Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Day of Elijah

The Day of Elijah
Feb 8, 2010
Malachi 4:5 "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes."

In the Old Testament, Elijah was a great man of God. Not only did he speak prophetic words from the Lord, but his own life became a prophecy of what will happen in the end times, coming to the end of days, that time was Jesus comes back to earth. If you read about Elijah's life very closely, and every other time his name appears in the Bible, you will see it is associated with the coming of the Lord, the first (Jesus' birth) and then the second coming. The "Elijah" that appeared before Jesus' birth is believed to be John the Baptist. The prophecy of the second "Elijah" will happen just before Jesus comes again to this earth, and we may even be witness to it. It may not happen as the exact incarnate form of Elijah, but a modern day prophet will rise up in these last days. This man's life will look similar to the life of the Elijah from thousands of years ago. I know this sounds like a sci-fi movie, but the Bible is rather clear about this.

Go back to 1st and 2nd Kings and read about the life of Elijah; you will get a glimpse of what this next Elijah will be like. He was a very powerful man of God, a prophet who spoke the word of the Lord and carried out His directives. There was one particular time-period in Elijah's life where there were many political battles, with kings trying to kill kings in order to maintain power. The Lord asked Elijah to prepare for battle, to join in, and He suited the prophet with an army of 7,000. Listen to how the Lord describes Elijah's army, "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." God did not provide Elijah with an army that was akin to 300 Spartans, career trained to kill. God provided an army of spiritual leaders.

This similar scenario will happen in the end of days, which is coming very soon, if not now. Though you and I may not be the incarnate of Elijah, we are asked to be a part of those seven thousand, a part of the army of God who has not been defiled by this world or been entrapped by what this world has to offer. You may have felt called to do great things for the Lord in your life, but you are waiting, waiting for that time when He calls on you, to use you for greatness. That time is coming soon, if not now. You are called to serve the Lord in this spiritual battle. But if you are going to be a part of the seven thousand who has not been enticed by this world, you must remain pure to God, set apart from this world.

The battle you will be asked to fight will be a spiritual battle and it will not be easy. God cannot use you, though, if you have bowed down to this world or have been intimate with the enticement of the flesh. God does not want you in His army if your life looks like that of a non-believer. This is not just keeping out the satanists and murderers; this is keeping out the greedy, the liars, the sexually deviant, the gossips, and even the lazy. God wants an army of pure spiritual soldiers who are able to fight in these battles soon to begin. He wants you to stay pure from the filth of this world; He has called you to be in His army of spiritual leaders. He will call on you and you will fight. AND you will win.

1. Re-read 1st & 2nd Kings with the second coming in mind.
2. How can you consider yourself one of the 7,000?
3. How can you remain pure for the coming spiritual battles?

Add. Scriptures for Study: 1 Kings 19:15, Matt 11:13-15, Eph 6:12, 2 Cor 10:3, Phil 1:10, Phil 2:15, 1 John 3:3

God's Investment Advice

God's Investment Advice
Feb 1, 2010
Malachi 3:10 ""Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty . . ."

Being a professional of investing and the financial markets most of my adult life, I've figured out the difference between investing my money and gambling. While I love a great investment, I loathe the idea of gambling, potentially losing all of my hard earned dough. Unfortunately, I've met countless people, even Christians, who think they are investing, when in reality it is a gamble under a different name. It's hard to predict the outcome of an investment sometimes, as there is always some inherent risk in any opportunity involving money. To reduce the risk in investing, would-be millionaires introduce all sorts of mathematical calculations and charting in an effort to take the bull by the horns. One such charting method is called a stochastic chart or stochastical indicators. It's a real fancy word and has convoluted interpretations, but in short it means a random, unpredictable method. Wow, sign me up for investment advice from the guy who uses that method!

God does not want you to be that kind of investor, someone who puts his money in, under the guise of investing, and bets on a random, unpredictable outcome. God gives clear guidance in scripture about where to put our money. He tells us to put a tithe, or a tenth of our income, into the basket at the church and to be good stewards with the rest. Now, before you sign off and close your mind to a tithing message, consider God for a moment. He is the Creator of the Heavens and the earth, the Author of our lives and salvation. If He knows how many hairs are on your head and when the end of the world will be, don't you think He might have a little bit of good investment advice? How about a sure-fire investment? Don't you think God, if He advises something, would be giving you a sure-fire method for a return on your money?

Well, in Malachi, chapter 3, God details his investment advice. He tells us to bring the whole tithe into His storehouse. Notice he said, "whole tithe." In today's terms, that actually means a complete, up-front, 10% on the gross check (research it for yourself). God did not say, "Give what you can or give what's left over after the bills." He doesn't even say, "Don't give if you're poor." He kind of orders you to give, regardless of income and bills. In the past seven years, I've reviewed thousands of tax-returns filed in the US. I've only found two people who have given God an actual 10% of their complete, upfront, gross income. It's hard to do, believe me, but I know with all my heart that is what God asks of you and me.

Listen to what God PROMISES He will do if you bring the WHOLE TITHE. "See if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Wow! I have a lot of space in my life available for blessings; I can make more room. AND God even goes so far as to say, "Test Me in this." God dares you to give your whole TITHE. It is the one time in your life you are allowed to test God. He further promises to protect your money, giving you insurance on your investment, "I will prevent pests from devouring your crops..." While I will never figure out God's calculations for the return on my money or timing, He is good for it. If nothing else, give out of obedience even if you don't experience a bumper year in your crops. I know one thing for sure: you'll never be a rich man in the Kingdom of God by hoarding your tithes.

I must share this quick testimony with you. I was researching and writing this devotional on a Wednesday, before mid-day. I had received a check earlier in the week that I needed to tithe on, and the WHOLE tithe on the check came out to $80.70. I wrote a check to the church that same Wednesday night and rounded the amount up to $81 just before giving it in the evening service. I got home and was reviewing the mail that came earlier in the day and I had received a letter. The letter stated that I was owed a refund on something; the exact amount was $80.70, which they rounded up to $81!

Go ahead; test God with your tithe, your WHOLE tithe.

1. How do you calculate your tithe?
2. Are you trying to get rich by hoarding your money?
3. Investment dare: tithe a full 10% on the up-front, gross over the next six months.

Add. Scriptures for Study: Lev 27:30, Deut 12:5-6, Mal 3:6-12, Mark 4:25, Lk 6:38, Luke 12:30-32

A Healing Testimony

A Healing Testimony
Jan 26, 2010
The following is a healing testimony from my wife--its long but worth the read! For some, you've heard the story, but this time its going around the world.

My Healing! To God Be the Glory!

By Tiffany L. Speck

My husband, Adam, and I were married in December of 2000. A mere 15 months later, in March of 2002, I began to have alarming symptoms; something was wrong with my health. I immediately contacted my doctor who hesitated to do any testing or even talk with me. Her office staff repeatedly diverted my anxious calls to her other staff members, nurses—anyone but the doctor. I began to use my old Nursing School textbooks and the internet to do my own research, asking the Lord to guide my search and provide me with answers. Everything I was finding indicated that I most likely had some type of tumor, a brain tumor.

My husband and I were shaken, particularly because my doctor refused to do anything to figure things out. After much begging and pleading, one of the nurses convinced another doctor in the group to order an MRI for me to confirm or disprove my suspicions. A few weeks later, I had an MRI which did indeed confirm that I had a small tumor on the left side of my pituitary gland.

