Saturday, December 31, 2011

sacrifice, soul searching . . . and submission

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
(Matthew 26:41)

At the time when we all look back with hopes of improving for the future, Jesus has a warning: the spirit is willing but the body is weak!

We have all the best intentions: lose weight, do more for others, save more/spend less, volunteer more often, and on and on . . . .

However, let us heed Jesus' words: watch and pray!

Let's look around and honestly examine our lives with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Let's be real with Him and ourselves. Allow God to guide our plans. There is a way that seems right to each of us, but God knows what is best.

I am trying to follow God's resolutions for my life in 2012 and beyond . . . what about you? This will require much sacrifice and soul searching . . . and submission!

Pray for me as I pray for you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Joy in This World!

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:10-11

Folks may choose to ignore God and His Word, but it is beng spoken and taught all around them. We all are held accountable for what we know about God. Perhaps this is why so many are trying to stifle the Word from being written, spoken, and sung in public settings!

This CHRISTmas, take the opportunity to be LOUD for the Savior so folks can hear. Say "Merry CHRISTmas" and not Happy Holidays. Give a genuine smile and a genuine "Thank You" to the retail workers and others as you shop. Sing the words clearly as the carols play, so all may her that CHRIST THE SAVIOR is not just born, but He lives and rules today! His Word still cuts and divides . . . but we must use it!(Hebrews 4:12)

There is no easier time than CHRISTmas time to share His Word. Share his presence when shopping for and giving presents this year. There is JOY in this world and His name is JESUS!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who is doing the driving?

He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.
(1 John 1:3:8)

Satan is still a powerful foe, one we cannot fight alone. This is God's job. Our job is to trust God and leave this battle up to Him. We are to resist temptation and cause Satan to run! (James 4:7) Paul advises a young Timothy to flee temptations (2 Timothy 2:22)and pursue the things of God. Our focus should be on God, knowing He alone can defeat Satan and He will!

Just because one is saved does not mean Satan is not an influenece. Way too many times I hear comments concerning one's power over Satan and that he no longer can control them. Why then would James say:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
(James 3:9-10)

Only the Holy Spirit (God) can control us. We have to put ourselves under the control of God and give the wheel over to Him. Ask Him and allow Him to steer us in the right direction. We cannot use our own understanding! (Proverbs 3:5-6) but rather must trust in God and His plans.

So who is doing the driving? I do not even want to be the co-pilot! I want God to take full control!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Do You Believe?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16)

John was a simple writer . . . he stuck with a basic theme in his writing . . . believe and live. He in this ofte-quoted but seldom lived out verse, we hear the basic message of CHRISTmas . . . God so loved us all! The question is posed to us as it was to Niciodemus . . .
Do You Believe?

It is a too-simple process: All one must do is believe? That's it? It does not cost me?

The prophet Isaiah wrote long ago:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

Among all the hustle and bustle of CHRISTmas it remains simple.
Is He our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Prince of Peace? Does He rule our lives? Do we live for justice and righteousness? Do we believe?

This CHRISTmas, let's live out the love of the King and share His gift . . . of love!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Who is Our God?

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
(Matthew 6:24)

Every one wants to know that their life matters . . . to someone. Our life interests show up in our check book and on our to-do list. The Bible is clear that where we spend out time and money is where our heart is focused. What matters to us is the legacy we will leave behind.

Though I love sports and look forward to a good game, in reality, the games are over in a few hours. No matter how much time I invest in trying to stay in shape, the fact is I will die one day, no matter how good I look or feel. The money I spend on things that clutter my shelves, sit in my garage, or cover my body is in actuality only worth pennies!

What am I doing for eternity's sake? What am I investing in my family? I am just as guilty as the next guy . . . I must make better decisions when it comes to Whom I am serving . . . me or my God . . . me or the things that have eternal consequences!

Who is our God anyway? Let's re-read the challenge Joshua laid before the Israelites . . .

Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
(Joshua 24:14-15)

Ask my wife and she will tell you that I have room to improve. Ask my children and they will tell you where I have come up short. My prayer is that I am better tomorrow that I was yesterday. My desire is to leave a legacy of sacrifice and service, not selfishness and self-centeredness . I want my family to be able to say time with God and family was a priority in my life.

I want to be known as a bondservant of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1). My desire is to leave a legacy that depicts dedication to God and family and not a litany of accomplishments of selfish deeds. May God be exalted and I be diminished in the years I have left to serve!

When asked: "Who was his God?", I want the answer to be crystal clear . . . The very same God of Abraham, Isaac, and the rest. He served the Lord!

May this be our prayer . . . that we serve the Lord and Him alone! Let HIM be our God!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

What is your song?

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . .
(Luke 1:46-47)

Part of The Magnificat (Latin for magnifies) Mary's response to Elizabeth's greeting tells of all God has done for Mary and others over the years. She does not respond in pride or boasting . . . rather Mary boasts upon the Lord!

Her response ids just the way Paul instructs his audience:

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:31)

What is your song unto the Lord today? I realize all may not be well. We are facing economic struggles, health issues, family strife, and more these days, but God is still God! What would life be without Him? As the psalmist writes below, we are to sing a new song unto the Lord every day, because of Who He is . . .

Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
(Psalm 96:1-3)

Allow the Lord to put a song in your heart today . . . sing loud!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Will We Ever Be One?

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
(Jonah 4:1-3)

Jonah did not like the people from Ninevah. He thought they did not deserve God's grace. He would rather die than see them saved! Yet God is the God for all peoples!

Racism has been around since man can remember. There has always been one group who believes they are better, deserve more, and have a right Lord over another. Will we ever be one . . . at least in the Body of Christ . . . especially in the Body of Christ?

I was at a seminar yesterday listening to a man explaining his experience with racism and just hearing the reponses from the audience (young, old, black, white and asian) let me know that it is still a challenge for even believers to trust one another. Skin color and ethnic cultures is still a dividing line. Sometimes, I wonder if people would rather have it that way!

One thing I do know: It does not please the Lord! Listen to a few of Jesus' words He shared with the father before He was about to go to Calvary:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
(John 17:20-21)

I realize it is difficult to overcome the past. But of Chrst can forgive our past . . . as far as the East is from the West, can we not at least try to put away the sins of our forefathers? Can we live in unity under the grace of God. If we say we love God, but hate our brothers and sisiters, how can we possibly love God?

Just a thought from my heart at CHRISTmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One Way Street to Success

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
(Proverbs 16:3)

There is a one way street to success available today. It is not about money, education, favor, or fame however. It is all about following God however. To be successful in this world, one needs to take his focus off of this world!

We all have plans and this is a good thing. We all have dreams. But who is really able to establish those plans? Who knows the future? Who really nows us best? Yes, we have parents who guide us. We have teachers that teach. We have mentors who can nudge us along. But ultimately it is God who knows how we are wired, where we can excell and how we should mature and develop. Why ot give our plans to Him for a little tweaking?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15)

We really do not know tomorrow. Will it even be here? Will we be here? God knows . . . He has been there and back!

Do we really want what God wants? This is the only true path to success that lasts an eternity!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Healthy Fear Leads to Spiritual Health

He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
(Psalm 145:19)

We all need a healthy fear of God! God is to be respected. He is to be honored and reverenced. God is to be lifted up above all things because of Who He is and what He does. He is God . . . He is I AM and we are not! He is the begining of all things and the ened of all things. God has always been and always will be. He is all that . . . period!

To recognize God for Who He is is the beginning of the relationship . . . the beginning of who we are as human beings . . . because we are created in His image by God! Without this recognition, we cannot be in a realtionship with God. A healthy fear of God leads to spiritual health. Everyone wants to be healthy . . . right?

When listing the hall of faith, the writer of Hebrews says this when speaking of Enoch:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
(Hebrews 11:6)

To have faith in God requires a healthy fear and respect for God. We have to know Who He is and how He works. We have to seek after Him. God can only work with the ones who are willing to submit to Him.

