Monday, April 30, 2012

Decisions . . . decisions . . . decisions

I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor?
(Isaiah 51:12-13) The Jews feared Babylon because of the size of their armies and the terrible threat they posed. Babylon would make them captives . . . slaves. Yet God has so much more power than any host of armies and offers freedom from the salvery of sin. Like us today, God's people had replaced hope with fear and loved their physical freedom over the spiritual freedom offered by God's mercy and grace. What choices are we making today? Do we choose popularity over the will of God? Will we choose friendships over convictions? Will out character be marked as a Christ-follower or a politically correct citizen of this world? Where is our home this day? Like the Jews of Isaiah's days, we too have choices to make; Fear God or fear this society? Love His mercy or love the protection of the world? Will we conform to this world and hide under it's protection or step out from the darkness and allow God's light to shine? (Romans 12:1-2) Decisions . . . decisions . . . decisions . . . day after day, minute by minute! Whom do we serve?

Friday, April 27, 2012

The same old stuff . . .

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27) In the age we live in, the old ways are not going to always work. Yes God's Word is the same (Hebrews 13:8), but our methods have to be updated to meet the needs of the various folks we meet. The same old stuff just may not be effective anymore. We need to be in tune with what is going on so we can meet the needs head on with the Gospel of peace, reconciliation, and love, and grace. For a person to be convicted today, it is still the Spirit that does the work, yet our presentation has to be real and convincing to a doubting generation. As most of us have come to realize, people today, especially the youth, do not care how much we know until they know how much we (and God) care! We cannot beat people up concerning their sin. We cannot force them to see the result of sin. We many times must live the Gospel out loud before we even speak any words. After all, how was Jesus alive before He began His ministry? Are we willing to invest a lifetime into serving the Lord and His people, or is my salvation enough?
Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
(2 Timothy 2:25-26) Thank God for those who lived the Gospel before me! There life convinced me of my need for a Savior! May God grant us the conviction to live for Him so others may come to know Him!
Here I am . . . send me!
(Isaiah 6:8)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Being the peacemaker

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
(Matthew 5:23-24) In a society where being first at any cost is not just accpeted, but taught and preferred, it is a real challenges to at peace with all people. Yet this is what God desires for His children. (Romans 12:18) When all the dogs of this world seem to be biting at our heels, Christ calls us to be the peacemeaker. (Matthew 5:9) The one who brings the healing power of Jesus Christ into a situation is that child of God. Being one with people, especially in the Body is not always easy. No wonder Jesus prayed for oneness within the Body (John 17:21) Here is a challenge from the apostle John . . . the younger one whom Jesus loved . . . who seemed to always be close to Jesus . . .who was now the elder one:
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
(1 John 2:9-11) Broken relationships here on earth can lead to a broken relationship with our Savior. We cannot properly grow in our relationship with the Lord if we are at odds or in tension with folks here on earth, especially fellow believers. We must be actively forgiving, seeking healing, even as God is ready to forgive us. Do we need to make that call, have that conversation, make that lunch meeting? Our realtionships here on earth are an indication of our relationship with our Father.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose
. (Romans 8:28) The Bible is full of failures. We can begin with the first human beings in Genesis all the way through the churches in Revelation. With all the god intentions of man, we fail miserably without God's grace. Abraham messed up . . . Moses failed and lacked confidence . . . David was after God's very heart yet he could not always control his lustful desires . . . Peter could not beleive he did the things he did after being so bold for the Messiah . . . and Paul was the self-confessing chief sinner of us all! However, God caused these men's failures to be put to good use as training material because they were eager to mature and serve. God doesn't reward rebellion or wrongdoing. Yet, by His grace, He blesses those who choose repentance and embrace chastisement as a tool for growth. As we read from David (Psalm 51) and (Psalm 32), we see what a true repentant heart looks like. David embraces God's discipline and ruly admits his sinful ways. He does not blame others, the devil, or his weak human nature. It was me he writes. I sinned . . . against You God! Please do not give up on me. . . Please restore me . . . can you still use me in any way? Can you hear the Spirit calling us all to embrace Him and seek His face? Can you hear the heart of our Savior breaking with ours and offering His grace? God can still use every one of us to His glory. If He can use me, He can use anyone. May our heart break for what breaks God's heart . . . His will be done in you and me!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finish Strong

Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
(1 Thessaloninas 5:21-22) As believers, we must be sure that everything we are involved in is legit. Just because something sounds Christian, or looks Christian mowadays, it does not always mean it is about God! There are still wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). People are still out to fool folks. satan is still a liar and still seeks to steal, kill and destroy! (John 10:10) Paul warns believers in II Thessalonians to be blameless at the coming of our Savior. We have to keep the fire burning, even as we mature. We have to finish strong. It is enough to be saved. It is enough to be simply be a Christian! God requires us to be active, to be informed, and to be on fire . . . body, spirit and soul! (1 Thessaloninans 5:23-24) Even as we come to the end of a project, the end of a season, or the end of a school year, we have to stay alert and on guard. Ther eis no down time for a believer. Much like an athlete today, there is no off-season anymore if we want to remain competetive. Believe, me, there is competition! Satan is alive and well, thank you! Stay in the fight. Remain active. Stay on high alert. Stay in shape. Keep the battle going until the very end. Do not let your guard down. Finish Strong!!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Spirit Relieves Fear

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
(John 20:19-22) As the disciples were gathered together, confused, defeated, and locked away in fear they would be hunted down by the Jews, Jesus appeared! Not only did He reassure them that He was indeed alive, but he gave them peace. However, He also gave them something else . . . He breathed new life into every one of them . . . the Holy Spirit! There hearts were full and they were now equipped to carry out the Great Commission. (Matthew 18:19-20) This same Spirit is avaialble to every one who is willing to accept Jesus even today as their Lord and Savior today! No matter the doubts. No matter the fears. This same Holy Spirit will enable you and me to carry out the tasks God has for us without having to lock ourselves away from the rest of the world. Despite the pressures of the politically correct society we live in, the Spirit relieves fear even today! Jesus beckoned Thomas to
"Stop doubting and believe.”
(John 20:27) How many of us beleive, yet doubt the power of the Holy Spirit within us? How many of us are waiting to receieve waht we already possess? Jesus challenged Thomas as He challenges each of us. Love drives out all fear. Jesus' love for us and our love for Him combines to give not only peace, but also the strength to follow Him when all else seems lost. Try Him . . . Allow Jesus to breathe new life into a dejected, hurting, and doubting heart. He cannot fail! He has never failed me. He will not fail you!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hard work pays off!

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

Work has its rewards. This is so true. Hard work indeed pays off! Hours of practice produces winning results. Ask any coach or teacher. It is the same with the Christian life. No work for the Lord goes without benefit. If nothing else, God sees it and one day, He will reward those who are loyal to Him. But it takes faith in the God who created us.

without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
(Hebrews 11:6)

Faith, as is mentioned throughout Hebrews 11 goes hand in hand with diligent and consistent hard work. A sincere faith in the Lord compels us to labor for His will to be done. A faith without labor is a dead faith according to James.

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
(James 2:17)

We are not saved nor sanctified by our works however. God's grace not only calls us to Him, but also calls us to labor for His Kingdom purposes. (Ephesians 2:8) This faith, which is from God in itself, cuases us to work for the Lord.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(Ephesians 2:10)

We are saved to work for the Lord. We do not and cannot work to be saved. We may not see the benefits of our labor here on earth. However, because we trust in God's promses and believe His plan for us, we work . . . we persevere . . . we do not quit!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's not my life!

Here is what people who belong to this world do. They try to satisfy what their sinful natures want to do. They long for what their sinful eyes look at. They brag about what they have and what they do. All of this comes from the world. It doesn't come from the Father. The world and its evil longings are passing away. But those who do what God wants them to do live forever.
(1 John 2:16-17)

We will never be satisfied with the things of this world. No matter what we have, tomorrow there will be newer, bigger, better, faster, more efficient. The next product will offer more gadgets. The next vehicle will have more options. The next home will have more features. The next job will have more benefits. The next vacation will have more activities. It never stops!

