March 31, 2005
Being on top or coming out on top is the aim of the world. No one wants to be at the proverbial “bottom of the food chain” in the business world or in society at large because with the top positions usually come the bigger bucks and better privileges. While some people are willing to work their way to the top there are others who seem to want to begin there. However, it has been noted, “There is only one endeavor in which you can start at the top and that’s digging a hole.” [source: “1600 Squibs And Quips”, compiled by E. C. McKenzie] Regardless of what our goals might be, we all have to start somewhere? What is the picture of our approach to living spiritual lives in this world.
As Jesus tried to help the disciples understand their role in this world, He noted that greatness comes by being WILLING TO BE SERVANT (or slave) of all. (Mark 9:35 & 10:44) How opposite that notion is to the thinking of the world! Our Lord illustrated with His own life the GREATNESS OF HUMBLE SERVICE in the washing of the disciples feet (John 13:3-5) and in His willingness to go to the cross on our behalf.
Arrogance is a real problem in the world. It is what keeps people focused on their own desires and from recognizing the interests or needs of others. This attitude is also what keeps many from accepting God and His Will. There are many who think they are on top of their game who will someday be brought down either by life itself or ultimately by God.
Through Isaiah, God declared…
“I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I WILL PUT AN END TO THE POMP OF THE ARROGANT, AND LAY LOW THE POMPOUS PRIDE OF THE RUTHLESS.” (Isaiah 13:11 ESV)
Sometimes the arrogant need to be brought down a few notches. God opposes the proud, but to the humble He gives grace. (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) Therefore, as we take note of and follow the example of our Lord in the way of HUMBLE SERVICE, let us realize it is through such living that we will ultimately be brought to the top.
“(6) Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that AT THE PROPER TIME HE MAY EXALT YOU, (7) casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)
Have a great day KNOWING WITH GOD WE COME OUT ON TOP!
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March 30, 2005
Action Of Our Being!
Have you ever noticed how some people go about their daily routines (work, school, chores, even driving, etc.) while their mind seems to be elsewhere? This may work fine with some activities, but with others (such as work or school) productivity can become greatly hampered. When it comes to our relationship with Jesus we must recognize how it is to involve a purposeful focus of the actions of our whole being.
Note two aspects from a statement by our Lord.
“(37) On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him COME TO ME and drink. (38) Whoever BELIEVES IN ME, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”” (John 7:37-38 ESV)
Coming to Jesus and following after Him is to be our ACTION OF LIFE. We are to be continually drawing closer to our Lord while allowing the progressive transformation more and more into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18) to take place. Believing in Jesus is to be our ACTION OF MIND. We are to be continually seeking to discern what is pleasing to our Lord. (Ephesians 5:10)
We will find it difficult to follow Jesus if our MIND is focused elsewhere. Because we can be so easily distracted it is needful to develop a very purposeful focus of our entire being on Him. Actions of LIFE and MIND; aiming to both share the essence of Jesus by walking in His steps (1 Peter 2:21) while seeking to possess His MIND. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Remember how Jesus noted the greatest commandment was the focus of the love of the whole heart, soul, mind, and strength on God. (Mark 12:30) May such be the essence of our undistracted focus as well.
Have a great day FOCUSED TO LIVE A COMPLETELY CHRIST CENTERED LIFE!
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March 29, 2005
Let It Be So!
After Israel would finally cross the Jordan into the promised land, in order to keep the commands of God in mind as the settling of the land began, Moses instructed that half of the tribes were to gather at Mt. Gerizim where blessings would be pronounced and the other half of the tribes were to gather at Mount Ebal where curses were to be pronounced. (Deuteronomy 27:11-13) The purpose of again exhorting the nation to remember God’s promises of blessing as well as His warnings was to encourage them toward continued faithfulness. Following each of the curses the people were instructed to respond with an “Amen.” It was the way it was to be! They were to affirm it by mouth and let it be CONFIRMED by the CONFORMING of their lives.
The twelfth curse was…
“‘Cursed be anyone WHO DOES NOT CONFIRM THE WORDS OF THIS LAW BY DOING THEM.’ And all the people shall say, ‘AMEN.’” (Deuteronomy 27:26 ESV)
God’s Laws were to be CONFIRMED by the individual actions of His people. His commands were to be CONFIRMED by individual lives being CONFORMED to what God desired. The commands of God are not to be taken and made to fit the life of man, but man’s life is to be made to fit the commands of God. The best CONFIRMATION we can give to the wisdom of God’s Will is for this world to see how our life is CONFORMED to fit His designs and purposes.
Paul expressed it this way…
“Do NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, but BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWAL OF YOUR MIND, that by testing you may DISCERN WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD, WHAT IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE AND PERFECT.” (Romans 12:2 ESV)
May we also respond with a heartfelt “Amen” to the Will of God, not just verbally, but through CONFIRMING a faithfulness to Him as we allow our lives to be CONFORMED to the pattern His Word reveals. Wisdom is justified (or proved right) by her actions. (Matthew 11:19)
Have a great day LIVING AN “AMEN” TO THE WILL OF GOD!
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March 28, 2005
Experiencing The Need!
There are times when others might tell us we need something which we don ’t believe we do until we experience the need. When we do sense the need, this can help us to properly focus on where that need can best be met. This is no more true to life than with regard to spiritual things.
As Israel was being prepared to enter into the land God was giving them, they were reminded of the need to carefully obey all the commands God had given. (Deuteronomy 8:1) The people were also to remember the journey they had made from Egypt to where they were that day. (Deuteronomy 8:2) During this time God had sought to humble the nation and tested them to reveal whether or not their hearts would remain obedient.
“And he humbled you and LET YOU HUNGER AND FED YOU with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, THAT HE MIGHT MAKE YOU KNOW that man does not live by bread alone, but MAN LIVES BY EVERY WORD THAT COMES FROM THE MOUTH OF THE LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3 ESV)
As Israel had begun the journey, God “LET” them feel the HUNGER. They needed to experience the need, but it was also necessary to turn the CRAVING in the right direction. What could they provide for themselves where they were? Being led into the wilderness the people were left with no other alternative than to either trust God or cry out against Him. Initially the HUNGERING caused the people to grumble and remember how they had their fill in Egypt. (Exodus 16:2-3) It was time for the nation to forget Egypt and have their HUNGER satisfied by God. It was not Egypt, nor themselves they were to depend upon to sustain their lives, but God who provided the manna and quail for the body and His commands and promises for living their lives.
The manna was provided with some specific commands with regard to its gathering. (Exodus 16:4-5) Some obeyed while others did not, even in what some might consider a small matter. (Exodus 16:19-20 & 27-28) However, through it all Israel needed to learn to depend on God and to know they could trust in Him to preserve their lives. The HUNGERING was to emphasize their need and the provision of the manna at the command of God was to captivate their reliance upon and trust in Him.
Sometimes we may need to experience the dissatisfaction that comes from following the ways of the world to cause our attention to turn back toward God. That’s what it took for the lost son to turn his CRAVING back toward home. (Luke 15:17-18) Let us turn our sights from what the world offers for us to gorge ourselves with and keep looking to God for what He has provided that will truly bring satisfaction for the HUNGERING of our souls.
“Blessed are those who HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, for THEY SHALL BE SATISFIED.” (Matthew 5:6 ESV)
We cannot live by bread alone. Let us continue to humble ourselves before God, allowing Him to satisfy our deepest CRAVINGS for life and eternity.
Have a great day CONTINUALLY SENSING THE NEED FOR GOD AND HIS WORD!
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March 27, 2005
[Note: except for changing Scripture quotations to the English Standard Version, a few phrasing changes, and adding the usual “teEn-MAIL“ style closing, this was originally written as a bulletin article for April 4, 1999]
“(10) that I may know him [Christ] and the POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (11) that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11 ESV)
When the Swedish inventor, Alfred Nobel, discovered the way to make dynamite, he was not sure what to call his new discovery. He knew it was very powerful as just a little bit of his invention could blow up rocks or tree stumps much easier than trying to dig them out. Finally he decided to make up a new word for this powerful explosive. He took the Greek word “dunamis”, which meant “power”, and called his invention “dynamite”. The word “dunamis” is a word used often in Scripture. In fact, it is the word used by Paul in the above passage.
