep asking (at times it seems like demanding) for God to bless America. I assume that as things get worse (and they will) that eventually the majority will either fall to their knees or raise their fist to God. Why do I believe the latter will occur sooner than the kneeling?

We who trust in the living God must be faithful to live that trust in these trying times. Time is of the essence. While there is still time, we need to be diligent to reach as many as possible with the Gospel, especially through our day-to-day living. At least we can be faithful with all God has blessed us with, especially our faith. God will get His, including His honor and glory. When He comes to claim all that is His, I want to be one He says “well done” to. I also want my friends and family to be in that group. Let’s not blame the nation for our woes. Let’s not get caught up in political exchanges, character assaults, and blame games. Let’s trust the God we have seen faithful over the years. That is a lesson learned throughout HIStory!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

10 28 08 It’s A Wonderful Life
“God made us. He created us to belong to Christ Jesus. Now we can do good things. Long ago God prepared them for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIrV)

Committing a life to help others, knowing and trusting God along the way, gives one an indescribable satisfaction in life. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE! It’s an abundant life. It’s a life worth living each and every day. It’s not the kind of life you’ll hear described in the weekly business magazine, on the daily news, on Wall St, or even Main St. Oh some politicians will talk about it, but few live it. In fact too few churches challenge congregations to commit to this life and less and less believers live by these standards. No wonder our light is dimming…or is it? I see a glimmer of light ready to burst forth.

I have been challenged time and time again by these words: Christ did not save us because we did good things, but now that He saved us from our sin, “now we can do good things”. You see, without Christ, we really have no knowledge what good really is! Good people lie, cheat, speed, curse, and hurt others at times. I have often heard it said, “…but he was such a good person”. That is because good people are sinners. God requires us to be holy, not good. In fact, Jesus wouldn’t allow the young rich ruler to even call Him good (Mark10:18).

In our own flesh, we are selfish and egotistical. We do good things to feel good, to receive acclaim, or to set ourselves apart from the bad guys! But even then, the feeling is fleeting. The minute things get a little tight; I want mine and all that’s mine! Everyone else can fend for themselves! I have given enough.

I thank God for the living examples He has put into my life of people who live a life of dedication to Christ and in servitude to others. At my church, within our ministry, and as we have served on short-term mission trips across the country and in the Caribbean, I have been blessed by the life-sacrifice of many. I see it most in my wife every day. I have been blessed to see a life of selflessness lived out before my eyes.

So in these days of economic doom and gloom, I feel as though our light can be a beacon, a lighthouse if you will, to those seeking answers. As a believer, this is the time to increase giving as we increase our trust in the One who gives us all we could possibly need. (Mark 12:41-44)

As we give, when most seem to be holding on to what they can, what an opportunity for God to shine! Life in Christ… IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE! Now is the perfect opportunity to live what we believe. Now is the time to really walk by faith. When placed between a rock and a hard place, we focus on the Rock, not the hard place! It’s that solid Rock on which we stand that will allow us to pull others from the sinking sand. It’s a wonderful time to be a Christian and yes the Christian life; IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!

Monday, October 27, 2008

10 27 08 A Clear Message

“Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us too, that God may open a door for the message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may make it known as I should. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:2-6 NET)

Paul ministers to the church at Colossae (a city on an inland road from Ephesus to the Euphrates River, sharing the beauty of the Lycus Valley with its sister cities Hierapolis Laodicea ) through Epaphras as he was in Rome around C.D. 60-62. Though Paul had never visited this church, through the witness of Epaphras, he was concerned about the false teachings there. In this epistle, Paul gives perhaps his most Christ-centered writings, concentrating on the person and the preeminence of Christ and the believers’ desire to run after Him in demeanor and temperament.

As Paul instructs the believers there, he also asks for prayer for himself. Taking nothing for granted, though well educated and experienced, Paul still seeks the prayers of others for the success of reaching others for Christ.

What a great example for us today. Through all the education and training we may have, it is by prayer and the guiding of the Holy Spirit that our speech and other forms of instruction are received and perceived. There a re many gifted speakers today, but unfortunately many are clanging symbols, talking loudly and often but saying very little.

We believers need to send A CLEAR MESSAGE with not only our words, but with our actions: It’s all about Jesus! He is the reason we live and breathe. He is the Lord of our lives. He alone is our hearts’ desire. As Paul encourages the Colossians, we must be careful that our speech, our actions, and our motives reflect Christ to all we come in contact with. We must not waste any opportunities. Our daily speech…every idle word, must be so seasoned as to cause others to see a difference, because of the Christ in us. We need to prepared to answer others when they ask why we do the things we do.

How can we always be ready? Prayer is the answer. We must be in constant contact with our Lord and be fully aware of His workings within our daily lives. There is no down time when it comes to our witness for Christ. It has to be our motivation when we get up in the morning, as we go to work, as we sit down for lunch, as we shop, as we speak with our families, and even in our most private times. We must send A CLEAR MESSAGE in this perplexing world: Jesus is the answer!

