Friday, January 30, 2009

01 30-09 The Night is Coming!

While it is still day, we must do the work of the One who sent me. Night is coming. Then no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:4-5 NIrV)

Jesus was constantly about doing His Father’s business. He had to persistently work to bring people to see the power of God. He had only a short time on earth. He knew the day would soon come when darkness would prevail. One day, he would walk the earth no more and His earthly ministry would be finished. He would have to obediently go to the cross. So while He was on earth, He would be the Light and expose the works of darkness; contrasting the saving grace and love of God with the evils of this world.

So we who have received that grace, what are we doing with it? While we are on this earth, while we still have the freedoms and privileges to do so, are we doing the work of our Father? Are we asking for wisdom from God (James 1:5) to pick our areas of confrontation and exposing the darkness as Christ would do? We who have the Light within us, are we letting it shine in a loving and compassionate way, drawing those in darkness toward Christ? Have we found ourselves crouching in the darkness rather than standing in the Light? It’s not too late!

We are the lights of the world now. We have to be Jesus to the misguided business leaders, the blinded school administrators, and the battered youth of our day. We have to take our candle, our light, and attack the darkness with a renewed energy and well-armored faith. The night is coming! The sun is indeed going down and dark clouds of doom appear on the horizon, but only for those who refuse to listen to and believe the Truth. Our challenge is to live out our days as if each day is our last. We must do the work of our Father and be found working when He comes!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cheerful Sacrifice for Others

“Here is something to remember. The one who plants only a little will gather only a little. And the one who plants a lot will gather a lot. You should each give what you have decided in your heart to give. You shouldn't give if you don't want to. You shouldn't give because you are forced to. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to shower all kinds of blessings on you. In all things and at all times you will have everything you need. You will do more and more good works. It is written, ‘They have spread their gifts around to poor people. Their good works continue forever.’(Psalm 112:9)
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.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-12 NIrV)

Covetousness is the illicit desire to have what belongs to another. Generosity is the godly desire for others in need to have what I possess. One cannot be covetous and generous at the same time. Paul turns our attention to those guiding principles concerning generosity which counter covetousness. The first principle of sowing and reaping can be stated very simply: The way you sow is the way you reap. There is a sense in which we should give away our excess material possessions to the poor and expect nothing from them in return. It is also true that when we do so, we know we will be rewarded by our Lord for our generosity in heaven. In these challenging times, can we afford not to give?

So what causes delays in giving…Some of us may have had a bad year in business and our ability to give may be diminished. Some may have lost heart and decided that since we can only contribute a fraction of what we promised, we might as well give nothing. Others of us may have been swindled by our Christian brother and we are hesitant to give. Another family may have been through a very difficult year and determined that they will use their promised contribution to take a much needed vacation.

When we give to the work of the church and outreach ministries, we give to those who need to see, feel, and hear the words of Jesus. Paul says it meets the needs of God’s people. He also says it causes these folks to in turn praise our God and Father. It’s a good thing to clothe a homeless man, deliver a meal to a needy family, or tutor a child in Math or English and see the resulting improved grades. But it’s even more rewarding to see the person we help in turn praise the God we serve and the One who causes us to serve. As we meet needs from your gifts, people experience God and ask to be saved!

If we don’t give, children and families go in need; for food, for clothing, for tutoring, for a friend, for love…God’s love! Thanks for your cheerful sacrifice for others.

Monday, January 19, 2009

01 19 09 A Suffering Nation

“And that's not all. We are full of joy even when we suffer. We know that our suffering gives us the strength to go on.” (Romans 5:3 NIrV)

Pressures in life tend to challenge folks, don’t they? It shows what we’re made of. One’s true colors show under pressure. Dr. Martin Luther King faced the challenges and pressures with not only a resolve to see change, but a faith to trust in the promises of God. I can’t believe it was simply a desire to change society that drove Dr. King, but a desire to see the hearts of men and women changed. To truly treat folks equally and judge one another by character rather than appearance; it takes a change of heart. Can we do that today? To coin a phrase; Yes we can!

Paul tells us that we can boast or triumph in our pressures. The Greek word for tribulation is “pressure.” It is an outside force that pushes on you and exerts stress on you to yield and conform to it. Paul tells us that we can triumph in these pressures as believers because of what the stress produces. The pressures of life, says Paul, are used by God to produce perseverance and determination. This is the quality of a person who when faced with problems he has no control over (and to which his only responses are either to endure with anger or to endure with patience) chooses to endure with patience. Paul goes on to say that the practice of fortitude under pressure produces in us character which has been proven. Determination in trials proves that the godly qualities we practice are what really motivate and control us, rain or shine. This proof of our growth toward godliness then encourages us all the more to trust in our hope: Jesus’ plans for our future glory that God has guaranteed us through His Son.

So how do we know we won’t be disillusioned? Can we possibly believe God will bring us through our trials and conform us to the image of Christ and thus saved forever?” Paul replies, “We know because of God’s love for us.”

Paul proclaims that because of Jesus Christ, the object of our faith, and what He has done we do in fact have peace with God and we can boast in our position, our pressures, and our possession of reconciliation. He is that hope and our confidence!