To Paul, the resurrection of Jesus revealed POWER! He wanted to know Christ and that POWER! He longed to know Christ deeper and more intimately in the experience of his life. That inner growth of closeness to the Master gave him the staying POWER he needed in facing his trials. The spiritual experience of Paul was attached to the facts relating to the scheme of redemption. As Paul had died to himself and was raised in Christ, he saw working in his life the very same POWER God exerted when Christ was raised from the tomb.
Paul’s life revealed in a POWERFUL way the depth to which he knew Christ. Paul understood sacrifice for others. Paul knew what it meant to live a life of self-denial. And he understood what it meant to faithfully stand in the face of opposition. Paul knew the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings. To Paul, being in Christ meant a fellowship with his Savior in all aspects: a life of obedience to God’s Will, a life in step with the Spirit, a willingness to suffer for the Lord’s sake, a readiness to share in His death, and thus to share in His glory. For Paul, it was not pick and choose.
Because of Paul’s recognition of this POWER he knew what his gain was in his fellowship with Christ. He wrote:
“(20) as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. (21) For to me TO LIVE IS CHRIST, AND TO DIE IS GAIN.” (Philippians 1:20-21 ESV)
It should also be our desire and goal to know Christ and the POWER of His rising. May He be exalted in our body whether it be by life or death. We should be encouraged by His resurrection, knowing that by His POWER death will also be our gain!
Have a great day UPLIFTED BY THE POWER THAT RAISED CHRIST!
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March 26, 2005
Have we ever wondered confusedly as we‘ve watched events unfold? Have we ever anticipated something that just didn’t seem to work out and we asked, “What now?” While Jesus was buried in the tomb that is what His disciples were wondering. Following His resurrection, but before He had revealed Himself to His disciples, some were still wondering as they stated, “But we had hoped that he was the one….” (Luke 24:21) Jesus had tried to prepare the disciples, but His death on the cross was just not the way they had envisioned His kingdom being established. How could He do it from a tomb? There was a sense in which their hopes seem to have been buried in that tomb with their Lord.
In the midst of all the misunderstanding of those who had followed with Jesus, I find it interesting that one of the thieves crucified with Him would have asked from his place on a cross, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) Isn’t that an amazing request from one dying man to another? What did this thief know that the disciples did not?
Not knowing what was going to happen and not understanding that Jesus was to rise from the dead (John 20:9), the disciples appear to have remained holdup in a house even after the tomb was found empty (Luke 24:12, 36-37; John 20:19) They had seen so much power work on behalf of others. Jesus’ authoritative teaching, the signs associated with His powerful working of miracles attested to Who He was. Now what?
Before it all took place Jesus had encouraged His disciples…
“(16) ‘A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.’ (17) So some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?’ (18) So they were saying, ‘What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.’ (19) Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, ‘Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? (20) Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, BUT YOUR SORROW WILL TURN INTO JOY. (21) When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. (22) So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and YOUR HEARTS WILL REJOICE, AND NO ONE WILL TAKE YOUR JOY FROM YOU.” (John 16:16-22 ESV)
Jesus leaving? A time when they would not see Him? It was all confusing. There was much they still did not grasp. But wait! There would be REJOICING! They would have JOY that no one could take away! Hang in there! Sunday was coming!
When we are confused regarding the way things are going in this world, let us keep our trust in God. There may be many moments of sorrow in this realm -- but REJOICING will come again. As we hang in there and continue in our relationship with Christ we will experience JOY that no one can take away. Sunday is coming! We have a glorious future in Christ.
Have a great day TRUSTING THE ONE WHO CAN WORK ALL THINGS OUT!
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March 25, 2005
Each time I read through the Gospel of John there are two themes which always grab my attention. One is the tracing of Jesus’ statements regarding His time having not yet come (i.e. John 2:4) to when it was the time for Jesus to submit to the cross. (i.e John 17:1) Beside each reference relating to this theme I have drawn a picture of a clock in my Bible. Another theme I have marked twelve times through this Gospel is Jesus’ focuses toward HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS. By each of these I have drawn a simple cross. Though Jesus tried to prepare His disciples for His coming DEATH ON THE CROSS, they had difficulty accepting and understanding that such could happen. As Jesus made references to HIS DEATH during times of public teaching the leaders and others also did not comprehend.
The first two references I have marked in the Gospel of John are statements by John the Baptist in referring to Jesus as “the Lamb of God.”
(John 1:29 & 36)
Jesus began His own pointing ahead when He said…
“DESTROY THIS TEMPLE AND IN THREE DAYS I WILL RAISE IT UP.” (John
The Jews on this occasion thought Jesus was referring to the literal temple in Jerusalem and they knew how long it had taken to build it. (John 2:20) However, Jesus spoke of His body, a truth the disciples recalled later following HIS DEATH and resurrection. (John 2:21-22)
Note these other brief references from John’s Gospel:
“…so must the SON OF MAN BE LIFTED UP,” (3:14)
“For God so love the world, that HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON….” (3:16)
“…And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is MY FLESH.” (6:51)
“…When you have LIFTED UP THE SON OF MAN, then you will know that I am he….” (8:28)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE for the sheep.” (10:11)
“…I LAY DOWN MY LIFE FOR THE SHEEP.” (10:15)
“…because I LAY DOWN MY LIFE THAT I MAY TAKE IT UP AGAIN.” (10:17)
“The hour has come …. IF IT DIES IT BEARS MUCH FRUIT.” (12:23-24)
“And I, when I AM LIFTED UP FROM THE EARTH, will draw all people to myself.” (12:32)
And then it happened. Jesus was arrested in the garden, tried, and sentenced to death by crucifixion at the insistence of the mob. (John 19:15) Though the Jewish leaders thought they were getting rid of a “trouble maker”, it was all according to the plan of God. It was not Jewish nor even Roman, but rather Divine authority that was involved. Jesus even said so to Pilate. (John 19:11)
Jesus exercised His own authority by the GIVING OF HIS LIFE!
“(17) ‘For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. (18) No one takes it from me, but I LAY IT DOWN OF MY OWN ACCORD. I have AUTHORITY TO LAY IT DOWN, and I have AUTHORITY TO TAKE IT UP AGAIN. This charge I have received from my Father.’” (John 10:17-18 ESV)
Though we are not to worship the cross, it’s significance is not to be underrated. Jesus’ DEATH ON THE CROSS was for the purpose of bringing about our salvation. It was His blood shed there that has the power to deal adequately with our sins. (Hebrews 9:14 & 10:10-12) The cross was part of the plan and Jesus stuck to it. Thank God for the authority to make such a provision on our behalf and praise the Lord Jesus for His willingness to endure it all. May we help others come to know “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b)
Have a great day APPRECIATING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST!
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March 24, 2005
It is good and encouraging to experience a sense of accomplishment regarding the tasks of this life. I believe we all desire to feel our life can have some significance to the lives of others and ultimately to the service of God. However, as we go about the various labors we might be involved in we must retain a proper perspective of OUR ROLE. The statement has been made “It isn’t what a man does -- it’s what’s left of him after he’s done it.” [source: “1600 Squibs And Quips”, compiled by E. C. McKenzie]
Though the Corinthian church was rich with spiritual gifts, Paul found the need to help bring their abilities and labors into perspective. There was a problem with jealousy and strife among them (1 Corinthians 3:3), some thinking themselves or their gifts as more significant than that of their other brethren.
“(5) What then is Apollos? What is Paul? SERVANTS through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. (6) I planted, Apollos watered, but GOD GAVE THE GROWTH. (7) So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (8) He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wage according to his labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-8 ESV)
Paul was appointed to be an Apostle of Christ. Nevertheless, though he had authority as an Apostle, he maintained the perspective of his SERVANT ROLE. Paul did acknowledged there is reward for the labors. However, OUR ROLE AS SERVANTS and the results coming by the power of God must be kept in mind in order for us to maintain a proper perspective. Within the family of God, OUR ROLE is just one among many of equal significance, all being important with regard to the whole. One of us serves in one way and another in some other way while God is the One who provides the resulting growth from those labors.
