Sunday, December 30, 2012

Steady Race

Steady Race
Dec 31, 2012
Hebrews 10:36  "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."

I am not a runner, as least not for long distances.  I don't like to run for very long; it makes my heart pound harder and louder.  My lungs tighten and it feels like I am breathing through a little red drinking straw.  Apparently, those symptoms suggest that my cardiovascular health needs strengthening.  Maybe I should run more, for longer distances than from the couch to the refrigerator.  But that would require effort, a considerable amount of effort and time, maybe even aforethought.  It would be the right thing to do for my overall health.  Doctors all agree that daily physical exercise is required to maintain a healthy lifestyle, with running being a very good way to accomplish that.  A goal of one day running a marathon would be a great idea.

A person cannot, however, start running a marathon if he has never run before.  It takes daily practice to get up to that level, daily practice with increasing levels of intensity.  This is the same with our Christianity.  A person cannot be a successful Christian, living righteously everyday, having never done it before.  It takes daily practice with increasing levels of intensity.  The Apostle Paul likens the Christian lifestyle to running a race, like a marathon.  He said we all should run our Christian race as to get the prize (he wants us to WIN).  He knew that running and winning a race required training and daily commitment, steady commitment.  It isn't for the timid or weak in heart.  And just as a marathon isn't a sprinting-kind-of race, but requires a steady pace, so is our Christian race.  It isn't a sprint to the finish; it requires a slower, more calculated cadence.  AND it requires perseverance.

In running, if you don't persevere but give up before the race is over, then you will not win.  It is absurd to consider running a marathon, persevering to the last few feet of the race and stop short of completion.  Of course the runner would want to cross the finish line, but he still must take the last few steps, continuing in his race.  While you may not be near the end of your race, you have certainly entered it and have run a considerable distance.  It is foolish to throw that hard effort away, reverting back to a pre-Christian lifestyle.  You must continue in your race, putting forth the daily effort that is required.  You cannot expect to sprint later on in life hoping to catch up and possibly win; you must keep running the race set before you with perseverance.  It requires a steady pace to get you to the end
Yes, your legs may be tired and your muscles might be sore.  Yes, the road has not been easy.  But you cannot give up.  In fact, this next year is an opportunity to push harder, stronger, and with even more fortitude than ever before.  Your marathon will not end until the Lord invites you home.  Until then, it is up to you to run with perseverance, running in such a way as to get the prize and WIN!  The enemy does not want you to win; he wants you to quit the race altogether.  This new year, determine you are going to run the best you have ever run before.  Persevere through the difficulty; the Lord has promised a reward if you do.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   1 Cor 9:24, Gal 2:2, Gal 5:7, Heb 12:1-3

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Choose Wisely

Choose Wisely
December 24, 2012
Luke 10:42  ". . . Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

There is a relatively new branch of economic study call Behavioral Economics.  It is the study of the human behavior behind the economic choices and decisions that we make on a daily basis.  Thinking minds suggest that if we study how and why we make decisions then maybe we can learn how to influence those decisions for better financial outcomes.  Economics can be pretty boring, but Behavioral Economics is as interesting as the people it tries to explain.  Why do we prefer to buy things with a higher price tag, but only when they go on sale?  Why do we annually invest more money on consuming ice cream than into saving away for a rainy day?  How do we convince people to make better economic choices with their purchases?  If people made different economic choices, better choices, they might have better economic outcomes.  I, personally, find it very intriguing because I know that if I make better economic decisions, I will have less economic regret.

While the story of Mary and Martha at the feet of Jesus is not exactly Behavioral Economics, it is a lesson in behavioral choices with a resulting reward.  Jesus came to the house of the two sisters and found Martha busy preparing the meal, cleaning the house, and taking care of chores.  On the reverse side, He found Mary sitting at His feet, hanging onto every word He spoke.  Martha complained to Jesus and asked Him to rebuke Mary for not helping with the chores.  Instead, Jesus rebuked Martha for choosing poorly.  Martha chose to go about her busy work, fretting over details of the house and meal while she could have been gleaning from the wisdom of the Lord, the Savior.  Jesus knew the house work would always be there and He also knew His time on the was coming to a close.  It would have been a wiser decision if Martha had left the housework for another occasion and invested her time with the Lord at that moment.

Yes, there is housework to be done.  Yes, there are meals to be prepared.  Yes, there are many chores in life that are completely necessary.  Jesus was not saying that the work should never get done.  He was suggesting that the timing of them was not so critical.  He was suggesting that maybe Martha worried about those things TOO  much and TOO often.  She placed a higher importance on those things than on her relationship with the Lord.  This week is a great opportunity to choose how you invest your time with others and with the Lord.  It is a great opportunity to choose what is really important to you and what things can be given much less attention.  It is a great opportunity to choose something with a lasting effect rather than fretting and worrying over things that are really not that important.

When Jesus rebuked Martha, He told her that Mary had chosen well and she would be rewarded for it.  I like rewards; you probably do, too.  If we made better Jesus-type decisions we will garner greater rewards someday than if we invest our moments worrying about the frittata or the dirty grime.  Each moment is an opportunity to decide was is really important in life and what can be put off for later or altogether.  Each moment with our loved ones is a chance to evaluate our time spent with them, speaking into their lives the Truth of God's Word and avoiding frivolous gossip.  Each moment alone can be a moment with the Lord, getting closer to Him, sitting at His feet and hanging on every word He has for us.  Choose wisely, your future rewards depend on it.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Chron 28:9, Ps 9:10, Ps 14:2, Ps 34:10, Zeph 2:3, Luke 10:38-42

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Uninvited Guests

Uninvited Guests
Dec 17, 2012
Revelation 19:9  ". . . Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb. . ."

Jesus told a parable of a wedding banquet.  In the story, a king was hosting a huge wedding celebration and had previously invited many guests, making sure he sent out proper notice with correct invitation protocol.  When the day of the celebration arrived, the previously invited guests chose not to show up.  The king was very angry and so decided to invite anyone and everyone who could be found on the streets, without discrimination.  The good, the bad, and the ugly showed up to the wedding celebration.  When the king noticed that some of the wedding guests were not dressed appropriately, he threw them back out onto the dangerous streets, with no care for their safety.  This is a unique story that tells us what will happen to those who are not dressed for the wedding.  But there is more to it than that.

The wedding banquet represents the day when we will all be united as one with the Lord in Heaven.  If we are not dressed appropriately (with the salvation that comes alone through Christ), the Lord will send us out onto the street, which represents eternity in Hell.  It is wonderful to know that people can be invited to "the wedding" at the last minute, all people: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Those without a proper pedigree in life can still enter into Heaven as long as they have the proper attire: being clothed with the salvation that comes only through Christ.  Anyone who is not dressed appropriately, regardless of the type of invitation they received, cannot come to the wedding.  Disheartening as it sounds, you will go to Hell if you are not clothed in salvation.  What is even more disheartening, however, is what happened to the previously invited wedding guests.

Remember that the king sent out proper notice, with proper protocol, when he first began inviting guests to the wedding banquet.  These original invitees had ample opportunity to prepare for the celebration, to ensure they would be there on time and clothed properly.  They knew the celebration was near and knew what was expected to be worn.  But those who were invited, with plenty of notice, elected not to show up, even after they promised to be there.  The Lord does not require that any appear at the wedding; it is voluntary. They chose not to be there.  This part of the parable makes me sick.  Those people it was describing represent modern day Believers, and other fellow church-goers who know of the Lord and the salvation that can be theirs through Jesus the Christ.  But for whatever reason, they get preoccupied with life and decide to turn away from the invitation, maybe falling into the entrapment of the world or never fully accepting the free salvation that could be theirs.  What a travesty.  People will be burning in Hell someday, needlessly, simply because they were not fully committed on coming to the celebration.  They had an invitation and possibly intended to come, but still elected otherwise.  If we have complete disregard for the invitation, then the Lord will have complete disregard for us. 

