Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wisdom...It's Here For Us

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

I remember Granny’s supper. It was there for me. That was what she told me when I came in after playing out on the farm. Oh, I had heard her call us for supper. But we were busy trying to squeeze the last of the daylight out of the day. So we ignored her until it became too dark to play. When we came into the kitchen, the table was cleared and dishes were being washed. “Granny, where’s our supper?” I asked. As I asked the question, I could see the dogs in the yard, eating what appeared to be the scraps from the table. “Son, it was here for you,” she said.
Often we are faced with decisions that require wisdom beyond our capacity and we delay coming to place where wisdom is found. How many times have I prayed as a last resort, knowing while I am praying that I should have sought God sooner? I often wonder if I ignore God's call to feed me wisdom as much as I ignored my Granny's invitation to supper...taking for granted it would be there whenever it suited my purposes.
The good news is that we can ask God for wisdom. The Bible says so. If our pride keeps us from asking God for wisdom, our pride is keeping us from God. The writer of the book of James talked a lot about wisdom. He thought it was something that we need. Do you need wisdom? Or do you have all the answers?

I. WE ARE NEVER WISER THAN WHEN WE KNOW WE LACK WISDOM. The person that knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool. The person who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is teachable. When we admit that we lack wisdom, we are ready to receive it.

II. WHEN WE KNOW WE LACK WISDOM, WE SHOULD KNOW WHERE TO FIND IT. The next logical step after acknowledging our need for wisdom and admitting our lack of it is to find out where wisdom is found. God is the source of wisdom. Wisdom is applied knowledge. It is not only knowing the right thing to do, it is knowing how to do it. It is not only knowing what to say, but knowing when to say it. Only God has the wisdom to use in different situations. It seems wise to ask Him.

III. THE WISEST REQUEST WE CAN MAKE IS FOR SOMETHING WE LACK AND KNOW THAT WE NEED. The Bible says we have not because we ask not. It also tells us that we should make our requests known to God through prayer. God wants us to know His wisdom is available, abundant, and sufficient for the asking. He wants us to sense our lack, our need, and be dependent on His provision. Like Granny’s supper, it is there for us! Have you received wisdom beyond your own? Will you tell others where to find it? Or are you still trying to squeeze all the joy's out of the world's pleasure and seek to find answers to the complexities of life without God's wisdom? For then we can claim that we can solve our own problems and live on our terms without God's inconvenient interruptions. Don't be a fool...seek the wisdom of God. It is there for you.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Contented In The Circumstances

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need...And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:11-13, 19)

My heart goes out to the parent who promises their children that if they are good, the child will get to choose what kind of toy they get at the store. The lesson is usually learned during subsequent trips to the store that the toys become bigger and more expensive to the parent and less and less satisfying to the child.
Often we operate on a similar rewards system with God. We think if we are good enough, God will bless us with what we want. The problem is that we really cannot be content with what we want. Want is always found wanting. Wanting is never satisfied. When we view God as some kind of cosmic benevolent grandfather who gives in order to reward good behavior, we have set ourselves up for disappointment and dissatisfaction with God. We will be painfully disillusioned with Him.
Once we understand that God gives because He loves, we are not the same. His measure of grace is not measured by our merit. He gives more of His grace to us who seem the least deserving. Paul was one of those who learned how to be content. He believed that contentment began with our acceptance of God’s grace. Some thoughts on today’s passage:
I. WE ARE NATURALLY DISSATISFIED. We are born wanting. We want because we do not have all we need inside ourselves. We are born without our greatest need being met...a personal, intimate relationship with God. So we strive all our lives to find that which we lack. And all but God Himself does not satisfy. Paul wrote that he did not speak from his position of wanting. This is because he was no longer a natural man, but a supernatural one. He had found Someone who satisfies.
II. CONTENTMENT IS A LEARNED CONDITION. We must practice contentment. We do this when we practice gratitude. When we examine what we have been given, what we share with Christ, and evaluate the grace of God, we will find ourselves humbled and in most cases contented. The more we practice gratitude, the more contented we will become. Contentment comes with maturity. It comes with the knowledge of God’s nature and intimacy with Him.
III. SATISFACTION IS KNOWING THAT GOD IS ALL WE NEED. Conversion comes before contentment. The old saying, “When all you really have is God, you’ll find you have all you really need”, is a truth we can all live by. Jesus satisfies. If it does not come from God, it’s probably something that we don't really need. We need to be like God.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Planning My Work, Working My Plan

Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
(Proverbs 16:3)

A construction company I’m familiar with has the words, “established 1988” after their name. For the founders of the company, the year they were established was the year of their beginning. The company believes they exist for a specific purpose and they exist to achieve that purpose. Sadly, some companies begin and never become established. They just exist. Our lives can be lived in much the same way. We celebrate birthdays year after year. But sometimes we are only celebrating an existence, not an establishment. We never live with a purpose. We never understand that we are established. Built with a plan and purpose in mind.
The saddest thing I continue to see is people dying without knowing why they lived. The despair hangs heavy around people who do not know the reason they were formed. Living life without living on purpose is only marking time. It is painful to endure the trials of aging and face the reality that our years have been squandered.
When we give our lives to God, He never wastes it. No matter when we give them. He has a purpose for me being established. The purpose extends beyond my generation. He is building a Kingdom. And to be a worker in the Kingdom, I must surrender my plans. It’s not my kingdom that we build.

I. MY WORK MUST FOLLOW AN ESTABLISHED PLAN. Planning your work and working your plan is a man’s method of working. If God is working, then He is following His plan and not mine. I should be intentional in discovering God’s plan and working With Him.
II. WHEN I COMMIT MY WORK TO THE LORD, HE HAS ALREADY ESTABLISHED MY PLAN. Once I know God’s plan, I am to join in His work. This is the only way my work ever has eternal value. God establishes His plan and puts His desire into my heart. Then He extends an invitation. When God’s plan becomes my plan, it is established.
III. GOD ESTABLISHES MY PLAN AFTER HE EXAMINES MY MOTIVES. God is not interested in establishing my plans for building my kingdom. He is interested in establishing my plans for building His kingdom. He is interested in building His kingdom in accordance with His workable plans and His purposes. God knows the reason we work for him. Is it a labor of love? Do we love the recognition of being a kingdom builder? Whose kingdom are we building? Do we love God and desire what is in His heart?


Monday, December 12, 2011

Seeking To Support

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His… (2 Chronicles 16:9)

In a recent summer season, in the murky waters of several North Carolina waterways, a diver was submerged, according to a newspaper article. He was diving around bridges and searching in the dark waters, feeling around the pilings and columns for signs of instability caused by the undermining currents. Beneath the surface, bridges are in need of shoring up. Someone is seeking to provide support before they collapse under the weight of daily traffic flow.
Sometimes the amount of stress that daily living brings can bring about a total collapse if the supports are not strong enough. The damage can be quite heavy when we are broken. Even today, someone hearing this message may give off no visible signs of cracking under the strain of intense emotional pain. It may be a surprise to someone close to you that you are on the edge of emotional breakdown. Deep inside, you know that the pain of enduring another disappointment may be the one thing that brings you down. And you wonder if there is any help.
The good news is that there is Someone who cares and Someone who sees our stress and strain. He comes when we give it all to Him. The pain, the chaos, the anxiety, the fear, the feelings of inadequacy. God wants it all because He wants our hearts. And all that is in them.