Let us each eagerly and humbly serve, recognizing how we share the same significance in OUR ROLE AS SERVANTS with a united aim to bring glory to God by serving His Will. Such a perspective helps maintain a sense of peace and unity with one another and thus enhances our usefulness to God. May we do our part in maintaining such a spirit.
Have a great day AS A FELLOW WORKER WITH GOD!
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March 23, 2005
Faithful To His Word!
After the nation of Israel had settled in the promised land under the leadership of Joshua, he had a great concern with regard to their continued faithfulness. Joshua was old and knew his days on earth were drawing to a close. Therefore he exhorted the leaders toward faithfulness to God by reminding them of God’s faithfulness to them.
“(14) ‘And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that NOT ONE WORD HAS FAILED OF ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT THE LORD YOUR GOD PROMISED concerning you. All have come to pass for you; NOT ONE OF THEM HAS FAILED. (15) BUT JUST AS ALL THE GOOD THINGS that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, SO THE LORD WILL BRING UPON YOU ALL THE EVIL THINGS, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the Lord your God has given you, (16) IF YOU TRANSGRESS THE COVENANT OF THE LORD YOUR GOD, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.’” (Joshua 23:14-16
It always amazes me when I talk to people who accept the PROMISES of God while refusing to take His WARNINGS seriously. They believe in Heaven, but do not believe God would ever have set up such a place as hell. They accept the Scriptures which record the promises of God, but do not believe a God of love would punish anyone who lives a “good” life regardless of whether they believe in Him and the authority of His Word or not. God’s Word is full of PROMISES to encourage us, but it also contains WARNINGS to prompt us to remain faithful to Him and His Will. To say God will not fulfill His WARNINGS would be be claim He lied when he gave them. Just as God’s PROMISES are not idle words neither are His WARNINGS idle threats.
It is not because God wants to punish. Jesus implied the place of eternal fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41) However, He also stated in this same verse that it becomes the destination of those of the human race who are unfaithful servants of God. The thing we must always bear in mind is that God is just as serious about His PROMISES as He is about His WARNINGS because He wants us to understand the seriousness of living faithful to Him.
As God stated through the prophet Ezekiel…
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I HAVE NO PLEASURE IN THE DEATH OF THE WICKED, BUT THAT THE WICKED TURN FROM HIS WAY AND LIVE; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11 ESV)
It is repentance God seeks to take place in the hearts of all. (2 Peter 3:9) His great desire is for us to live and to do so ultimately with Him in eternity. God has provided every means necessary for that to become possible through the power of the blood Jesus shed on the cross and the revealing of His Sovereign Will through the Scriptures.
Whether it be a PROMISE or a WARNING we can trust God to be true to His Word. Let us therefore keep our focus on Jesus in Whom “all the promises of God find their YES”! (2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV) May faithfulness be our response to the unwavering faithfulness of God that we may receive His great blessings now and for eternity.
Have a great day TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD!
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March 22, 2005
My wife and I were talking the other day and reminiscing about some of our experiences growing up. One of the things she recalled was that when it came to playing games with relatives or friends, whoever’s house they were at was the one who made the rules. While in that house those “house rules” were what everyone was expected to follow. When everyone followed the “house rules” everything went well and there was joy in the time spent together.
Observing this world it is easy to see that not everyone is playing (or living) by the same rules. It shouldn’t be any surprise that there are so many arguments and conflicts going on around us. Since some seem to be making up their own rules as they go along it makes it difficult to know what to expect.
The Hebrew writer noted…
“(3) For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses -- as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (4) (For every house is built by someone, but THE BUILDER OF ALL THINGS IS GOD.) (5) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, (6) but CHRIST IS FAITHFUL OVER GOD’S HOUSE AS A SON. And WE ARE HIS HOUSE if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:3-6 ESV)
GOD’S RULE is ultimately what all must finally come to grips with following. As Christians we are in His household and we must be mindful of following HIS RULES. Since He is the builder of His house, He is to continue to receive greater honor than the house itself. Is there any greater honor we can give Him than to faithfully submit to HIS RULES? Abiding by HIS RULES is the only means to true and lasting joy and peace because it is under HIS SOVEREIGN RULE that we can have eternal confidence and hope.
Life is more than a game and it goes best when the RULE OF THE CREATOR of it is observed. May we rejoice in the privilege that is ours to be in His house living under the wisdom of HIS RULE.
Have a great day FOLLOWING GOD’S HOUSE RULES!
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March 21, 2005
“Someday I am going to ....” People have dreams. People have hopes. People have longings for the day when they will “be”, “do”, or “have” something greatly desired. It is such a focus that compels one to press on toward the goal. Should it not also draw the focus toward what is being done today that may impact the “someday” to come?
“(1) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (2) Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; BUT WE KNOW THAT WHEN HE APPEARS WE WILL BE LIKE HIM, because WE SHALL SEE HIM AS HE IS.” (1 John 3:1-2 ESV)
Oh, to be like Him and to see Him as He is! Moses greatly desired to see the glory of God (Exodus 33:18), but God told him that man was not able to see Him and live. (Exodus 33:20) The full glory of the presence of God is apparently too awesome for perishable flesh to behold. However, John stated the day will come! When we have been changed from the perishable to a more glorious state ourselves (i.e. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 51-53) , we shall be able to see God. What our likeness will ultimately be like is presently a mystery. We would probably not be able to comprehend it even if God described it to us now. Nevertheless, whatever it is like will certainly be glorious because it will be like Him.
John went on to point out…
“(3) And EVERYONE WHO THUS HOPES IN HIM PURIFIES HIMSELF AS HE IS PURE.” (1 John 3:3 ESV)
PURITY is important. Our God is a Holy God and the only thing which can come into His presence is that which is holy. (i.e. Revelation 21:27) Though God has provided the means of our cleansing through the powerful blood of Jesus, we still must put forth effort to live PURE and unstained from the world in which we live. (James 1:27) As we live with the hope of eventually being drawn into God’s eternal presence, PURITY of heart and life is to be a mark of us as His children.
Remember Jesus declared…
“(8) BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.” (Matthew 5:8 ESV)
Jesus’ exhortation toward PURITY was accompanied by the promise of being able to see God. John said, as God’s children, we will someday see Him and to possess such a hope ought to compel us to live in PURITY now. To be like God should be the supreme goal of our life and to someday be able to stand viewing Him in all His glory will certainly be worth the surrendering of our life to His Will today. May this continue to be our genuine longing.
Have a great day EAGERLY LOOKING TOWARD THE DAY!
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March 20, 2005
When I think of small children there are two things which come to mind that appear to feel quite NATURAL to them. One is trying to run around with no clothes on and the other is just blurting out the naked truth to the embarrassment of their parents or whomever might be the object of the NATURAL observation. Before children learn the importance of modesty or the politeness of tact they just do and say what comes NATURAL. In time children learn about being discrete and polite, but they also unfortunately often learn that just as they can easily cover-up their bodies they can also cloak the truth.
Someone has pointed out that “Craft must have clothes, but truth loves to go naked.” [source: “sentence sermons”]
Perhaps we would all admit that bodies need to be clothed. However, how is it that we handle the truth? Those who deceive find themselves having to dress up what they claim or say in order for it to masquerade as truth. There also arises the challenge of having to remember how statements were dressed up or masked before so that their deceptiveness may not be revealed. To stick with the truth does not plague us with having to remember how we might have fashioned it before, because the truth simply remains as it is. Truth stands just fine in its NATURAL state.
Paul, referring to his life ministry, stated…
“(2) But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. WE REFUSE TO PRACTICE CUNNING OR TO TAMPER WITH GOD’S WORD, but by the OPEN STATEMENT OF THE TRUTH we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (3) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. (4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2-4 ESV)
God has laid the truth out the way He wants it. It is not ours to tamper with or redress to fit a certain fad or style. Though we should speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), truth is to remain as NATURAL as it is.
God is the God of truth (Isaiah 65:16), our Savior is the embodiment of truth (John 14:6), and God has provided the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 1 John 4:6). Being children of God, truth should NATURALLY be the essence of our lives as well. Truth does not change. It can stand on its own. May we continue to share the truth of God in its NATURAL holy state. Therein lies the power to bring needed change to life.