Christian, I want you to be there at the wedding celebration.  I want to see your family members there, too.  However, many are in danger of not making it despite their excellent church attendance record.  Going to church will not get you into Heaven; it takes a commitment to wearing the proper salvation on the day of the celebration.   It takes staying prepared for that day, knowing that it WILL come and there WILL be a dress code.  The dress code is easy, but it must be adhered to, without exception.  During this week leading into Christmas, focusing on the birth of our Salvation, Jesus Christ, take a moment to ensure those around you have been invited to the wedding and are aware of the dress code for the coming day of celebration.  Make sure they have the opportunity to be prepared for the wedding.  Salvation is free; Jesus came to earth as a child to make that happen.  But we must all accept the invitation and clothe ourselves with His Salvation.  Even if your family members have gone to church with you all their lives, they must still fully accept the invitation.  Give the best gift this year for Christmas, a wedding invitation with notice of proper attire.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Matt 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Face of God

Face of God
Dec 10, 2012
John 6:46  "No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father."

No one has ever seen God, the Heavenly Father, at least not His face.  The only instance where the Lord has ever revealed Himself was to Moses way back when they had a deep and intimate walk.  But even then, the Lord did not show Moses His face.  The Lord told Moses that he couldn't handle it, seeing the full glory of the Lord's face.  In the New Testament, Jesus said that if we have seen Jesus, then we have also seen the Father.  This is clearly referring to the persona but not necessarily His actual face, what the Father looks like.  So, is it worth a conversation to speculate what the Lord actually looks like, what His face resembles?  There are many descriptions of Him in the Bible but all of them are metaphorical in an effort to describe deeper into His character.  So what does He look like?  Does He look like a white-hair, grandfather-type? Does He even look like a human?  What does He look like in your mind?

The answer to knowing what He looks like will NEVER be revealed while we are on this earth.  It is for a reason we are left in the dark regarding what His face really looks like.  If you consider all the pictures of His Son, Jesus, you'll instantly think of a Caucasian with brown hair and a light facial complexion because that is how artists famously painted Him many years after His ascension into Heaven.  In reality, Jesus probably had coal black hair and very tan skin, and probably resembled nothing of an Eastern European.  But we continue to paint pictures of Jesus, carve statues, and give honor to physical images of the Son of God.  There are even Christians who wrongfully worship actual images of Jesus.  And therein lies the answer as to why we will never know what God looks like.  If we knew what He looked like, we would paint pictures of Him and carve replicas of Him and possibly worship those things instead of Him.  If we knew what color His skin was, then we may speculate He could not be our own Heavenly Father.

The Lord was very clear that He did not want us worshiping carved images (of Himself or false gods).  In the Bible, they are called graven images.  To grave something is to carve it with tools, fashion it with human hands.  The Lord is not human and cannot be replicated by human hands.  To do so would lead to sin.  While trying to honor the Lord with an artistic rendering is not a sin, in and of itself, it would lead others to sin or possibly turn them away from who the Heavenly Father really is to them.  If we carved Him with our hands, there are those who would worship the actual image.  If we carved Him with our hands, there are those who would judge His existence as human.  If we carved Him with our hands, there are those who would limit His powers.  If we carved Him with our hands, there are those who would deny His deity, deny Him as God.

There are infinite reasons as to why we will never know what the face of The Almighty looks like.  I'm glad.  My own sin would not allow me to look upon His face (if Moses wasn't worthy, there is slim chance I could pass muster).  It reminds us that He is God and we are mere mortals, fleshly and faulty human beings.  It keeps Him elevated to the High position He deserves and still allows us to worship His Majesty with awe and wonder.  There is no other way I'd rather worship Him then the way He currently has it set up: in Spirit and in Truth.  So, don't ever think you know what He looks like, don't even speculate, as it will limit who He really is and can be in your life!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Ex 3:6, Ex 33:12-23, Ex 34:17, Deut 5:1-11, John 1:18, John 5:37, John 6:46, John 14:9, 2 Cor 4:6

Sunday, December 2, 2012


December 3, 2012
Numbers 6:14  "There they are to present their offerings to the LORD . . . a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering . . . "

When you think of a baby, you cannot help but think of its innocence.  A baby is precious and delicate, helpless and completely dependent.  It is pure and sinless.  Jesus was born a baby with this same spotless record, completely and utterly innocent.  But unlike our babies who grow into sinful adults, Jesus grew in His innocence.  He was not tainted by the world; He did not indulge in sin.  He remained holy, never falling from perfection or succumbing to the ways of this earth and the path the rest of us have walked.  It is because of His maintained innocence that He became the perfect sacrifice for our own sins.  Irony rests in this statement though, as Jesus, the most perfect of people, innocent as a newborn baby, was murdered because of His innocence.

Before being sentenced to death, Jesus stood before Pilate and Herod who both declared His innocence, stating He had done nothing wrong deserving of death.  The Pharisees contended, however, saying Jesus was guilty of claiming to be the Son of God.  That was the one thing Jesus was actually guilty of: being the Son of God.  Irony abounds in the guilt of Jesus being the Son of God.  It was foretold that the Son of God would come to be the perfect and innocent sacrifice for our sins.  This innocence of sin combined with the guilt of being the Son of God was ultimately what killed Jesus.  Thankfully, He overcame this death by rising from the dead, but the travesty of killing such innocence should weigh heavily upon us as we enter this Christmas season celebrating His birth, the birth of innocence.

Christmas is a time to reflect upon the arrival of Jesus, the birth of an innocent baby.  None of us would ever think of killing an innocent baby and would rightfully condemn anyone who did.  But our own sins required just that: the killing of innocence.  It gives fullness to the thought of what our deliberate sins did to our Savior on that cross; He had to die in order that we might be free from sin.  Someday we will enter the Kingdom of Heaven and be declared innocent of our sins by the one who died for them, by the one who was innocent of them.

Our innocence, though lost since we were babies, can be obtained again by the work of the Savior who entered this world as a baby.  It is good to reflect on Jesus as a baby, since a baby epitomizes the essence of innocence.  It took innocence to make us innocent again.  As we comprehend what the Lord did for us in sending His Son, think upon Him in a new light: the light of knowing His pureness, His spotlessness, His innocence was required to cover over all the dirty rotten filth we have allowed into our lives through sin since the time we were babies.  Be thankful He came as a baby because that's what it took for you and me to have forgiveness and eternal life.
Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Lev 4 & 5, Is 7:14-15, Matt 27:11-19, Luke 23:1-15, John 8:45-46, Heb 10:10, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10

Sunday, November 25, 2012

In His Name

In His Name
Nov 26, 2012
John 10:25-26  ". . . The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep."

Jesus was very clear that we should do our works of service in His Name.  This means we are to represent Him in all that we do and be clear we are doing it In His Name, making it obvious we are  Christians.  This requires a figurative "name badge" or declaration that we are serving others BECAUSE of Jesus, FOR Jesus.  Jesus was the first example of this, declaring everything He did was in His Father's name.  We are to do likewise.  We are to welcome "the least of these" in His name.  We are to serve others, in doing so we will be serving Him.  If you simply do good things for others, but not in His Name, however, will they count?  This creates a difference between humanitarian efforts and Christian service.  If it isn't clear to the one being served that Jesus is the reason behind the generous act of kindness, then it is simply a humanitarian effort, with no Heavenly benefit.