Friday, October 24, 2008

10 24 08 My DADDY Loves Me

“God supplies seed to the planter. He supplies bread for food. God will also supply and increase the amount of your seed. He will increase the results of your good works. You will be made rich in every way. Then you can always give freely. We will take your many gifts to the people who need them. And they will give thanks to God. Your gifts meet the needs of God's people. And that's not all. Your gifts also cause many people to thank God. You have shown yourselves to be worthy by what you have given. So people will praise God because you obey him. That proves that you really believe the good news about Christ. They will also praise God because you share freely with them and with everyone else.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-13 NIrV)

Many believers take these words to mean that if we give to God, He will give us more back. Be careful. We do not give to receive. We give to honor the Lord and to cause others to glorify Him for what He does through us. God does promise His grace toward us to enable us to give generously toward His work, in our finances and in our labor.

As most of us realize, it is not how much we give, whether in time or finances, but the attitude with which we give. God doesn’t measure by dollars, but by desire! He applauds the act of sacrificial giving much more so than the giving of large gifts. (Mark 12:41-44)

Sacrificial giving is an issue of submission to the ordnances of God and in obedience to His will. While God doesn’t check the financial ledger, we can. Keep a close eye on the checkbook: does it reflect an attitude of devotion to God and His work? Check the daily calendar or day timer: does it reflect time spent for God’s purposes? This is also a great way of tracking God’s faithfulness to us. As we give, we can see how God provides. Again, not because He has to or because we deserve it, but because He is God and He loves to care for those who love Him!

Personally, I find it so awesome and unbelievable how He has kept us as we have dedicated a life toward His work. The less we have, the more we seem to be doing with it. Modern-day math can be confusing, but God’s math is so wonderful! He does not work with paper money…that’s obvious when His home is made of gold and precious stones! He works through a covenant of love and obedience! MY DADDY LOVES MEand anyone else who will commit to Him! That’s so comforting in this crazy world!!!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

10 23 08 Use What We Have
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Give us more faith!’ He replied, ‘Suppose you have faith as small as a mustard seed. Then you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be pulled up. Be planted in the sea.” And it will obey you’.” (Luke 17:5-6 NIrV)

This inquiry from the disciples comes ion the heals of Jesus’ teaching on correcting sin and offering forgiveness (Luke 17:1-4) We all can attest to the difficulty in forgiving someone when we have been hurt. It’s our human nature to need time to heal and for many of us, a desire to let the offender stew for a while. There is still some bitterness and perhaps even a sinful desire on our part to get even or at least hope they get theirs. Let’s be real! Yet there is a subtle change from verse one to verse 5.

Here in verse five, Jesus addresses His apostles (not simply His disciples). So when His closest followers ask for more faith, the Lord responds with what seems to me as a challenge. It seems as though He is challenging their degree of obedience. As they ask for more (don’t we always want God to give us more?), Jesus replied that it’s not the size of the faith, but the obedience of the ones who believe. If we would simply USE WHAT WE HAVE!

If we really trusted the One we place our faith in, how much great would our obedience be? Would we tithe? If we do tithe, would we tithe with joy and even more so, give more than our minimum? Would we make ourselves available to serve more often or hoard out time. As usual, it’s not what God gives us…it’s what we give in return. We have all the faith we’ll ever need the moment we are saved by the blood of Christ!

Jesus seems to be teaching that very little faith is required in order to accomplish incredible things. As our obedience to the One we place our faith in grows our power to do His work increases. We trust Him more. We believe He’ll do what he says. We realize it’s not our faith, but our obedience. If He is our Lord, then we are His…that’s right…His slaves…His servants. Do servants have a right to not obey? Would they dare ask the master for more? Why then, do we who serve the King of kings and Lord of lords, dare to disobey and then ask for more?

Faith is an issue here, but it is not the need for more faith on the part of the disciples as it is to remember the basic principles on which faith operates. Faith operates in the realm of grace, and grace should produce gratitude. This gratitude is the disciple’s motive for forgiving others. Those who are forgiven much are expected (on the basis of grace) to forgive. (Bob Deffinbaugh, Putting Faith In Perspective, Copyright ©1996-2006, Biblical Studies Press, reprinted with permission from

Faith operates in grace and that grace should cause us to respond with an attitude of gratitude and obedience! Lord, help us to USE WHAT WE HAVE…increase my obedience!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

10 22 08 Fellow Prisoners
“I am a prisoner because of the Lord. So I am asking you to live a life worthy of what God chose you for. Don't be proud at all. Be completely gentle. Be patient. Put up with one another in love. The Holy Spirit makes you one in every way. So try your best to remain as one. Let peace keep you together. There is one body. There is one Spirit. You were appointed to one hope when you were chosen. There is one Lord. There is one faith and one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:1-5 NIrV)

Being a committed believer requires commitment…oneness…loyalty…allegiance. Paul speaks of being a prisoner, in bonds or restraints because of Christ. He then calls us, as FELLOW PRISONERS, to be humble and gentle to one another, especially to those in God’s family, so as to be one. The Holy Spirit unites us and keeps us united…if we allow His control and restraint to rule within us.
Oneness within the family reflects the head of the family. Christ is our Head, and as we live in harmony, we give testimony to our great God and Father. As one Body, one Spirit, and one faith, we present a clear message to a world which obviously desires some sort of clear answer to the questions we are facing in such a tumultuous world. If we who claim to know the Truth are unsure of whose we are and how we should be living, what does that say for Christ?