Have a great day KEEPING THE TRUTH EXPOSED TO THE WORLD!
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March 19, 2005
A Good Deal!
We like two for one sales or deals where if you buy two you get a third one free. Such is a good bargain, at least when the quality of the items is truly good.
“WHOEVER PURSUES RIGHTEOUSNESS AND KINDNESS WILL FIND LIFE, RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND HONOR.” (Proverbs 21:21 ESV)
Pursue two and get three. In the pursuit of that which is right there is gained even greater blessing. To pursue righteousness is to find it. That would be in accordance with our Lord’s promise that “the one who seeks finds.” (Matthew 7:8) To pursue kindness usually brings the kindness of others our way as well. However, Solomon mentioned life and honor as two other results of the pursuit of righteousness and kindness. Eternal life and honor are in a way the CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS or righteous living. The CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS is what Paul knew he would receive for having pursued the Will of God and he stated it would be received by all who loved the Lord’s appearing. (note 2 Timothy 4:6-8)
A two-fold pursuit with a three-fold blessing. Whenever it is something God offers we can always be assured it is a good deal!
Have a great day LIVING TO RECEIVE GOD’S RICHEST BLESSINGS!
See other articles on Christian Behavior
March 18, 2005
Consider the following:
A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.
A SUBJECTIVE person came along and said: “I feel for you down there.”
An OBJECTIVE person came along and said: “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.”
A PHARISEE said: “Only bad people fall into a pit.”
A MATHEMATICIAN calculated how he fell into the pit.
A NEWS REPORTER wanted the exclusive story on his pit.
A FUNDAMENTALIST said: “You deserve your pit.”
An I.R.S. MAN asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.
A SELF-PITYING person said: “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”
A HUMANIST said: “Just confess that you’re not in a pit.”
An OPTIMIST said: “Things could be worse.”
A PESSIMIST said: “Things will get worse.”
Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and LIFTED HIM OUT OF THE PIT.
[original source unknown]
What would we do if God only helped us out of the situations we got into by no fault of our own? To be honest with ourselves, most of the challenges we face are because of the choices we have made. Praise God He is willing to meet us where we are (regardless of how we got there) as we turn our hearts toward Him. God’s helping hand is not extended because the help is deserved, but because it is needed and He is ABLE TO PROVIDE IT. What is our own focus when we are ABLE TO PROVIDE the help others need? Do we analyze the situation and excuse ourselves from acting because we determine they made their own bed so they can lie in it?
“(27) DO NOT WITHHOLD GOOD from those to whom it is due, WHEN IT IS IN YOUR POWER TO DO IT. (28) Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it” -- WHEN YOU HAVE IT WITH YOU. ” (Proverbs 3:27-28
James, as he was discussing the idea of faith and works going together, stated the following:
“(15) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,”
WITHOUT GIVING THEM THE THINGS NEEDED for the body, WHAT GOOD IS THAT?”
(James 2:15-16 ESV)
Prayer is an element which should never be left out of the picture. It is right to pray for others and good to have the prayers of others offered on our own behalf. However, there are situations which require our action as well. It is important to recognize times when we may be the instrument by which God brings an answer to those prayers regarding the needs and situations of others. Consider the number of times Jesus stretched out His hand toward those who needed help both physically and spiritually. As we recognize what we are ABLE TO PROVIDE in assisting others, let us continue to walk in His steps.
Have a great day WILLING TO EXTEND A NEEDED HELPING HAND!
See other articles on Christian Behavior
March 17, 2005
There are many fields of battle in this realm and the wars are fought by various means. However not all battles are between nations. Neighborhoods have become battlefields. Individual families have found themselves in the fray of interpersonal conflicts. Nevertheless, some of the greatest and most important battles may be those raging against or within the MIND. There are many ideologies in great conflict today; each desiring to plant its “flag of sovereignty” within us. We must be on guard regarding what we allow to come within the boarders of our life. What goes on within our MIND and the THOUGHTS which end up dominating our thinking should be of paramount concern to us.
Someone has offered the sound advice to “Let the mind of the Master be the master of your mind.” [source: list of sentence sermons]
Writing to the church at Corinth Paul stated…
“(4) For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments (5) and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE TO OBEY CHRIST,” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV)
Paul did not use what the world seems to relate to: impressive resumes
(1 Cor. 1:26), worldly learning, polished speech (1 Corinthians 2:1 & 4), or craftily formed arguments (Colossians 2:4) as he shared the Gospel. Rather than fighting with weapons of deception, flattery, or greed (note 1 Thessalonians 2:3-5) Paul, with a desire to please God, waged war by continually exalting the truth. He recognized the great battlefield on which this war was to be fought was within hearts and minds in need of being brought under the control of Christ. Paul boldly and persistently spoke the Divine truth; that which truly has the power to set us free. (John 8:31-32) He did not seek to make those he taught subject to Him, but rather to the truth of Christ. As his aim was to possess the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), such should be our goal as well.
Truth can stand on its own. We just need allow it to dominate our THINKING while we also continue to hold it out to those around us. Christ is to be our Master and the Master of every thought so as to take it captive to obey Him. May we allow Christ to gain this sovereign victory within us.
Have a great day MASTERED BY CHRIST AND HIS WORD!
See other articles on Christian Sobriety
March 16, 2005
Whose Image And Inscription?
Every time I read through the Gospels I am struck by the attempts the Jewish leaders made to trap Jesus and the wisdom our Lord displayed in the way He responded. No matter what they came up with and how hard they tried, Jesus silenced them again and again. Reading through Luke 20 this morning I was reminded of one of those times when Jesus was asked such a question that if answered either in the affirmative or the negative it spelled trouble.
Perhaps the leaders thought they really had Him this time.
“(20) So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. (21) So they asked him, ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. (22) IS IT LAWFUL FOR US TO GIVE TRIBUTE TO CAESAR, OR NOT?’” (Luke 20:20-22 ESV)
In Matthew’s account we have Herodians among those who were sent.
(Matthew 22:15) Now, here was the dilemma. The Jewish leaders (Pharisees and scribes and chief priests) claimed to stand for theocracy; the rule of God as sovereign over all. The Herodians (on the other hand) were “a Jewish political party who sympathized with … the Herodian rulers in their general policy of government, and in the social customs which they introduced from Rome. They were at one with the Sadducees in holding the duty of submission to Rome, and of supporting the Herods on the throne.” [source: “Easton’s Bible Dictionary”, Easton, M., © 1897] If Jesus affirmed the paying of tribute to Caesar this would anger those who despised paying anything to the oppressive Roman government. If Jesus said the tribute should not be paid (thus siding with the Pharisees) He would have been charged by the Roman government and its supporters with inciting rebellion against it.
Jesus’ response was both supreme in its wisdom and its significance to our lives today.
“(23) But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, (24) ‘Show me a denarius. WHOSE LIKENESS AND INSCRIPTION DOES IT HAVE?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.’ (25) He said to them, ‘Then RENDER TO CAESAR THE THINGS THAT ARE CAESAR’S, AND TO GOD THE THINGS THAT ARE GOD’S.’ (26) And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.” (Luke 20:23-26 ESV)
Truly, Jesus’ response was marvelous! The image of Caesar and the inscription on the Roman coin implied it BELONGED TO the Roman government.
Therefore, the tribute given was based on the idea of OWNERSHIP. Jesus’
conclusion was that whether it be the Roman government or God, what BELONGED TO either should be rightfully given. However, consider an even deeper implication for our own lives.
Note the following two verses:
“(26) Then God said, ‘Let us make MAN IN OUR IMAGE, after OUR LIKENESS. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ (27) So God created MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE, in the IMAGE OF GOD he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)
“But God’s firm foundation stands, BEARING THIS SEAL: ‘THE LORD KNOWS THOSE WHO ARE HIS,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’” (2 Timothy 2:19 ESV)
Are we living our daily lives with a proper acknowledgement of OWNERSHIP? As Christians, we are not our own. We were bought at a price. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) We are to possess the likeness of God, recognizing the Lord knows those who BELONG to Him. That means our life is to be given as tribute to God. Let us live such that His image and inscription may be clearly seen.
Have a great day GIVING TO GOD WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY HIS; OUR VERY LIFE!