I have an acquaintance who demonstrates the most amazing acts of service.  She is a wonderfully generous woman who sacrifices much to meet the needs of others less fortunate than herself.  She delivers meals to elderly shut-ins several times a week; she spends time visiting people in nursing homes who have no family; she serves meals to the homeless; she gives generously to help meet the financial needs of those who are struggling financially.  For years she opened her home to children whose families were unable to provide them with all they needed.  For all apparent purposes, she appears to be a wonderful representation of all Christ commanded us to do in the New Testament—take care of His sheep.  She leaves one thing out, however.  Though it is all wonderful, none of it is done IN HIS NAME.  The people she serves have never heard the name of Jesus coupled with her work.

It is not enough to do good works of service or perform valiant, humanitarian-type efforts.  Jesus wanted the work that we do to point to the Lord.  In this world, there are many who do good things for others but if they do so only out of the kindness of their heart, then it does not point toward the Lord.  We are supposed to do our acts of service, making it clear that the Lord is behind it all.  If you are a Christian and you do good works, then make it clear you are doing so because of the Lord.  It is all supposed to point toward Heaven.  Everything is supposed to be done "In His Name."  This means we are to share the Love of Jesus in a verbal manner during or immediately after the act of generosity.  If the circumstance doesn't allow you to discuss Christ, it should still be clear it is because of the name of Jesus that you do such nice things.  Christian acts of service should be our number one witnessing tool.

The reason for this is two-fold.  First, the Lord does not want you to get praise or glory when the act of service is appreciated.  The glory needs to go to Him alone.  Secondly, the Lord wants there to be spiritual fruit involved for the person being served.  In meeting the physical needs of others, there is limited spiritual benefit to them unless they know the "who" and "why" behind the generosity.  Jesus was the first example of this hundreds of times over in the Bible. Before He would speak to their spiritual needs, He met their physical needs.  However, EVERYONE knew the generosity of Jesus came from above.  This is what brought people to the Lord.  In doing our acts of kindness, it is critical to be leading them toward the Lord with every opportunity.  It is not enough to serve them, it MUST be done IN HIS NAME.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Matthew 25:39-41, Matthew 25:44-46, Mark 9:36-37, Mark 9:40-42, Luke 9:47-48

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Go Back

Go Back
Nov 19, 2012
Luke 15:18  "I will set out and go back to my father. . ."

While driving in the car recently with all my children, we took a brand new route that was unfamiliar to me.  It was an interesting new drive and it certainly appeared to the children that we were lost, as the surroundings were new and different.  We had arrived at our destination successfully when one my children spoke up with what can only be described as a "Captain Obvious" type statement.  He said that if we wanted to go home, we should just go back and travel the opposite of the route we had just taken.  At first I ignored his comment because I knew the way home, but after a moment I realized the wisdom in what he said.  It was similar to what Jesus said in the parable of the Lost Son.  Jesus said that if we should wander away we could go back home by simply returning to the father.

In the famous parable, the Prodigal Son realized he didn't like his destination, where he had arrived.  He had regret and longed to be back where he was before.  The Prodigal Son came to the same epiphany that my own child declared, regarding finding the way home: Go Back.  To "go back" means to return in the opposite manner, to travel in the reverse direction of the original path.  The Prodigal Son did just that.  He returned back home taking the opposite direction he had traveled.  It was a forsaking of his current destination and returning to the original state or place.

While you may not be a million miles from where you once were in life, having walked completely away from the Lord, there is still daily application to you and me in this story.  All of us get off track in life; we veer in a direction that takes us away from home, slightly away from a perfect relationship with the Lord.  Maybe we simply take on a few bad habits that don't exemplify the righteous life we once lived.  Maybe we allow coarse relationships or unforgiveness in our lives.  Maybe we partake in activities that we once shunned.  Whatever the infraction, there is always the opportunity to go back and return to the original state.  I know you have regret over actions and routes you've taken in life.  You might even regret the person you have allowed yourself to become lately.  But there is always the opportunity to go back.  Jesus said the Father would always welcome us home.

Sadly, however, I write this because you may find yourself in a unique place a few years from now.  You might be far from where you are today in your relationship with the Lord.  Mark these words and remember them carefully.  Though you may not intend it, your decisions might lead you away, on a road far from home.  I write this to you and beg you to remember that the Lord will always take you back.  All you have to do is turn around and go back home.  You don't need a map; all you have to do is go the reverse of where you currently find yourself.  The opposite route will be the way.  And when you get there, the Lord will have His arms open wide.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   2 Chron 7:14, Neh 1:9, Zech 1:3, Mal 3:7, Luke 15:10-32

Sunday, November 11, 2012


November 12, 2012
Mark 7:24  ". . .  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret."

There are certain people who enter a room and you definitely know it.  They have a personality that cannot be hidden; it is clear upon arrival.  They may be bubbly people who get noticed for their outgoing personality, or they may be obnoxious and loud and difficult to ignore.  People like this are hard to conceal in a room.  They MUST be made known.  Jesus, though, didn't have that kind of personality.  He wasn't a loud and boisterous person.  His demeanor wasn't gregarious or obnoxious.  He wasn't obtuse or ever overbearing.  If Jesus entered a room, however, you would still know it.

Jesus was made known in a room because of His presence, not His personality.  In fact, there were times when Jesus just wanted to be in a room and blend into the walls.  But that wasn't possible; Jesus stuck out because of His presence.  There wasn't anything notable about His personality, at least as far as we can tell from Scripture, but His presence was the Presence of the Lord Almighty.  If you consider what we know of Jesus: an even tempered, mild mannered person could easily blend in if he tried.  But Jesus couldn't blend in because His presence was strong, since He carried with Him the presence of the Lord.

You and I are supposed to be like Jesus.  Despite your personality, it should not be YOU that is made known in a room; it should be your presence, the presence that exudes through you from Above.  The Lord isn't interested in having you made known; He is interested in revealing Himself through you.  You know what I mean, because you've felt the presence of the Lord through other people, too.  You have noticed something different about them.  You're attracted to their presence, not because they are loud or outgoing or charismatic, but because they carry the presence of the Lord with them; the appearance of God is evident in their lives.  If you spent much time alone with the Lord, like Jesus did, you'd always be filled with the Lord's presence.  His presence would be a part of you, and you would carry it with you at all times.

Examine yourself for a moment and consider what other people see and feel when you enter a room.  Do they see and feel your personality, or do they see the Lord living through you?  Is the presence of the Lord strong enough in your life as evidenced by those around you?  Are you Jesus with skin on, or do people cringe when you enter the room because you demand attention?  It is OK to be known in a room, but what are you known for?  The more attention you get, the less attention the Lord gets through your life.

When people were drawn to Jesus, it wasn't because of His personality, it was the Heavenly presence they felt through Him.
Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Luke 2:52, Luke 24:32, John 3:30, John 10:38, John 14:7

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Trustworthy Servants

Trustworthy Servants
November 5, 2012
Nehemiah 1:11  "'. . . Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.'  I was cup-bearer to the king."