I see it in children and adults. We love to show off our new toys; a new video game, action figure, a pair of shoes, or the new car or home. It is human nature. Many times we do not even realize we are doing it!

Paul warns us well here as he looks over his life.

I never want to brag about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through that cross the ways of the world have been crucified as far as I am concerned. And I have been crucified as far as the ways of the world are concerned.
(Galatians 6:14)

As some of my friends in New Orleans wrote in a song . . . "I've been crucified with Christ . . . He lives in me it's not my life!" Great advice and a great life motto: it's not my life.

Who are we living for anyway? What does our check book say when we open it up? What would our spouse or children say about our life? Where is our life being spent? Do we reflect a life spent on the things of this world or the things of God? What matters to us?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Friend or Foe

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
(James 4:6)

Grace to do what you ask? Grace is the unmerited favor of God. it is God's gift to us. He freely gives us grace rather than the spiritual death we deserve . . . eternal separation from God. He also freely gives us the Holy Spirit (indwelling every believer)to resist the temptations of this world. He gives us the opportunity to become His friend and turn from this world.

Earier (James 4:4-5)the author tells us to be God's friend we need to turn from the world and its ways. In fact, a friend of the world is an enemy of God! Harsh words? No! It's a reality. No one can serve the world and God! Jesus said the same thing:

"No one 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."
(Matthew 6:24)

Friend or Foe? Winner or Loser? Whose side are you on? It is a choice we must make while we yet live! (Psalm 32:6)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Identity Crisis

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)

The prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32) had talked about this day ealier. Before the Lord returns He would enpower men and women to speak for Him. This power is the Holy Spirit. He alone gives the believer the boldness to do things beyond understanding. As with the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2) even today folks will think us to be rather strange when we speak about the things of God.

The Holy Spirit is not some thing we get when we feel excited about a song of a sermon. It is not some thing we experience only when we pray a special way. The Holy Spirit is a person, the Spirit of God, that dwells within every believer the day one becomes saved by faith in Jesus Christ.
To be baptized in the Spirit (Acts 1:5)is simply to be identified with the Father as Christ was on the day He was baptized by John. (John 1:32-34)

Sadly, there is an identity crisis within the churches today. We can identify with songs, sermons, and situations in people's lives yet we do not often identify with what the Holy Spirit is telling us to do. We are waiting to get something we already possess. We are looking for guidance . . . searching for direction . . . seeking advice. The Holy Spirit is just waiting for us to hand over control!

Once we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we receive the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit! It is not something we turn on and off . . . He is always present. The question is, will we allow Him to rule and work in our lives as in the days of that first Pentecost?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Payday someday!

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 6:23)

What a gift indeed . . . For all the effort we have put into the sin we commit, God offers grace . . . he gives us what we do not deserve! In exchange for death, He offers eternal life to all who freely accept Chrost's sacrificial atonement upon the cross. Just as he rose to new life that Sunday morning, so we can be raised out of a lifestyle of sin and experience a new and a real life of freedom from the penalty of sin!

Too simple right? Too easy? We do not have to work for it so we cannot understand it. The prophet Isaiah said it right . . .

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
(Isaiah 55:8)

We have to trust God at His word. I do not believe I will ever comprehend how much Jesus cares for me or why. But what other choice do I have? Who else can back up these kinds of promises? Who can even make them? I choose to believe! For all my labor . . . there is going to be a payday someday . . . and it will be with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I know Him for myself and I trust Him!!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Same but different . . .

However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
(Acts 24:14-16)

Same but different . . . sound confusing? Not really . . .

I am the same person I was nearly 20 years ago when the Lord rescued me from a downward path to hell. But boy am I different!

I have different values. I have different throughts. I have different plans. I have a much different vision for my future and the future of my family!

