Friday, May 29, 2015

Jealousy is GOOD thing?

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20: 4-6)

We always been taught that jealousy was a bad thing, right? Don't be jealous of what other people have. What I have is what God wants me to have. The grass is not always greener on the other side . . .  etc.

Well, in the case for God, jealousy is indeed a good thing! You see, in the ancient text, jealous and zealous are nearly interchangeable. They both infer passion, desire, and enthusiasm. God loves us so very much that He has no desire to share us with anyone!

It is hard to even fathom this kind of love, yet it is how God feels about each and every one of us. Just sit back and imagine what that is, how that feels, and simply thank God!

Now, what will we do in response to that type of love? How will we live this day?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Go to God. . .

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:14-16)

Sick? Tired? Sick and tired . . . of sin and its consequences? I know I am!

James has some really practical health advice here . . . spiritual and physical health advice. David wrote in Psalm 32: 3-4:

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Sin can and will cause physical and mental challenges . . . even sickness. The guilt of sin weighs heavily upon everyone.  It hinders relationships. It zaps our sleep. It causes anxiety and depression. It reduces our immune system.

Oh what freedom we have when we confess our sin to God and those we have offended! It frees us to become closer to our Lord! It restores friendships. It established integrity. It frees our soul to worship!

Whether others forgive us or not is not the issue . . . confession and repentance is! We must admit we were wrong. Turn from the sin. Be reunited in fellowship with our Creator. God promises to forgive and restore as He did Peter . . . as He did David . . . as He will you and me.

Just go to Him . . . (1 John 1:9)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Let's hang out!

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong . . . that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.  That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:11-17)

Paul's desire to visit Rome, to visit with anyone for that matter, was to share the GOOD NEWS. His desire was that all people groups would be saved, as is God's desire (1 Timothy 2:4). He not only wanted to encourage those in Rome, but he too would be encouraged by them.

Sharing the Gospel is mutually encouraging. Not only leading someone to Christ for the first time, but simply speaking to one another about God and our experiences with Him. It's called FELLOWSHIP! (1 John 1:7)

Do not neglect those who need to hear about Jesus. In the same way, do not neglect those already in the faith. We need one another! (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Let's hang out . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Timeless Advice for Graduates

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, 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. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.                        (1 Timothy 4:7-16)

The apostle Paul gives some timeless advice here for all young graduates (and the young at heart .Though he is addressing the young pastor, this advice can be well applied to anyone entering into the world ready to go to work. You see, every vocation is a ministry for the believer!

Whether the plans are to be entering high school, college graduate school or the work force, we must have the mind set that we are first CHRISTian. We will be a CHRISTian in high school, a College CHRISTian, a CHRISTian grad student, a CHRISTian lawyer, a CHRISTian business owner, etc. You get the picture?

No matter what our plans may be or where we are led, we are to be CHRIST-followers first and allow Him to do the planning, leading, and carrying out of our path in life. While I encourage every young graduate to pursue actual full-time CHRISTian ministry as a priority, I realize this is not every one's calling in life. However, for the believer, we are each called to first be a CHRIST-follower and THEN to use that calling i our given vocation; whether it be in medicine, law, investments, retail, technology, or any other career.

Whether young or not so young, we must never neglect the spiritual gifts God has bestowed upon each and every one of us within the Body. We must be diligent to sharpen our skills and guard our faith, ready and willing to defend our beliefs even at the risk of losing our job! We must be willing to receive less and serve God and others more. We must learn early on to trust God more and people and things less. The sooner we learn these lessons and live by them the more satisfied we become and the closer we become to our Lord and Savior!

As we go, we are being watched. Even Satan is observing our progress. Are we growing closer to the image of our Creator God or drifting away? Are we relying more and more upon Him as we mature or becoming more like the world?  Are we a good soldier for Christ and a threat to Satan or can the enemy now ignore us because we have lost our salt and dimmed our light?

As we all enter into a new phase of life, let's adhere to this timeless advice . . . souls are at stake!