I. THE EYES OF THE LORD IS SEARCHING IN THE DARKNESS FOR SIGNS OF STRESS AND OVERLOAD. God’s eyes are better than a cat’s eyes are rumored to be. His vision is better than the night vision equipment that our military depends upon. He can see us in the darkness. And He loves us when He finds us there. The good news is that God calls us out of the darkness, out of the hopelessness and brokenness of our human existence. He calls us out of the darkness and into His love.

II. THE SEARCH IS ALL ABOUT STRONGLY SUPPORTING THOSE WHOSE HEARTS ARE STRAINING UNDER THE LOAD. God looks for our hearts that are breaking under the stress of living. He is seeking to bind up the broken hearted and help us. All of His resources are available to those who make their heart available to Him.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden…” This is our invitation to bring our stressed out and overburdened hearts to Jesus. He wants it. We need it. He is our life support.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Man of Mercy

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion… (Luke 10:33)

In most of the world’s history, the taking of prisoners during warfare was a rare thing. Undoubtedly, there are some armies that still have a take-no-prisoner approach. Their philosophy is that war is war and there is no room for mercy. Mercy is the operative word here. For if someone is shown mercy, they must be cared for.
Someone once said that the Christian army leaves their wounded on the battlefield all too often. Left at the mercy of the enemy who shows no mercy. Sometimes people can seem pretty insensitive to others in their pain. Have you ever felt wounded and no one stops to see if you need aid and comfort? Sometimes I have been devastated by feeling very alone and battle weary while others around me seem so indifferent. When they are your fellow soldiers in Christ, it can be almost intolerable.
In the midst of the worst pain, there is a God who loves to show mercy and loves to see mercy. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus wanted to make a point about the one who is our neighbor. He’s the man of mercy who shows mercy.

I. A MAN OF MERCY CAN BE ANY MAN. But a Samaritan...The contrast of religious people who were supposed to show mercy and the Samaritan who deserved no mercy is hard to miss. Jesus said a priest and a Levite walked on past a man who needed mercy… while the despised Samaritan stopped to help. Sometimes being despised and rejected fills you with resentment… and sometimes it fills you with mercy.
II. A MAN OF MERCY WILL INTERRUPT HIS JOURNEY AND ALTER HIS AGENDA. ...who was on a journey...Who among us has been passed by someone while we were too busy with our own business? Who among us has been too busy to hear the Spirit’s promptings? People in need of mercy are God’s business. We need to know that when we stop our busyness and tend to God’s business, God’s agenda is advanced.
III. A MAN OF MERCY DEALS WITH THOSE GOD PLACES IN HIS PATH. ...came upon him...There is an intentionality in God’s design. He brings us to the needy so we cannot claim we didn’t know. He makes it plain to see. And then He watches to see if we see.
IV. A MAN OF MERCY SEES THE PERSON IN NEED. ...and when he saw him...Sometimes we can see the need without seeing the person. We can practice our religion without ever showing mercy.
V. A MAN OF MERCY FEELS WHAT GOD FEELS. ...he felt compassion…God’s heart is a compassionate heart that empathizes with us in our circumstance. When Jesus told this parable, it made the religious people uncomfortable with their lack of mercy and with the one who showed mercy. Have you been hurt while in need of mercy or hurt attempting to show mercy? If you’ve received mercy, you must show mercy and tell others about the God of mercy. The man of mercy goes and does likewise.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Product of Humility

And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

An old technique popular with some horse trainers is called “hobbling”. To hobble a horse is to tie the front and back legs together with enough rope to allow him to walk, but restricts him from running and kicking. A horse that is apt to run wild is just not very useful. When his movement is restricted, the horse recognizes that someone else is in control. He is introduced to superior authority. A horse that is frequently hobbled begins to get the idea that he must respond to the desires of his master and not his own. In this way, the hobbled horse becomes humbled. And a humble horse is a useful horse.
Some of my most painful experiences in life have been humbling ones. These are times when I have felt humiliated. But I have found that God is not as concerned with my feelings as much as my character. So at times when I needed to learn how to become more like Him, I was humbled, so I would be more responsive to God’s leadership. God will humble us when He wants to use us. He cannot use prideful human beings. We are too prone to go our own way when left to our own direction.
When we learn that God is the Master and He is in the lead, we can humble ourselves before Him. We glorify God when we come to Him in humility and ask direction. When we seek His face and His will, He is glorified. It is then that He is indeed Lord of our lives. Our passage today tells us that God loves us enough to humble us. Humility is a prerequisite to learning.

I. THE LORD LEADS US TO HUMBLE US. It is God’s intention to lead us to a place where we recognize that we are not in control. God may lead us into places of helplessness so we are ready to follow Him. God will place us in the lifeless desert to create a thirst for His living water.

II. HUMILITY IS A PRELUDE TO A TEST. When we find ourselves humbled by God, we should expect to be tested. Since God is the Teacher, we should know that any learning must be subjected to evaluation. Life’s tests are the laboratory that proves God’s principles for living are true and relevant.

III. HUMILITY TEACHES US THAT OUR LIVES ARE DEPENDENT UPON CONTACT WITH THE SUPERNATURAL. Our faith in God grows when we see Him break into our world. When we learn that we are truly helpless without Him, we can come to him as a dependent child, waiting on His command, leaning on His shoulder, and learning of His love. Are you in need of being humbled today? To humble yourself before God is honorable.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saved For Himself

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him. (Psalms 4:3)

I once knew a musical instrument maker that made instruments to sell. You could walk into his shop and they were lined up, hanging on the wall. Each instrument was unique to itself and not a mass-produced copy. Each had its own tone. He would be hard pressed to tell you which one was the best. It would depend upon what you were looking for. But if you asked him which instruments he thinks are the best for him, he would take you to the back room. This was the place where the public had no access. Here he wwould show you a few instruments that were so exceptional that he saved them for himself. They were not for sale. They were for his private collection. They were examples of superior craftsmanship.
In the grind of daily living in a fallen world, it is easy to believe that our lives have no value outside of ourselves and a few people who are close to us. We can be lured into thinking that our one life is far too insignificant to matter in the grand scheme of things. We may have already been told as much. Living with the feeling that we have no worth can be very painful. But the truth has not been told or heard until we hear from God.
What the world throws away, God picks up. What the world breaks, God mends. The psalmist gives us an idea of a proper sense of self-worth. It’s a good word for us to remember today.