My husband and I were devastated. I had picked up a copy of my MRI report from the hospital where I had the scan prior to receiving any information from my doctor. I immediately called her office in one last attempt to speak with her. When she returned my call several hours later, she initially denied that the MRI had shown anything. When I told her that I had already read the report myself, she became icy and conceded that I did, indeed, have a tumor. I asked her what treatment we would be pursuing to treat it, and her response was, “These tumors usually only cause infertility. You and your husband can try to conceive for a couple of years and if you don’t get pregnant after a year or two, give me a call.”

I was finally able to get a referral to a specialist in our area. He immediately had us come into his office, where he informed us that he thought the tumor was probably benign, but obviously couldn’t be sure without removing the tumor and testing it. He said that if it was the type of tumor he thought it was, it would be very slow growing and I shouldn’t have any other symptoms. He confirmed that these tumors did cause infertility, and that I should begin treatment immediately with a drug aimed at shrinking the tumor. My husband and I sat in his office hearing all this and were again devastated. We had just begun trying to start a family when all of this happened, and now we were being told that I probably would never be able to conceive. We left the office with a prescription for the first medication aimed at shrinking the tumor.

During the car ride to the pharmacy, I just did not have peace about taking this medication. We went to the pharmacy anyway to fill it; I spoke with the pharmacist and asked her what would happen if I became pregnant while taking the drug. She informed us that it would possibly cause severe birth defects or even a miscarriage. We filled the prescription, but when we got home, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I should wait a few weeks to start the medication.

I used the weeks of waiting to pour out my soul to the Lord, feeling like Hannah in the book of I Samuel, weeping before Him, begging for a child. I had dreamed of being a mother, of having children since I was a little girl. I promised, like Hannah, that if He would hear my prayers and answer my requests for a child, I would give the child back to Him for His service. Two weeks later, a pregnancy test told us we were already pregnant!

My husband and I were thrilled but scared as well. Now what were we supposed to do? Here I was pregnant with our first child, and we had found out only a few weeks earlier that I had a brain tumor! My doctor told us not to worry, reminding us these tumors were extremely slow growing but the tumor could cause me to lose the baby. He told me to watch for any severe headaches, vision loss, seizures, and stroke-like symptoms—what a way to start a pregnancy! It was a blessing that I did not start the medication, but now I had a pregnancy AND a brain tumor. The pregnancy prohibited taking the medication to shrink the tumor and I let anxiety about it steal from our excitement of a brand new baby.

I wish I could say that my faith never wavered at all, but I’d be lying. I was scared to death, as was my husband, and more so now that I knew I was pregnant. I was afraid of what could happen to the baby, I was afraid of what could happen to me, I was afraid of everything. But my husband and I knew that we needed to place this whole situation, and our unborn child, in the Lord’s hands and trust Him to take care of us.

Three months later, in July 2002, I began to have severe headaches above my left eye that would last for hours at a time. Another MRI was ordered immediately-- our doctor read the results and told us that instead of a slow growing tumor, the pregnancy had caused it to double in size, causing it to press on my optic nerve. He told us it was quite likely it would be necessary to have immediate neurosurgery to remove the tumor and referred us to a neurosurgeon. He told us that if the neurosurgeon felt surgery was necessary, it was possible that the surgery would damage my pituitary gland and cause a miscarriage and also render me permanently infertile. I panicked at this point. Neurosurgery at any time during your life is a scary thought, but to contemplate having it during a pregnancy was even worse. I was being bombarded by fears that the baby would die, that I would die, or worse—the baby would die, I would be infertile, and that I would continue to live. I didn’t want to live knowing that the surgery to save me had caused the death of my child. I was afraid. As I prayed, the Lord made it clear to my spirit that fear is not from Him, it’s from Satan. He kept telling me to trust Him, regardless of my circumstances, regardless of the outcome. He kept bringing to mind Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, how much more will your father in Heaven, give good gifts to those who ask Him?”

We saw the neurosurgeon a few days later. He looked at my MRI reports and bloodwork and became concerned. He didn’t feel it was in either the baby’s best interest or mine to do neurosurgery at this time, and he also didn’t think that I had the slow growing tumor that my doctor seemed to originally think. The neurosurgeon told us that my bloodwork, symptoms, and MRI’s indicated that it was more likely that the tumor was malignant, rather than being benign. He also told us that not only was he surprised I had been able to get pregnant, but also that I had been able to carry the pregnancy this far. He was concerned that the hormonal fluctuations caused by the tumor would cause me to miscarry. He suggested repeating the MRI in a month, monitoring the tumor more closely, and if it continued to grow, looking more seriously at the idea of surgery. Otherwise, there was nothing anyone could do.

While all this was going on, my husband and I were constantly petitioning the Lord for help, for guidance, for healing, for our unborn child’s safety, for stability, and for the ability to trust Him in all of this. Churches and Christian friends literally all over the world were praying for us.

We were also on our search for the perfect name for the baby. We found out we were having a boy, and in an effort to honor the Lord, to testify of His faithfulness, and to strengthen our own faith, we decided to name him Elijah, which means, “the Lord is my God.” We had decided to give our lives to Christ many years ago, and we were doing our best to follow Him through these extremely difficult times. Things seemed to improve somewhat at this point, emotionally, as the pregnancy itself was moving along successfully. However, my husband had found out one month prior to our son’s birth that he was most likely going to be laid off a few months after our son was to be born.

Our son, Elijah, was born healthy and full-term on December 29, 2002, the exact day of our second wedding anniversary. Praise the Lord! Another MRI was scheduled for March to check the status of the tumor once my pregnancy hormones had begun to subside and to discuss treatments. But despite a successful birth, things began to slide downhill for us.

I opted not to begin treatment immediately after the birth of my son, despite my husband’s and my doctor’s protests, as the medication I would be taking prohibited breastfeeding a newborn. I felt very compelled to exclusively breastfeed my son. In hindsight, this was again the Lord, as we learned very soon after our son was born that he had severe food allergies; he never would have been able to tolerate formula. My husband had been laid off at this point and was searching desperately for a job without any success.

We decided to move to Missouri as soon as we could. We wanted to be near family and realized that we couldn’t raise our children without the help and nearness of family. And, if my husband couldn’t find a job in Virginia, maybe he could find one in Missouri. I had my MRI the first week of March. Rather than finding that the tumor had begun to shrink as we were still hoping, we learned that it was now beginning to wrap around my carotid artery. Without a job and without insurance, there was nothing we could do about the tumor anyway. Three weeks later, in April 2003, we packed up all of our belongings, gathered copies of all our medical records, and moved 1,200 miles away to Missouri.

Soon after we got to Missouri, my husband found a lesser job than either of us wanted, but it would give us health insurance in a few months time. And so we waited and prayed, with nothing else for us to do. The intent, as soon as we were covered under the new insurance: to have another MRI and begin treatments. I finally found a doctor under the new insurance and scheduled an MRI for the end of August. My husband and I were both anxious to see what the tumor was doing at this point.

At the end of July, I began to have funny “symptoms” again, and suspected I might be pregnant, despite not trying. A blood test in August confirmed my woman’s intuition. Here I was with a 6-month-old, a tumor, and I was pregnant again! Needless to say, my new tumor doctor was not thrilled about this, as it made an accurate MRI and treatment of the tumor impossible again. My blood work was again not normal; the doctor decided to have me come in for several visits during the pregnancy to check my blood work frequently in an attempt to monitor the tumor that way. All our fears started over again, wondering if the tumor would terminate the pregnancy, wondering if it would grow again and put my life in more danger.