So as we lift up President Obama and his family today in prayer as he approaches severe challenges and pressures, we pray God’s blessings over them. We pray for the hope of the Nation to not simply change for change sake, but to seek God’s wisdom and favor to change the heats of men and women throughout the world. We pray for the President and this Nation to be open to the Spirit of God and to yield to His grace, His counsel, and the saving power of the blood of Christ. We pray that Mr. Obama’s heart is in your hands Lord (Proverbs 21:1) and that this Nation will again be one Nation under God! Blessed indeed is the Nation whose God is the Lord! (Psalm 33:12) Can we trust God at His word? Yes we can!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

He Delivers

“They cried out to the LORD in their distress;
He delivered them from their troubles.” (Psalm 107:6 NET)

Psalm 105 is a wisdom psalm reviewing God’s enduring love, His provisions, His deliverance, and His salvation. It is also a call to rediscover His loyal love and commitment to those who cry out with a sincere heart. All throughout the psalm, the words ring out: “they cried out to the Lord in their distress…He delivered them from their troubles.”

We don’t cry out to God enough today. We rely upon our own abilities. We call upon family. We call upon friends. We call upon creditors and bankers. But we don’t call upon God! Is it that we don’t think He knows? Do we really believe that He cares? Has it finally gotten bad enough that we will finally call upon the God of all creation to deliver us, comfort us, and see us through?

In 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, Paul writes concerning his trials and tribulations. Of all the things he was, he was indeed tormented and troubled. As influential and educated as he was, he was also beaten, jailed, robbed, physically ill, abandoned by friends, and left for dead at times. Yet he boasted upon the Lord’s grace and the strength it gave him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

We who thought we had it all figured out are now facing a crossroads. Who will we turn to…whom will we trust with our future? Though things seem impossible and somewhat of a mess, as for me and my house, we are now more committed to trust in and serve the Lord!

Monday, January 12, 2009

01 12 09 Seek God…Seek Others

“When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul…” (Jeremiah 29:13 NET)

“…For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 NET)

Pastor Rick Warren writes: “Some of us hesitate to commit ourselves to developing an intentional plan of growth that requires accountability or relationship with others because we believe spiritual growth is a personal and private matter. We choose to believe each person develops in his or her own way at his or her own rate. This is an aberration from the truth. The idolatry of individualism has influenced even the way we think about spiritual growth. So much of the teaching on spiritual formation is self-centered and self-focused without any reference to our relationship to other Christians. This is completely unbiblical and ignores much of the New Testament. The truth is that Christians need relationships to grow. We don’t grow in isolation from others. We develop in the context of fellowship.” (The Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional, January 12, 2009, © 2008 Purpose Driven Life.
All rights reserved)

Oh how I am learning to lean on others as well as the Lord. There is nothing like Jesus with skin on, as they say. Jeremiah knew the pleasure of seeking the Lord’s presence, even in the darkest of days. Luke wrote that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. We have to be intentional if we are to be one with the Spirit and thus one in His will to reach the lost with His comforting promises. It’s not about our comfort, but the knowledge of knowing His peace and sharing it with so many who have no clue. What we have in Christ needs to be put on the hills, up in lights, and all over the internet! We who know need to purposely seek those who are hurting and share His love. It’s not enough to have Jesus for ourselves; we need to share Christ deliberately!

“Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works. Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIrV)

In a day when the natural reaction is to shy away and retreat, we need to be sure not to give up meeting together, allowing others to see and experience the love of our dear Savior. Let’s cheer each other up. Let’s be a burst of energy to those in the faith who are a bit down. Let’s do it even more so as we see the days becoming more taxing and more demanding. Let’s be found working when Jesus returns and be sure to let others know before it’s too late. Let’s SEEK GOD throughout the day and SEEK OTHERS along the way!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Forgive Me…Forgive You…Forgive Ourselves?

“You are God's chosen people. You are holy and dearly loved. So put on tender mercy and kindness as if they were your clothes. Don't be proud. Be gentle and patient. Put up with each other. Forgive the things you are holding against one another. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you. And over all of those good things put on love. Love holds them all together perfectly as if they were one. Let the peace that Christ gives rule in your hearts. As parts of one body, you were appointed to live in peace. And be thankful. Let Christ's word live in you like a rich treasure. Teach and correct each other wisely. Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing with thanks in your hearts to God. Do everything you say or do in the name of the Lord Jesus. Always give thanks to God the Father through Christ.” (Colossians 3:12-17 NIrV)

As the Bible tells us, we are to forgive others when they harm us, even if they do not ask! It gives us a peace within our own heart if nothing else. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a problem forgiving others. That is easy for me.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9 NIrV)

I also have no problem admitting I am a sinner and I have a daily need to confess my sins to the Father and I know I receive His forgiveness. I know I am clean in His sight because of Christ’s blood sacrifice for me and His powerful demonstration of His authority over sin by being raised from the grave by God.

“I know the lawless acts I've committed.
I can't forget my sin.” (Psalm 51:3 NIrV)

Herein lays the struggle I face: I know I am a sinner, but just can’t forget that fact! Not just that: my sins haunt me at times. They disgust me. They tempt me. They seem at times to pursue me!

“Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:20 NIrV)

I face the battle every day. My sin nature is at war with Spirit living within me. I must realize it not me, but the sin. It makes me keenly aware of how despicable I am without Christ. It makes me desire to be with Him now and in eternity. Forgive me, as I forgive you, and we help one another to forgive ourselves and live in His power! Maranatha!

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...