Nehemiah was a boy when his country was invaded by an evil king; he was subsequently exiled from his homeland, from his home in Israel.  He grew up away from familiar and was forced into servitude to other rulers who were foreign and hostile to his people and religion.  Years later, another king invaded and took Nehemiah into yet another place of exile, this time to Persia.  Nehemiah eventually found himself in the position of cup-bearer to the king of Persia.  Nehemiah, a Jew, was in a position of influence to the king of Persia (Persia, which would one day become modern day Iran).

It is interesting that the king of Persia would trust a Jew into such a high position.  Being a cup-bearer was a position of honor and trust.  It was the chief butler position and Nehemiah had to risk his life often for the job.  Because kings were a high target for assassination attempts, one couldn't be too careful.  A cup-bearer was responsible for drinking from the king's cup first, proving it didn't contain poison.  Nehemiah performed his duties with the utmost of responsibility and honor.  You'd think he might have disliked the ruler whom he served.  Yet he did his job in a respectful, trustworthy manner for a king who was not a known friend to the children of Israel, a nation of Jews.

Nehemiah teaches us a lot about being a true servant and later an effective leader.  Eventually Nehemiah would lead his people into rebuilding their country and becoming a governor.  But before that, he was a cup-bearer to a hostile king.  He had to serve another man who did not uphold the same values that were dear to Nehemiah.  He had to risk his life for another man who did not respect the Lord or His people.  If you read the first few lines from the book of Nehemiah, you'll see that he prayed fervently that the Lord would grant him favor with this foreign king.  Nehemiah didn't try to assassinate the king, he served him as if he was serving the Lord.  Nehemiah, before he proved he could be a leader, proved he was trustworthy as a servant in a world where character didn't matter.  Nehemiah knew that character was important to the Lord and so he lived his life in such a way as to prove that character every day during his service.  Nehemiah proved that everyone, even a hostile king, could trust him with their lives.

Today, there are very few political leaders that I would suggest we could trust with our lives.  But the question is, can they trust you and me with THEIR lives.  Would we serve them like Nehemiah did for the king?  Are we servants of the same caliber as Nehemiah?  If a modern day king, who was not a fan of your values, asked you for your trustworthy service, would you grant it?  Would you serve him like you serve the Lord?  The Bible says that we are to respect those in authority over us and serve them as trustworthy servants of the Lord.  Being a trustworthy servant is the first step to becoming a noble leader.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Nehemiah 1, Romans 13:1-4, 1 Tim 2:1-3,  Heb 13:7, Peter 2:13

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pressed Together

Pressed Together
Oct 29, 2012
Luke 6:38  "Give, and it will be given to you. A large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over will be put into your lap, because you will be evaluated by the same standard with which you evaluate others"

It is such an amazing phrase: "give and it will be given to you."  It represents the spirit of reciprocity.  The Bible is chock full of terminology and examples of sowing and reaping, giving and receiving.  The principle of reciprocity is taught thoroughly throughout Scripture.  Jesus even said the famous words found in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given to you. A large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over will be put into your lap, because you will be evaluated by the same standard with which you evaluate others." He taught us that our human actions are being watched from above and that the Lord will be certain to invoke reciprocity.  It isn't karma and it isn't the universe bringing balance; it is the Lord enforcing reciprocity.

To understand the meaning of the measure "pressed together, shaken down, and running over" fully,  you must read another example of giving, as described by Jesus.  It is the story of a poverty stricken widow found in Mark 12:41-44:
    "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."'

Jesus was watching "who" put "what" into the offering.  He knew each and every person's circumstances and He saw their hearts.  While the offerings presented by the wealthy were more in terms of value than the poor widow's, hers was an enormous amount in comparison to the total of her possessions.  It wasn't the size of the offering that Jesus was referring to but the measure of meaning in regard to the gift.  This measure is what Jesus talked about when He said "pressed together, shaken down, and running over."  Just as Jesus watched what the widow gave, He is watching you and I when we give.  When we give to others, it is akin to giving to the Lord and He is overseeing and evaluating your measure, not the face value, but the measure of it.  He knows your circumstances and the heart behind your gift, to Him and to others.

The Lord is the enforcer of reciprocity and He sees all that you have done on behalf of others.  Some of you have given generously and some of you have withheld.  When you withhold in your giving, you are short changing yourself from the Lord's bounty when He invokes reciprocity over your life.  I, personally, would rather experience the Lord's gift to me "pressed together, shaken down, and running over."  But this requires a larger gift to others, far more than you think they deserve.  Remember that the Lord is evaluating your measure and will implement that same measure over your life when the time comes.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Mark 11:24, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4, Acts 20:35, 2 Cor 9:6

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Willing Spirit

Willing Spirit
Oct 22, 2012
Matthew 26:41  "'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'"

Jesus said the famous words, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  To understand what this means for us today, we have to understand what it meant when Jesus first said it.  It was said right before Jesus was arrested leading up to His execution.  He had gone into a garden to pray because He was anxious about His impending death.  Jesus took  Peter and two other disciples along with Him and instructed them to pray, but they fell asleep after only an hour.  Jesus came back to them, frustrated, and wondered why they couldn't even do what He asked of them for one hour.  Then He spoke the famous words;  His words will have far more meaning to us if we truly understand them.

To paraphrase what Jesus said, for explanation purposes only, consider this version of the story:
        Jesus left the three disciples (Peter, James, & John) to keep watch and pray.  After an hour He returned to them and realized they had fallen asleep.  He questioned why they could not stay awake and do what He asked even for one hour.  Jesus then turned to Peter and said, "You must pray; pray that you will not fall into temptation.  Remember at dinner a few hours ago I warned you that you would deny me three times tonight.  Pray that you will be strong in the midst of temptation because when the pressure is high, tonight and even in the future, though your heart wants to do the right thing, your human nature will take over and cause you to do things you will regret.  Therefore be on guard and pray fervently that you will be able to overcome temptation by the power granted from the Father."

While Jesus didn't really say those exact words, it was what He meant.  He knew Peter would be put under tremendous pressure and would allow his human nature cave under it.  Though Peter's intentions were good, the pressure was high.  Peter, as we all know, denied Jesus three times that night.  This was a critical, eye-opening time for him as he finally put all of Jesus' words together like a puzzle.  He regretted that his weak flesh had fallen into temptation.  He possibly regretted that he didn't pray as vigilantly as Jesus instructed.  Jesus knew the human spirit was (and is) weak, but we sometimes think we have more fortitude than a brick wall.  That's what Peter thought.  But when the pressure is high, even brick walls can buckle.

Jesus didn't go into great deal about the power of the Holy Spirit.  But as the disciples later found out, the Holy Spirit is the only Power that can help overcome a weak human nature in the midst of tremendous pressure.  Paul gives us fantastic instructions throughout his letters on how to implement the Holy Spirit in our lives, but the instruction was (and is) no more simpler than what Jesus instructed:  "Watch and Pray."  Jesus knew that the only way to overcome a weak flesh was through the Power granted from Above, the Holy Spirit. 