At this point, 16 months after this whole tumor nightmare began; I began to not care anymore about it. Rather than stress during another pregnancy and live on pins and needles again, I just decided to quit thinking about it. I don’t think I can honestly say that I was walking completely in faith at this point, don’t get me wrong, I was leaving it in the Lord’s hands, but I was also trying to ignore it. My husband took over the task of stressing for me!

My pregnancy was rather uneventful until November 2003, when a routine ultrasound showed that our baby, a little girl this time, had enlarged kidneys. She was also not growing the way she should, and per the radiologist, she had short femurs. Our midwife and obstetrician informed us that with these three findings—being female, having enlarged kidneys, and having short femurs—it was quite likely that our baby had Down’s syndrome. Our faith was truly being crushed at this point, forget about being “stretched.” If everything else hadn’t been enough, now our baby had kidney problems and quite possibly Down’s. They scheduled me for serial ultrasounds throughout the rest of the pregnancy to monitor the baby’s growth and her kidneys. All of the subsequent ultrasounds continued to show that our little girl was not as big as she should be and that the kidney and femur issues were continuing. Each time, a doctor would hesitantly remind us about the very real possibility of our baby having kidney problems and Down’s syndrome. As they looked deeper into the ultrasounds, they decided she would possibly have Spina Bifida, as the spine and kidneys were not forming correctly together. Though we would not love our daughter any less, we still were anxious. Preparing for the delivery, we were in contact with the local children’s hospital, should she need dialysis within the first few days of her life to treat her kidney issues or anything else.

Family and friends continued to pray for us. Praying one day, I begged for the Lord’s mercy and compassion on my baby, for her healing, and promised to serve Him no matter what. I also promised the Lord that if He would heal my baby of the kidney issues, the Spina Bifida, and the Down’s (forget the brain tumor at this point) that I would get up in church and testify before everyone of His grace, mercy, goodness, and power. That was my prayer throughout the remainder of the pregnancy. On April 18, 2004, exactly two weeks past her due date, our daughter Avelyn was born. We chose her name again to honor the Lord—her name is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, meaning both “dove” and “small fire.” We knew the Holy Spirit had been with us throughout this whole time and knew we needed to acknowledge it, whether or not our daughter was born healthy and whole. It was by the power of the Holy Spirit she was healed.

As she lay on my chest immediately after birth, I looked at her and knew in an instant she was fine. No Down’s and no Spina Bifida! After several tests of her kidneys during the next month, we learned that her kidneys were only slightly enlarged and that they were completely healthy, no true kidney problems at all! The Lord had heard my prayers and answered them! I spoke with our pastor’s wife and made plans to testify before our church to fulfill my promise to the Lord.

During the time I was waiting to give my testimony at church regarding my daughter’s health, my doctor scheduled an MRI to check up on my tumor to again, as it was time to stress about that again. It had been over a year since my last MRI, and he was anxious to see what was going on. Towards the end of my second pregnancy, I had begun to really believe that my tumor was gone. I’m not sure what triggered those thoughts, but I really believed the Lord had healed me. I felt different somehow. I, too, was anxious to see what my tumor “was doing.”

The MRI was scheduled for the first week of June. I went in, had the MRI, and honestly forgot all about it the minute I walked out of the hospital doors. I had too many babies to occupy my thoughts now, a two-month old and an eighteen-month old! A week later, on a Friday night, with some dear Christian friends at our home, we received a letter from my doctor stating the following: “The MRI was interpreted as showing no tumor. This is a good result.” He couldn’t have been more wrong—this was a MIRACULOUS result! The letter from the doctor hangs in a frame on our wall at home.

And, so, I was able to stand before our church and testify not only of the Lord’s healing hand on our daughter, but on me as well. I was also humbled and amazed at all of this. I wish I could say that my walk with the Lord was strengthened and that I served Him whole-heartedly during all this. I wish I could say that my faith never wavered and that I never screamed out in anger at the Lord during all this time, but I can’t. That’s what makes all of this so much more of a miracle to me. Despite my many, many failures during this time, despite my lack of faith, despite my disobedience at times to my Heavenly Father, in spite of me, God heard my prayers and He healed my daughter and me. He truly is the Heavenly Father who gives good gifts to His children!

The Fool's Errand

The Fool's Errand
Jan 25, 2009
Numbers 22:29 "Balaam answered the donkey, "You have made a fool of me. . ."

In Numbers chapter 22 there was a man of God, Balaam, who decided to entertain the company of the enemy of God's people. God directly ordered Balaam not to work with these men, to stay away from their offers. But for some reason, Balaam decided to hear them out, to do what he wanted. He completely disregarded the Lord's order to stay away from the sons of Satan. Balaam decided he would be the master of his own errands and at least join the enemy for a conversation. So, he ended up loading his donkey and setting out to meet them. This angered God and so He sent an angel to stop Balaam in his tracks. Balaam was so engrossed in being the master of his own flesh that he could not see with spiritual eyes. He had blinded himself to the Lord and what the Lord wanted. Balaam never saw the hand of God opposing his errand, the angel sent to strike him down. Thankfully, the donkey saw the angel with a drawn sword and turned away three times. Now the story gets funny.

Balaam beats the donkey these three times and finally the donkey speaks to him, protesting the beatings. Read the exact words of the scripture, "Balaam answered the donkey, "you have made a fool of me..."" Ok, who's the fool talking to the donkey? Idiot. Balaam has the audacity to take up a conversation with a talking animal and then accuse the donkey of making him look like a fool. Balaam never gets the irony; he never sees himself talking to the "Equus Asinus." The angel of the Lord was standing there watching the interaction and decided to make himself known to Balaam. Then Balaam understands. He finally realizes the angel was going to strike him down because of his foolish errand. Had the angel never opened Balaam's eyes, Balaam would have continued in his grave decision to be the master of his own errand.

While the story is entertaining, it speaks volumes about what you and I do every day. We go about our lives, doing what we want. Forget what God wants or what He has told us to do through his Scriptures. We are the masters of our own errands; we decide what we will do. But then we encounter difficulty in our lives and beat at the air with our fists, complaining about everything that is not going our way. Maybe there's a reason. Maybe, if we could take our eyes off of our fool's errand we could see, with spiritual eyes, the hand of the Lord at work. Maybe the door that is closed in your life's situation is really the Lord keeping you from getting the axe from an angel. But instead of embracing the opportunity to see the roadblock from the Lord, we try to force the issue, making a fool out of ourselves, placing our lives in danger.

I'd like to say that I've never created my own fool's errand, but I'd be deceiving you. Likewise, I'm confident there are things in your very life right now that are not directives from the Lord, activities that you have decided to engage in despite being unwise. Maybe what you're doing isn't necessarily the wrong thing but if the Lord didn't ask you to do it, then it is a fool's errand. I only want to do the things in my life that the Lord wants me to do, nothing more and nothing less. I'll admit it is difficult to always pray for direction regarding each and every activity, but if you do, you'll save yourself sooooo much extra work. And who knows, maybe you'll even save your own life by listening to the Lord. Imagine, the Lord knowing best? It's probably better to do what God says than get caught talking to a donkey.

1. Have you ever found yourself talking to a donkey?
2. What are you doing in your life that the Lord did or did not ask you to do?
3. How can you be sure your activities are not fool's errands?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Numbers 22, Eph 5:17, 2 Cor 6:14, James 4:15

I Love You Just Because

I Love You Just Because. . .
Jan 18, 2010
Hebrews 13:5 ". . .because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.""