I. GOD SAVES PEOPLE FOR HIMSELF. God does not accumulate possessions as treasures. He is not concerned with things. He is concerned with souls. That which is eternal matters to God. People are His treasures. We are treasured because we have value to the collector. He collects us so that we will serve His purpose.
II. GOD SAVES THE UNGODLY TO MAKE THEM GODLY. God saves the worst because only He can make them the best. There are none beyond the restoring power of God’s Spirit. The most ruthless enemy of God, the most ungodly among us can be saved. God’s purpose is saving men to make them more like Him.
III. GOD SETS APART THE GODLY MAN FOR HIMSELF. Only godly people will be in God’s presence. When we are saved, we are transformed. We are picked up, fixed up, and cleaned up so that we can come into His presence. We can choose to be ungodly and practice ungodliness. But after we are set apart for God, it is never the same. When we are ungodly, we do not enjoy the fellowship of God.
IV. THE LORD HEARS WHEN THE GODLY MAN CALLS. God is delighted when His people cry out to Him. Like a maker of fine instruments, He loves to hear the music that the instrument plays. The beautiful music is a reflection of the maker. Our cry to God is a testimony to all creation that He is worthy to be praised. It’s all about Him.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Smelling Up The Place

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)

Pigpen was probably my favorite character in the comic strip “Peanuts”. I guess he became my favorite when we began to see Charlie Brown on television. When I saw Pigpen walking while the cloud of dust that surrounded him shimmered, it seemed to communicate that there was an “air” about him. And the air was never pleasant to those who he encountered. Everyone seemed to wish he’d clean up his act!
The air that surrounds the believer should always be fresh. All too often our attitudes and demeanor have offended people more than the truth of the gospel message. Good news should always be shared with humility and honesty. When our message is condescending, it dishonors the Lord. When we look down our nose at the ones who are caught in the trials of life, it kind of smells up the place. We should clean up our act.
Paul wrote that there was a certain aroma that accompanied a true believer. It should be a sweet smell. One that is pleasant.

I. THE AROMA OF LIFE SHOULD SURROUND THE BELIEVER IN CHRIST. Springtime looks ahead beyond the end of winter. The stale air we have breathed while enclosed within the walls of our homes is replaced. Anytime we meet someone, we should be like a breath of fresh air.

II. THE FRAGRANCE OF CHRIST IS AN ATTRACTIVE FRAGRANCE. For those who love life, Christ is attractive. We should be joyful in our journey.

III. OUR LIVES SHOULD “SMELL UP THE PLACE” EVERYWHERE WE GO. Our presence should be a testimony of the presence of Christ. He who lives in us cannot be hidden.

IV. LIFE SMELLS LIKE A FRESH SPRING MORNING. LIFE SMELLS LIKE EASTER TIME. When the Old Testament sacrifices were offered, they were referred to as a sweet savor. God was pleased with the death of the sacrifice. It pointed to an ultimate sacrifice. One that would bring life. So on one particular spring morning, somewhere outside Jerusalem, what should have begun to smell like death only brought forth the aroma of life. The cross and the empty tomb smell like life to us today. The only reason that we are sometimes found offensive to others should be because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit who lives within. The truth is offensive. Our manner of conveying it should never be.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sincere Servanthood

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26)

I remember seeing a cartoon once where someone was following the footprints of another. The one following was concentrating on the footprints so intently that he bumped into the one who made them when he suddenly stopped. As the leader began to walk again, he was reminded of the one following every time he stopped. The one following would always bump into him, causing us all to laugh. The episode communicated to me that you couldn’t follow much more closely than that.
Sometimes we are following the Lord so intently, looking down on His footprints, that we aren’t watching the Lord Himself. We don’t stop when He stops. Even when we are following, we can be following too closely. Like a car that cannot stop in time, we bump into areas the Lord does not want us to go to. Sometimes the lessons are painful. God is glorified when we learn to follow Him rightly. Jesus gave the disciples these words in the context of impending danger. He wanted His servants close to Him in those kind of times. And He still does.

I. A SINCERE SERVANT WILL BE CLOSE TO THE MASTER. When we take servanthood seriously, we should strive to be where we can be used. The servant should be in the presence of the master. The master should not have to search for the servant. The servant should be readily available and immediately responsive. Being close to the Master will give us a sense of His desires. A sincere servant will take the initiative in doing what he knows to be the will of the Master. The sincere servant does not always have to be told what to do. He knows to do what the Master wants done.
II. TO BE CLOSE TO THE MASTER, A SERVANT MUST FOLLOW. A servant learns to follow closely. Following at a distance reminds us of Peter’s denial and removal of himself from the experience of the crucifixion. By not being close to Christ at the cross, Peter lost intimacy with the Savior. Christ calls us to die to self. He calls us to the cross. There is no way to be a sincere servant of Christ without the experience of the cross. When we follow Christ closely, and seek to know His will, know that it begins at the cross.
III. THE GOAL OF SERVANTHOOD IS HONOR. Honorable service to God honors God. And it has its own reward. God will honor the servant as well. To be honored is to be recognized for the effort. To be honored is to be appreciated. God loves the sincere servant. The sincere servant appreciates the opportunity to serve. The sincere servant aspires to be an honorable servant. The honorable servant honors the master.
Are you a sincere servant to the Master today?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Something Worth Sharing

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established. (Romans 1:11)

Some people come to visit and you’re happy to see them come...and happier to see them go. Let’s just be honest. They leave you with more problems than you had before and probably at least one other mess to clean up. You wish that they had shared something worth sharing. Have you ever been around people who are always in a crisis? Their lives are in such a wreck that it’s often hard to know how to help them. These folks can drain the life out of you when they come around. But I must admit that I have spent a lot of my life being one of those kinds of people. I often wondered why the people I visited never seemed to call me back. I often wondered why they didn’t come around. One day I painfully realized that my tumultuous life was draining the vitality from theirs. I never had anything to share with them unless it was focused on me. It’s amazing how glad others are to see you when they think you care about them at least as much as you care for yourself!
Turning our focus away from ourselves is an intentional process. But with God’s help, we can begin to see what He sees and care about what He cares about. Paul’s letter to the Romans opened with his desire to share something worth sharing.

I. PAUL WANTED TO SHARE THE BEST PART OF HIMSELF...AND IT WAS NOT HIMSELF. The best part Paul desired to impart is that which was of God. We have nothing to share of eternal value except spiritual blessings. A spiritual blessing comes only from God.
II. PAUL WANTED TO SHARE THE BASIC PART OF HIMSELF...AND IT WAS NOT HIMSELF. The basic part of Paul’s being was no longer centered on self. God was the foundation, or the first part. We begin with the foundation or basic part. Paul’s life had a new beginning with God.
1. We can share our stories. Testimonies encourage us because they encourage others. We can know that we are not alone in the world.
2. We can share our burdens in prayer. To know you are the subject of someone’s prayer is a precious thing. It tells us we have great value.
3. We can share the gospel. The gospel is not only about salvation. It is about sharing the news of knowing a mighty good God in some awful bad times.
When we share blessings that only God can give, people will be sad to see you go!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Good Works Glorify

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

“Look at me, Papa! Look at me!” My granddaughters used to call out for me to notice them, no matter what they were doing. And I never got tired of looking. It encouraged them to be seen doing their best. But I am always careful to try to teach them that what they do is not the basis for my love. I love them because of who they are. And I love them because of who I am...their papa. Sadly, some people grow up and think that doing many good things makes God love them more. God loves His people because He is a loving God.