I no longer live for me. I live for my God and for His will. I strive to please Him. I want to help others. I care less about me and more about everyone else. While I still have a desire to sin and fall quite often, I do not plan to sin and do not enjoy the sin anymore! God has changed me from the inside out, yet I am still me!

Same but different . . . like with Paul . . . there is a battle waging. But God has already won!

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
(Romans 7:22-25)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Do we not trust God?

“I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction?
(Isaiah 51:12-13)

Why do we worry so much about things we have no control over? Who do we really trust? Why do we let the restraints of man . . . even our self-imposed restraints hinder us? Do we not trust God?

I know we recite a lot of Bible verses and post so many good things about our Lord on social networks. However, when it comes to the rubber meeting the road . . . in whom do we trust? I saw a television commercial recently that pictured U.S. currency with the words in reason we trust. I wonder.....

Let's be reminded of the familiar words of the apostle Paul:

For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
(2 Corinthians 5:7-9)

Is it our goal to please the Father? Where is our faith anyway? Can we actually walk blindfolded through this life and really trust that as we please God, things will be alright or are we that tied to the world that we really do not know what real faith is?

This world really is falling apart! But what about you and me? What motivates us to go on? Do we not trust God?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Work Out That Body and Soul!

Dear friend, I know that your spiritual life is going well. I pray that you also may enjoy good health. And I pray that everything else may go well with you.
(3 John 1:2)

As John greets his friend Gaius, he begins with a concern for his physiacal health as well as his spiritual condtion. There is a strong relationship between how we feel physically and how we are mentally and spiritually! After all, God made us complete beings, so when one part of us is lacking, the entire man is lacking at some point. We must work out that body and soul!

Paul quite often would use the example of an athlete when addressing spiritual topics. In the following verses, as he is nearing the end of his race in life, Paul reminds us of the need for physical exercise and spiritual training. They go hand-in-hand.

...train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
(1 Timothy 4:7-8)

As believers, we cannot neglect our bodies. After all, it is the temple of the resident Holy Spirit! Even if we suffer the various maladies that stricken the body, we all can do our best to maintain what we have been given. As much as we study His Word, we must know our bodies! Discipline is needed for the body and soul. There are basic requirements in what we eat, how much we exercise, and how often we what we spend time with the Lord and His people. Any area that lacks will be detrimental to the other. We are after all, a body!

Work it out peple . . .

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

And now . . .?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
(Romans 12:1)

Easter is over . . . we have viewed movies and tapes and videos concerning Christ's suffering and shed a tear or two. We have redicated our lives to follow closer to the Lord and to attend church services every Sunday. Back to work . . . back to school . . . back to life . . . back to reality. AND NOW . . .?

I came across one of my most challenges verses in Scriptures this morning. Thank you Lord for reminding me that nothing has really changed even after a week away from the grind. The Christian life is never easy and always a challenge . . . if we truly love the Lord and want to please Him! Oops . . . I said never and always didn't I?

The very least we can do if we love Jesus is to offer a life of sacrifice unto Him and His will. It is our basic act of worship! Not a song . . . not a prayer . . . not a financial gift . . . a life of sacrificing my desires for God's ways!

So life goes on . . . and now?

What real decisions must we make today?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Still wondering? Remember His words!

It was very early in the morning on the first day of the week. The women took the spices they had prepared. Then they went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from it. When they entered the tomb, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. They were wondering about this. Suddenly two men in clothes as bright as lightning stood beside them. The women were terrified. They bowed down with their faces to the ground. Then the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? Jesus is not here! He has risen! Remember how he told you he would rise. It was while he was still with you in Galilee. He said, 'The Son of Man must be handed over to sinful people. He must be nailed to a cross. On the third day he will rise from the dead.' " Then the women remembered Jesus' words.
(Luke 24:1-8)

Many are still wondering . . . After thousands of years, hundreds of fulfilled prophesies, and millions of testimonies as to the authenticity of Jesus Christ, many still wonder about Him!

Was He who He said He was? Did He really do all those miracles . . .suffer all that agony . . . go to the cross . . . rise from the dead . . . Is He coming back . . . is He really God?