I remember distinctly a conversation I had with my dad when I was 6-years-old. We were taking a brief walk in the evening while discussing something I had seen on television. In the drama portrayed on the screen, a few young men had committed offenses, causing strife in their lives. These young men, so overwhelmed by the consequences of their actions, were alienated from their normal lives, unable to continue healthy relationships with their families or the community. My father wanted to correct my understanding of what I had seen on TV. In the scenes depicted, there was no forgiveness or reconciliation, the young men were never restored; they were never welcomed home. My father wanted me to know the truth. He said to me, "Son, I love you and no matter what you do, no matter how many mistakes you make or how many failures you have, I will NEVER stop loving you and you will ALWAYS be welcome in our home." My father was telling me that he would love me until the very end; he would never forsake me.

Fortunately, I had a good dad who loved me and demonstrated to me what the Heavenly Father's love is like. Because I knew my dad loved me, I never struggled with the idea that God may or may not love me. I never worried that God would leave me. My dad's love for me was not predicated on my actions or if I succeeded in life. He loved me just because, and for no good cause. I always knew that. But for some reason, as I've aged, my love for myself became the new picture of God's love. I misplaced God's love for me based on how much I loved myself due to my successes and failures. If I couldn't love myself, then surely God couldn't love me. If I didn't want me, then surely God would forsake me. But this is not so.

Most of you reading this have experienced negative situations regarding love at some point; either your parents didn't demonstrate that they loved you just because, or you don't love yourself just because. Maybe someone abandoned you; maybe a spouse left you. Any of those things could inhibit you from perceiving the Father's love correctly. You may feel God is not able to love you because your understanding of love is based on a misrepresentation of human actions. God's love is nothing like another person's love. God will never leave you like other people might. The Father's love for you is much like my dad's love for me, when I was a boy. God will NEVER stop loving you and no matter how bad things get in your life, you will ALWAYS be welcome in His home. You cannot escape God's love.

Today, whether you feel lovable or not, please accept these next few words from the Heavenly Father.
You are my son/daughter and I love you just because, and for no other reason. I have loved you before you were born and have enjoyed you so much. I have never stopped loving you and I will NEVER stop loving you. There is nothing you can do that would cause me to stop loving you. You are mine; I would never abandon my own. I have not forsaken you; I never will. I will ALWAYS be here. I want you as part of my life and I would love to continue to be a part of yours. There is nothing I cherish more than you. No matter how bad it gets, you will always be welcome in my home. I love you.

God loves you just because and He will NEVER forsake you.

1. How do you accept God's love, if at all?
2. Are you misunderstanding God's love for you based on human interactions?
3. How can you believe that God will never forsake you?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Deut 31:6-8, Josh 1:5, Ps 9:10, Ps 37:25, Ps 94:14, Zeph 3:17, Rom 8:39, 1 Jn 4:8

What it Means to Be Holy

What it Means to Be Holy
Jan 11, 2010
1 Peter 1:15-16 "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: be holy because I am holy."

If you're like me, you experience a bit of stress at the directive in the Bible that requires us to be holy. I mean, come on, we're sinners here, not angels. How can we, who are dirty, filthy rags (I know what's in my heart, I can only imagine what's in yours) be holy? This seems impossible, an elusive task. How can the Bible ask me, no, tell me to be holy. Doesn't God know that we are the fallen ones, that we need to be saved? Just sign me up for failure again. Great, something else that I cannot live up to, someone else I can let down. I can't pull myself up by my bootstraps; simply telling me to be holy doesn't really mean it can happen. At least give me the formula, a simple step-by-step plan I can follow to get myself there.

If you're as frustrated as I am about being told to be holy, thinking it is only for the elite saints of this world, those few who are paid to be in church 24/7, then you have the wrong idea of what it means to be holy. Being holy doesn't mean you have to be perfect. Being holy doesn't mean you can't have sinned once or twice, or even three million times, before. Being holy doesn't mean you have to go around with your elbows in the air, singing hymns all day. Being holy is a class distinction, not something that can be conquered or succeeded at in life like a triathlon. To understand the phrase, "be holy, as I am holy," you have to understand the actual definition of the word. The word "holy," in the Bible, does not mean perfect, spotless, or without sin; it means to be set apart. The word holy means to be set apart for something special, for a special purpose.

If you were to replace the words in the scripture, instead of using "holy," use "set apart." Here's how it would read. (this is not misquoting scripture, and I'm not adding to the Bible, here, just explaining) It could read: "But just as he who called you is set apart, be set apart in all you do, for it is written: be set apart because I am set apart." This completely changes the impact of this scripture on our lives. This isn't saying, be a god because I am God, it is asking us, no telling us, to be different, to be set apart in all that we do, to be a peculiar people, to be the light of this world. It is telling us to be mission-minded in all of our activities, thinking of the Lord's purposes in everything, and not what we want to do. It is figuring out what would benefit God in all circumstances and in all things through my actions. This is much better and much easier than trying to be a statue of perfection in everyone's eyes, especially God's.

God wants us to be willing to set ourselves apart for Him for His use in the world. That's what it means to be holy. He wants us to be different than the rest, willing to go against the norm every once in a while, not look like everyone else. He wants us to be willing to be used by Him, should the moment arise, for a purpose far greater than ourselves. He wants us to be, well, His. If you're in this world and you embrace every piece of its culture, straight down to the inner fiber, then you are no different than anyone else, the same as every single sinner out there. You aren't set apart if you do what everyone else does and look how everyone else looks. He wants you to be different, not of this world, but in it. He wants people to be able to tell that you are His. If someone can't look at you and in five minutes, tell that you're a Christian by your actions and words, then you are not holy. Be set apart from this world, being holy will look good on you; I promise.

1. What is your definition of being holy?
2. How can you be set apart in all you do?
3. How can people see that you're different from everyone else?

When reading these scriptures below, in your mind, replace the word "holy" with the words "set apart for a purpose;" it could change everything for you.
Add. Scriptures for Study: Ex 40:9, Lev 19:2, Lev 27:30, Deut 5:12, Deut 26:19, Is 5:16, Rom 12:1, 2 Tim 2:21, 2 Peter 3:11

So, You Think You're Special

So, You Think You're Special
Jan 4, 2010
Isaiah 43:4 ". . you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you. . . "

Everyone feels different. Well, that is the perspective of most people, feeling slightly different than everyone else, not exactly fitting in with the crowd. Everyone, at some point, feels like the odd man out, unsure of what to do with what makes him or her different. In a quandary with these feelings of uniqueness, and unwilling to accept the possibility of simply being labeled strange, we try to comfort ourselves when we don't quite fit in. We allow ourselves to be consoled with the words, "I am special." Feeling special is a lot more acceptable than feeling different. Feeling special is a lot more bearable and even slightly enticing when compared to the idea of being an outcast. If we can convince ourselves that somehow God made us special, then we can live with the secret pride of thinking we are slightly better than anyone else. Yeah, that's it. Because we may not fit in, we're simple better than everyone else.

This feeling of specialness and uniqueness is only exacerbated when we are attacked by Satan. As Christians, we see non-Christians who never go through the trials and tribulations we experience. We reason to ourselves when Satan leaves them alone; he wants to attack us, because, after all, we are special. Clearly, Satan attacks us because we've obviously been set apart by God for something amazing. Satan must know that if he can attack us and win, he would keep us from doing spectacular things for the Lord. Yeah, that's it, if Satan can hinder our success in this life and our Christian walk, he would be keeping us from impacting the world for Christ. Satan must somehow know about our "specialness" otherwise he would just leave us alone. Our attacks from Satan must be attributed to th e fact that we going to be superheroes.