We can do many good things and never know God. Some of the most miserable people go to church on a regular basis. It’s one of the ways that they show God how good they can be. Inside and outside the church environment they rarely seem joyful. The problem is that only God can be good. And if we do something truly good, it must guide others to God.
Knowing that there is none good but God is a liberating thing. When someone complements me, I can point to God. There is nothing good in me or you except the good grace of God! Jesus lived around a lot of religious people pointing to themselves and being quite miserable. His words to His disciples were given to guide disciples of every generation. He said we were to be light. Vessels of light.

I. IT’S EASIER TO WORK IN THE LIGHT. We are to shine our light so others may see our good works. Like a painting or a sculpture, it is not displayed in darkness. In a museum or a gallery, it is enhanced by light to allow others to consider the work of the artist. In a similar way, our “good” work can only originate from God, who is good, and God, who is light. It is displayed in the gallery of real life. We can only be light as we are vessels of Jesus, who is the Light. As others see our good work, let us point to the artist, the Creator.
II. GOD IS GLORIFIED BY GOOD WORK. We do not deserve a pat on the back or a round of applause. The glory of good works belongs to God and God alone. God will share His passion, His heart, His resources, His joy, but He will not share His glory. There is only one God to be glorified. God allows us to do good work on His behalf so others can recognize the goodness and glory of God.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Eternal Assets

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed; for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

At certain times of the year people get serious about reporting their income. On a more detailed level, as they are reviewing last year’s financial reporting, some individuals and corporations will be compiling year-end reports with profit and loss statements and balance sheets. Some of the line items on these documents will be assets and liabilities. In the financial world, only tangible assets are to be reported. These are the assets which can be proven to exist. They can be seen. But often the greatest assets are intangible ones which produce tangible results.


Without the presence of God, we have no standard of godly living. We live as though we know best, only to live in insecurity and chaos. When we chase after only the tangible things that this world offers, we never acquire the intangible peace at the core of our being. God’s promise to Isaiah in very trying times is a promise to us today. When we look around and see chaos and turmoil, incredible pain and suffering, God promises His presence and His person in the midst of it all. God’s words that say I am with you and I am your God can give us hope today.

I. GOD IS PRESENT WITH ME. He is here. I do not have to wait to experience Him in heaven. He is with me now. He is presently present. That is His proclamation. It is not my idea. It is reality. Fear is needless when God is with me.
II. GOD IS PERSONAL TO ME. He is known by me. He is my God. My relationship is a personal one. When I feel discouraged, He is the One who uplifts. When I feel alone, He is available and never too busy for me. He is accessible and willing to love me. He makes the declaration that He is mine. I can only possess God when He possesses me. I have no reason to be dismayed when He is my God.
Supernatural strength, help, and righteousness are the tangible results of these intangible assets.
Are you living so that others may know that God is with you and He is your God?
Are you assessing your eternal assets today?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Abiding Disciples

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:8)

Like it or not, people still judge us on the basis of where we live. We are past the days when presidents were raised in log cabins. People are impressed with the neighborhood we live in or the town we come from. Sometimes people form opinions about our nature because of who we hang around with. We may scoff at that kind of thinking and rightly so in some cases. But in the spiritual realm, there is some truth to examine. It does make a difference where we live and with whom we abide.
ABIDING WITH CHRIST GLORIFIES GOD. Have you ever been on the religious treadmill of good works? Religious activity bears no real fruit apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. We can get real tired of doing good things that are not God’s things. We can be drained and empty and burned out with no real spiritual fruit to show for the effort. It’s a painful place to find ourselves. But God can be glorified in those painful and purifying experiences. Recognizing this, Jesus told His disciples that bearing fruit is all we are asked to do. Bringing fruit is God’s job. Bearing fruit is ours.
I. WHEN WE ABIDE WITH CHRIST WE CAN BEAR FRUIT. The fruit we are speaking of here is spiritual fruit. We can do many religious things that do not reflect spiritual growth. We can participate in activities that do not reproduce disciples. Only by being connected with the source of the growth will our lives bear fruit. Our lives are compared to a branch growing from the trunk of a grapevine. Severed from the vine, the branch will wither and die. Abiding with Christ, remaining in His presence, staying close to His word, keeps us connected with life. Spiritual growth is the result of abiding. We won’t have to contrive a strategy for making disciples. It will supernaturally occur.
II. WHEN WE BEAR FRUIT, WE GLORIFY GOD. God is the gardener. The Vine and the branches are a part of His purpose and design. When there is spiritual growth in our lives, God is glorified. Only He can transform us into the image of Christ. We cannot do that for ourselves. When disciples are being made, God is glorified. Only God can cause human beings to want to be transformed. Only God can make us want to be disciples. The gardener is known by His garden. Christ is the Vine. Disciples are the branches. God is the gardener. A productive garden glorifies God.
III. WHEN WE GLORIFY GOD, WE DEMONSTRATE THAT WE ARE DISCIPLES. Our primary reason for being disciples is to glorify God in our lives. He is the only one who can take dead, unproductive lives and cause them to be fruitful. Our life purpose is to glorify God. When we understand this, it clarifies and focuses our lifestyles. By our lifestyle of love for one another, by our obedience to Christ’s commands, the world will know if we are His disciples.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Permanently Bonded

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:35)

Bonding is a popular word in our popular culture. As my grandchildren grow older, I share the story of the day that each one “bonded” with their papa. The oldest bonded in the rocking chair, the middle one bonded in a restaurant, and the youngest bonded in the hospital room. That’s one sense of the word “bond”. Another is to use it as an adjective. The construction industry uses different bonding agents to attach one material to another.
Our pain in life comes from being separated from love. We are separated from the ones we love by death, trouble, persecution, and violence. When we are torn away from that which we have been bonded to, it is exactly that…a tearing away. Something torn hurts along the jagged edges. Someone who has lived through a lot of these separations may resist bonding emotionally again. Someone who has survived the tearing away of their love may find it hard to trust God with that love. They reason, what if His love is ripped away? Our word today is a word of encouragement. Paul’s letter to the Romans shared God’s promise in the midst of great pain and danger.