See other articles on Christlikeness
March 15, 2005
As we think about that old song, “Home On The Range” which contains the phrase, “Where never is heard a discouraging word….”, what a difference it might have made for the children of Israel to have had such a theme song as they roamed in the wilderness. It is amazing to me how many times Moses was willing to intercede on behalf of the nation. So many times they made Moses’ leadership position difficult. There was so much that could have worn Moses out along the way and the people should have done a whole lot more to have encouraged Him. Had it not been for Moses’ special relationship with God and seeking for His God to be glorified among all nations, perhaps he would have walked off and just left the nation to do their own thing.
Reading through the first three chapters of Joshua this morning, I was struck by a phrase which came up four times within the first chapter. Joshua had been chosen by God to lead Israel into the promised land following the death of Moses. Reading through the exodus from Egypt and the forty years of wilderness wandering, we know what Moses went through in leading a people who complained and rebelled time and time again. Joshua had witnessed that rebellion himself when the people first refused to enter the land following the report of the twelve spies. Therefore, as Joshua was being readied to lead the people, we can imagine that a lot of encouragement would help him get off to a good start. Therefore, three times in this first chapter we find God telling Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1:6, 7, & 9)
Having a steadfast faith in God and trusting Him to bring about all that He has declared He will is important. There are many examples in Scripture which ought to encourage us regarding the faithfulness of God. He is the One we can rely upon. He is the One Who always has our best in mind. Nevertheless, there is still great STRENGTHENING power in the encouragement we can receive from one another.
The fourth time we have the statement “be strong and courageous” it came from the people.
“(16) And they answered Joshua, ‘All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. (17) Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! (18) Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. ONLY BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS.’” (Joshua 1:16-18 ESV)
When I read the statement that they would obey Joshua as they had obeyed Moses, my first thought was, “Uh, oh. How many times did they rebel against Moses?” However, I am certain as the people were speaking these words, they meant what they were saying at the moment and such a statement would have encouraged Joshua. Also, just like God had already done three times, the people told Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” The people were signifying they were behind Joshua, were ready to follow under his leadership, and would support him in that position. This should not only have served to encourage and STRENGTHEN Joshua as their leader, but also each other as they journeyed on together.
Perhaps at times we feel this life is like a marathon. It goes on and on and various things can cause us to become weary along the way. We need encouragement. Though the runner of the marathon begins to tire more and more with each passing mile, when they see and hear the cheers and support along the way, it encourages and helps RENEW THE STRENGTH to press on to the finish. I’ve not run a marathon, but I have known the experience out on the wrestling mat, trying to keep pressing on in the third round and being encouraged and STRENGTHENED by the shouts of my teammates and classmates in the stands. Even this morning as I took my long walk I was encouraged along the way by the honks, thumbs up’s, waves, and even a few words. I pressed on to complete the 16.6 miles.
Let us keep in mind how important it is for us to encourage one another. The encouragement we give helps to STRENGTHEN and instill a will to press on. As we encourage others to this end, we will find ourselves receiving the same thing through the mutual uplifting of one another.
As the Hebrew writer sought to encourage believers going through challenging times, he exhorted…
“(23) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (24) And let us CONSIDER HOW TO STIR UP ONE ANOTHER TO LOVE AND GOOD WORKS, (25) not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but ENCOURAGING ONE ANOTHER, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)
“Where never is heard a discouraging word….” Since life’s journey is marked by such varied experiences, let us be mindful of our part in STRENGTHENING the faith and resolve to press on of one another.
Have a great day JOINING GOD IN STRENGTHENING HIS PEOPLE!
See other articles on Edification
March 14, 2005
We can look at people in the world and see they have a lot of things going for them. Perhaps we even find ourselves viewing such individuals with a twinge of envy. Before we do so we should consider that perhaps we don’t see the full picture. We may not understand their true CONDITION.
In the fifth chapter of second Kings we find the description of a man whose qualities and status could have been envied by many. Out of six things listed only one of them was a negative. Not a bad ratio … or is it?
“Naaman, COMMANDER of the army of the king of Syria, was a GREAT MAN with his master and in HIGH FAVOR, because by him the Lord had given VICTORY to Syria. He was a MIGHTY MAN OF VALOR, but he was a leper.” (2 Kings 5:1
What status this one had! He was a commander, a great man, highly favored, a victor, and a mighty man of valor. Who wouldn’t want to possess such a resume? That appears to be a success story if I ever saw one. However, this string of five superlatives was abruptly interrupted with a “but” followed by a focus on a CONDITION that detracted greatly from the other qualities. It was a CONDITION that impacted life and the exercise of it. “BUT, he was A LEPER.”
Even as we look at ourselves we may rejoice regarding many positive aspects of our life. As we count our blessings we should be careful not to allow one negative to throw off the focus from everything else that may be right. However, if that one things relates to our true CONDITION we need to earnestly seek God’s help in dealing with it. It is very possible for us to have status in society and even be in the favor of our brothers and sisters in Christ, “but” what is our true spiritual CONDITION before God? The uncleanness of soul is a worse CONDITION than that of physical leprosy. When sin is not acknowledged or being dealt with, it begins to eat away, bit by bit, whatever life we do have. We need God’s help to gain success here.
Let us remember our Lord’s warning…
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life [soul]? Or what shall a man give in return for his life [soul]?” (Matthew 16:26 ESV)
Remember how Naaman thought the rivers of his land were just as good as the one in Israel, but it was only through obedience to the command of going to the Jordan to dip seven times that he was healed of his leprosy. We also must submit to the commands of God, coming to Him on His terms if we want to be healed of the sin-sick soul. Let us honestly evaluate our true CONDITION, seeking for God to continue His sanctifying work in our life, as we submit wholeheartedly to His Will.
Have a great day LETTING GOD BRING OUR SUCCESS STORY!
See other articles on Faith
March 13, 2005
On Our Side!
There are times we may feel people are against us. Perhaps there are even moments when we feel the whole world is against us. We encounter people who don’t want to accept our values. We find ourselves colliding with those who refuse to recognize the truth of God’s Word as something that must be reckoned with. We meet those who are unwilling to see how our unchanging God has established a standard that is constant and reliable for all time. We see people around us choosing sides on various issues and sometimes even wavering back and forth between them depending on where they think the majority of people are at the moment. When we encounter this kind of opposition it can become easy to wonder if it is worth even trying to influence those around us. Nevertheless we should never lose sight of the power of light and the salt which is to be the very essence of our life. (Matthew 5:13-16) Certainly we may often feel like we are paddling upstream, but that is because so many others are simply going with the flow of this world. Let us remember when we feel we are being outnumbered that we are NOT ALONE. The prophet Elijah seems to have had some moments of discouragement (perhaps even a little depression), but God encouraged him that he too was NOT ALONE. (note 1 Kings 19:9-18) God was always mindful of this faithful prophet and there were others who had not caved in to the corruption of the time under the reign of King Ahab and the wickedness of the king’s wife Jezebel.
The psalmist was also encouraged as he remembered the fact he was NOT ALONE!
“(5) Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. (6) THE LORD IS ON MY SIDE; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (7) THE LORD IS ON MY SIDE as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.” (Psalm 118:5-7 ESV)
As we continue to seek the Will of God we can be encouraged to know He remains on our side. Understanding His great power at work in us, through us, and for us -- let us not allow the numbers who might oppose overly concern us. Ultimately the balance is tilted in God’s favor. May we continue to remain in His.
Have a great day KNOWING WE SHARE THE VICTORY ON GOD’S SIDE!
See other articles on Friendship
March 12, 2005
It has been noted that the bigness of a person may be measured by the size of what gets them down or gets to them. Some people are more easily offended than others. However, one of the harsh realities of life is that people don’t always act or speak as they should. As long as we live among imperfect people (remembering we are one too) we will find ourselves on the receiving end of either actions or words we feel we don’t deserve. Remember Jesus (the only perfect being to walk this earth) received such. How did he react to that which He did not deserve? Peter stated that Jesus did not revile (or insult) in return. Instead, He entrusted Himself to God Who is the one Who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)
Someone has stated, “Insults are like bad coins, we cannot help their being offered to us, but we need not take them.” [source: “1600 Squibs And Quips”, compiled by E. C. McKenzie]
Some people will take an INSULT and put it right back into circulation.