Hopefully, you were able to read a degree of sarcasm into the above paragraphs. While these two scenarios might actually be the case for feeling different, it is not what God intends for you to believe. God wants you to have the correct perspective on how and why you feel different and the reason why Satan would attack you. Here's a news flash, you're not that special and you're not that important, neither am I. This isn't intended to insult you; I'm sure your mother loves you very much, and for very good reason. But it's not about you, it never was. Those feelings of being different, I mean, special, and those feelings of being targeted by Satan are actually valid. But it is still not about you. Satan does not care about you, you're not that important. In fact, the only time that Satan, himself, appeared to a man in the Bible was to confront the man of Jesus.

Satan is not interested in you; he is only interested in one thing. He is interested in doing as much damage to God as possible. He knows the only thing that makes you special is the fact that God views you and your relationship with Him as precious. The reason you feel different from the crowd is so you may fit in with God, through a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The reason you are attacked by Satan is not to hinder your success in this world, but to hinder your personal and intimate relationship with the Holy One. That is what makes you special. It's not about you; it's about your relationship with God. Your relationship with Him is the most special, precious, and valuable thing to the Lord. Did you catch that? It's not about being better than anyone and it's not about what your future could bring, it's about the time you spend with God on a daily basis. It's not directly about you; it is about your relationship with Him. That's what is special. If you don't have an intimate relationship with the Lord, then you're not even on the radar screen when it comes to being even remotely special.

So, the next time you feel like you don't fit in, or the next time you feel targeted by an attack from the devil, check your daily and intimate time with the Lord. Strengthen that relationship and you'll be the most precious thing in this world; it is the most important thing you can do in this life.

1. In what ways are you different or not quite fitting in?
2. Do you view yourself as special OR precious in His sight?
3. How can you change your perspective to having a relationship with God as the most important thing you can do in this lifetime?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Jn 17:23, Rom 8:35-39, 1 Jn 4:16, 1 Jn 4:19

God and New Year's Resolutions

God and New Year's Resolutions
Dec 28, 2009
2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come."

The end of the calendar year draws near and people begin making New Year's Resolutions, declarations of what they want to change about their lives. People begin thinking about these impending changes weeks before the time comes, planning and strategizing about what they might do differently when the clock strikes twelve. They give themselves motivational pep talks, writing things down, as if self-coaching and a piece of paper will grant them more success. Then the clock strikes twelve, signaling the start of the New Year, and they swing full into motion, doing or not doing whatever it is they think will change themselves or their lives. You've done this many times, and I have fallen prey to the wistful New Year's change. I don't know the statistics, but I've heard that most New Year's Resolutions are abandoned within the first 30-60 days of attempts and almost all of them are eventually tucked away under the title "silent failures" until the next year rolls around and they attempt again.

While I don't have the solution to helping you keep your New Year's Resolution, I do know how God views it. There is a parallel to New Year's Resolutions and your success in your daily Christian walk. There is something that both of them have in common, a stop and a start. Let me explain before you're thinking there is a stop to your Christian walk. God was very deliberate to set up an end and a beginning in your life. When you are saved, you are a new creation, the old is washed away, and your life is forever changed. God also intended for you to forgive and forget your past, because that is exactly what He did for you. God forgave you of your sins and then He forgot them. That's right; God does not keep a record of your past wrongs. That is the ending point in your life and the beginning of something n ew, the start of a fresh life. Every day of your Christian walk is a new day, a chance to put yesterday behind you and move forward, hoping and believing that the new day will be different. God knows you will fail today and He WILL forgive you AND give you an opportunity for a new tomorrow. The problem is you don't see it that way.

For some reason, Christians think they are only allotted a certain number of failures in life before God gives up on them. Not so. God will give you a new start everyday of your life, if you require it. He will give you the opportunity to have a new day, today, tomorrow, and even the next day. But, and here's the key, you have to forgive and forget your past. God does and so must you. Here is why you might struggle so much in your Christian walk, and this is why you might fail at your New Year's Resolutions: you didn't forgive yourself and you didn't forget your past. To be successful at something new, you have to believe in your heart and mind that tomorrow is a new day, no matter what the failures of yesterday are saying to you. If you listen to your failures of yesterday, they will keep you from having a successful today. This is true in your Christian walk and this is true for those New Year's Resolutions.

God actually likes New Year's Resolutions. He has one ready for you every day of your life. He wants you to let the failures of yesteryear stay in yesteryear. But when you fail, not if, but when, He will give you the chance to start again. So instead of giving up on your New Year's Resolution, try forgiving yourself when it doesn't go as planned and forget the past failure. Then start over. That's right, start over in any area of your life: your marriage, your job, your weight, your children, maybe even your faith. If it wasn't for God allowing us to start over, we would never be saved. So go ahead and make those New Year's Resolutions, but remember to forget the past. Tomorrow is brand new and everyday is New Years.

1. How do you view your past failures; do your forgive them?
2. How can you determine, every day, to forget your past failures?
3. How can you believe that tomorrow will be different than yesterday?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Ps 103:12, Jn 20:23, Gal 6:15, 1 Jn 2:12

A Child is Born

A Child is Born
Dec 21, 2009
Luke 1:30-31 " . . . do not be afraid, Mary . . . you will be with child and give birth to a son . . . "

There was a young woman who served the Lord with all her heart. She followed all the laws God had given her; she sacrificed many things in devotion to Him. She was pleased to serve God and only wanted what every girl at her age and time wanted: to marry a Godly man and have children. This traditional life was really all she had thought about growing up. She pictured herself falling in love with a man her parents approved of; she pictured a nice wedding with many guests, where everyone treated her with honor. This young woman kept her imagination busy, trying to figure out how many children she might have and what to name them. She dreamed about a happy and fulfilled life, with friends and family around her, supporting her until her gray years. This young woman's name was Mary and she li ved for about 14 years before Jesus Christ was born.

While the above prelude to Mary's life is not actually found in the Bible, it is not difficult to think this would be pretty accurate. Surely, being human, she had the same dreams of her future that every other girl had, which is the same dream for many girls today. But all her imagining and dreaming for her future were interrupted when an angel appeared to her and told her that she would get pregnant by someone other than her husband. This was not in her dreams; this was not planned. Mary was afraid, and rightly so. She had to try and explain to her parents how she got pregnant. She had to try and explain to her fiance how it all happened. She had to walk down the isle with a baby bump, and marry a man who was not the father of her child. She had to face the looks and stares from people the rest of her life, judging her, condemning her unbelievable story. They probably assumed Mary and Joseph didn't wait for the marriage bed. None of this was what she asked for, or necessarily even wanted.

Despite the historical honor of being the mother of Jesus Christ, it was very uncomfortable for her at the time. Did anyone really believe her, that the child inside her was conceived by the Holy Spirit? They may have said they believed her, but you know in the back of their minds what they were really thinking. You'd think the same thing, too. I would. I probably would not have believed her story, the virgin birth; I probably would have judged her. For the rest of Mary's life, she had to endure many, many things that simply were not dreamed about, all beginning with an unplanned pregnancy.