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly . . . time to rest.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

It's coming to an end . . . another school year! Happiness for some . . . tears for others. Kids excited . . . parents relieved . . . teachers feeling accomplished.

Yet we all are somewhat weary . . . worn out . . . tired . . . needing REST!

In this physical state, Jesus welcomes us. He also welcomes our weary bodies, but also our worrisome hearts and our anxious spirits.  

You don’t have to clean yourself up to come to Jesus fully rested and Just COME!
 I may be able to imagine what you are going through right now — trials, suffering, heartache, pain, illnesses within your bodies or a close friend or family member. But even if I cannot relate to your struggles, it’s not too big for God. His grace can cover it, and your heart can be made new. In those times when I felt like I was drowning, I thought God was off in a distant land. Later I realized that’s when He is most near.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 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 40:29-31)

So, before the medications . . . prior to leaving for the vacation . . . before the cleaning up of the classroom, even before commencements and senior trips . . . go to the Lord. He is waiting with open arms. He renews minds, bodies, and spirits.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What are we afraid of . . . winning?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  By faith . . . (Hebrews 11:1-3) 

An athlete is always taking risks . . . in the game and out. He takes risks while training . . . pushing his body beyond pain but not (prayerfully) beyond injury. Plays are called in games that can turn the game either way, depending upon the outcome. Losers are satisfied with the average, the low risk decisions. They do what everyone expects. Big winners take the biggest risks!

In life, we take risks every day. Pursuing relationships, loving on people, planning the future . . . they all require risks and the energy required to act them out. There will be some discomfort, some hurt, maybe even some failure. However, risks are better than the alternative; loneliness, boredom, predictability, and lack of any sense of accomplishment. A life without taking risks is really no life at all.

As a Christ-follower, we have even more confidence as we decide to risk it all for Jesus' sake . . . we have FAITH! We have VICTORY!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Victory from the mouth of defeat!

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.  The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle.  Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:  

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:7-9)

More visual drama than a science fiction movie: Lightning  . . . a growling sky . . . awesome creatures. Four of the creatures (see Revelation 4:6) symbolize the most impressive of all creation . . . the eagle . . . the bull . . . the lion . . . and man. Yet only ONE is Worthy. . . . WHO

“Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:2). 

 Who is worthy to introduce the next phase of history? No one can answer, much to John’s dismay. None of the four impressive creatures qualifies. Suddenly John sees another creature, “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Only a Lamb  . . . a helpless, slaughtered LAMB?

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

True believers are identified as having their names recorded in the “Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

Christ the King is also the Lamb, the One who died for us. His death on the cross, seemingly a great defeat, actually ushered in a decisive victory, for him and for us. Good was not destroyed; it triumphed.

Victory . . . from a LAMB!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Calm Storms?

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well,  holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.  Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)

No captain at the helm . . . it's a disaster ready to happen. Waves tossing the ship to and fro . . . stormy rains and blustery winds smashing into the sides of the ship . . . listing over sideways . . . ready to go down.

Does this describe you or some fellow believer you might know? For many of us, we sometimes forget where we came from and how the Lord has brought us through . . . where He brought us from. We forget how lost we were and begin to think we can sail this ship alone. Don't be fooled . . .

We just dont' need a little captain . . . but we need all of The Captain for this ship!

Admist all the false teachings, back sliding, and outright lies, stay strong. Stand on what God has instructed. trust Him . . . He goes through every storm and there is LIGHT at the end!

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk THROUGH the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, 
they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's WHO you know

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. ( Isaiah 43:19)

When asked to reveal his secret for staying married for well over half a century, Evangelist Billy Graham gave a simple, yet somewhat paradoxical answer: "Ruth and I are happily incompatible."

That's a great answer to questions everyone inevitably asks themselves at some point during marriage: "How can I stay married to this person?" , or "Did I marry the wrong person?" *

That, "Did I marry the wrong person?" question is a dangerous one. When one marries, we make a commitment to do certain things, like love, honor & cherish. There are no "out" clauses in case the person wasn't the right person for you.  We must learn to be happily incompatible. Because with God, ALL things are possible.