Oneness shows a bond. It reveals the depth of our faith and trust. It puts reality on our faith. It gives evidence of our faith and of the real presence of God. Listen to what Jesus prayed for you and me just before He allowed Himself to be sacrificed on our behalf:

“Father, I pray that all of them will be one, just as you are in me and I am in you. I want them also to be in us. Then the world will believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me. I did this so they would be one, just as we are one. I will be in them, just as you are in me. I want them to be brought together perfectly as one. This will let the world know that you sent me. It will also show the world that you have loved those you gave me, just as you have loved me.” (John 17:21-23 NIrV)

If one of the last things on the mind and lips of Jesus before giving Himself up to be killed was oneness among believers, why do we accept such disorder and confusion…within our family? All of us need to first know Who we call our Lord and Savior. We then need to devote time to learn His ways and commit to following those guidelines. We also need to commit to teach the Truth and nothing but the Truth! There can be no compromise tolerated!

FELLOW PRISONERS: Workplace…politics…social clubs…country clubs…friends…family…our love and commitments to Christ must make all other relationships look like dung. That’s the best way I can put it. Our oneness with our Savior must supersede all other relationships and activity!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

10 20 08 Obvious Praise

“Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty extends over the earth and sky.”
(Psalm 148:13 NET)

After a brief time away in the mountains with my wife, I have come to realize this: God is awesome! Observing His splendor in the formation of the Blue Ridge Mountain Ranges; the beautiful bowl-shaped valleys cupped out by His hand; the changing of the leaves from green to oranges, yellows and reds; the sun peaking over the distant peaks, and the simple way the deer wander without care. Who am I anyway? Just sitting on the porch deck, amidst the beauty that was before me, caused me to burst forth with OBVIOUS PRAISE!

Chuck Swindoll warns us: “We are to be wholly, continually, and completely dependent on the mercy of God, if we want to do the Lord's work the Lord's way. Paul had to learn that. My question is: Are you learning that? If not, today would be a good day to start. Now is the time to humble yourself under His mighty hand. If you don't, eventually He will do it for you. And it will hurt.” (Great Days with the Great Lives, Nashville, TN, W Publishing Group, 2005, Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.)

As if I hadn’t realized this before, a weekend in the mountains was a beautiful reminder to me to continue to trust God for His supply. In the simplicity of mountain life in the fall, God is always on the throne and all of Creation bows at His authority. Nothing occurs without His action; nothing changes without His approval; not even the changing of the leaves! The best decision I can possibly make today and for my future is to commit to humble myself under His authority and to bow at His throne in submission.

I pledge to be careful to keep focused on His authority, His power, and His splendor. Of course, He deserves my praise on Sunday. Of course He deserves my praise and thanksgiving during personal devotions and public worship services. But my DADDY also deserves OBVIOUS PRAISE for the simple everyday things I see and the basic things He provides each and every day. My prayer is that I will never allow the mountains, the sunrise, the animals, or even the rocks to out-praise me!

“He answered, ‘I tell you, if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out!’” (Luke 19:40 NET)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

10 16 08 Knowledge or Evidence?

“You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that. And they tremble…Our father Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar. Wasn't he considered to be right with God because of what he did? So you see that what he believed and what he did were working together. What he did made his faith complete (Genesis 15:6)… The body without the spirit is dead. In the same way, faith without good works is dead.” (James 2:19-26 NIrV)

KNOWLEDGE as defined by Merriam Webster states the following: the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association; the fact or condition of being aware of something. EVIDENCE, on the other hand is defined in this way: an outward sign; something that furnishes proof. There is big difference between knowing something and someone else seeing the evidence that we really believe it.

I have often heard the question asked of believers: “If standing before a jury and accused of being a Christian, would it be possible to be convicted by others’ eyewitness accounts?” In other words, is there enough physical evidence to convict us of our faith in Christ?

“I know what you are doing. I know you aren't cold or hot. I wish you were either one or the other! But you are lukewarm. You aren't hot or cold. So I am going to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich. I've become wealthy and don't need anything’ But you don't realize how pitiful and miserable you have become. You are poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17 NIrV)

So many of us have become very comfortable since first realizing we were sinners in need of a Savior. Oh we were so excited at first: telling our family and even co-workers of our new faith and our wonderful Pastor and the friendliness of the church. What happened? Did life get in the way?