Sometimes the INSULT is handed right back to the initial insulter while other times it is slipped to others. To resist responding in such a way is truly a sign of strength.
“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but THE PRUDENT IGNORES AN INSULT.” (Proverbs 12:16 ESV)
The same passage in the New Living Translation reads: “A fool is quick-tempered, but A WISE PERSON STAYS CALM WHEN INSULTED.” [NLT, © 1997, Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House]
Perhaps we would find that easier said than done at times. Nevertheless, let us remember we are to walk in the likeness of Jesus. He modeled the way we are to respond. The key to success in this area is through keeping the focus on the God Who will ultimately sort it all out. Let us also be encouraged that there is a realm of blessing associated with some INSULTS.
“If you are INSULTED FOR THE NAME OF CHRIST, YOU ARE BLESSED, because THE SPIRIT OF GLORY AND OF GOD RESTS UPON YOU.” (1 Peter 4:14 ESV)
If we are going to live like Jesus we should not be surprised if we are sometimes treated as He was. (i.e. John 15:18-20) Some may speak against us out of arrogance. Others may do so out of ignorance. However, when we are seen to not throw the INSULTS right back nor allow them to get us down, such reaction may just cause others to take a closer look at the Christ Whose Name we wear as Christians.
Have a great day LIVING IN THE MEEKNESS OF CHRIST!
See other articles on Humility
March 11, 2005
Fill The Pockets!
The story is told of a man who was walking in the desert when he heard a voice tell him, “Pick up some pebbles and put them into your pocket, and tomorrow you will be both sorry and glad.” The man obediently bent down and picked up a handful of pebbles and put them in his pocket. The next day he reached into his pocket to find diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. And just as he was told he would be, he was both glad and sorry. He was glad he had taken some, but sorry he had not taken more. [adapted from bulletin clipping]
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but A GOOD WORD MAKES HIM GLAD.” (Proverbs 12:25 ESV)
Is there any word which should make us more glad and rejoice more than the WORD OF GOD. It is the message which imparts the greatest wisdom, provides the soundest guidance, and offers an unfailing hope that transcends this realm into a glorious eternity. To fill our lives with GOD’S WORD will provide the richest benefits to body, mind, and spirit we could possibly gain. We should therefore take advantage of all the opportunities we have, both privately and publicly, to gather in as much of the WORD as we can.
Note Paul’s prayer for the church at Colossae.
“(9) And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may BE FILLED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL IN ALL SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING, (10) so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and INCREASING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.” (Colossians 1:9-10 ESV)
Such an aim does not lead to disappointment, but to the abiding joy of walking in a manner pleasing to God. Let us rejoice for the knowledge we have received while continuing to fill ourselves with even more. May we continue to fill the pockets of our heart and mind with the precious jewels of GOD’S WORD with every opportunity presented.
Have a great day RECEIVING THE RICH BLESSINGS OF GOD’S MESSAGE!
See other articles on God's Word
March 10, 2005
When God, by His great power created this universe in which we live and all of life contained within it, He simply called it “good” and it was. Man, on the other hand, comes up with his inventions and advancements in technology and calls them “amazing”, “awesome”, and “fantastic”. However, which is more dependable?
We love our modern conveniences -- that is when they work. When they malfunction we find ourselves becoming extremely frustrated. Perhaps at such moments we think of days when things were simpler. All day yesterday (and still this morning), the lack of an e-mail connection frustrated me. I like to stay on target and yet with service in our area still down the “teEn-MAIL” could not get through. God brought the focus for the day and I got it set up to go out at the usual time, but man’s “amazing” technology was not working. I continued to calm myself by remembering it was out of my control, that service would eventually be restored, and I could get back on track. While considering all this I was reminded of simpler days when the postal service’s motto was “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays them from swift completion of their appointed rounds.” However, with the use of mail delivery vehicles and airplanes today there have been times when due to weather conditions the mail has not gotten through.
What is the reality?
-- Where there are inventions of men, something is bound to malfunction.
-- Where there are computers, data will be lost.
-- Where there is internet and e-mail service, it will be disrupted.
Technology can be a great timesaver. It has connected me with people I might never have otherwise been brought into contact. It has opened doors for the spreading of God’s Word on a grand scale. However, it seems that every new technological advancement brings along with it its own frustrations and as we use it we must resign ourselves to its limitations and periodic quirks.
What is our constant encouragement?
-- Where Christ is received and surrendered to, there shall be salvation.
-- Where there is an ear to hear and heart to receive, God’s Word will get through.
-- Where there is a sincere prayer being offered, God is always listening.
We should be greatly encouraged in view of the constancy (James 1:17) and sovereign power of God. Regardless of what does not work in this realm, He is still reachable. Our CONNECTION with Him can remain unbroken. Perhaps if Paul were listing today the things that cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39) he would have included technology. After all, he did mention “things to come” in verse 38.
God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, stated…
“(10) For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, (11) SO SHALL MY WORD BE that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH THAT WHICH I PURPOSE, AND SHALL SUCCEED IN THE THING FOR WHICH I SENT IT.” (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)
And Peter, quoting from Psalm 34, encouraged…
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, AND HIS EARS ARE OPEN TO THEIR PRAYER. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12 ESV)
We should not be surprised by the sense of frustration we will feel at times as we utilize what mankind has put together. However, let us be encouraged that God remains the same and His ability to CONNECT with our life will not be diminished nor will the power of the wisdom of His Word cease to be able to do its work in our lives as we eagerly receive it.
Have a great day KNOWING WE CAN DEPEND ON GOD!
See other articles on Steadfastness
March 9, 2005
There are all kinds of reasons WHY people get angry. Even our Lord was filled with indignation at times. (i.e. Mark 3:5) It is how we deal with that anger that is of the utmost importance. Considering the true cause of that anger is also important. Perhaps we have each experienced the misdirection of anger according to the proverbial “If you are mad at the dog, don’t kick the cat.” Quite often it seems that anger becomes vented toward others when what is most needed is an honest consideration as to where the cause of it truly rests. When something goes wrong my personal preference is for the blame to fall somewhere other than on myself. However, while being slow to becoming angry (James 1:19) we must always give honest consideration as to our own part in any situation.
Early in the record of the history of mankind we find the challenge anger presented. It was a situation where the WHY needed to be honestly considered. Had it been honestly and humbly dealt with, tragedy could have been averted within the first family.
“(3) In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, (4) and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, (5) but FOR CAIN AND HIS OFFERING HE HAD NO REGARD. So CAIN WAS VERY ANGRY, and his face fell. (6) The Lord said to Cain, ‘WHY ARE YOU ANGRY, and why has your face fallen? (7) IF YOU DO WELL, WILL YOU NOT BE ACCEPTED? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’” (Genesis 4:3-7 ESV)
Unfortunately, Cain allowed his anger to master him and he took it out on his brother Abel. What he needed to come to grips with was that the lack of acceptance from God was due to his own actions. Had he honestly answered God’s question -- “WHY are you angry?” -- he would have recognized his actions, not his brother’s, as the problem. God gave Cain the opportunity to do some heart searching, encouraged him to do better, and exhorted him to keep his anger in check.
Someone has suggested, “Two things we should never be angry at: the things we can’t help and the things we can help.” [source: list of sentence sermons] Anger over the things outside our control is a waste of energy and time. When we are faced with such we need to just resolve to press on. However, when it is a situation or result we have brought ourselves into we should accept the consequences as well as the opportunity to learn, grow, and determine to do better.
When it comes to anger we also need to heed the warning that “sin is crouching at the door.” May we resolve to keep the door shut!
Have a great day WILLING TO ANSWER THE QUESTION!
See other articles on Anger
March 8, 2005
A minister, proclaiming the gospel in an open-air meeting, was challenged by an unbeliever from the crowd following the close of his lesson one evening. The man declared, “I don’t believe in heaven or hell. I don’t believe in God or Christ. I haven’t seen them.” Overhearing the remarks, a man wearing dark glasses came forward and said, “You say there is a river near this place? There is no such thing. You say there are people standing here, but it cannot be true. I haven’t seen them. I was born blind. Only a blind man could say what I have said. And only a spiritually blind man could say what you have said.” [adapted from bulletin clipping]
When Jesus healed a man who had been born blind (John 9), many marveled while others tried to discount the miracle and the power of Jesus. [If you haven’t read this chapter in a while I encourage you to do so.] After being questioned thoroughly by the Jewish leaders this man was eventually thrown out. Jesus, finding him again, revealed Himself more fully and the man believed and worshipped Him.