While it is true that God can make all things new and fix any broken relationships, we can do better in starting them out!

This is a lesson for our youth as well as they begin to become attracted to others and consider dating partners.  God MUST be first. He MUST be at the center of every relationship. He MUST be the guide and advisor when it comes to whom we choose to become close to in life.

Two people, whether simply close friends or marriage partners, MUST be on the same level as far as the importance and dependence upon God in the relationship.

How often do we seek God in regards to our friendships . . . relationships? Often, we as parents look back and see our failures, yet we are allowing our children to do things the same way.

It must begin early . . . seek God in ALL things, especially in relationships . . .they shape our lives . . . our futures . . . our legacies!

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people. (Ephesians 6:18)

*Excerpts taken from New Life Everyday, a ministry of New Life Ministries.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why We Serve

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:2-5)

Of all the challenges of working with youth, the most challenging for me is to realize how much I see myself in the kids I serve! Whenever I get to upset or frazzled, I am brought to the realization how patient God is with me. If God can put up with me, then I can surely be a bit more patient . . . more diligent . . . more focused on why I serve these kids!

We have a special calling from God to care for His little ones. He knows we can do it! Trust Him even in the most challenging of times . . . and don't forget to see yourself as well. These teens and children need us as much as we need them . . . yes, we NEED them! They are our mission field!

Stay humble my friends. Stay in prayer. Stay in touch with the Father.

It's WHY we serve!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

In Love . . .Dedicated? Or just a FAN?

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:26-29)

Think about the relationships we have in life . . . do we love these folks for what they do for us or for who they ARE?

Do we love mom because she is such a great cook or keeps a clean home, or because she is loving, caring, forgiving . . .?

Are your friends in your life because they treat you to dinner or a game or because you enjoy their company? 

We live in a selfish world but when it comes to God (and others) we must love Him (and people) for who they are! There are many FANS of Jesus today: What a nice man . . . He was so kind and generous . . . He spoke so well . . . He encourages me so much . . .

Do we seek after Him as He seeks after each one of us . . .laying down our lives in exchange for a life with Him?

or . . . . .

Are we simply FANS who love Him when He "scores" but forget about Him when we seem to be "losing"?


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Living in GRACE

Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! (Psalm 32:1-2)

Why confession sin in the first place?

David starts saying confession is for our sake. Most of us believe confession is for God’s sake . . . His commandment . . . His guideline. It's as though we believe that our sins sort of annoy Him and this act of confession will appease Him.

David says, “No sir"! Confession is for you and me. There’s a blessing in this for us!. There’s something God wants to give to us . . . it's GRACE! God has an unmerited gift awaiting those of us who can come to forgive and be forgiven.

Confession is all about our quality of life. David just sort of skips over.the blessing of wealth, power, reputation, and all the things we would pursue. David is saying those things can’t heal us. We would like to think so, but they can’t heal us.

David is saying, “The way to find blessing is by being forgiven. . . . and to FORGIVE.”

Forgiveness brings healing to all sides. It frees us to live in God's grace!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Do We Realize WHOSE We Are?

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)

What an awesome reminder . . . a confidence builder . . . a shot in the arm. . . I was hand-made by God to do a specific work for Him! It really doesn't matter what others think of me or what I have accomplished, as long as I am pleasing the One who made me. As long as He is pleased and receiving the credit, I am o.k.!

Don't we all need to hear this from time to time? We simply cannot please everyone! Our families may be a bit upset as we fall short of their expectations. Our boss may feel as though we could have done better. We even let ourselves down!

Stay focused upon the prize. We must pick ourselves back up when we fall short and get back on track . . . God's track. 

Only then will we find real satisfaction!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Reality Check!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Faith is not denying reality. It’s not pretending you don’t have problems. It is not saying I don't have pains or I am not with something. It is in no way saying I am happy when I am going through grief!

Many confuse faith with being phony! Faith is facing the facts with courage knowing God is greater than the challenges we face. God can change a situation. We can build our family on faith. One can build a business on faith. We all can build a life on faith. Nothing is build upon fantasy. Eternal life and eternal hope is built upon The Rock!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Continuing in prayer . . .