I pray you may never be given the opportunity to deny Jesus under threat of death.  However, you and I are pressured every day to deny doing the right thing and follow through with what the flesh wants to do.  These are things as simple as: a small lie, an angry voice or curse word, a selfish act, or a physical sinful impulse.  All these things speak to deny Jesus in our lives.  We know they are wrong, but in the moment, our flesh is weak and we crumble.  It is important to implement the words of Jesus.  Watch and Pray.  This isn't about praying once.  The word "watch" means to keep watch, an ongoing act.  It takes an ongoing effort of being on guard and praying that the Power of the Holy Spirit will help us in our weakness.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Mark 14:38, 2 Cor 12:9-10, Eph 3:16, Rom 8:26

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Encourage Them

Encourage Them
Oct 15, 2012
2 Samuel 19:7  "Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”

King David had so much potential as a youth.  It was evident that the Lord was on his life and he had good things ahead of him.  He killed the giant, Goliath, and won many, many battles.  He was a leader and a man among men.  Yet he was not without his troubles.  Even after he was king, his life was not easy.  When his sons grew older, it seems his troubles increased in life.  His son, Absalom, was trying to take over his thrown.  It created strife in the kingdom and David was stressed.  But despite all that was going on for David, the pressures of being a king, the stress of his son's rebellion, David still had to do his job.  David couldn't shirk his responsibilities just because the going got tough.  David needed someone to encourage him, too, but that didn't let him off the hook.

In fact, David had his eyes so focused on his own problems that he couldn't see there were others around him.  He was failing to lead others, his only job, because he was focused on his plight.  His second in command, Joab, had to chastise him, saying that his men were going to revolt unless David got up and encouraged them, led them.  David had others entrusted in his care and no matter what was going on around him, he still had to take care of the needs of others.  It was hard to do, but it was the right thing.  Had David not taken his friend's advice, David would have been without anyone to lead; he would have lost his job.

While there is limited spiritual insight into this Scripture, it speaks loudly of the emotional affects you have on others.  No matter how high or low your position in life, there are still others around you entrusted to your care.  It is always your job to encourage those around you, to support them emotionally despite their salary amount or pay grade.  David's men were soldiers, fighting men.  He wasn't prompted to give them a pay raise, he was prompted to lift their spirits.  Even the most hardened of killers still needed encouraging.

Today you may feel like you are at wits end in this life but there are others around you looking for encouragement.  It is your job to do so.  If we all encouraged each other in this life, then there would be few self esteem issues among us.  People would be comfortable with themselves and confident in the Lord.  It would change our society.  Our world would be a different place.  Crime rates would be lower, drug use would be less, and families would be more likely to stay together.  Encouragement is a necessary component to the human spirit; you need it and so do I.  If this is the case, then everyone around us needs encouragement, too.  This is a daily task, like sleeping and eating, it has an expiration and then more is needed.  Look around you and you'll see there are a few key people who need some encouragement from you.  If we all did this, then someone is bound to encourage you as well.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  2 Sam 19, Ps 10:17, Acts 15:32, Romans 12:18, Eph 6:22, Col 4:8

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Loose in Heaven

Loose in Heaven
Oct 8, 2012
Matthew 18:18  "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Bind something on earth and it will be bound in Heaven.  Loose something on earth and it will be loosed in Heaven.  What does this all mean?  Is the Bible talking about a physical binding, like with ropes?  Is it talking about a spiritual binding and loosening?  Jesus said it, so it must be important, but what in the world does it mean?  Our current language does not allow us to understand what the disciples understood when Jesus spoke these words.  Yes, the translation of the Bible is correct for us, but it is not clear to our understanding.  To get a more correct perception of this verse, read this particular Scripture through the International Standard Version of the Bible, which is a fairly recent translation.  It reads: "I tell you with certainty, whatever you prohibit on earth will have been prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will have been permitted in heaven."

The words "forbid" and "bind" are not often used interchangeably, but using the word "forbid" in this context is a more correct understanding of what Jesus was saying.  Jesus was talking specifically to the disciples regarding the future work they would be doing for the Lord.  He was equipping them with knowledge that was going to be valuable, helpful to them in instructing their church plants.  In this same manner, it is helpful to us currently, if we understand this teaching from Jesus.  Notice in this newer translation it reads that an action on earth will have ALREADY occurred in Heaven, or rather was already ALLOWED in Heaven.  Jesus was saying that what was happening or allowed to happen on earth had already been declared as OK by Heaven.  The topic that Jesus was referring to was sin, or what was perceived as sin, that was being forbidden or allowed, not people and not spirits.

The other place that the phrase "bind in heaven" appeared was when Jesus spoke directly to the apostle Peter in Matthew 16.  He was giving Peter a glimpse of his future ministry.  Later on, it was Peter who first took the Gospel to the Gentiles (it was said that offering salvation to the Gentiles was forbidden, a sin as dictated by the Jews).  But Jesus was saying there is freedom found through the work of Christ; Heaven declared that everyone is now free from the legalism of the church.  Going against the legalistic rules of the church had been loosed in Heaven, therefore it was allowed on earth.  We can be free.  If a church creates rules that are not found in the Bible, then it is not a sin if we do not follow them.  If it is OK in Heaven, then it is OK here on earth.

But the converse is true as well.  There are things forbidden in Heaven, sins specifically written about in the Bible that are off limits.  They are forbidden on this earth and we should be teaching them in our churches.  This list of sins is found in 1 Corinthians 6.  The list of forbidden sins in Heaven are: casual sexual relationships outside of marriage (including adultery, prostitution, and homosexuality), serving idols or false gods, thievery, drunkenness, coveting the things of others, greed, lying, and abusing or cheating others.  These things are bound in Heaven, therefore it is our job to bind them, or forbid them, on this earth.  We are instructed to hold Christians accountable for these things, especially within our church walls.  Be free from the legalism of the church, it has been loosed in Heaven, but forbid those things that Heaven has declared are a sin.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 16:17-19, Matthew 18:15-18, 1  Cor 6:1-11

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Peaceful Thought Life

Peaceful Thought Life
Oct 1, 2012
Philippians 4:8   ". . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Our minds are plagued by stressful thoughts.  We worry, think the wrong things, meditate on the worst case scenarios, and make emotional mountains out of mole hills.  It is a common thing among humans, to reason with negative thoughts.  The result is an unhappy life, that is not at peace.  Our thought life, created partially by our own perception, does more harm to us than good.  If we functioned how the Lord intended for us, then we wouldn't feel stressed; we would be at peace. Paul said he was able to accomplish this state of being, always being at peace in this world.  Despite what was going on, Paul said he was able to have the Lord's peace about him at all times.  He left behind his formula, and we would be able to have this same peace in our lives if we simply put his formula into practice.

The first part of Paul's formula is found in Philippians 4:6.  He said that we should not be anxious about anything but bring every problem straight to the Lord.  When we don't feel at peace with everything, we should go into a time of prayer WHILE being thankful and full of praise.  It is hard, when you are stressed, to be thankful for anything, let alone bring praises to the Lord.  But it is an exercise in submitting the flesh.  If you don't have peace, then how in the world are you supposed to have thankfulness in your heart?  Paul wasn't saying that your heart would naturally be thankful; he was saying that we should submit our lives to what we know to be true regardless of the circumstances around us and how they make us feel.  This is further emphasized by the second part of Paul's formula (that OFTEN gets overlooked in Scripture).

Most people stop reading the Bible on a certain topic after they've come to the conclusion of a paragraph.  But Paul continued in his conversation about peace in the following paragraph in the book of Philippians, after he told us to pray during our anxiousness.  He said, after we pray, we should then meditate on the good things in life.  This would further garner the peace of the Lord upon our lives.  He wasn't saying meditate on the good things in OUR lives, but on the good things that the Lord has done.  Paul said to focus on things that are beautiful, wonderful, righteous,  and praiseworthy.  Notice it contained the "praise" word again.  Paul was bringing the topic of peace full circle with his previous mandate regarding the times when we are anxious: to be in a state of praise.