For those who did not believe then . . . it is too late. For those still alive today, there is time . . . today! Jesus is still pleading, but not from the manger, the cross, or from the grave.

He invites us all to join Him in heaven:

"Let those who do wrong keep on doing wrong. Let those who are evil continue to be evil. Let those who do what is right keep on doing what is right. And let those who are holy continue to be holy." Look! I am coming soon! I bring my rewards with me. I will reward each person for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am the First and the Last. I am the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will have the right to come to the tree of life. They will be allowed to go through the gates into the city. Outside the city are the dogs and those who practice witchcraft. Outside are also those who commit sexual sins and murder. Those who worship statues of gods, and everyone who loves and does what is false, are outside too. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this witness for the churches. I am the Root and the Son of David. I am the bright Morning Star. The Holy Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' Let those who hear say, 'Come!' Anyone who is thirsty should come. Anyone who wants to take the free gift of the water of life should do so."
(Revelation 22:11-17)

How many now joyfully await His coming? How many more need to know? It's not too late! Remember His words . . .

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Leading by Example: A Suffering Servant

I let my enemies beat me on my bare back. I let them pull the hair out of my beard. I didn't turn my face away when they made fun of me and spit on me.
(Isaiah 50:6)

It's amazing how a book written in 8th Century B.C. would tell us so much about a Savior who would suffer for all of mankind. Though others disagree that the Old Testament predicted the suffering of our Savior . . . I believe. Many refused to believe then and they will refuse to believe both today and in the future. I believe! What about you? Are you willing to share this belief and even suffer the results of standing for a Savior who stood for each one of us?

Ponder these words from the prophet Isaiah as we all focus on the suffering our Lord and Savior bore for us so we may indeed be free of sin!

Who has believed what we've been saying? Who has seen the Lord's saving power? His servant grew up like a tender young plant. He grew like a root coming up out of dry ground. He didn't have any beauty or majesty that made us notice him. There wasn't anything special about the way he looked that drew us to him. Men looked down on him. They didn't accept him. He knew all about sorrow and suffering. He was like someone people turn their faces away from. We looked down on him. We didn't have any respect for him. He suffered the things we should have suffered. He took on himself the pain that should have been ours. . . .
(Isaiah 53:1-12)

He is no longer suffering . . . the battle is won!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Feeling a bit left out? Holy Week 2012

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
(Psalm 22:1)

The psalmist and chosen King of Isreal was alone many times and often opposed. There were also times when he felt as if God had abandoned him. At times, it was because of the choices he had made (as with Bathsheba) but often it was because of his dedication to his God. Because David chose to follow God the world became his enemy! Sound familiar?

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,lema sabachthani?”
(Matthew 22:46)

Feeling a bit left out? Jesus too knew the feeling of abandonment. His town, his people, his very own disciples would deny him at times. Even one of his closest twelve would sell him out for 30 pieces of silver; the price of a small farm today. No matter the exact equivalent in dollars, Jesus, our Savior and Lord, was given over as part of a financial exchange. Sold out by friends and left alone by God the Father. As the Son of David, the Son of God could identify with the annonited King of Israel. Just as well, our Lord and Savior identifies with us and we identify with Him . . . in our suffering.

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
(Pslam 22:7-8)

David was mocked for his faith in God. People did not understand then nor do they today: God's people will go through some things. As David wrote the words of Psalm 22, imagine his heart for God. Imagine the comfort Jesus must also have gained in repeating so many of the verses while suffering on the cross for you and me.

He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him . . .
(Matthew 27:43)

Despite the loneliness we may feel at times. Even despite the consequences of our very own sins, we can rest in knowing that because of Christ, God will never abandon His chidren! Knowing this however, should cause us to draw nearer to Him day by day. There is a brighter day ahead . . . Jesus is coming back! Trust in His promises just as David and Jesus also trusted in the Father. The more we trust Him, the more we can endure for His glory!

Feeling a bit left out . . . you are not alone!

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...