But the thing about Mary, she didn't complain. She didn't yell at God for having to endure all the jeers from non-believers. Mary didn't throw a temper tantrum; she didn't tell God to take it all back and give her an idyllic lifestyle. She gladly accepted what God had given her. She didn't complain when she had to give birth in a barn. Mary didn't have any outbursts of anger or regret when they had to flee for several years to Egypt in an attempt to save her infant's life. Mary didn't even covet when all her peers were married to men far richer than Joseph or had houses far bigger than her humble place. This servant of God was content with the life that God had chosen for her, despite it being rather uncomfortable most of the time.

During this Christmas season, think about Mary and her attitude toward her life. When you want to complain about what you didn't get in life, or even for Christmas, think about her. When you want to covet what other people have, even what other Christians have, think about Mary humbly accepting the life God had chosen for her. When you want to grumble about the life you think you should have, think about Mary giving up what she wanted in order that God might use her for something bigger than herself.

1. Do you want what God wants for your life?
2. How can you accept the interesting things God has for you?
3. How you can view them as from the Lord?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Isa 29:24, Phil 2:14, Col 2:7, Col 4:2, Heb 12:28, Jas 1:21

Two to Tango

Two to Tango
Dec 14, 2009
Matthew 5:23-24 " . . . remember that your brother has something against you . . . go and be reconciled to your brother. . ."

The Tango is a dance between a man and a woman, where their proximity to each other is extremely close. This closeness requires the dancers to be in perfect synch with each other, lest they clash. This closeness in proximity of the dancers leaves little room for error; if one of the dancers missteps, neither of the dancers would be making any poetic movements. While my two left feet preclude be from becoming an excellent Tango dancer, the dance has a great deal of similarities to human relationships. Just like the Tango, which cannot be danced alone, a relationship cannot exist unless there are two. In human relationships, if one party is out of synch with the other, it can create a great deal of awkwardness and un-poetic movements.

Consider a wall; you can't argue with a wall. A wall has no will of its own, no feelings or emotions. The wall cannot yell at you and will never disagree with you. You will never have a verbal fight with a wall and risk not speaking to it for the rest of your life. But you will certainly never dance the Tango with a wall. People, however, are a different story. Husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings...these are all monikers which denote a relationship with another human being. It is this relationship, this dance of two individuals that creates the poetry. But unlike a wall, each dancer has his or her own free will, feelings, thoughts, likes, etc. These differences must be put aside if the two are going to get along. These differences are what cause most fights and argument s in relationships.

God was aware of this probability when He gave humans a free will. He knew they could either move poetically together or clash like titans. That is why God gives a great deal of advice in the Bible about getting along with others. God's advice, though, can be summed up in the second greatest commandment in the Bible: love your neighbor as yourself. We remember this command from the Bible, but we seldom practice it in our close and intimate relationships. If we loved our children, like we loved ourselves, we would never have yelled at them. If we loved our siblings, like we loved ourselves, we would never have held that grudge for so many years. If we loved our spouses, like we loved ourselves, we would never have treated him or her with such disrespect.

There is a remedy, though, to this clash of individuals, that can get both parties moving together poetically. God tells us to remember the issue, go to that person, and be reconciled to them. This word, reconciled, means to work it out so that the relationship is mended to the point of being brand new, with no hard feelings between anyone. To be reconciled is to be like ONE, setting aside the differences for the sake of getting along. If you are going to a person to be reconciled to them, you are not going to them to point out their flaws; you are going to them to admit your own faults. Trust me, you have many. Chances are, you are just as wrong as the other person. And just like the Tango, which requires both to set aside differences in order to move together poetically, you must set aside yourself. This means you never get to be right, even if you are. In order to be in synch, you must put down your right to move as an individual.

Remember, you are to love them as you would love yourself. Ah, the relationships of humans, how awkward it is. It is much more pleasant to watch if people are in synch with each other, just like the Tango.

1. What relationship is out of step?
2. How can you take the initiative to reconcile?
3. How can you give up your right to move as an individual?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Prov 10:12, Prov 17:9, Mark 12:28-31, Eph 4:26, 1 Cor 7:11, 1 Peter 4:8

Don't Shoot the Messenger

Don't Shoot the Messenger
Dec 7, 2009
2 Samuel 16:11 ". . . Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to."

King David was entering a city, with all his officials and armed guards, when a strange man came out and insulted David. Yes, even back then, there was someone who didn't agree with the political climate of the day. Except back then, King David had the recommendation of everyone to strike down the naysayer. That's right, if someone said something the king didn't like, more often than not, a king would simply put that person to the sword. This insulter, this heckler, named Shimei, was even so bold as to throw stones and dirt at King David and his men. A person would not dare insult the king, especially with his armed guards ready to strike anyone down. Shimei was bold.

King David did something rather bold, too. Instead of killing the man right there on the spot, David spared his life. King David even went so far as to say that the man who brought the curses down on David was sent by God. David suggested that the heckler was a messenger from God sent to humble him. When David had the power to destroy the man and his criticism, he instead accepted the criticism and allowed it to humble himself.

The other day, I received criticism from someone that is very, very close to me. The other person didn't even intend for the words to insult me, but he hurt rather deeply. I could have interrupted and corrected the person, but I let it go, receiving the words, because maybe there was a degree of truth or validity to his words. Maybe he was even sent by God to deliver those words to humble me.

There are so many insulting situations in life that I would like to put to the sword. If only I was a king and could actually do that. I would get rid of the driver who pulled out in front of me and forced me to slow down. I would get rid of the person at my work place who has nothing good to say about me. I would get rid of my neighbor who frustrates the heck out of me. I would get rid of so many of my current situations, because they insult me, frustrate me, or are simply detestable to me. But, I can't. That's right, I can't. And even if I could, I shouldn't. I should keep my mouth shut and realize that EVERYTHING in my life might actually be from the Lord.

Maybe the car that pulled out in front of me, causing me to slow down, was from the Lord, keeping me from an accident up ahead or a speeding ticket. Maybe the co-worker that irritates me is really God helping me to love the un-lovables. Maybe my neighbor that frustrates the heck out of me is God showing me what is really important in life. The point is, I have no idea which situations are from the Lord or not, but each is an opportunity to view them as such and possibly glean something from it. In the least, I should keep my mouth shut each and every time, because if I complain about it, I might be complaining against the Lord.

King David realized what you and I need to keep in mind. David knew a little secret about about how God works. After David allowed the insults, the next thing he said was, "It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." Wow, what perspective David had. If I complain about my insults, my insulting situations, or my cursed experiences, I am deleting the possible reward that God has for me for enduring it. How many rewards have I missed because I couldn't just keep my mouth shut and endure a situation? How many rewards have you missed because you couldn't keep your mouth shut and endure a situation? The next time you'd like to get rid of that insulting situation in life, set aside your pride and view the situation as from the Lord. If it wasn't from the Lord, you might actually receive a blessing from that insult.

1. What insulting situation would you like to put to the sword?
2. How can you view that insulting situation as from the Lord?
3. How can you keep your mouth shut and endure that insulting situation, keeping a possible reward from God for enduring it?

Add. Scriptures for Study: 2 Sam 16, Ecc 12:14, Matt 27:29, Luke 18:32

Complicated by Design

Complicated by Design
Nov 30, 2009
Psalm 139:13 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb."

I drive a vehicle that is a very sophisticated piece of machinery. It was designed that way. My car has fuel systems, drive systems, braking systems, safety systems, electrical systems, computer systems; the list is endless. The engineers who developed my vehicle were brilliant minds, capable of thinking of far more advanced things than my brain can comprehend. I'm glad; without those intelligent people designing my car, it would not be able to perform the functions that it does. It was designed and manufactured as perfect as possible, and when it was brand new, it was perfect.