Jesus warned the church in Laodicea that they had become lukewarm…indifferent…uncaring. Even in the most challenging of times lately, believers are turning to the world for answers instead of trusting God at His Word. Even when wealth and other riches are fading…

Be encouraged. It’s in these toughest and most grueling times that our faith not only sustains us, but calls unbelievers to the love of our DADDY! Via Dolorosa or Via Crucis designates a stretch of road between the Antonia fortress and Golgotha, along which Jesus Christ walked, bowed under the weight of the Cross. As Christ walked the road to His death, many began to realize He was indeed Messiah. Many more believed as He suffered on the cross and still more when He rose. His faithful obedience to God’s will is still evidence today to the love, mercy, and power of God.

When our faith is evident in our lifestyle (the choices we make and the things we say) it is a lively and energetic faith. It is a witnessing faith!

May it never be said of us that we are lukewarm and there is no evidence of our trust in God. May our KNOWLEDGE (faith) be vividly EVIDENT and alive so when the time comes, we all are rightly accused and convicted…sentenced to eternal life with our Savior in heaven!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

10 14 08 Plan Ahead

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes. You ought to say instead, ‘If the Lord is willing, then we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15 NET)

So many have had such great plans for the future: Retirement homes, vacations, cash flow, cars, boats and more. But the future never arrived. Reality struck first! James is not saying that planning ahead is wrong. In fact, not planning is planning to fail. Where we mess up is right at the initial phase of our planning: we plan things. As James says above, we need to start by asking the Lord what He has planned for us and then attack things from His perspective.

But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20-21 NET)

While we can not take anything with us into the next life, we can do two things: leave a legacy of integrity behind and send blessings (treasures) ahead of us. We can PLAN AHEAD for future generations to follow the Godly heritage we set before them as well as accumulate treasures in heaven by the things we invest in to honor Christ in this life. In this way, we are assured that our labor is not in vain. The bank can’t foreclose on time deposited into someone’s life. The stock market can not crash our investments in mission work. We’ll never have to be bailed out for sacrificing our wants for the needs of God’s people. Overtime in prayer, studying His Word, and worship far outweighs overtime at the office. God’s promises trump any business deal we could ever make.

I believe we all have learned a hard lesson on planning ahead by the world’s standards. The books on 3-5 year plans and economic forecasting have been torn up and re-written by the hour. One Book still holds true. God shows us how to PLAN AHEAD. We simply have to remember where our future lies…far beyond the next 40-50 years! As Jeremiah wrote to encourage a disheartened people in bondage: God has plans to prosper His people! (Jeremiah 29:11). We need to deliver that hope today!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

10 14 08 Live Out Loud

“Here are the kinds of beliefs that God our Father accepts as pure and without fault. When widows and children who have no parents are in trouble, take care of them. And keep yourselves from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27 NIrV)

James saw the kind of faith God required. He saw it throughout his life in his brother Jesus. Jesus took time for the children. He spoke to the ignored of society. He comforted those in pain. He wasn’t afraid to put His faith to the test among non-believers. Jesus wore His faith on His sleeve if you would. He didn’t hide His beliefs in a bushel basket. He let His Light shine. He did indeed LIVE OUT LOUD!

“And do this (love your neighbors) because we know the time, that it is already the hour for us to awake from sleep, for our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers.” (Romans 13:11 NET)

We know Paul’s (Saul) story. He was the tenacious and very successful prosecutor of the Christians. He hunted them down and saw to it that they paid for their crime with imprisonment, beatings, or even death (Acts 7:59-60, 8:1-3). Once the Lord revealed Himself to Saul the Road to Damascus (Acts 9), the Lord used that same tenacity to allow Paul to now LIVE OUT LOUD for God, rather than the persecuting government. Paul then would write to the Roman believers to love out loud…all in the name of Jesus, because time was getting short! Well if time was getting short then (A.D. 57) don’t you think we should be even more alert today? God is calling for all believers to LIVE OUT LOUD in a time when so many are seeking answers to the world’s problems.

Jesus would answer the experts with a simple answer: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-33). It was known from the first laws laid down by God as to what He accepted as pure worship and acceptable living from His people (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5). This is the great SHEMA, with which the Jewish synagogue starts the daily liturgy morning and evening, and which every Jew is supposed to repeat at least once daily.

In a world where people are on the edge of their seat and begging for answers, we who know the Lord have those answers. We have to show His love by how we care for others. We are so rich in a nation and a world where people are losing money by the thousands every day. Love is priceless, yet worth millions. So if we love God, we must love others. It is the basic building block of our faith.

As songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman put it:

Wake the neighbors
Get the word out
Come on, crank up the music, climb a mountain and shout
This is life we've been given, made to be lived out
So, la, la, la, la, LIVE OUT LOUD

Monday, October 13, 2008

10 13 08 Wise Choices in Uncertain Times

“I, James, am writing this letter. I serve God and the Lord Jesus Christ… My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble. When you do, think of it as pure joy. Your faith will be put to the test…If any of you need wisdom, ask God for it. He will give it to you. God gives freely to everyone. He doesn't find fault. But when you ask, you must believe. You must not doubt…Blessed is the man who keeps on going when times are hard. After he has come through them, he will receive a crown. The crown is life itself. God has promised it to those who love him... My dear brothers and sisters don't let anyone fool you. Every good and perfect gift is from God…God chose to give us new birth through the message of truth. He wanted us to be the first and best of everything he created.” (James 1:1-18 NIrV)

We all know that James, the brother of Jesus, took a while to come to the belief that his brother was the Messiah. That’s pretty logical; who would believe their brother was anything special anyway? James had to be shown the facts. After the resurrection, he not only believed, but as he wrote himself, he was now a bond-servant of the Lord. He was sold-out for Christ and now willing to lead the church of Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, Acts 15:13-21, Acts 21:18, Galatians 2:9-12). As the early followers of Jesus faced many trials and temptations (as new believers often do) James did not commiserate with them as much as he challenged them to endure and instructed them to imitate Christ. Rather than turn to the world and even to our own judgment when facing life’s decisions, we all need to seek God. We must make WISE CHOICES IN UNCERTAIN TIMES!

Like Daniel, when faced with hardships in life, whether emotional pain, physical health issues, or economic challenges we need to trust God in His infinite wisdom and plans for each of us. Daniel kept His focus on God when thrown into the den of lions. His teenage friends stayed focused upon the lord when thrust into the fiery furnace. Jesus stayed focused upon the Father’s will all through His ministry, as He withstood pain and torture for our salvation and for God’s glory! God has a plan for each of His children to succeed, according to His will, and He will care for us, even in the most terrible of times!

We have to “keep on going when times get hard”, as James writes. We can not give in!

God made us in His image! We are the head and not the tail. Let’s trust Him and honor Him and allow Him to work!!!! First thing we must do is seek Him…ask Him…trust Him. The answers are not in this world or the world’s leaders. In fact, we have to pray for them to hear from God as well! It’s not a choice of party, or candidate, or nation, but a choice of whom you and I really trust and are willing to believe. We first ask of God and then obey His wise instruction. We have to wake up and choose today whom we will serve!

Popular choices are not going to work: We must make WISE CHOICES IN UNCERTAIN TIMES! It's one thing to say we believe. it's another to act it out.

Friday, October 10, 2008

10 10 08 First Things First

“His disciples were saying to him, ‘Rabbi, eat something!’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ Then his disciples asked each other, ‘Did someone bring him food?’ Jesus said, ‘My food is to do what my Father sent me to do. My food is to finish his work. You say, “Four months more, and then it will be harvest time.” But I tell you, open your eyes! Look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest right now. Those who gather the crop are already getting paid. They are already harvesting the crop for eternal life. So those who plant and those who gather can now be glad together. Here is a true saying. “One plants and another gathers.” I sent you to gather what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work. You have gathered the benefits of their work." (John 4:31-38 NIrV)

Jesus had just finished His conversation with the Samaritan woman. She was so amazed at finding the Messiah, she went to her village to tell the others and they were coming to hear the Good News for themselves. The disciples were concerned for the physical needs of Jesus; was he hungry? Did He already eat? Why was He not concerned? They did not see the big picture! Jesus had been fully nourished by the woman’s acceptance of Him and the salvation of many more on the way. This was the Father’s will, that all be saved and no one perish.

Many folks know the Word of God and know His will. The trouble comes in when we get so caught up in the physical, that we miss the spiritual. We miss God at work right in front of our very eyes. We’re so concerned about our next meal, the next meeting, the next paycheck, even the next ministry event, that we miss God! We must put FIRST THINGS FIRST!

Does it turn us on to know that the meal we may buy a homeless man may just have him ask us “Why?” Then, as Jesus was able to do with the Samaritan lady, we can sit with him and explain the love of Christ. Would you rather invest in Wall Street or invest in children starving for a relationship with someone? Would you sacrifice the football pool or lavish meals out to support mission trips bringing God’s love to someone who has lost everything they ever possessed in life? Have you considered this: there are pastors, ministers, missionaries, and even fellow members of your church who consistently sacrifice meals, clothes, health and retirement benefits, and more to feed on God’s work rather than supply their own basic needs?

I believe this is what Jesus was saying to His followers here. We can’t be so caught up in what we think we need and thereby miss God working right under our very noses. I believe we all can do with less stuff, less activity, and less busyness. I believe that if we slow down a bit and hear from God, we can get a new perspective on life. Personally, I have come to find out our family has done so much more with so much less in the past five years or so. It’s unbelievable! But then, so is my DADDY!