I. TRIALS AND TROUBLES CANNOT TEAR US AWAY FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST. Tribulation is more than petty inconveniences. Tribulation is a trial that wears us down so that we can be torn apart. Distress is more than just a little discomfort. Distress is life-threatening trouble.
II. CONDITIONS AND CIRCUMSTANCES CANNOT CUT US OFF FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST. Persecution is more than a little bit of uncomfortable conditions. Persecution is a constant purging of principles. Famine and nakedness are more than adverse circumstances. Famine and nakedness are the lack of dire needs, basic to life support.
III. DANGER AND DEATH CANNOT DIVIDE US FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST. Peril is more than living on the edge. Peril describes an imminent threat of loss of limb or life. Sword is more than a figure of speech. Swords can sever and separate. But not even the sharpest of swords can cut us away from the love of Christ.
IV. WE ARE BONDED TO GOD THROUGH THE LOVE OF CHRIST. Only the love of Christ survives the adverse experience of living in a fallen world. These are but temporary afflictions that assault our senses. Only love survives them all in the Kingdom of God. No tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword will be found there. The love of Christ, the word of God, the souls of men, and the heavenly host will unite in one voice and one accord to proclaim to the universe that God is love and worthy of all praise, glory and honor. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


… that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them. (Deuteronomy 30:20)

When I was in middle school I remember one particular assignment in gym class. It was rope climbing. We were to climb these large ropes, touch the beam they were attached to and then slide down. The reason I recall it so vividly is not the tedious climb up, but the blistering slide down. I loosened my grip as I slid down and the rope burned into my palms. It was an extremely painful experience.
Sometimes when we loosen our grip on God, we are burned with fiery trials. When we begin to stray away from our private prayer time, or stop worshipping with God’s people, we are cutting ourselves off from our spiritual support. Alone, we are the enemy’s target. And he will come. We will be burned. When we realize our isolation, we recognize our need for God. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. Cut off from God, we are cut off from life. It is by God’s grace that I can return to Him, and hold on tighter than ever. Moses told the children of Israel that God was not just part of life, He was their life. It’s a good word for us today.

I. MY LIFELINE IS MY PRAYER LINE. Unless I am communicating with God, I am cut off from my life support. He is the one who sustains me. He is my sole means of support. He is the only one who knows my need before I do. I must train myself to listen in order to obey.
II. MY LIFELINE IS MY LOVE LINE. When I pray to the Lord, I am connected to Him. He is my love connection. His love is the love of my life. He not only gives me life, sustains my life, preserves my life, but He is my life. Love is my life. As I learn to live for God, I learn to live for love, for He is love.
IV. THE LIFELINE KEEPS ME SECURELY ATTACHED TO GOD. I am desperate to remain attached to God. It’s like the sailor lashing himself to the ship in the midst of the storm. We must not only love Him, we must cling to Him, wrapping ourselves around Him, to endure. It is a conscious effort to remain with Him.
III. BECAUSE I LOVE HIM, I TOE THE LINE. Obedience is a sign of love. I obey Him because I know He wants the best for me. When I disobey, I stray away from His standard, the line upon which I must stand. Peace is found when I am obedient to His will.
Are you attached to the Lifeline today? Are you “with Christ”?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Peace Talk

I will hear what God the LORD will speak, for He will speak peace to His people and to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly. (Psalm 85:8)

For many years, people have gathered regularly in a building at a place called Panmunjom. It is located exactly between the two Koreas. For more than half a century, participants representing the two warring factions have met together, presumably to talk peace. But after all this time, North and South Korea are still technically at war. Real peace only comes after someone has been defeated. Real peace follows real surrender.
Being an enemy of God can be subtle and deceptive. We can be hard working, law-abiding citizens and still be an enemy of God. An enemy of God is someone who has never surrendered to Him. The casualties that result from being an enemy of God can be catastrophic. When we never surrender our lives to him we never find peace.
But even realizing that God’s power is ultimate, we can take heart in knowing He is also merciful.
I. ONLY GOD CAN SPEAK PEACE. Peace is the absence of conflict, the cessation of hostilities. Peace comes after war. God declared war on Satan, not the other way around. In the midst of this conflict, the war has been won. The spiritual war today is real. Resistance is found in pockets of rebellion, preparing for one last stand. God declared peace at the cross. The decisive battle was fought and victory is in sight. God speaks peace through the Prince of Peace. Peace is secured in His death.
II. ONLY GOD’S PEOPLE CAN KNOW REAL PEACE. Only God’s people can hear Him. Unless enabled by the Spirit of God, we cannot understand the word of God. We must be empowered to believe peace is a reality even in the midst of the warfare. Unless I have surrendered my life to God, I am still at war with Him. My life will bear out a testimony of conflict and strife common to the experience of war…hardness of heart, fear, insecurity, and chaos. Until I surrender, I will be a spiritual refugee. Once I surrender, totally and unconditionally, I can be granted amnesty. I will be allowed to live for once in my life. My allegiance will now be on the side of my Merciful Captor. When I am one of God’s people, I can know true peace. When I obey His word, live by His commands, I can enjoy a peaceful life.
III. ONLY FOOLS DESIRE FOLLY OVER PEACE. Once we know the wisdom of living in peace, we would be a fool to return to any other way of living. The life of the fool is marked by folly. A child of God is called out of the folly of foolishness to freedom of godliness. Give up your life today and receive God’s life. Seeking true peace comes through an act of total and unconditional surrender.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Love Hurts

For those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives. (Hebrews 12:6)

I used to train military working dogs. A certain mindset for the dog lover in me had to be developed. We had to be disciplined to discipline. And most of the corrective training was hard to watch, much less to do. Some of us thought the type of discipline that was presented was cruel for these police dogs. But our trainers thought it was crucial. I’m not trying to legitimize or justify this type of treatment that some of the dogs received. But the discipline had a purpose and there was no denying that this corrective discipline had absolute obedience as its goal for the dog… and it seemed to work.
Some of the most painful trials can come from God Himself. When His children are disobedient, God will choose to discipline. He will send as many trials as it takes to get our attention. We often give more credit to the devil’s work than is due. It is true enough that some of our painful trials come from enemy attacks, but for a believer, it can be from the Lord Himself.
The writer of Hebrews was trying to enlighten the Jewish church that although their trials were intense, God was still in control. And even though they suffered harsh discipline, it would mold and shape God’s people. There was an ultimate goal in view.


I. GODLY DISCIPLINE IS ROOTED IN LOVE. Sometimes when I’m on the receiving end of God’s discipline, I identify with the child who told his friend after receiving a spanking, “My dad said it was because he loved me. But sometimes it's really painful to be loved so much!” There is a contrast between godly discipline and ungodly punishment. God discipline teaches. Ungodly punishment hurts. The difference is in the motive. The motive behind godly discipline is God’s love.

II. GODLY DISCIPLINE AND GODLY LOVE CANNOT BE SEPARATED. God is love and whatever He does, He does out of and through His nature of love. When God corrects His children, He demonstrates His love. He cares that we have boundaries.