Yesterday may have been the National Day of Prayer, but let's continue to pray!

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.  Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there,  so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. (Romans 15:30-32)

We all need support now and then. When is the last time you asked someone if they could use some help . . . even just a simple word of encouragement . . . just to pray with them?

Here is Paul, the greatest theologian in the Bible, asking for prayer. He asks for help concerning the unbelievers and believers alike. He know there will be struggles and he admits the need for help. In fact, he looks forward  time of rest and refreshment! The CHRISTian life is a struggle for sure!

Seek out someone to support or encourage today . . . your parents, your children, your pastor even. Everyone needs some sort of encouragement. No one is an island . . . continue in prayer!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

National prayer? By the Nation's leader? WOW . . . Imagne that!!!!!

Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. (1 Kings 8:28)

As the song goes . . . "I can only imagine"!

Imagine a leader . . . the U.S. President, leading our Nation in prayer to the Creator God as Solomon once did here in 1 Kings 8.

Imagine if he would lift the Nation in prayer humbly asking the Lord to keep the promises once given to King David.

Imagine our Nation, even just our churches, being humbled to repent and fall upon our collective knees even for just a brief moment . . .  if not an entire day to call upon the name of the Most High God . . .

I can only imagine what may happen within our streets . . . our government offices . . . our hearts . . . our homes!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

No Time to be Tired!

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief. (Proverbs 24:33)

Great advice at this time of commencements, graduations, and matriculation ceremonies at our schools, especially for teens and college graduates!

The “sluggard” is lazier than a pig on vacation. Wow . . . what a vivid description!

His only exercise is walkng to the refrigerator or turning over on his bed. Any excuse will keep a sluggard from physical work . . . a cold, a headache, an upset stomach, a few minutes less sleep . . .

Solomon is a bit amused at the sluggard, but uses him to teach serious lessons. It does not require much to become a modern-day sluggard. Read again: “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.”

Procrastination . . .excuses .  . constantly sleeping in . . . we all are capable of falling into this pattern.

The result however of these choices are poverty, frustration, broken relationships, illness, and even crime. Sluggards still want all finer things which hard work earns, but he never gets them. In fact, he is as a leech, living off the one who works diligently day after day.

The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:25-26)

Get up and get to work!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Where is your mission?

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”                    (Romans 10:13-15)

Where have you shared? Where have you gone? Who have you told?

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned . . . Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:15-20)

Where is your mission?

Monday, May 4, 2015

What? Me worry?

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:31-34)

As believers our hope is in our Savior, no matter what our circumstance, He walks beside us . . . He fights our battles  . . . He goes before us in everything. In other words, He has been there and done that!

We cannot be a true follower of Christ and place our hope in the things of this world.  Our confidence must rest within the mighty and powerful arms of God.

For a minute, can we our eyes off the gloom and focus them on the Lord? Our struggles cannot possibly be too much for the God of creation!

Our problems fade when held up against our Savior and God. I dare you to try Him at His promises. I have. I do. I will. Oh, it's still a struggle. Don't get me wrong . . . But it is a struggle He can win for us if we just let Him!

It makes worry a bit less worrisome!

Friday, May 1, 2015

In or out?

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. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:5-8)

Dr. Seuss’ poem, The Zode in the Road, tells of a young Zode coming to a fork in the road and spending quite some time trying to decide which place to go to. One direction may be too hot, too cold, too high or too low. After much indecision, the Zode finally decides to play it safe and he chooses to “start off for both places at once!”

The Zode got nowhere.

Many of us decide to play it safe in life and live in the middle . . . in the neutral zone . . . no committments, no real decisions, keeping friendly with both sides of the argument if you will.

Not so with our relationship with Jesus Christ! We must make the decision and keep with it. There is no middle ground. There is no independent party! Jesus' brother James is very clear. Expect NOTHING! Listen to the Lord's words to the churches (you and me) as He spoke to John via the angels :

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

Are you in or are you out?

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...