He was telling us that if we fill our minds with thoughts that are "good" then it would create in us a praiseworthy attitude, resulting in the turnaround of a downward thought spiral.  Paul then concluded that if we put all the things into practice the way he did, then we would have the same result he was able to have: being content in all circumstances.  If we are content in all circumstances, then we are without worry, fear, anxiety, or frustration.  AND we would be full of the Lord's peace.  So, don't just stop by praying; re-visit in your mind all the good things the Lord has done, shifting your focus off your problems and onto praiseworthy things.  Then bring the Lord the praise He deserves.  You'll be at peace in your life and a whole lot happier.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Philippians 4

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Save the Sick

Save the Sick
Sept 24, 2012
James 5:15 "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."

The Bible offers some unique language that suggests a physical healing is guaranteed if the person praying has enough faith.  It reads, "and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well."  It even goes so far as to say "WILL" and not "might."  If you just read that one verse, out of the contextual writing of James, then you might feel fooled if healing does not come as expected.  You might even become discouraged in your faith, thinking your faith wasn't strong enough.  I've seen many faithful men of the Lord suffer physical illness without healing, yet I can tell you it had nothing to do with a lack of faith.  It is important to understand what James was saying in his letter, and why he said the words he did.

He was writing to Jewish Believers, who had already given their lives over to the Lord; they believed in the resurrection of Jesus.  They were already saved, as far as salvation was concerned.  James said if a person is sick, the church should assemble the elders to pray for him; those who were proven in their dedication to the Lord should be the ones praying.  And he said that the faith-prayer will make the person well, the Lord would restore him, and any subsequent sins forgiven.  It is interesting that James equates being restored and forgiven in the same sentence as prayer for an illness.

In the paragraph before James discusses this faith-prayer for healing, he talks about perseverance during suffering.  He declares that suffering will happen in this life-time and we are to bear up under it.  Suffering would fall under the same category as illness, if it is part of the Lord's design that would bring Him glory.  So then, we must understand healing in this same context, that healing will come (similar to the end of perseverance in suffering) if and when it is part of the Lord's plan.  Until then, unfortunately, we must bear up under the illness as well.  So, why then does James declare that the person WILL be healed?  Remember he also talked about being restored and forgiven.  James was suggesting that illness could be brought on as a result of sin.  If the illness was sin related, then the faith-prayer would restore him in a right relationship with the Lord, his sins forgiven, and his illness eliminated.

I know of a powerful man in the Lord who suffered for years with a physical affliction the doctors could do nothing about.  It was only AFTER the man sought the Lord for clarity and the Lord revealed to him that the illness was a result of his pride.  Once this man confessed and repented of this sin, the Lord healed him.  Similarly, I know of a man who was afflicted because of a completely rebellious sin and once he confessed of this lifestyle, the Lord healed him within the hour.  The point is, the Lord does use illness as a way to get our attention.  It is not meant as a form of punishment but as a form of discipleship to bring the person into the right place with the Lord.  James said the person would be forgiven.  If you'd like to debate this point, first read James 5 verse 13 THROUGH 19.

The reverse of this situation is true as well, should a non-believer become afflicted by illness.  If a person comes to the Lord with enough faith that the Lord could heal him, then he also has enough faith to be forgiven and saved.  James was suggesting there might even be non-believers among us who could be brought to the Lord through faith in healing.  This presents a great case for hospital ministry, as it is an opportunity to discuss faith in the Lord in the desperation for physical healing.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 9:1-3, John 11:4, James 5

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Differently Than Expected

Differently Than Expected
Sept 17, 2012
2 Corinthians 5:7  "Indeed, our lives are guided by faith, not by sight."

Have you ever had a situation turn out differently than you expected?  Of course.  Everyone, since childhood, has experienced a turn of events, a twist in the plot, a unique experience that could not have been anticipated.  But for some reason we still think and plan that things will turn out the way we anticipate.  Looking forward is a natural thing to do, but imagining just exactly how it will turn out is nearly impossible.  But we still try, we still envision how things will end up.  The Lord would suggest that this is a fools errand.

Since the first Bible story, throughout the entire set of Scriptures, each real-life tale is full of unscripted events.  They never turned out how the character envisioned.  Abraham was told he would be the father of an entire nation, yet he didn't have any children.  He thought maybe his wife's maidservant would be the ticket for having kids since his wife was barren.  He didn't think about the Lord providing a miracle child.  Years later, the Children of Israel were promised to be given a land flowing with milk and honey.  They never thought they would have to annihilate an entire people group by going into battle.  They established a king but it didn't work out so they eagerly expected a savior.  They were foretold of a savior who would come to deliver them and establish His kingdom.  They thought he would bring a new government but instead they got Jesus who brought forgiveness.

In each instance, the person thought.  That is the only common factor found in EVERY Bible story; the protagonist thought.  Thought requires knowledge and critical reasoning.  These two human concepts cannot come into play when there is the Master of the Universe involved.  He knows what He's doing and what is going on, but He does not necessarily share with us the knowledge of the situation, nor are we able to reason on His level.  Therefore, thought is a moot point when it comes to our situations where the Lord is involved.  Newsflash, the Lord is always involved.  This can be very frustrating if you are a planning type of person or a control freak.  You have to be willing to relinquish control over your own life and submit it into the Lord's hands.  This requires faith, not thought. 
Living a Christian life requires faith, lest you want every situation to turn out differently than you expect.  If you live by faith, you are OK with the unexpected, because you are trusting in the Lord and what He has for you.  If not, you will think, which will turn out to be your worst enemy.  Your own reasoning and knowledge will not prove correct for your life.  If you try, your situation will ALWAYS be different.  Try faith instead of thought and there will never be a twist in expected events.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 15 & 16, Gen 21, Ex 3:17, Num 13:26-28, Num 14:7-9, Is 9:6-7, Lk 22:52, Lk 23:14

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Not in This Lifetime

Not in This Lifetime
Sept 10, 2012
Hebrews 11:13  "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth."

You've been given something to do, a burden in your heart, a promise from the Lord for your future.  But for some reason it isn't done, it isn't complete, it may not even seem started.  Frustration.  Disheartening, even depressing.  But the Lord would say to you today to stay strong, hold fast, and keep your faith in Him intently.  The Lord wants you to keep moving in the direction that He has led you, but He wants you to wait on Him for His timing in it all.  Finality is the Lord's responsibility for your task at hand, you are only supposed to be faithful in the present, though it seems you cannot move forward some days.  It is not what you complete, it is what you maintain that is the key. For a results oriented society, results are important, but the Lord would say to you today that maintaining something is far more critical.

What is it you could maintain that could be so important?  Faith.  Yes, you must maintain your faith in the Lord and His promises for your life, His plan, His path, though it seems confusing, even a detour.  The Bible says that you may not even see the results in your lifetime; this must be acceptable for you.  You are to live for the immediate as if the results will happen tomorrow, however be content if you never see those results.  If this does not resonate well with you, then your faith could be stronger, your trust in the Lord might be weak.  All the great role models found in the Bible, they never saw the finality of what was promised, the complete resolution for their situation, their life's work.   But they maintained their faith in the Lord throughout it all.  The Lord applauded their work before others, despite the lack of clearly defined results.

Abraham was promised to be the father of an entire nation, descendants as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach, yet he only had one son.  But thousands of years later, the authors of the Bible penned about how strong Abraham's faith was, being confident in the Lord.  And right after they lauded Abraham for His faith, there is a noteworthy point.  The Bible says that if Abraham had been looking for his finality here on this earth, then his country and his destination would be here as well.  But he wasn't.  Abraham wasn't looking for his finality in this world, he was looking Heaven bound.  Abraham knew that Heaven was his destination, that Heaven contained his finality and that a home, results, or a resolution would not be his in this lifetime.