III. GOD DISCIPLINES HIS OWN CHILDREN. Experiencing godly discipline is a reassuring thing - it tells us that we are His. When my children would play with other children at our house, sometimes it became necessary to correct them. I didn't spank anyone else’s children, although I may have really wanted to! I did not spank them because they were not my children, although I have sent some packing!
Do you have a word of testimony to share with others about how God’s discipline of your sinful actions resulted in an increased desire to be obedient to God’s word? God loves us enough to correct us...obdience to His word means life to us and glory to Him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hope For Our Healing

When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” (John 5:6-7)

New Year’s Day is a time for resolutions and reflections. As we look backward to the past year and forward to the next, we evaluate the old and set goals for the new. It can be a depressing time for those who have had a really bad year. Folks like these can spend many days reliving and regretting past choices. But it can also be an exciting day for those who are facing the future with their eyes wide open. New challenges are waiting to be accepted and change is eagerly anticipated. In a lot of ways it is easy to blame the past for our present failures. Or postpone making real time decisions to some future time which always seems to remain in the future.
Some people’s lives are so paralyzed by the pain of the past, they never look to the future. Hope is something they don’t think much about. And some people are so focused on what they are going to do in the future, they refuse to learn any lessons from the past. Some of these folks are has-beens and some are will-bes. But the saddest of all are the are-nots. The saddest people are those who never live in the present. If you are one of those who believe that your life has been a total waste, it can be really painful. No one wants to think that their life lacks meaning. We want to believe that we matter to someone.
In the passage before us today, we can see someone who was a stranger to hope, but no stranger to hurt. Jesus met this paralyzed man, wasting away every day and begins to enter his life. Was there any hope for his healing? Here’s some thoughts to think:

Jesus saw him lying there and that encourages me. It gives me cause to think that He notices the times that I am incapacitated. He takes note when I’m down about life.
Jesus knew he had already been a long time in that condition. Nothing about this man or any man is news to Jesus. He knows our situation and He cares about us.
He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The man was living out his life waiting on something. Waiting on some angel to stir the waters or some man to place him in the pool. He could have spent the rest of his life waiting. Jesus was really asking, “Have you any hope for healing? Do you want to leave this place in your life? Or do you wish to stay?”
Have we given up hope for our healing? Is our hope based on man’s ability or God’s? There is hope for our future despite our painful past and present predicament. Hope lies in our desire to be healed. Do we have that desire? Or are we comfortable with our present condition? As we reflect on these things, God wants to heal us of our afflictions, cleanse us of our sin, so we can tell His story and have a real Happy New Year all year long. So what are we waiting for? Do we wish to get well? Then tell it to Jesus. He is our hope for healing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Show What We Say

But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:17-18)

Have you ever heard of a boyfriend or girlfriend become disengaged from the relationship because someone didn’t prove their love for them? One of my old girlfriends told me once that I threw the word “love” around like a basketball. I’ve not forgotten that complaint. I’m afraid that she was right. My actions did not bear out my many proclamations of my love for her. I was “kicked to the curb” as they say.
Sometimes financial difficulty strikes the Christian community and we fail to demonstrate the love of Christ. I have known of Christians who have fallen on hard times and were criticized by other Christians for not being a good steward of God’s resources. While it is true that financial hardship can come as a result of bad or irresponsible decisions, sometimes it just comes through no fault of our own. When you are made to feel as though you deserve the plight you are in, it is bad enough. When you are ignored in the midst of it, it can be excruciating.
When one believer helps another, the world sees that and takes notice. When we don’t keep count of what someone “owes” us, we are demonstrating the grace of God. We show love when we help one another.

I. WHEN WE SEE A BELIEVER IN NEED, IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW OUR LOVE. A key word here, often overlooked, is “brother”. These are believers we are commanded to care for, as well as pray for. This should distinguish ourselves from the world. So often we see cults, secular organizations, even gangs take care of one another better than the church does. We may be hesitant to ask for help, feeling embarrassed or even prideful. But when we become aware of the need, we have an obligation and an opportunity to show our love.
II. WHEN WE SAY WE LOVE OUR BROTHER WE MUST BE READY TO SHOW OUR BROTHER WE LOVE HIM. Actions validate words. If we say we love someone, our willingness to show it gives our words credibility. Love in action illustrates love in theory. Loving words are completed in loving deeds.
III. SAYING WITHOUT SHOWING DEMONSTRATES WE ONLY KNOW HOW TO TALK. Anyone can say they love. Not everyone shows their love. When we show what we say, Christianity enjoys credibility. Jesus said the world will know we are disciples by our demonstration of love. Are you aware of the needs of the Christians around you? God’s children are to look for opportunities to take care of the family!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Treasure Store

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Do you remember as a child keeping your treasures in a safe place? My safe place was a cigar box hidden under my bed. Every day I would check my treasures to make sure they were safe. They were treasures to me because I loved them. I remember one painful day when my treasures were ransacked! I was absolutely devastated! When we lose something precious to us, we can turn to God. He is the real treasure we seek all of our lives. Sometimes the only way we realize that is to lose all that attaches itself to our hearts.

I. TREASURE IS THAT WHICH WE SEE VALUE IN. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, is how the old saying goes. Indeed some people throw away things they don't see value in. Some men save and cling to that which is wearing out, useless, and dated. Sadly, some of God’s people are treasuring the wrong treasure. They are hoarding up human things.
II. EARTHLY TREASURES ARE NOT ETERNAL. The beauty of the things of this world can certainly be alluring. But every material thing is a temporary thing. It will not endure eternity. Only the things of God are eternal.
III. HEAVENLY TREASURES ARE STORED WHILE ON EARTH. We won’t begin to store up treasures in heaven once we get to heaven. They are stored up in advance. Our actions of godliness and our obedient service to God on earth affect what we experience in eternity. They are the eternal rewards or benefits received when we serve God.
IV. WHEN OUR HEARTS CARE MORE FOR ETERNAL THINGS THAN WORLDLY GOODS, IT WILL BE ONLY AFTER OUR HEARTS ARE CHANGED. When our hearts are changed we will want what God wants. We will want to serve Him instead of serving ourselves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our Place Is His Place

When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5)

Having company during the holidays is often a time of anticipation. Sometimes it is eager anticipation. We are excited about someone’s visit and can hardly wait until they come. But sometimes it is anxious anticipation as the questions begin to surface. Are the accommodations satisfactory? Is the house clean enough? When the visitor arrives, we may say, “Make yourself at home. Our house is your house!” But as the old saying goes, “Houseguests and fish are a lot alike. After three days, they begin to stink up the place!” Is our home truly their home? Is our place really their place?
Have you ever felt like you were not good enough to be accepted? We can spend a lifetime trying to live down bad choices and sinful consequences. It seems like some people never let other people forget the low places they’ve passed through. Being ashamed of our place in life is a painful place to be. But the truth is that God is very familiar with where we are. He knows our place better than anyone else. And still He comes.
Whether you live in the mansion on the hill or the shack across the track, God knows your place. And He wants it to be His place. Our “place” in life is not just the house we live in. God is not impressed with what we are consumed by. He is concerned about our spiritual place in life. We can learn some lessons today from the encounter between a sinner and a Savior.