To be physically healthy, one needs to eat a balanced diet, exercise, and have regualr check ups. It is not so different spiritually. It requires a balance of the study of God's word, prayer, and worship; the proper exercise of or faith in serving others; and the accountability with others of like faith.

How your health today?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Willing to do the Dirty Work?

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.
(Matthew 20:26-27)

Are we willing to do the dirty work? Are we willing to gird ourselves with the apron of service and get our hands and feet dirty? Are we willing to bow down, go into the trenches where life is taking place and really sacrifice for others? Are we willing to lay aside our comforts, our reputations, even our own lives for the lives of others . . . for Christ's sake?

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
(John 13:14-17)

This is the question we need to ponder this CHRISTmas Season and all the year through . . . Jesus did not consider it unworthy or embarrassing to serve us! Now . . . are we willing to do the dirty work?

Friday, December 9, 2011

In too deep to quit

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
(Galatians 6:9)

I am in too deep to quit . . . God has me and I will not give up!

I firmly believe what God has called me to do and I will not quit. Despite financial ups and downs, despite the criticisms of those who doubt, despite the remarks of those who just do not know. . . I press on . . . crawling at times, but nevertheless continuing to move forward!

Many times (since God called my wife and me into ministry) we have many logical reasons to throw in the towel. Whether it was a lack of support, illness, family struggles, or discouraging words from others.

But God never quits on us and we will not quit on Him! This is His work and we are just nobodies being used by God to accomplish His will. We may never see the results and our simple efforts may take generations to show fruit. God's plan will be carried out.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
(Revelation 22:20)

We know God is at work and we are so grateful He asked us to join with Him. We work until He either calls us home or He comes back. Nothing or no one on this earth will stop our efforts. God is able to sustain us through it all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Counting the Costs

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:57-62)

Many have plans in life, but not many carry them through . . . . WHY?

We haven't counted the costs involved in the process of reaching our goals. It's not that the goals are too lofty or that we do not have the abilities, we are simply overwhelmed by the effort, the time, or the costs.

Anything worthwhile takes sacrifice: raising a family, gaining a degree, and yes . . . following the Lord! Here is another challenging word from Jesus in Luke's Gospel:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
(Luke 14:26-27)

Our commitment . . . our determination to follow Christ . . . our love for the Savior must outweigh every other thought or emotion we have! This has always been my goal, but not always fun for me or understood by others.

We love our family and friends, but when it comes to Christ, they come in second. Are we willing to pay that price? Will we carry the cross . . . the burdens of being a Christ-follower?

Countng the costs can be challenging but there are rewards!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Power of God

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
(Isaiah 40:30-31)

I realize that at times we are just tired. It's simply a fact that we can wear out. While growing weary is ok and feeling a bit beaten down is normal, when we need it most, that is when God steps in! This is not to say we do not stop for a rest now and then, but in those crucial times, when we need that extra boost, nothing compares to the power of God!

When we have been up all night struggling with an issue; when that teenager has us at wits end; the baby was up all night and the alarm clock goes off too early; when the bills outlast the pay check . . . there is God!

When we get weary, there is hope in Christ. It is not an "I hope He helps me" or "I wonder when", but an anticipated and confident hope that just when we need it, God gives us the extra boost to carry on . . . so we carry on! We soar above the problems we face and continue, even grow stronger in our commitment to follow on in the path God has set us upon.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:10)

It's not that we are happy to be weary or to be worn down, but when we do face hardships, we know God will step up and carry us through. We know He will do the miraculous and thus we anticipate the results andas paul says, we delight in the circumstance!

It's not weird . . . it's the power of God which we all must call upon!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All Day, Every Day

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
(Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Moses called the Hebrews to respond to God's love with devotion. He is God all alone and there is no other like Him! He is the only wise choice to make in all situations . . . because of WHO He is!