Then we read…
“(39) Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that THOSE WHO DO NOT SEE MAY SEE, AND THOSE WHO SEE MAY BECOME BLIND.’ (40) Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’ (41) Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but NOW THAT YOU SAY, ‘WE SEE,’ YOUR GUILT REMAINS.’” (John 9:39-41
Those I have known whose physical sight was impaired, all seem to have had other senses which were sharper to compensate for the absence of sight. In fact, the abilities I have observed them to demonstrate have helped me see some things regarding life a little clearer. It is the “spiritual blindness” which is the worst kind of impairment. There is truly none so blind and those who WILL NOT SEE.
Paul noted the challenge in the following words:
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)
Jesus could heal those who were physically blind. However, those who refused to see could not have their self-imposed blindness lifted. There are many today who claim to be “enlightened” who refuse to see what God has revealed of Himself and His Will. As long as such individuals maintain a worldly perspective there is much they will continue to be unable to see.
“(22) The eye is the lamp of the body. So, IF YOUR EYE IS HEALTHY, YOUR WHOLE BODY WILL BE FULL OF LIGHT, (23) but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. IF THEN THE LIGHT IN YOU IS DARKNESS, HOW GREAT IS THE DARKNESS!” (Matthew 6:22-23 ESV)
Our own WILLINGNESS TO SEE is important to consider. How much we WANT TO SEE God and the Will He has for our life will greatly determine the health of our spiritual vision. The more we focus away from worldly things (the physical and temporary) the clearer the things of God (the spiritual and
eternal) will continue to become.
Have a great day RECOGNIZING HOW BELIEVING IS SEEING!
See other articles on Honesty
March 7, 2005
“(3) When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, (4) WHAT IS MAN THAT YOU ARE MINDFUL OF HIM, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
When we consider the greatness of God we may rightfully be struck by our own smallness. To hold such a view can cause us to wonder why there is so much arrogance in this world. However, arrogance has long been a problem with humanity and will perhaps continue to be one of mankind’s greatest downfalls. When God and self are not kept in perspective there will surely be problems.
Someone has stated, “Those who know God will be humble. Those who know themselves cannot be proud.” [source: sentence sermons]
We know our weaknesses. We know our struggles. We know our imperfections. What is there in ourselves of which we could boast? Certainly, when we consider our salvation there is no room for boasting (Ephesians 2:9), but only thanksgiving to God for His gracious provision. We know what we deserve. Praise God for His great mercy toward us.
“(6) HUMBLE YOURSELVES, therefore, UNDER THE MIGHTY HAND OF GOD so that at the proper time HE MAY EXALT YOU, (7) casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)
If we elevate ourselves we will begin to lose perspective. On the other hand, as we maintain a sense of HUMILITY, God will lift us up as He sees fit and in accordance with His timing. Though we ought to HUMBLY acknowledge our smallness compared to God, we should be greatly encouraged by the fact He is mindful of us, does care, and desires for us to spend a glorious eternity with Him. May we guard against allowing self to get in the way of His plans.
Have a great day KEEPING GOD’S GREATNESS IN VIEW!
See other articles on Humility
March 6, 2005
Just Zap 'Em?
When we see people reject our Lord it may hurt us deeply. We love the Lord. Our desire is for all to love Him and exalt Him in their life. What a different world it would be if Jesus was recognized by all as Lord of lords and King of kings. What a joyful atmosphere it would be to live among crowds who all shared a deep appreciation for the great hope Jesus has made possible. Nevertheless, there are right ways and wrong ways to react to those who will not accept Jesus as Lord.
Note the reaction of James and John when they witnessed the rejection of Jesus as they passed through a village of the Samaritans.
“(53) But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. (54) And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, DO YOU WANT US TO TELL FIRE TO COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN AND CONSUME THEM?” (55) But he turned and rebuked them. (56) And they went on to another village.” (Luke 9:53-56 ESV)
“Enough is enough! I’m gonna take care of this right now!” “I’m gonna deal with you people once and for all!” There are situations in life where such reactions may not be surprising. And before we jump all over James and John for their statement we should humbly acknowledge how such a reaction may be far too familiar to even us. Perhaps this was a character trait that brought about their being called “sons of thunder.” (Mark 3:17) Certainly Jesus could have brought swift punishment on those who refused to accept Him in the truth of His coming. However, Jesus had come to save rather than destroy. Instead of a blast from above Jesus provided a glimpse of the refreshing PATIENCE OF GOD Who longs not for the lost to perish, but to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) Such PATIENCE should not be equated with acceptance or condonement. PATIENCE is simply the gracious extension of another opportunity with the hope it will be accepted.
We may feel the challenge of evil and good existing in this world side by side, but in the parable of the weeds (or tares) Jesus declared that a final time of separation will come. (Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43) Though we may sometimes not see it, all things are still under the control of God. He has a plan and each day in this realm is an opportunity He provides for repentance and rightful acknowledgment of His majestic sovereignty.
We have a purpose for living in this realm. That purpose is to impact those around us in positive God glorifying ways as we faithfully live out the truth of God in our lives. Yes, we must distinguish right from wrong and good from evil. (note Hebrews 5:14) Contrary to what some in our society might try to declare there is such a distinction. However, that does not mean we hate and kill as if it were our right to exercise final judgment. In our Lord’s parable of the weeds He stated that separating would be done by the angels at the end of the age. (Matthew 13:39) Our role is to PATIENTLY love, pray for, and try to teach those who still need to repent as we live lives that exemplify the wisdom of God.
Like Jesus, we might see the need to move on to others. Perhaps another Christian will come along and pick up where our example and teaching left off. In the end, however, God will deal with it all. For now our focus needs to be on exercising the PATIENCE of God as we continue to reach out to those around us with the eternal hope God has to offer in Christ Jesus.
Have a great day DOING OUR PART KNOWING GOD WILL DO HIS!
See other articles on Judging
March 5, 2005
Though freedom is cherished, it can be a funny thing. Freedom can be difficult for the immature to handle. It can also be a flaunted thing by those who are puffed up with knowledge. Paul pointed out that knowledge can puff up while LOVE builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1) Freedom can also be taken to the extremes of either license on one hand or strict legalism on the other. Although freedom is meant to be appreciated and enjoyed, it must be considered beyond the realm of merely ourselves. Someone has stated, “It’s not the liberty we have, but the liberty we take, which causes most of the trouble.” [source: “1600 Squibs and Quips”, compiled by E. C. McKenzie]
Paul, writing to the church at Galatia, reminded these brethren of the freedom they had in Christ. Some had come in among them and tried to bind the Old Law on them and Paul warned against allowing themselves to become enslaved to it. (Galatians 5:1) However, Paul also warned against the exercise of freedom without due CONSIDERATION OF OTHERS.
“(13) For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only DO NOT USE YOUR FREEDOM AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE FLESH, BUT THROUGH LOVE SERVE ONE ANOTHER.
(14) For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (15) But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:13-15 ESV)
Perhaps the best way to keep our freedom (or liberty) in Christ in perspective is to maintain a sincere love for God and His Will as well as a genuine LOVE FOR OTHERS that will cause us to encourage and build them up in the faith. In focusing on serving God and others we will find a marvelous aid in keeping self in perspective as well.
Have a great day ENJOYING THE FREEDOM OF SERVICE!
See other articles on Freedom
March 4, 2005
Time To Move Out!
What day of the year is a command? That day is today. Doesn’t today’s date, March fourth, sound like the command to MARCH FORTH? Such is the command to not remain where one is presently, but to move on; to press forward.