I. WHEN JESUS COMES TO OUR PLACE WE MUST DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARY TO SEE HIM. Zaccheus was in a desperate place. Not only was he up a tree, he was out on a limb. All of his people were watching this short man climb up to a new vantage point. He was desperate to see Jesus. Zaccheus was in a dangerous place. The greater danger was not being in the right place when Jesus was passing by. The danger today is that we remain in a place that is a safe, self-centered place and it is too insulated from danger and risk. Zaccheus was ready to risk it all.
II. WHEN JESUS COMES TO OUR PLACE HE IS LOOKING FOR THOSE WHO HAVE LOST THEIR PLACE. Zaccheus was a stranger among his own people. Hated and ostracized by most, he would have had very few people who cared about him. Then Jesus came. Jesus still looks for those on the outside…looking in, or those on the downside…looking up. He may be looking for you today. He is looking in your place.
III. WHEN JESUS COMES TO OUR PLACE, HE WILL INVITE HIMSELF INTO OUR HOUSE. Zaccheus did not issue an invitation... he only responded to one. Zaccheus did not initiate the personal contact...Jesus knew his name. Jesus speaks our name at some point to give us an invitation. Zaccheus' place became Jesus' place.
IV. WHEN JESUS COMES TO OUR PLACE, HE BRINGS JOY WITH HIM. When Zaccheus responded, he did it with joy! The joy came because Zaccheus realized he was important to God. The joy came after Zaccheus repented and changed his life direction. The joy came when Jesus came to stay. Jesus still brings joy to our place.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Running Man

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11-12)

I often see some people out running. It’s hard to know whether they are running toward something or away from something! Actually, they run because they are trying to improve their health. I was one of them until I damaged some vertebrae in my back. Some things are worth running toward. And some things we should run away from. God’s man is to know which we should flee from and which we should follow.
Have you ever seen someone caught in the trap that greed sets? Not too long ago, a pastor resigned under a cloud of suspicion of financial misconduct in a church nearby. In another instance, a financial secretary of a thriving business was charged with embezzlement. She happened to be a Sunday School teacher. These kinds of painful and embarrassing episodes are becoming more and more common in the Christian community. The love of money is a powerful lure. The attraction of material possessions is tempting to our human nature. That is why Paul counseled so strongly as to the method and means of escape from this snare. Run for your life!
Restoration after a financial scandal is difficult. Trust is breached and often can never be rebuilt in certain situations. But God can be glorified even in scandalous situations. In shameful and humiliating trials, God will hear the prayer of repentance.


I. GOD’S MAN IS TO RUN FROM FAITH-DEPLETING DESIRES. Loving money causes faith to wither. Loving money blinds us to temptation. Loving money will soon develop into a trust relationship. We will soon worship this god who is no god. Our Godly faith will be displaced with idolatry. The result is destruction and ruin. God’s man is admonished to turn and run away from that which lures him away from God.
II. GOD’S MAN IS TO RUN AFTER FAITH-BUILDING PRACTICES. The pursuit of God is the race worth running. While we pursue Him, we will find practicing a godly lifestyle begins to shape us into a godly person. Not that our works can produce righteousness, but we find that godly living has its own rewards. When we choose to demonstrate our faith, love, perseverance and gentleness by our actions we show the world a different way to live. Our biblical worldview bears more weight if we show we believe what we say we believe.
Are we running away from the love of money? Are we running toward God?


Monday, October 10, 2011

Like Minds Think Alike

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus...(Philippians 2:5)

I get a little frustrated when people change their mind, don’t you? I like to know what to expect. So when the plan gets changed, I can get a little anxious. I want to know why someone is changing their mind. I ask if there is a good reason. But sometimes changing our minds can be for the better. Spiritually, it can be far better.

The way we think can be our biggest hindrance in our Christian life. We can read our Bibles, go to our small group studies, attend our prayer meetings, and faithfully contribute our offerings to the church. But unless we begin to think differently, our lives will not be much different. The same old sinful struggles and painful trials will persist because we still think like humans and have not begun to think with the mind of Christ. Understanding that we cannot do enough of the right things to be righteous gives us hope. We hope because Christ wants to help. He wants to give us a change of mind. A changing of the mind changes our attitude.

I. CHRISTIAN SERVICE RELIES ON A CHRISTLIKE ATTITUDE. Being able to demonstrate Christian encouragement, loving comfort, spiritual fellowship, and tender mercy depends on our attitude. Without a Christlike attitude, Christian service is not Christian. It does not represent Christ or serves Christ, but serves self.
II. CHRISTLIKE ATTITUDE IS ONLY POSSIBLE WITH THE MIND OF CHRIST. Without a Christlike attitude, our mindset is self-centered because a fallen man thinks he is the center of the universe. The natural mind only thinks of the natural man. Spiritual service cannot be done with a natural mind.
III. A MIND LIKE CHRIST THINKS OF OTHERS FIRST. The spiritual mind is diametrically opposed to the natural way of thinking. To have the mind of Christ is to have the mind of a servant. Service begins in the mind. Service to others comes after we begin to think about others.
IV. WE CAN ONLY THINK OF OTHERS FIRST WHEN WE EMPTY OUR MINDS OF SELFISH THOUGHT. Christ emptied Himself of any thought of equality with God. And He was God. But He took on the mindset of servant. How much more should we, who are not God, be willing to empty ourselves of self-centered thinking? Only by the work of the Holy Spirit can we think godly thoughts and have godly attitudes.
Have you surrendered your mind to Christ? Have you submitted your thinking to Him? He wants your mind, your heart and your attitude to be like His.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Volunteer Growth

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground...(Isaiah 53:2)

A “volunteer” plant is one that grows in unexpected places. It can grow in a place that seems out of place. It defies any reasonable explanation for being where it is and no one can claim responsibility for its growth. No one can remember planting it. No one can say they watered it. It just seemed to be there one day. A dictionary’s definition of volunteer is “...one who does or gives of their own free will”. In other words, a volunteer is someone who chooses to give of themselves. In both senses of these meanings, Jesus was a true volunteer.
In a very painful time in my life, I was searching for my place. It seemed that I just didn’t fit in this world and wondered if I should even be here at all. I searched for meaning and purpose that was elusive. I felt like I didn’t fit in. In short, I felt like a loner. It is not a pleasant thing to feel alone. Even in a crowd, even with my family, I felt isolated. Sin is a great isolator. It divides and secludes and makes you think you have no purpose. If you are feeling alone today, there is no reason to suffer alone. Jesus comes to your loneliness with a message of love.
We can know we have a place with God. Jesus came to make sure that your life had a purpose. You were worth the price of His birth and His death. The scripture before us says that He came to a place that was out of place. Jesus was a volunteer plant. Sent from heaven to earth, born to die, and to break the bondage of sin. We no longer have to feel alone. We can belong to God.


