Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not an Easy Journey

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. (Philippians 1:29)

Most of you by now that when one commits to Christ, it is not an easy journey! There is no greater example of this than the apostle Paul.

Luke builds up the picture of Saul as a rampaging wild beast in his hateful opposition to the disciples of the Lord (compare Acts 8:3; Gal 1:13, 23). When the NIV renders "threats and murder" as murderous threats, something is lost of the reference to the two-part Jewish judicial process (Longenecker 1981:368) and the highlighting of Saul's violence (Lake and Cadbury 1979:99).

Saul does not just make threats (compare Acts 4:17, 29); he helps bring about actual executions (Acts 8:1; 26:10).

As Saul travels to Damascus at midday, he experiences the divine presence: a light from heaven flashing around him and a voice addressing him.

"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4)

As Saul deeply considers that "why?" and accepts the divine perspective on his actions, his whole spiritual world will be turned upside down. What was gain will become loss. (Phil 3:6-9).

As we come to the end of a school year, for most it has not been an easy journey. Good times? . . . yes. Challenges? . . . of course. Disappointments? . . . oh yeah! It all comes with the territory when one commits to doing things God's way!

Our old ways of defining success have changed. The old ways of defining the excellent student are gone. Teachers and parents are not evaluated by grades alone. It's not about the outside: grades, awards, or the applause of men. It is about completing the race . . . fulfilling the task . . . making it to the finish line!

We must be faithful to the task, as Paul was, despite the ups and downs!

God's timetable is not based upon our calendar of events, but His eternal design. It is not over until God says it's done! Keep leaning forward. The finish line is ahead. It is not an easy journey, but the only one worth running!

Run hard in the right direction!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tears to Cheers

When the LORD restored the fortunes of[a] Zion,we were like those who dreamed.Our mouths were filled with laughter,our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes,LORD,like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping,carrying seed to sow,will return with songs of joy,carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126)

This Psalm of David divides itself into a narrative (Psalm 126:1-2), a song (Psalm 126:3), a prayer (Psalm 126:4), and a promise (Psalm 126:5-6).Spurgeon refers to the psalm as "Leading captivity captive."

It is obvious that David was rejoicing over the fact that God has again and will ultimately deliver His people and restore their once glorious fortunes.

What can we take form these encourages words? God has been faithful to us despite our past. He has redeemed us from sin and has a future for every believer (Jeremiah 29:11)Troubles will be there for us throughout life; suffering will occur as we follow closely according to God's will. However, joy comes in the morning! Hang on . . . wait!

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17) God is faithful to cultivate our struggles, tears and disappointments into a beautiful bouquet of blessings one day. From tears to cheers . . .

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Simple Truths

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Paul is urging his friends and all he has shared with over the years to hang in . . . to remain in communion with one another . . . not to give in to the world's ways of doing things.

Writng to a mix or Romans and Greeks in this urban city of Greece around A.D. 60-62, Paul now imprisoned, writes out of concern for what his people (he had planted a church in Philippi during his earlier missionary journeys)were hearing and how they were acting toward one another.

It is not out of place to apply Paul's words today to our churches in our part of the world!

We face many challenges today from cults, false teachers, social temptations,and media. How do we combat all of it and remain one?

It is not simple to turn from these things, but Paul gives practical advice: Do what we know is right! What we have been taught . . . adhere to those things. Trust wise and Godly counsel. Stay focused on the things we have seen and heard to be true and do not fall for the lies and new findings. Trust those who love us and above all else, trust the Word of God!

Many of us have memorized this verse until it sounds even too simple, yet it remains true today:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight .(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Simple . . .truths!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Do YOU Believe?

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

Do YOU believe? It is a personal question that Jesus asked of Martha yet the question is still left unanswered today. Many are religious. Many go to church. Many even claim this faith or that faith. I am a Baptist . . . I am a Catholic . . . I am Jewish.

I did not asked what you are or where you go to church: the question is Do YOU believe in the Messiah . . . Yeshua . . . the Christ?

As Peter explained to the rulers of the Hebrew church when they questioned him and John: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

So Do YOU believe? In (Romans 10:1-1)Paul writes of his desire to see his people saved. He notes their zeal for God and their passion for Him. I feel the same today. I see many of my friends and companions enthusiastic and passionate for God and church , yet when it comes to choices and lifestyles, I have to wonder . . . There was a time I wondered about myself!

Calling on the name of the Lord . . . confessing faith in Him (Romans 10:9-12)leads one to salvation. However, it also is shown through action and lifestyle. (James 2:14-26).