In the first chapter of Deuteronomy we read…
“(6) The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘YOU HAVE STAYED LONG ENOUGH AT THIS MOUNTAIN. (7) TURN AND TAKE YOUR JOURNEY, AND GO to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.’” (Deuteronomy 1:6-7 ESV)
And the journey from the mountain where the Law was given began. The people did MARCH FORTH toward the promised land. However, as Moses recounted further into this chapter, due to lack of trust in God and obedience to His Will the people refused to enter. And the 40 year wandering in the wilderness began; one year for each day the twelve spies had spent looking over the land God had promised to give. (Numbers 14:34)
Later, Moses noted at another point in their wandering in the region of Mount Seir…
“(2) Then the Lord said to me, (3)‘YOU HAVE BEEN TRAVELING AROUND THIS MOUNTAIN COUNTRY LONG ENOUGH. TURN NORTHWARD (4) and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful.’” (Deuteronomy 2:2-4 ESV)
For Israel, their time at the mountain when the Law was given was important. However, they were not to remain there. We must recognize the importance of time in deep meditation and prayer while at the same time realizing that is not where we are to remain. There is the need to arise in action to the glory of God. Life is a journey with many opportunities along the way for both personal growth and to draw others onto the Way that leads to the eternal promised land above.
On life’s journey we always face the danger of settling down where we are. It is far too easy to get comfortable in our habits and ways and complacent in our spirituality, ceasing to progress in the Way and Will of God. Perhaps at times we sense our life circling instead of MARCHING ON. We may be in danger if we cease to feel the onward and upward draw of God.
Remember Paul’s earnest aim.
“(12) NOT THAT I HAVE ALREADY OBTAINED THIS OR AM ALREADY PERFECT, BUT I PRESS ON to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
(13) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I
do: forgetting what lies behind and STRAINING FORWARD TO WHAT LIES AHEAD,
(14) I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)
As mature in the faith and spiritually gifted as Paul was, he was not content with his spiritual stature. He still saw the room for growth and PRESSED ON to become all that the Lord had in mind for him and to ultimately receive his eternal rest. As we accept each new day God provides, may we also continue to MARCH FORTH in trusting obedience to His guidance. The promise still stands to enter that rest. (Hebrews 4:1, 8-11) Let us trust God to safely bring us into the heavenly land.
Have a great day FAITHFULLY JOURNEYING WITH GOD!
See other articles on Steadfastness
March 3, 2005
As Moses recounted to the nation of Israel the experience around the mountain when God gave the Law to Moses and the people heard the voice of God from the midst of the fire (Deuteronomy 4:11-12), he reminded them of the response to God. With regard to the commands Moses received from God, the people stated their willingness to listen and do all that the Lord spoke. (Deuteronomy 5:27) What a worthy aim!
Moses went on to remind…
“(28) And the Lord heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. THEY ARE RIGHT IN ALL THAT THEY HAVE SPOKEN. (29) OH THAT THEY HAD SUCH A MIND AS THIS ALWAYS, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:28-29 ESV)
The people were right in speaking a willingness to submit to God’s commands. They were right to declare their readiness to obey whatever He spoke. However, for how long did they actually follow through? There was the need to focus on RETAINING SUCH A MIND SET. God’s desire has always been for His people to listen to Him (i.e. Psalm 81:13) and obey. Not merely when it is convenient for us. Not only when it suits us. But “always”, because that is what is right and ultimately brings the highest blessings into our lives.
Life is not to be all about what we want, but what God desires. He is the author and creator of life. He is the sustainer of life. He is the One Who has set in place a plan for eternal life. He has done all this with us in mind, but it is by keeping our MIND SET on God and His Will that we can remain on track.
Paul exhorted the church at Philippi…
“(12) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for IT IS GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU, BOTH TO WILL AND TO WORK FOR HIS GOOD PLEASURE.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
It is always right to seek to please God. For the Israelites to have RETAINED A MIND SET to do the Will of God, it was declared that things would go well with them. How can we expect things to go well for us if we ignore God’s Will. May we KEEP OUR MIND SET on the pleasure of God at work in and through us as we continue to surrender our life to Him Who has the ultimate power over it and its eternal destiny.
Have a great day PLEASED TO PLEASE GOD!
See other articles on Correct Standards
March 2, 2005
From time to time I will see one of our local transit buses with the message “In Training” scrolling across the front rather than route information. Though the bus may be on a route, it is not picking up riders because the present driver is receiving instruction to prepare him (or her) for when they actually do have riders on board. The instructor is one who knows about driving buses and once the driver in training has met certain requirements they are then entrusted with the lives of the passengers they will help get to their respective destinations. The goal of the driver in training is to emulate the skills of their instructor.
Some people view Jesus merely as a great teacher. If that is all He was, in light of His claims we would have to say He was one of the greatest deceivers who ever lived. Jesus declared Himself to be the Messiah and Savior of the world, and as such, the only access to the Father. (John 14:6) However, though Jesus was (and is) much more than a great teacher, we should still be significantly struck by His greatness as the Master Teacher. His knowledge and ability did not escape the attention of those who heard and saw. (i.e. Matthew 7:28-29) Jesus taught principles which needed to be taken to heart and He demonstrated how to live out those ideals in this realm. As the Lord trained His disciples for their continued ministry, they witnessed, by observing Him, how to respond to a variety of people and situations.
Before Jesus would eventually give them the “great commission” (Matthew 28:18-20) He sent them on a “limited commission” (Matthew 10:5-7) for some hands on experience and encouragement in preparation for the broader work that would eventually be theirs. In both public and private Jesus taught and trained His disciples. And the Gospels give us insight into their struggles to understand and stand firm as they were in training. Following the death, resurrection, and then ascension of the Lord we see how bold and effective the disciples became and because of this people took note that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13).
Jesus Himself stated…
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone WHEN HE IS FULLY TRAINED WILL BE LIKE HIS TEACHER.” (Luke 6:40 ESV)
This was not only a focus toward the aim we should have, but also an expression of our Lord’s desire for His followers; to become LIKE HIM! We will never be greater than Jesus. He will always remain King of kings and Lord of lords. However, as we mature under the guidance of His example and teaching (as recorded in the Scriptures) we will become more and more LIKE HIM.
As Jesus trained the disciples He did so with the desire for them to eventually come to the place He would go and prepare for them. They were called to a work with an eternal destination in mind. We are to accept His training so that as we live LIKE HIM we can direct others to that destination as well. May we recognize the ultimate impact our life lived LIKE JESUS can have with regard to the eternal destination of the souls of others.
Have a great day EXCELLING AS A GOOD STUDENT OF CHRIST!
See other articles on Discipleship
March 1, 2005
Refreshing! Satisfying! Life giving! To such our attention should be drawn. Nevertheless, many are drawn to that which is stagnant, temporary, and life draining. Though some things in this world make no sense, people seem to go after such anyway. And simply going with the flow of the world will ultimately bring disastrous erosion and corruption to our life. What are we drawn to? And even beyond that, what is it that flows from our life? Is it that which contributes or takes away from it?
“GOOD SENSE IS A FOUNTAIN OF LIFE to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.” (Proverbs 16:22 ESV)
Poorer is the one who lacks sense than he who lacks cents and richer is the one who has GOOD SENSE than he who possesses many cents! Would you not agree? There is that which takes from life and that which contributes toward it and many have it all mixed up.
When I think of fountains or springs (in contrast to standing water) I see such as a sign of an endless source from which one can continually draw. Rather than becoming stagnant, the continual flow brings forth what is fresh and therefore life giving and satisfying. However, the word translated fountain here is also one which has been noted to refer to the flow of blood. As fresh water is vital to life so is the continual flow of blood through the body.
GOOD SENSE (or understanding of God’s Will) brings forth life to those who possess it in contrast to the fools who cannot be instructed. As we continue to be open to the wisdom of God -- seeking His Will for our life -- such GOOD SENSE will continue to flow from the heart to the mouth, the activities of the hands, the direction of the feet, and the focus of the eyes so that true life can be experienced.
Let us be sensible as we approach life by continually seeking the Will of God. With our hearts filled with the essence of His Wisdom we will have a continual fountain from which to draw for the abundant life Jesus came to provide. (John 10:10) It makes GOOD SENSE to allow the Author of life to provide that which will sustain it now and for eternity. May we let His Word continue to fill us within.
Have a great day DRAWING FROM A WEALTH OF GOD’S WISDOM!
See other articles on God's Word