Is God calling you to do the unbelievable? Is He pressing upon your heart to do something you can’t figure out…can’t make sense of…more than you can imagine? Welcome to His will! His wisdom makes our ways look so foolish! His plans throw us completely off our five-year plans. God can do unbelievable things in our lives, if we put FIRST THINGS FIRST!

"But put God's kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all of those things will also be given to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NIrV)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

10 09 08 Write It Down

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.’”
(Exodus 34:27 NET)

Moses spent a special 40 days alone with the Lord and when the time was up, He instructed Moses to WRITE IT DOWN. These words would be for a special relationship between God and the Jewish nation for generation after generation.

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.’” (Jeremiah 30:2 NIV)

God inspired the prophet Jeremiah to put into words His prophecy to redeem the nation of Israel. These words would cause many (like Daniel) to pray to the Lord for this restoration and keep their hope alive in His promises.

“Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll that it may be for time to come, Forever and ever…”
(Isaiah 30:8 NKJV)

God led Isaiah to write down the warnings for a rebellious and deceitful people. These words warn us even today of a need for repentance and a return to a trust and dependence upon a Holy God.

“Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches; to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:11 NET)

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, God sends a final message to the seven named churches through the Apostle John. Write down what you see and let everyone know!

It’s good for us to write down the things God reveals to us as well. It not only helps us to plant it securely within our hearts and minds, but it serves to let others know. Maybe, just maybe, what we have learned may benefit someone else! We’ll never know unless we preserve the message by writing it down! Imagine the impact even our private journal may have on our children or grandchildren!

So let’s spread the news: Jesus is coming soon and we better be ready. We want others to be ready too. There will be no warning except what we have already read and heard! It’s time we believe what has been written down from generations past.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

10 08 08 Atoning Blood
“The Lord spoke to Moses. He said, ‘The tenth day of the seventh month is the day when sin is paid for. Come together for a special service. Do not eat any food. Bring an offering that is made to me with fire. Do not do any work on that day. It is the day when sin is paid for. On that day your sin will be paid for in my sight. I am the Lord your God. Suppose you do eat food on that day. Then you will be cut off from your people. I will destroy anyone among your people who does any work on that day. You must not do any work at all. That is a law that will last for all time to come. It applies no matter where you live. That day is a sabbath for you. You must rest on it. You must not eat anything on that day. You must keep your sabbath from the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening.’” (Leviticus 23:26-32 NIrV)

The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, represents the day when the Hebrew priest puts on special clothes and makes offerings to atone (cleanse) the holy sanctuary, the temple, and the altar. He then makes atonement for the priests and the people. The day is solemn and serious. It is a day of complete rest and fasting with a goal of humbling the soul. As a holy day, it serves to remind the people of the magnitude and offense of sin. The eve of the Day of Atonement begins with the blast of a shofar (a horn, usually a ram's horn, blown by the ancient Hebrews in battle and during religious ceremonies, now sounded in a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Afterwards, the shofars are silent until next year.

But today, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, we have the sacrifice of Christ. The original sacrifice of animals’ blood was a temporary covering of sin. His ATONING BLOOD sets us free from sin forever.

“The first covenant had rules for worship. It also had a sacred tent on earth. A holy tent was set up…The priests entered it at regular times. They went into the outer room to do their work for God and others. But only the high priest went into the inner room. He went in only once a year. He never entered without taking blood with him. He offered the blood for himself. He also offered it for the sins the people had committed because they didn't know any better… That's an example for the present time. It shows us that the gifts and sacrifices they offered were not enough…Christ came to be the high priest of the good things that are already here. When he came, he went through the greater and more perfect holy tent…He did not enter by spilling the blood of goats and calves. He entered the Most Holy Room by spilling his own blood. He did it once and for all time. He paid the price to set us free from sin forever. The blood of goats and bulls is sprinkled on people. So are the ashes of a young cow. They are sprinkled on people the Law called unclean. The people are sprinkled to make them holy. That makes them clean on the outside. But Christ offered himself to God without any flaw. He did this through the power of the eternal Holy Spirit. So how much more will his blood wash from our minds our feelings of guilt for committing sin! Sin always leads to death. But now we can serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:1-14 NIrV)

We can now enter boldly to the throne of God’s grace. We have a great High priest in Jesus who stands before God the Father for us. (Hebrews 10:19-22) In days such as this, we need to be sure in our faith and know we can indeed walk by faith. Our sin is forgiven and our hearts have been made pure. Because of His ATONING BLOOD and only because of His blood, can we serve Him. What a privilege!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

10 07 08 TAKE A STAND
“But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are a people who belong to God. All of this is so that you can sing his praises. He brought you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIrV)

Peter writes these words to Christians scattered throughout the Roman provinces (A.D. 60-64). He travelled extensively throughout the provinces and probably wrote this letter from Rome, yet called the area Babylon (1Peter 5:13) to disguise his whereabouts. He was being chased down by the Romans, as we see the beginnings of severe persecution by Nero at this time. Peter would eventually be crucified upside down (prior to Nero’s’) death in A.D. 68.