Many believe, but few follow! How 'bout YOU?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Learn from Experience . . . yours or someone else's!

He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. (Proverbs 15:32)

Life has a way of putting everyone on an equal playing field. Experience lets everyone know that life is real and no one can live in a glass house or safety bubble.

No matter how well off we may be or how little we can claim to possess, life goes on. I recall going into New Orleans five years ago on my our first efforts to serve in the rebuilding process. Yes, those in the poorer sections were hit hard, however, the storm did not discriminate at all. Folks from all walks of life had tragic stories to tell.

Growing up,no matter our economic situation, we all need to heed discipline and learn from our own and other's experience. We need to not do the things older folks tell us not to do! We do not have to experience driving drunk to know the consequences. We do not have to wait to be abused by someone to leave a realtionship when we have been warned of the signs. When we are corrected, either by experience or through someone's advice, we need to learn then, not later!

Solomon tells us (Proverbs 1:7-33)that wisdom calls out in the streets and in the marketplace. He shares with his son that God (wisdom) will not continue to be mocked and ignored. There will come a time when God will have no more of our foolishness and give us over to our own choices.(Romans 1:18-32)

We all know better. The things we have learned and the things we have been taught are for our good. Let's not be stupid! Let's learn from others and our own experiences not foolishly anymore.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just a Closer Walk

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.(John 6:27)

I remember back in the day that when a product had the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, it was good. You could trust it. It was what it said it was and did what it said it could do.

Well, in a day when no one can be trusted and people will tell you anything at anytime just to get you on their side, there is no guarantee that people or products are trustworthy.You have to test people over time and actually try out the products to see if they really work.

There is One who can be trusted however. He has been proven throughout eternity and has never lied, never misled, and never failed. He has come trhough time after time . . . even when all looked lost. Ask the people caught between the Red Sea and the Egyptian armies. (Exodus 14). Ask young David as he faced the giant (1 Samuel 17)Ask the followers of Jesus on that Sunday morning when all looked hopeless (Matthew 28)

So why do we continue to labor for things we cannot have and seek things we do not need? Why do we not pursue the things of God more often? Jesus promises abundant life to those who trust Him (John 10:7-10)It comes with God's seal of approval!

Let's not work in vain, but work within the plans God has for each of us. (Psalm 127) Let's trust God with is plans and His provisions. Seek His approval and not the applause of man! it begins with a closer relationship with God Himself. (John 3:3)Just a closer walk . . .

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wise Thoughts

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver! (Proverbs 16:16)

Wise words from the wisest man in HIStory . . . wisdom over money any day. Money can buy an education, but wisdom is from God. Knowing God is the foundation of knowledge and understanding. As man seeks to know all there is to know, He often forgets to first seek God.

Jesus' brother James experienced the Word up close and personal in the most intimate of settings and he tells us:If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

Job had this to say concerning wisdom: It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver.(Job 28:15)

When Peter was presented with the opportunity to give to the poor lame man he realized he and John had no money, yet they possessed so much more. Here was his response:Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6)

Wisdom . . .accumulated philosophic or scientific learning: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships: good sense. This is how Webster defines it. It is what we receive when we seek after the Lord and ask of Him!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Being in "want" . . .yet not quitting.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

I must admit, this is a struggle for me at this point in my life. I love serving the Lord and I appreciate all He has done for me and my family. However, there are things I would like to be doing . . . things I would like to have . . . things I would like to do for those I love . . . .

At this point in my life, I am in want. It has been that way for quite a while recently. I am striving to be as Paul when he wrote:I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.(Philippians 4:12)

I know the answer: I must allow my will to line up with God's will for me. It is simple, yet it is not. Human nature tends to bully me around at time. But I know this one thing: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:13-14)

I am not quitting now!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Anticipating His Return

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

If one truly loves the Lord, there is no fear of the future. With all the talk of the world coming to an end on this day or that day, those who are true believers must live in confidence in the One who really knows! If we know the true and Living God in the pardoning of our sins through Jesus Christ, then we have nothing to fear! In fact, we are anticipating His return.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,but only the Father. (Matthew 24:36)

Not even Jesus knew the day or hour He would return. . . Only God knows! So why live in fear? The fear is not in knowing the day, but in not knowing the Savior!

He will come back! The question is are we ready today? Those who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)Be prepared and even excited about His return (2 Timothy 4:8). . . no fear, but anticipation!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pressure on the Heart?

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Solomon is sharing his wisdom from father to son. Can you just hear Solomon looking intently into David's eyes . . . speaking not to his ears, but to his son's heart: Hear my instruction son: hold on to the things I am telling you. Solomon warns his son to watch over his heart.