As parents, God calls us to be the primary instructors of our families. Throughout the entire day we are to refer to the Lord. It should be natural to speak of God in our daily routine, pointing out the good He does and how He is involved in everything we do!

As parents partner with schools, we too need to be sure that our children are hearing about God and learning how He is not only involved in our spiritual life, but also in our physical life . . . God is in math, science, reading, writing. He is the center of how we understand the world and how we express ourselves.

Parents, teachers, ministers . . . we all have the charge to be sure to make God the center of our lives so our children will know how awesome He is. Our job is to partner together to be sure that God is ALL DAY, EVERY DAY inour children's lives.

Make it natural. Make it the custom to speak of God . . . point out His creation . . . describe His grace . . . mention His mercy . . . sing of His goodness. Let's be sure to prepare this generation for what is to come . . . because He is coming back!

Paul would say it like this:

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Know Jesus? No Fear!

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)

It is who you know that counts! In life, we hear this quite often. If you know someone in the company, quite often, you will be hired. At leat it helps one get a foot in the door. In respect to where one spends eternity, it is ALL about who one knows!

Knowing that one day we all must face God can be a fearful thought. What will I say? How can I stsnd before God? How will I explain? Yet because of what Christ did on the cross, we all have an opportunity to know God personally through Jesus Christ! However it takes commitment. It involves a decision. There is only one way!

When Jesus was speaking with the disciples, Thomas inquired: Lord, how can we go where you are going? How do we know the way? Jesus' reply still stands today:

Jesus answered,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
(John 14:6)

Living in fear of God can be devastating. Knowing the father through the sacrifice of Jesus brings peace beyond our human understanding. (Philippians 4:7) We all need that peace today! No one has to live in fear.

At CHRISTmas time there are many opportunities to share this peace. If we know, we are obligated . . . commanded to do so!

Know Jesus? No fear!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The last days . . . these days!

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy
. (Acts 2:17-18)

Peter begins his address to the crowds by referencing the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32). In times past, only the kings, priests and prophets would speak for God. The was a special annointing or unction upon one's life as God would use them to communicate to the people. But it would be different in the last days . . . these days we live in!

You see, when Peter spoke, this ushered in the last days . . . the days of the church. God has poured out His Spirit upon all who claim Jesus as Messiah and He now speaks through men and women alike . . . young and old who choose to call Him Lord and Savior. It is not just the pastor's job anymore. The time is now. The days are today!

I saw a reference to the NFL quarterback Tim Tebow yesterday. While some are upset that he speaks of his Savior at every opportunity, he speaks nonetheless. Athletes, musicians, husbands, moms, children are all given opportunity to share the Good News today. The question is . . . are we bold enough to do so?

What are we doing in these last days? Are we using the opportunities the Spirit is presenting to us to tell of our Lord and Savior? Time is short and people need to know. Will we tell them?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Work Incentives

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
(2 Corinthians 10:17-18)

Everyone wants a bonus. Every employee who enters a job works to be commended at some point . . . to be recognized for doing a good job. We all fall for the trap of putting "I" before the things we experience. It is human nature. However, as believers, no matter what we do, no matter who the earthly boss is, we actually are working for the Lord and we seek His approval and His commendations. In need of work incentives today?

Consider these challenging words from Paul:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
(Colossians 3: 17-25)

We are instructed that wherever we find ourselves (at home, or at work)we are to keep in mind that we live and breathe to please the Lord! Whether we are sweeping the floor at home or preparing a report on the job, we are presenting our work to Christ.

How is possible to boast or our achievements, our families, our relationships, or anything we have accomplished without first mentioning the Lord? Before we attempt to say we deserve anything, consider all Christ has done for each of us . . . even just the basic necessities! Before we hurt ourselves patting ourselves on the back, let's get on our knees. We should get all the incentive we need as look up . . . from the foot of the cross as our Savior completed His job for each of us!

God is all the incentive we should ever need to serve our families, serve at our jobs, and serve our local church. We are indeed servants and nothing else! Is he not worthy of our efforts?

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...