The world stumbles over the words of the Bible. Jesus’ teachings are rejected as politically incorrect, restrictive, and intolerant. Foundational truths of the Bible are being challenged and even rewritten to fit the times we live in. But we who have been called by God need to TAKE A STAND. God has not changed. (James 1:17). His words will remain forever. (Mark 13:31) We who believe must show how precious these words and our Savior are to us. We have to be living witnesses to the power of God’s grace and forgiveness. We have to be so peculiar to a watching world that they see a difference and want what we have!

Since God has done so much for us, we in turn need to represent Him well. The temptations are out there to compromise what we know is Truth and justify our actions. Yet we need to draw upon the Holy Spirit and one another to resist the offers to negotiate with the enemy and walk the straight and narrow. There should be no doubt as to whom we give allegiance and where our passion lies. Our disciplined lifestyle should be evident to those around us. Others need to see God at work and they need to see that He’s at work in you and me!

Somebody has to take a stand. Joseph did. (Genesis 39:7-23) Daniel did. (Daniel 6:10-28) Isaiah did. (Isaiah 6:8) Joshua did. (Joshua 24:15) Paul did. (Acts 26:2-32)) Esther did as well. (Esther 4:16) The question is this: As we face challenging days ahead, will we TAKE A STAND? If we stand for nothing we’ll fall for anything! Choose ye today whom you will serve!

Monday, October 6, 2008

10 06 08 A Command to the Rich (You and Me)

“Command people who are rich in this world not to be proud. Tell them not to put their hope in riches. Wealth is so uncertain. Command those who are rich to put their hope in God. He richly provides us with everything to enjoy. Command the rich to do what is good. Tell them to be rich in doing good things. They must give freely. They must be willing to share. In that way they will put riches away for themselves. It will provide a firm basis for the next life. Then they will take hold of the life that really is life.” (1Timothy 6:17-19 NIrV)

I received this message recently (October 2008) from a young missionary family currently serving in Indonesia. I first met them (when they were students at a local Bible College) during a Missions Conference when Tamara and I sat down to have lunch. As we shared our experiences as missionaries, they shared their plans to serve abroad. They have been serving abroad now for more than two years with their young children. What a blessing and encouragement they have been to me as they continue to share their experiences. I believe this message will encourage all of us:

What a crazy time for our home country to be going through and we're on the other side of the world! The verse below comes to mind and reminds us that our REAL life is not about money in this world. It's about loving, sharing, and looking forward to that future of an eternal home where the city itself, as well as the streets, will be pure gold (Revelation 21:18,21). And in case you don't consider yourself to be "rich in this present world," come on over here to Indonesia and you'll get a taste of the fact that even lower-middle class Americans are very wealthy compared to the majority of the world's population who are trying to scrape by on pennies. Let's thank God that He takes care of us, and let's continue to share our blessings with those who are needy!

I personally have learned to view money as simply a tool for ministry. As my friend says above, if we know the Lord and especially if we live here in America, we are by far richer than most of the worlds’ population. Yet we have forgotten our first love. We instead have fallen in love with money. But as Paul told Timothy and as we are finding out in rather rude way, wealth is so uncertain. Paul tells Timothy to COMMAND THE RICH to put their hope in God; to do what is good, and to give freely! It wasn’t a choice, but a command! Wow!!! I would assume the same goes for us today?

It’s a simple message throughout the Bible. Jesus taught it as well and He lived it out. We must be looking forward to heaven, where the streets are made of gold! For goodness sakes, if the streets are made of gold in my home, why am I hoarding coins and bills here on this journey? As I learn to give freely and share all that I have, I am sending up treasures for when I get home. As I give and do good things here on earth, I am also taking hold of what life is really about as God designed it to be. God is love; we must love. God is good; we must do good. God is merciful and gracious; we must be merciful and gracious. God gave that we might live. We must give, so other may see Him and live! Real life is in Christ!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Between a Rock and a Hard Place\

“For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?” (Psalm 18:31 NIV)

Jesus is indeed a protector. Who can protect us from any seen or unseen danger but our Lord? David knew it. Many times he had been hunted down yet God preserved him for greatness. He shielded him within the crevices and hid him among the caves. The Lord even protected David from the consequence of his foolish choices in life, showing grace as the psalmist expressed repentance and true heartache over his sins. Yes, when found BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, David found rest in the Rock!

There is not denying it: today, 2008, we find ourselves in a hard place economically all over the world. Some may be in a hard place physically, battling illness. Some may be in a hard place emotionally. Still others may be in a hard place facing spiritual decisions: do I trust the God of the Bible or the gods of this world?”

Oh, but The Rock yet stands…inviting us to “Come!” Come to Me all who are heavy burdened. Come to Me those who need healing. Come to Me those who are weak. Come to Me those who hunger and thirst. Come to Me those who need shelter. Come to Me those who are drowning in the midst of storms. We have to realize the answer does not lie in the hard place, but in the Rock!