The heart is the centralized location of our being. It is at the core of our beliefs and our emotions.

Luke puts it this way: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)

What we allow into our hearts will eventually come out. We cannot hide our true feeelings for long. Eventually, the real us will be revealed. As we are squeezed, pressured, and manipulated through life, our true beliefs and attitudes will show.

It's time for a check-up:Perhaps we need some open-heart surgery to remove some blockages. Maybe we just need a simple dose of Scripture-reality to loosen up a bit od hardening. Whatever the case is, we need to guard our hearts just in case we get a bit squeezed today . . . what will come out?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Time in the Garden

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. (Hosea 10:12)

In Hosea 10 the prophet is expaining not simply how God is upset at Israel's disobdeience once again, but in this verse God is clear: seek the Lord!

When things become challenging and especially when we find ourselves straying from God, it is not wise to run. It is always best to seek after God in humbleness and seek His mercy. At times we need to change the way we are doing things (break up unplowed ground)ndlGod and just fall at His feet pleading for mercy! God cherishes and broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17)from His children.

God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.(Galatians 6:7-8)

In this time of digging in our gardens and the weeding we find ourselves engaged in, let's not forget our spiritual gardens. What we plant, will eventually grow. Seeds sown among weeds will not grow well or be choked out. Soil not carefully tilled will not result in the best fruit. The farmer (or home gardener) spends quality hours getting on his hands and knees doing all he can to be sure good fruit is produced in time. Though the plants thrive for sun, many times, the rain is desperately needed.

Have we been on our knees lately with the Gardner ofour soil? Do we cherish the rainy days as much as the sunny ones? Let us allow the Master to work in our gardens a bit more and give Him control of the plow!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Motivation

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. (John 6:27)

What is our motivation to work? For most men, our jobs bring us satisfaction and a sense of pride. It provides our wife with a sense of security, knowing the family is taken care of each month.

I believe God puts into man’s heart a desire to work. Read this passage from Exodus: Then the LORD said to Moses,

“See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts -- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship" (Exodus 31:1-6).

Yes, we are called to provide. I even agree that we get a sense of pride and accomplishment from our work. However, our motivation should be to honor the Lord with the labor of our hands. As a mentor of mine would say, if God has given me another day, than it is a day to work!

"It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4)

Let’s not fall into the traps of today society and allow self-pity and laziness set in. I realize folks need help at times, especially in this economy. But let’s make our desire to work . . . even if it is volunteering! We owe all we are and all we have to Christ!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Without God . . .

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

God calls His people to be wise, moral, patient, enduring, and loving. But first . . . before any books are read or classes are taught, there must be faith in the God of the universe!

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7) Respect and obedience to God is the initial point of all knowledge. The morally deficient (the fool) says there is no God. They despise all things concerning God and ignore the fact that He is!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)Faith is not in money, homes, cars, or other human beings. Faith is in the God we yet cannot see but whom we viewed a glimpse of through the person of Jesus Christ. Believers experience Him in the person of the Holy Spirit. One day we will all stand before Him . . . then, for those that have faith in Him, our faith will have true sight!(1 Peter 1:6-9)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Not a Fan of Jesus

And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39)

Jesus, in sending out His disciples, warned them that it would not be easy!Following Christ, really loving Him and not simply being a fan of His, takes sacrifice, humility, and selflessness.

Real love and dedication to the Savior and His ways will make our love for family and friends look like hate. Not that we hate our family, but our love for Jesus is so much deeper! In fact, Jesus warned that family and freinds will even turn against the true disciple of jesus Christ at times!(Matthew 10:34-37)

In John 21, Jeusus challenged Peter and the others to "Follow Me". As we walk through life we must realize that to walk with the Lord will be a challenge, but no one that we walk alone.

He promises to send His Spirit to go through life with us. As we face life's challenges, the ridicule of folks, and even threats upon our lives and worse, we can take heart:there is Peace. Jesus has overcome all these things for us!(John 16:33)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Love God??? Love People!!!

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:3-4)

I love Jesus yes I do . . . I love Jesus, how 'bout you? Sounds like a chant at a football game, but in actuality, it is a call to all believers to shout out their love for Christ . . . but how?

The elder, the oldest living apostle and the one Jesus loved (John 13:23)tells us we show the world our love for Christ by obeying His words!

Here we see again: love is a verb, not a feeling!

So what does love look like to a world that daily witnesses murders, rapes, abuses and ignorance?

My freinds in New Orleans at Urban Impact Ministries (http://www.urbanimpact.org/) put it this way: Love God with all you got and love people 'til you drop!