You may never see the results you are looking for in this lifetime, but the Lord wants you to stay encouraged, as your faith in Him and His sovereignty are far more important than anything you could accomplish for Him.  If you are looking for your finality, the resolution to your situation on this earth, or that longing fulfilled, then you might be misguided.  Your finality is Heaven bound.  Look toward the Lord and eternity with Him as your prize, your goal, your destination, your results, your promise fulfilled, and your hope realized.  Continue on the path the Lord has for you, only expect the results not in this lifetime but when you reach eternity in Heaven.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 16:11, Acts 2:28, Heb 11:1-16

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Modern Sacrifice

Modern Sacrifice
Sept 3, 2012
Mark 12:33  ". . . and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

What do you give to the one who has everything?  It is hard picking out a gift for someone who has anything a person could ever want.  This is especially true when it comes to the Lord Most High.  He has the whole world in His hands; there is nothing we could give Him that could possibly be seen as a valuable gift.  But I'd like to offer the Lord something, a gift that would warm His heart.  In the Old Testament, burnt sacrifices were quite often a gift viewed as fragrant to the Lord.  It is rather disgusting, but if someone wanted to bless God, he would choose an animal (probably a valuable bull), spill its blood on an alter, and light it on fire.  The bull was obviously rendered useless to its owner as the flames consumed it up.  In this manner, the giver was giving the Lord a precious gift that cost something.

But since Jesus abolished the need to sacrifice animals for the atonement of our sins, the practice of sacrificing fragrant offerings to the Lord as a gift offering fell to the wayside.  It isn't practiced anymore, and is actually not something the Lord wants from us anyway.  Yes, the Lord appreciates when we give Him gifts that cost us something, but He does not appreciate the slaughtering of animals any longer.  A modern day sacrifice to bless the Lord has a whole new meaning.  It should still cost us something, but not what you'd think.  The Lord doesn't want your money, your time, or anything you could offer up through the fire.  The Lord wants you to serve your fellow man.  Scripture says we should love our neighbor as ourselves and the Lord will view this as far more pleasing than a dead bull burned in the fire.

But loving our neighbor should cost something.  Just as the bull consumed in the fire cost the giver a significant amount, so should loving our neighbor.  Love is not a feeling; it is an action.  You cannot feel love for your neighbor, have a warm heart, and not do anything.  This doesn't count as pleasing to the Lord.  He doesn't want you to think kind thoughts toward your neighbor; He wants to you take care of your neighbor just like you would take care of yourself.  This is hard.  If you shovel the snow in your walkway during the winter, you should also shovel your neighbors snow.  This is pleasing to the Lord.  If you prepare a feast at your home, you should invite your neighbor and give him the seat of honor.  This is pleasing to the Lord.  If you would do something for yourself out of self-love, then you should also do this for someone else.  It is hard, probably more difficult than burning an animal, because it doesn't just cost money, it costs money AND time.

Taking time out of your schedule to serve someone else is not easy, but is a sweet and fragrant offering to the Lord.  Loving your neighbor as yourself is akin to sacrificing your self.  The Bible says that Jesus did it as the first example (in the literal sense), and it was a fragrant offering to the Lord, a precious gift.  We are then commanded to do likewise if we want to bless the Lord.  Laying down your self for your fellow man is the only way to give the Lord a gift He would appreciate.  This means laying down your own wants and needs in order to meet the wants and needs of someone else.  I have seldom seen this done, which would suggest the Lord doesn't get very good gifts from us.  It is not comfortable and would require sacrificing something you wanted to do for yourself, but the Lord would appreciate it.  Bless the Lord this week with a gift He would view as fragrant.  Go out of your way for your fellow man, giving up what you want to do for yourself.  Take care of them and the Lord will accept your gift.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Eph 5:2, 1 John 4:10

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Better Worship

Better Worship
August 27, 2012
Psalm 29:2  "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness."

What do you think of when you hear the word "worship?"  Today, it is most commonly referred to as singing songs in church.  While this is certainly a part of worship and it can be manifested in this way, it is not the definition of worship.  Worship is defined as giving awe, honor, and praise toward something, often serving or following that which is worshiped.  As Christians, we are taught that the only thing we should be worshiping is the One True God.  While this is correct, it doesn't answer the reasons why we should worship or how we should worship.

The Bible says that the Lord is a Jealous God.  It even goes so far as to declare that as His actual name, Jealous.  He gets jealous when we worship other things, anything other than Himself.  This gives light into why we were created.  We were created to worship and fellowship with Him alone.  The Lord desires this and it is sweetness to Him when we do it on our own accord.  It is cherished because we also have the ability to resist worshiping Him.  We have a choice and when we chose correctly, it brings great honor to Him.  Laying down our resistance to bring Him honor is what actually defines worship in our lives today.

When you look up the word for "worship" in the Bible, it is most often coupled with the words "bow" or "bowed down."  The earliest forms of worship recorded in the Bible were of individuals kneeling to the ground, fallen prostrate with arms stretched forward.  It is a somewhat humiliating position, requiring the abasement of self.  But this act was carried on through the entirety of the Bible, falling prostrate in reverence, honor, and praise toward the Lord.  It was then accompanied by the people confessing with their lips or verbally ascribing glory and honor to the Lord.  Often, out of the overflow of their hearts, this turned into song.  For some reason, we have kept the song tradition, but not the humble position of falling prostrate to the Lord.

While the Lord does not require the outward manifestations of worship with your face in the dirt, He says that we should worship Him "in spirit and in truth."  This is in reference to our hearts fallen prostrate to Him and done with sincerity while deleting the ritual.  Today, our worship is an embarrassment because we seldom lend our hearts to falling prostrate unto Him.  We sing out of tradition but we don't truly ascribe glory and honor to Him, with our lips or otherwise.

Scripture says that if we do not ascribe glory and honor to Him, then the rocks will have to do it.  Why?  Because the Bible tells us that worship is actually owed to God; it is due Him; it is what He deserves.  If you cannot come to this same agreement, then the Lord has no use for you.  That's right, if you cannot worship God in your heart and with sincerity, then He will dispose of you and make the rocks perform this duty.  Worship is what He wants and desires, even to the point of destroying you if you worship something other than Him.  These aren't my words; they come straight from Scripture.

As practice, go into a closed room and fall on your knees, stretch your arms forward falling face to the ground.  It is almost impossible to do without feeling humbled.  In this position, it is far easier to confess with your lips the sincerity of your heart in ascribing glory and honor to Him, the One who deserves our worship.  Now do this with your heart on a daily basis; you owe it to Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 24:26, Ex 23:24-26, Deut 5:9, Deut 8:19, Deut 12, Ps 19:1-4, Ps 95:6, Ps 99, Is 13:9, Matt 15:7-11, Luke 37-40

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Preachers of Righteousness

Preachers of Righteousness
August 20, 2012
2 Peter 5  ". . . if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others . . ."

When you think of the final times, the last days, and the end of the world, you hardly think of a flood and a boat.  The two are not things you might associate with the other.  But there is a fantastic parallel between Noah's Ark with the soon coming of the Lord.  When the Lord first appeared to Noah, before He gave the instructions for the Ark, He told Noah that He was going to soon destroy the world and everyone in it.  This warning was a promise; it was going to happen.  The Lord wanted to save Noah and his family, hence the instructions for the Ark.  But there is another interesting thing that Noah did before entering the Ark.  He warned the inhabitants of the earth what was going to happen.