Jesus is standing at our doorstep. He is beckoning from the seashore. He is calling out from the street corner. He is announcing on Wall St and on Main St, “Come to ME!”

As sinners, we either fall on the Rock or the Rock falls on us. As I find myself wedged between A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, I rest in the Rock. He gives me hope, confidence, assurance, shelter, and a peace the hard place can not give, no matter how many bailouts those in the hard place can muster. The only sure fire solution lies within the Rock!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I Hate This!!!!

“For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalm 51:3)

The first step repentance is showing contrition for our action. If we don’t feel any remorse or sorrow for what we’ve done, there will no real admition of guilt. So many of us today say, “I’m sorry”, yet there is no feeling of sorrow. I’m sorry becomes a way of getting out of the situation we’re in! Secondly, we must come to realize and acknowledge that our sin is sin and we can’t deal with it alone. We need a holy God to remove the evil condition of sin!

David was surely remorseful for his actions with Bathsheba and the subsequent death (murder) of her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11). He also acknowledged that the sin was “always before him”…it would not go away! He couldn’t cover it up and he couldn’t run any more. It was eating at his health (Psalm 32:3) and now Nathan the prophet knew as well (2 Samuel 12:7).

I think we all can relate to David. I know I can! I have gotten to the point where I hate the sin I even think about and it makes me sick to consider the things I do and have done, compared to what God has done for me! I can imagine David crying out, I HATE THIS!” in reference to his sinful condition. We just can’t handle it alone! We need His grace. We need His love. We need His mercy. We need the blood of Jesus to thoroughly cleanse us! We need a Nathan at times to help us admit our guilt. We also need one another to stand by each other’s side to walk through forgiveness and restoration.

What is the comparison in our lives to the sin we commit and the grace and mercy offered by Christ? Ask yourself, “Do I hate the sin enough to admit how much I need Him? Am I willing to cry out to Him for help? What must I do to be saved from the deep sorrow of my sin and transformed to a new life of holiness?” Call on the Savior, the One who died for each of us that we might experience His deep and abiding love. Trust Him to do what we can’t do alone! Don’t hide anymore!!! Don’t run away…run home to DADDY!
10 01 08 Try Me
“Will a man dare to steal from me? But you rob me! You ask, 'How do we rob you?' By holding back your offerings. You also steal from me when you do not bring me a tenth of everything you produce. So you are under my curse. In fact, your whole nation is under it. That is because you are robbing me. Bring the entire tenth to the storerooms in my temple. Then there will be plenty of food. Put me to the test, says the Lord. Then you will see that I will throw open the windows of heaven. I will pour out so many blessings that you will not have enough room for them.” (Malachi 3:8-10 NIrV)

God challenged the Jewish nation to TRY ME …test me (bachan in Hebrew) just as precious metals were to be tried to see if they were genuine. As we do today, the people were giving God leftovers and keeping their money and offerings for themselves. I guess you could say they were trusting the 401K’s, stocks, CD’s and other business investments over God’s plans. I assume that today we have found out that there is no security in the economy! I know after all that has occurred in the past few months world-wide that would not dare rob God anymore? When God says “Test Me”, I think we should agree!

I can tell you for myself, since learning to give God back His money, I have come to realize that the economy can’t take it away, dissolve it, or buy it out. God controls His bank!

Brothers and sisters, make sure that none of you has a sinful heart. Do not let an unbelieving heart turn you away from the living God. But build one another up every day. Do it as long as there is still time. Then none of you will become stubborn. You won't be fooled by sin's tricks. We belong to Christ if we hold firmly to the faith we had at first. But we must hold to it until the end. It has just been said, (Psalm 95:7, 8) ‘Listen to his voice today. If you hear it, don't be stubborn. You were stubborn when you opposed me.’ ” (Hebrews 3:12-15NIrV)

Why is the church in need today? Why does the Pastor have to plead for the members to support the ministries of the church? Why are pastors working outside of the church? Why are missionaries hamstrung by finances and turning people away who are in need? Why do our neighbors go hungry, without clothes, without medicine, and without basic needs of life? It’s a matter of trust. It’s a question of belief…faith.

While it is the churches role to reach the needs of the people, it is every believer’s responsibility to give to support such ministries. The giving must go beyond the minimum 10%! Did Christ not go beyond 10% in sacrificing His life? Did God not go beyond 10% in rescuing me and you from our mess? Does the Spirit of God not go beyond 10% in protecting, guiding, and teaching us? So are we still robbing God? Oh, I hope not!

We can’t afford to be stubborn anymore. Now is the time to commit to give and do as God commanded: “TRY ME”! As God receives our gifts, many others will receive His blessings. We may even receive a few ourselves.

Let’s pray daily: DADDY, increase my faith, strengthen my unbelieving heart! I want to be obedient to your commands and let you control my resources.

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...