But then something happened to my car; I drove it. That's right; I used it for its intended purpose. I interrupted its perfection, and I used it; I put wear and tear on it, causing it to need servicing, repair. I could fix it myself, but my mind doesn't know what the original engineers were thinking; I don't have their capabilities to bring the sophisticated machine back to perfection. The best I can do is to consult the detailed manual for my car. But it has to be the exact manual, not a manual intended for another automobile. If I consult the manual of another manufacturer, I would make things worse. And when the repairs require knowledge beyond my skills, I must entrust it to the care of experts, the original manufacturer who is trained in the methods of the original engineers. It gets extremely compli cated and can be extremely costly.

Our lives are a lot like my sophisticated automobile, in that when we use it, our human intervention interrupts the designer's perfection. We drive down this or that road of life, maybe even use it for things never intended by the Maker, and yet wonder why there are problems. My car comes with a manual that has many, many recommendations from the manufacturer, but when I don't heed the warnings, I risk ruining it. If I don't listen to the recommendations of the manual intended for my life, the Bible, the Word of God, I risk many, many problems. If left to my own devices, I'm liable to run it into the ground, bringing my life to the point of needing repairs that only the Original Maker can fix.

Thankfully, the Original Manufacturer of my life is always available to affect repairs to my life. God is always open for me to bring my life in for a tune up or a fix, even if I require a major overhaul. He's even given me the exact manual for my life, giving me many opportunities to make adjustments myself. My life is far more complicated than my car; it is my job to listen to the Maker, the Designer who knew me and knit me together in my mother's womb. God does not want me going through life broken and falling apart, He wants me functioning like the high-performance person that He created me to be. He created me perfectly; yes even me, even you. The problem is we keep interrupting His perfection. Thankfully, He is always willing and able to work on us. I know I could use a little work.

1. What repairs are needed in your life?
2. How have you consulted your manual, the Bible?
3. If the repair is beyond your capabilities, have you taken it back to the original manufacturer, God?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Jer 1:5, Ps 139:13-16, 2 Tim 3:16

Give and Get Grace

Give and Get Grace
Nov 23, 2009
Matthew 7:2 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

God likes reciprocity. It is a principle taught over and over in the Bible. To explain it simply, if you give, you will get. An example of this is forgiveness. God says if you won't forgive others, then He won't forgive you. Conversely, if you forgive others, God promises to forgive you. It is a give and get relationship. When God teaches the principle, it is set in motion like gravity. It cannot be undone. God's principles are always enforced; they cannot be stopped. Even if humans try to interrupt the ebb and flow of give and get, God will ensure continuity.

But this ebb and flow of give and get is not limited to a relationship between God and man. It is actually a three way street, between God, man, and man. Consider it a circle of giving. If someone is giving then someone else is getting. If you put God in the circle of giving, and you give as well, then everyone is not only giving, but also getting. It is really great how the situation perpetuates itself. If you forgive others, then you get forgiveness; others and God will keep that circle going. Everyone will be getting forgiveness. The scripture above talks about giving and getting judgment. If you judge others, then you will be judged by God and man. The opposite of that is true as well. The opposite of showing judgment is showing grace.

If you show grace to others, then the measure of grace you use will be shown to you as well. This measure of grace will be given to you by God AND man. Grace is giving someone an allowance of forgiveness, even when they did not ask for it. Grace is overlooking an offense or someone else's flaws. Grace is allowing others to not be perfect and loving them anyway. Grace is allowing others to be human and not holding them to an impossible standard. God showed you and me the biggest measure of grace; while we were still sinners, He sent Christ to die for our sins. God started the flow of grace and we are expected to keep the circle of grace moving.

When you show grace to others, you are representing the image of God to them. You are being an example for them to follow. They, in turn, will be more willing to show you grace. Trust me, you need more grace from others than you realize. I know I do. Conversely, if you don't show grace and only show judgment, you are inviting judgment back onto yourself. I've found that grace is way better than judgment. It is good to give and get grace, from God AND man.

1. Have you been given enough grace?
2. To whom do you need to show a little extra grace?
3. How can you keep that circle of grace moving?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Mark 4:24, Luke 6:37-38, John 20:23, Rom 5:8, Rom 5:20

Birthright Be Damned

Birthright Be Damned
Nov 16, 2009
2 Timothy 2:12 "If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us."

Many, many, years ago, the oldest son in a family received the first and largest inheritance, or birthright. The inheritance meant the rights to, not only wealth, but also the right to lead the family after dad was gone, the right to become the patriarch. The oldest son had the most cherished position, as he could direct the ever increasing family wealth, and be able to pass that along to his own son someday. Nowadays, brothers and sisters just take each other to court and sue for their equal share, but that's not how it has always been. A birthright was an important thing, an honored and respected tradition. Twins, Jacob and Esau knew this. Or, should I say, Esau and Jacob, as Esau was the oldest by just a few minutes.

Esau and his brother had a love/hate relationship. Of course they loved each other because they were twins, but they were always challenging each other, vying for their parents' approval. Esau and Jacob were favored by their parents differently, which cost some affection from one or the other at times, and then there was the birthright. Esau was set to get the first birthright, the blessed inheritance. This caused envy and a division between the men. One day, Esau came in from a hard day's work and was ravenously hungry. Jacob had a bounty of food prepared and knew Esau was hungry. Instead of doing the brotherly-love-thing and offering Esau some food, Jacob offered to sell his table of food to Esau in exchange for Esau's birthright as the oldest. Esau made a poor decision and agreed. Esau sold away the rights to h is larger inheritance. It was shameful that Jacob would try to take the birthright, but it was an embarrassment for Esau to throw it away so foolishly. By his actions, Esau was essentially saying, "My birthright be damned."

Here is why that statement is true.

Today, you and I are the "first born among men," children of the Living God. We ALL, as Christians, have the birthright of the firstborn, the blessed inheritance of salvation, eternity in Heaven with Christ. You either have the blessed inheritance or nothing; there is no second share or alternative inheritance in God's kingdom. It is either eternal salvation or damnation in Hell. If you do not choose to have and keep the rights of the firstborn, you are damning yourself to Hell. Esau's decision to sell his birthright is a warning to us today. Your salvation is something to be cherished, something to be valued and protected. If you do not value your birthright as firstborn, your inheritance of eternity in Heaven with Christ, then you might make a rash decision someday when you are in a weakened state, like Esau, and lose your salvation.

The temptations of this world are great and they could cause you to forfeit your rights to your inheritance in Heaven. If you do not cherish your birthright, when you are tempted and in a weakened state (and you WILL be tempted), you might make the same mistake Esau made. Someday, you may make a decision in this life that says, "My birthright be damned." When you see the shiny things this world has to offer, you might put your hand out and take hold of them. You might partake in the sinful desires of the flesh, forsaking your salvation forever, damning yourself to Hell.

I don't know what that road to forsaking your birthright could look like for you, but I can guarantee it will include a gradual decline, a deception occurring over a thousand crooked smiles. Surely, if Satan jumped out with his big red horns and pointy pitch fork and said, "Serve me and come to Hell," you would be wise enough to decline. But if you lied at work today, which promoted your own selfish ambition, you just took one step closer to damning your birthright in Heaven. If you value and cherish your birthright, then you will be on guard against every gradual step to damning it away, every temptation of this world. Then, when in a weakened state, instead of making a foolish decision like Esau, you can say, "Nothing in this world is worth my place in Heaven with Christ."