In the full account of Noah and the Ark, found in Genesis, there isn't a storyline of Noah preaching to the earth's inhabitants.  But the Apostle Peter, thousands of years later, referred to Noah as a "Preacher of Righteousness."  It took 100 years for the completion of Noah's Ark; it is understood that for those 100 years Noah clearly communicated what he was doing and why, that people should live a right life before the Lord brought final destruction.  Noah wanted everyone to be saved even though he KNEW there wasn't any chance the Lord would allow a place for them in the Ark.  Noah preached righteousness to the perishing.  They weren't going to make it, yet Noah had hope for them, for their souls.  He preached to them before the Ark was being built and he preached to them for 100 years while he was building the Ark.  He wanted them to be saved; he wanted them to change their ways.  Destruction was coming since destruction was promised.

While there is no flood coming, there is a final day when this earth will be destroyed and all the inhabitants in it.  There is an opportunity to be saved, just like in Noah's Ark, but salvation won't come from a boat.  It only comes through the Lordship of Jesus in our lives.  Everyone on this earth has an opportunity to be saved from the final destruction; it is not for a select few on an Ark.  We have an opportunity, an obligation to warn the inhabitants of the earth about the coming destruction.  We, like Noah, are to be preachers of righteousness.  If people get right with the Lord, then they can be saved either in death or in the last days of this earth.  But they cannot be saved if they do not know about it.  They must be made aware of their own sin and the pending doom if they do not repent of that sin.  They must be made aware of the salvation they can have through the Lord Jesus Christ.

While I don't know when the end is coming, I do know that it will happen.  And just like you've been given the chance to repent of your sins, it is your duty to make sure others have this same opportunity.  Your life should represent Noah's, that it might mimic that of a Preacher of Righteousness.  Even if your personality isn't demonstrative in public, it is still a lifestyle for you to live in front of others, ceasing opportunities to communicate the salvation you have received from the coming destruction.  Warn those around you that the end is near because if they have not received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, they WILL be destroyed.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 6-8,  John 12:48, 2 Tim 3:1, 1 Peter 4:7, 2 Peter 2:4-10

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Promise and Promiser

Promise and Promiser
August 13, 2012

Genesis 22:2   "Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering  on a mountain I will show you.'"

Way back in the earliest times of the Bible, a person's wealth was not nearly as important as having children, family, and heirs.  Children were seen as a huge blessing, not just physically, but also as a status symbol.  And if a person had more children, he was more likely to have money, since the children counted as free labor toward the family's prosperity.  They were also the ones depended upon to look after the aged.  When the father of the family died, all the possessions and wealth passed on to the younger generations.  Without heirs, wealth was useless, since there wouldn't be anyone to receive it once the patriarch died.  Children were critical to life and survival back then.

Abraham understood the importance of children in his time.  Recall that Abraham was one of the first true servants of the Lord, before most of the Biblical events took place and even before Moses received the Ten Commandments.  Abraham didn't even have a written word to help him understand the Lord Almighty, just his daily walk with God.  Abraham desperately longed for children but his wife was barren and well advanced in her years, far beyond childbearing years.  They prayed desperately for a child but none was given.  Finally, the Lord promised a child to them, a blessed heir who could carry on the family name and wealth.  Abraham and his wife were thrilled to welcome their first child, a son.  But the Lord asked Abraham to do something peculiar, to sacrifice his child, his promised child.  Abraham agreed, figuring the Lord was in control; Abraham wanted to honor the Promiser.

Abraham valued the relationship with the Promiser far more than he valued the Promise.  The Promise, in this case the most valuable thing on the face of the planet to Abraham, was nothing in comparison to who it was that made the promise--God.  Abraham had his priorities straight.  Despite finally receiving from the Lord that which he longed for his whole life, Abraham was still willing to give it all up for his Lord.  He was willing to give it all back to his God, if the Lord required it, since the Promiser was more important than the Promise.

We've all been given gifts and promises from the Lord, valuable things that we cherish in this world.  There are even things you'd die without, emotionally, if they were taken away from you.  But this is an opportunity to realize that none of it is as important as your relationship with the Lord, the One who has given everything to you, even those things for which you've waited your entire life.  Are you willing to give those things up if the Lord asked it of you?  How about your children or spouse; do you hold them so closely that they are more important to you than your relationship with the Lord?  What about your health or career?  If taken from you would you gladly count them as loss if it meant keeping a right relationship with the Promiser?  What is more important to you, the Promise or the Promiser?  If you are waiting on God for something, a promise yet fulfilled, realize that HE is still far more valuable.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 17-22, Matt 10:37, Phil 3:8, Heb 11:17-19, James 2:21

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Robbing Yourself

Robbing Yourself 
August 6, 2012
Malachi 3:8  "'Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?' 'In tithes and offerings.'"

The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.  This principle is found in Psalm 24:1.  King David declared that everything in the world belongs to God.  It is His, all of it.  We like to think that our money is ours, but it's not.  We like to think that our time is ours, but it's not.  We like to think that our possessions are ours, but they are not.  All of these things are the Lord's, even the items titled in your name.  This might frustrate you if you've work hard to obtain anything in life, but you have only toiled because the Lord allowed you to work hard--for Him.  While the Lord is not a tyrannizer in His dealings with us, He wants us to understand and have the right perspective on "things."

The Children of God were not bringing their tithes and special offerings to the house of the Lord and God said they were stealing from Him.  He said the tenth and the offerings belonged to Him, and the Israelites could hang on to the rest.  He said they were robbing Him.  It was His, not theirs to keep.  These tithes and offerings were technically stolen money if bound by their own purse strings.  When you have stolen goods in your home, the police have the right to take those stolen goods away and then prosecute you for thievery.  The Lord has the same principles in His kingdom with His stolen money.  If you steal from the Lord, He WILL prosecute you.  But the contrary is true as well.  The Lord said if you bring your tithes and offerings to the church, then He will honor you by pouring out blessings upon you.  It is interesting that the Lord would want to bless us for doing our duty, but He does.

Now consider this argument for a moment.  If we do not bring our tithe to the Lord, then we are stealing from Him.  But if we bring our tithe to the Lord, then he will pour out blessings upon us.  So, it would stand to reason that if we do not bring our tithes and offerings to the Lord, then we are robbing ourselves of our own blessing.  Why in the world would I want to keep the Lord's blessings away from my life?  Anything He has to give will be far better than anything I could ever work for.  When we get to Heaven, I'm sure we will be frustrated to see the blessings the Lord wanted to give to us while we were on this earth but our actions would not allow it.  I'm embarrassed to think of all the things I could have had from the Lord yet failed to receive because of my actions.

But this doesn't apply to just our finances, it applies to our time and other possessions as well.  If the earth is the Lord's and everything in it, then it is all fair game for Him to use if He needs it--to help those who are, for whatever reason, helpless.  If you've ever tallied up all that you've given to the Lord and considered what you could have if you kept it, I would suggest to you that you could have NOTHING as an option in return, even salvation.  You've already received salvation from your sins and from eternity in Hell, what more do you and I actually deserve?  It is an honor to give back to the Lord that which is already His, even if He never rewards us with an extra blessing.  Check your house; you might have some stolen items in there.  Look in your wallet first.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 24:1, Mal 3, Luke 6:38