This is loving as Jesus instructed and showed us: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Do we really love Jesus . . . well, show it! It is not about me!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Share the Vision

In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. (Isaiah 54:14)

Through the prophet Israel is promised to be restored here in Isaiah 54. Though a sinful people in rebellion to God, He still has mercy upon them and promises a future. He shares the vision of their future.

We all are / were at one time enemies with God. Yet God promises mercy and forgiveness.(Colossians 1:21-22) He establishes relationship with those who call upon Him to save them from sin. (John 1:12-13)

Once connected to the Father, there is no telling what God will do. He cherishes a relationship with His children and desires to dwell with them and do good for them.(John 15:9-17)

I want this for me and my children and grandchildren. I want this for all those (especially our youth)whom I see wandering aimlessly through life.

In a world of fear, hopelessness, and broken dreams, God promises a future. Do you have that promise? If you do, will you share the vision with someone today?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Don't Look Back

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. (2 Peter 2:9-10)

So how is it possible to live a Godly life in this ungodly world? How can one possibly be in the world but not of the world?

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth.(John 17:16-17)

Peter is speaking previously about Sodom and Gomorrha. The relatives of Abraham (Lot's family) lived in a horrible society of lusts and tempatations. I would venture to say it was no different, perhaps worse than our culture today! Yet God made a way out for this family.

Many today live to fulfill their own lusts. They are critical of authority. They care for no one but themselves.There is a place for those who refuse to honor and obey the laws of God. There is too a reward for those who respect His authority and honor His Word!

We must be careful not to look back once we claim the name of Jesus. We cannot fall into the trap of political correctness or join in the public criticisms. We are to honor all authorities and those in position of leadership and serving all the while to honor our Lord! (Romans 13:1-5)

God has us here for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). Perhaps,like Queen Esther, we are here for a specific purpose. Perhaps God would God would simply have us live a life as salt and light to a darkened world (Matthew 5:13-15). How else can this world see Jesus, if not through you and me?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Way Out

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Trapped . . . Surrounded by the enemy . . . no conceivable way out? Wait a minute!

Many times we feel trapped in our circumstances or forced to act this way or that way. Not so; the evidence is plainly here in God's Word!

God knows we will be tempted and attracted to the lies of Satan. He knows very well! Even Jesus was put to the test in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). In fact, the Bible says Jesus was tempted in every way man would be!

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

God providesd a way out of every temptation to sin. We choose . . . to sin or not to sin? This IS the question!

God's Word provides direction. The Holy Spirit provides counsel and strength. God Himself provides the victory! He stands ready to do battle for every believer who calls upon His name!

There is a way out . . . use the tools God has provided!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Knock, Knock

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Someone's knockin' at the door . . . somebody's ringin' the bell . . . . an old Beatles' song or a real life scenario? Do we run upstairs and make believe we are not home of gladly run to the door and open it, expecting the visitor?

Jesus is calling out to all who will accept His invitation. Not everyone can just show up however. It comes with restrictions and it has a dress code. One must attend by escort . . . (John 14:6). Jesus brings the guest to the reception. One must be dressed properly, clothed in humility and grace.(1 Peter 5:5)

Ths is not a party for just anybody. Only those who abide by the guidelines are allowed. It is an exclusive club! Jesus holds the invitation list. Is your name written upon it? (Revelation 20:15)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

God IS . . . . and He is COMING BACK!

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.(Psalm 145:17-19)

What a praise psalm from David. In this psalm, David extols the characterisitcs of the Lord. It is a healthy remider to us even today, as we go through trials and tribulationsof health, economic struggles, and challenging relationships.

God is still in control. He is still holy. He still hears the cries of the humble heart. He is still patient with us all!

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

He is patient, but not forever . . . His will is for all to come to repentance and know Him, but He will not wait forever.

God has a timetable. No one knows when, but he will come soon to claim what is His and make things right again! Are YOU ready?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Who is Your Leader?

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
(Joshua 5:13-15)

While it is great to boast of the strongest army or the most powerful weapons and intelligence, it is even greater to know that God is fighting for you! As a nation celebrates a military victory, I wonder how many are giving credit to the Lord of Hosts?

Jehovah Sabaoth is the Strong Tower which God has made available for those times when we fail & are powerless, when our resources are inadequate, when there is no other help. And it is especially during those times that one comes to appreciate that God is truly the LORD of the armies & of all hosts.

Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty— he is the King of glory.Psalm 24:10)

Boast in Jesus, not weapons and armies!

one stable foundation,

Then  as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings  are here! ” ...