1. How cherished is your salvation in Heaven?
2. How have you been tempted to walk away from your birthright?
3. How can you maintain your eyes on that birthright, in all things?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Gen 25, Matt 16:26, Mark 8:36, Luke 9:25, Rom 6, Gal 1:6, Gal 5:1, Gal 5:4, 1 Tim 4:1

Music To Your Ears

Music to Your Ears
November 9, 2009
Philippians 4:8 ". . .whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. . .think about these things."

The Bible says that some day you will have to give an account for every thing in your life. The Bible is very clear about this and says it will even be to the smallest detail of your life, down to "every careless word [you] have spoken." (Matt 12:36) This is kind of scary, to think that someday you will stand before God, THE Judge, and give testimony or justification for your actions in life. This gives new meaning to that stupid list Santa Clause keeps, checking it twice to see if you've been naughty or nice. But this final time, in Heaven, it will be between you and God. Most of us know this, or are at least acutely aware of the time of individual judgment. But how detailed is God really going to get? I mean, is He really going to bring up that time you told your mother-in-law you loved the birthday present she gave you, even though you hated it and re-gifted it? Yup. Even that. How about the music you listen to? Are you going to have a discussion with God about your music choices, Country or Soft Rock? Yup.

That's right; I want to talk about the music you might be listening to. Not the style of music, but the genre and quality of music. While I can appreciate all styles of music, I have little tolerance for music that tears down the family, Christian values, or the work of the Lord. Everyone reading this, undoubtedly, will agree with me. There isn't one Christian, or even politically correct conservative, who would disagree with that. But I will take it one step further and say I have little tolerance for music that brings glory and honor to sin, sinful activities, and the lustful desires of the flesh. This wipes out 90% of all mainstream music. Any music, no matter how catchy the tune or funky the beat, if it contains words that promote an activity or lifestyle that is contrary to what Jesus preached, is not acceptable to God.

Any and every generation can remember their teen years, their parents disapproving of the music they listened to. Your parents, no matter what age you were or generation you grew up in, where aware of the levels of sensuality that your music promoted. Each generation's music seems to get progressively further away from God, and the previous generation is the only one who can see that one-step progression. It happened in the 1950's, when parents told kids to turn their music off. It happened in the 1960's, when parents told kids that their music would lead to a promiscuous lifestyle. It happened in the 1970's, when parents told kids that their music would lead to life-altering addictions. It happened in the 1980's, when parents told kids that their music would lead to violence and gangs. It happened in the 1990's, when parents told kids that their music would only promote self-justification and a self-indulgent lifestyle. And it is happening in this new millennium, when parents should be telling kids that the music on their iPods could eternally separate them from God.

You might argue that it is decent music, oldies, or just soft rock. But listen carefully to the words; if the song is promoting a one-night stand or getting drunk, then SHUT IT OFF. Even music from the 1950's is junk--try actually listening to the words; it doesn't matter if it was the music you grew up on. The Bible says you are to think and promote things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Here is your litmus test. If the lyrics of your music do not fit into one of these categories, that is being: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable, then throw out those CD's and delete it from your MP3 player or computer. Harsh; does it sound like I'm being harsh? Nope, I'm just prepping you for the time you get to give an account to God for it. Don't even get me started on U2 or Lil' Jon. Consider yourself warned, and when He asks about you reading this Devotional Byte, you'll have to remember it; there's no pretending you didn't know.

If you have a collection of music that you need to get rid of, then throw it out now and ask God to forgive you. He WILL forgive you; I know it. Change the stations in your car now and start filling your head with stuff that is music to God's ears. And even though your kids might pretend to ignore you, tell them to turn that music off--but explain WHY, maybe use this devotional to explain it. God loves you and wants the best for you; even that soft-rock can get in the way of God's best for your life. If your kid has to throw out his music, chances are yours might need to be re-considered, too.

1. What music are you listening to?
2. What music do you need to stop listening to?
3. What music should you start listening to?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Job 31:37, Matt 12:36, Rom 14:12, Heb 4:13, 1 Peter 4:5

Courage is a Four Letter Word

Courage is a Four Letter Word
November 2, 2009
Gen 22:9 "When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood."

A crazy thing happened; you're never going to believe it. There was a man who had never had a son before and his wife finally gave birth to a bouncing baby boy when the man was 100 years old. This son was a gift from God, a promised fulfilled by the Lord God Almighty. Then God asked something of the man that was outrageous. God asked the man to tie the boy up, kill him, spill his blood on the ground, and set his flesh ablaze upon a pile of rocks. What? That's crazy. What is even crazier is that the man complied. The man took his one and only son up to a mountain top and tied the boy up. Can you believe that? A loving father, tied his son up with ropes, set him on a pile of rocks, and raised his knife to the boy's throat. Thankfully the Lord intervened, saving the boy's life. It sure was a close call. Evidentially, God was just testing the faith of this centenarian name Abraham. Regardless, I bet the boy never trusted being left alone with his dad after that.

When we hear this story about Abraham and Isaac, we instantly think of the words faith and righteousness, as that is how the Bible describes the story. But there is another word we should think of; it is courage. Courage is taking a bold action, when prudent advice might warn otherwise. That's right, courage is being bold. I'm not the world's best father, but there is no way I could hear a voice, consider it God's voice, and sacrifice my son to death. I would question the voice, drown it out with my own thoughts and bury the idea deep, deep inside a well. At this stage in my life, I'm pretty good at hearing the voice of God, but don't think I could ever hear the voice of God tell me to kill my own son, even if it was truly God. But Abraham, he was courageous and took a bold step. I am a coward when you compare me to Abraham. I bet you are, too. I doubt you could lay your loved one down on an altar, look him in the eyes, and raise a knife to his throat. But that is exactly what God wants.

God wants bold Christians. God wants individuals who will serve Him with enough fortitude to do something courageous and bold when prudent advice might warn otherwise. I'm not suggesting that God wants you to kill someone, I'm saying maybe God wants you to do something bold, take a leap of faith on His voice, and stick yourself out there. Maybe God wants you to leave your current career and go to the mission field. Maybe God wants you to cash out your retirement and give it to a specific cause. Maybe God wants you to get rid of your boat or motorcycle or toy, in order to spend more time with your family. Maybe God wants you to take your kids out of certain sports that hinder a regular time attending church. Maybe God wants you to homeschool your children. Maybe God wants you to change your major in college. Whatever it is, it will take a bold step. But the problem is, we are all wimps when it comes to doing something courageous.

Too often, we don't stop to listen to God's voice, or we hear it and drown it out. We consider the task too difficult, too risky, too outrageous and bold. We aren't willing to leave our comfort zone in order to truly follow God. Today, God wants you to take that step out. There is something that comes to mind, something that you've been feeling in your heart for a while now, and God wants you to take action on it. God wants you to be bold, like Abraham, and do something that might make you look and feel foolish. Stop fleecing the Lord's command and just do it. Be bold. You'll be glad that you did, Abraham was.

1. What have you done in your life that might be considered bold?
2. What is God asking you to do, that you are ignoring?
3. How can you always step out and be a bold Christian?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Gen 18:27, Gen 18:31, Psalm 138:3, Pro 28:1, Mark 15:43, Acts 4:29, Heb 11:17, James 2:21