I. VOLUNTEER GROWTH IS A SEED PLANTED IN UNTILLED SOIL. It can be airborne. A seed can be placed by a gentle wind or a violent storm. The seed can be carried by a bird or some other life form from one place to another. People can even unwittingly carry seeds themselves. Turbulent times in our lives can be opportunities for God’s love to be planted. We can be a witness of God’s love when we carry God’s love. Sometimes without realizing it, God’s love is shown and sown.
II. NO GROUND IS TOO INHOSPITABLE TO THE SEED OF THE GOSPEL. Even if the ground is very hard, seeds can penetrate the smallest crack. The ground can be very dry and the seed can be watered by the rains that fall. Life is hard and dry. But when the gospel seed is planted, tended by God, it will grow.
III. GOD’S WORD CAN GROW WHERE NO ONE EVER EXPECTED. It will be obvious and conspicuous. It will stand out and cause people to wonder. Our lives will testify about the “root out of parched ground”. Love can abound where none existed before. God’s word is our purpose that has been planted. God’s word banishes the misery of loneliness. God’s word puts an end to the waste of aimlessness.
Are you one of those whom God has planted? Then you have a story to tell.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Teamwork Is God's Work

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

I have heard it said that there are no “Lone Ranger” Christians. The reference is to the old TV show, “The Lone Ranger”. Interesting concept. The thinking is that we need one another in life’s journey. We need someone to help us along and I agree with that. But as I think about it, even the Lone Ranger was not alone. Aside from his horse named Silver, he had a faithful companion named Tonto. In many a skirmish, Tonto was there to encourage, assist, and fight side by side against any foe they encountered. We all need friends like Tonto. We all need someone Our scripture says, “…woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” I think the author is trying to say we will suffer trials and trouble when we have no one to help us. When we fall down in life’s many struggles, our pain can be so great that we get tired of getting up and just give up. I have been there. It is a painful place. We begin to think about whether the battles are worth fighting. We can sometimes wonder if the day before us is worth the getting out of bed.
Thank God that He does not let us remain fallen. He looked at the hopelessness of man’s isolation in the Garden and deemed that it was not good for man to be alone. He continued to look after the first couple’s sinful choice separated them from His presence and had a plan in place for their restoration. The fallen nature of man loves to be isolated. And sometimes after we are born again, we mistrust being around others. When you spend much of your life in spiritual isolation, being around other believers can be pretty scary. But God glorifies Himself in creating community. He will send us to others after He brings us to Himself. That’s His way. He wants us to be on His team.

I. IT TAKES MORE THAN ONE TO BE A TEAM. We were created for community, not isolation. A team can be “one” but “one” cannot be a team.
II. OUR TEAMMATES CAN BE OUR BEST ENCOURAGERS. There are advantages of partnership. Assistance when needed is a plus. Accountability in temptation is crucial.
III. A TEAM OF ONE IS A LOSING TEAM. We need “one another”. That’s why these two words are so often used in the Bible.
Unity is found at the end of community. We will not find unity apart from God and God’s people. We will not find victory in isolation.
Are you engaged with a community of believers? Our purpose is found being a part of God’s body. Someone may be waiting for you to help them get up.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Defeat On Display

When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (Colossians 2:15)

Who can forget that Sunday morning video of Saddam Hussein being examined by a doctor? The appearance of the former Iraqi leader seemed more like a homeless man than a powerful dictator. The capture of Hussein was seen as a military victory. But amazingly enough, some people were critical. They thought that the worldwide broadcast was too humiliating. They believed that Saddam Hussein should never have been subjected to this treatment. No matter what political side you come down on, I would agree with one thing. It was a humiliating moment. And for the United States Armed Forces, it was the humiliation of the enemy.
Have you ever been the target of the enemy during a spiritual battle? Our enemy, Satan, will use every means at his disposal, every weapon in his arsenal to discourage and demoralize us. He wants us to be ineffective in the battle. He is ruthless and uses people who are dear to us to wound us. He is merciless and will destroy us if he can. But the good news is that his power is limited.
Jesus said that we are blessed when men persecute us and revile us and insult us in His name. I take great comfort to know that even when I am severely tested under the withering fire of the enemy, God uses the heat of the battle to test us for His service. We are found useful to God when we are faithful in the fight. We have an enemy who is fighting a desperate war because he is defeated. Like the intermittent attacks of pockets of resistance in Iraq today, Satan is using much the same strategy. He seeks to discredit us for God’s service. But God has another idea.

I. HUMILIATING THE ENEMY IS PART OF WINNING THE WAR. At the cross, the enemy’s power was taken away. No more can sin enslave us. We are free of its power because of Christ’s payment on the cross.
II. PUBLIC DISPLAY OF THE ENEMY’S HELPLESSNESS IS DEMORALIZING TO HIM AND ENCOURAGING TO US. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. When Satan bows the knee, all the demons of hell will know their fate is sealed. That is encouraging to me.
III. A DISARMED ENEMY IS A DEFEATED ENEMY. Once an enemy is disarmed, his power to wage war is over. Sin’s defeat at the cross is the decisive victory in spiritual warfare. We are given the mind of Christ so every God-dishonoring thought may be taken captive. God is cleaning up the battlefield one skirmish at the time. Take heart and stay on the battlefield. The battle is the Lord’s!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spiritual Survival

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

I’ve been thinking of the next reality series I would like to see on TV. It would not need any of the exotic locations they seem to travel to. We could participate in it from our homes, workplaces and churches. It would not need any special situations that were created to cause conflict. It would showcase real life just as it really is. It is the ultimate reality. It would be called “Spiritual Survivor”. Like others in the “Survivor” series on TV, people who survive would focus on survival strategies and how to follow them.
In our spiritual journey, our goal is community with God. The end times are the most trying of times for our spiritual lives. We will find ourselves listening to teachings that will distract us from pursuing that goal. We find ourselves in a world of hurt just trying to survive with our faith intact. Are you one of those who has been deceived into believing that following Christ is an easy journey and disheartened to discover the reality? Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, giving some pointers about being a spiritual survivor. They still apply to us today.

I. TAKE A GOOD LOOK BEFORE YOU TOUCH. Examine the evidence of spiritual truth as it is presented to you. Treat it like a “CSI” (Crime Scene Investigator) would treat a crime scene. They wear gloves for a reason. Some things can contaminate, are highly contagious, and are very deadly. Not all spiritual doctrine is fit for human consumption.
II. GET A FIRM GRIP ON GOODNESS. A close examination will reveal what is good. We must make a choice between good and evil. There is a difference. Hold onto that which will give life. Goodness gives life because it is of God. We can only know good when we know God. Sometimes who you know can save your life. Knowing God and being intimately acquainted with His character is critical for spiritual survival.
III. DISCERN AND DEPART FROM EVIL. Evil can be very deceptive and always deadly. Discerning it requires knowledge of how and where evil may be manifested. It requires frequent tests of our environment like the testing for mold spores. When mold spores are present, extreme removal from its influence and renovation must occur. We must not stay in an evil environment, hoping it will get better. We cannot negotiate with it or change its nature. We must abstain, not participate in it.
Are you a spiritual survivor? These days are the most crucial days in human history.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Right Call

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)

Have you ever called the wrong person for counsel? Possibly someone you thought you could trust? Someone older or wiser or more experienced can even give us the wrong answers at the right time. The right time is when we are most vulnerable. You might regret making the wrong call about some issues of life today. And you might be paying a very heavy price for some very bad advice.
In the midst of the wreckage that unwise decisions can bring, wisdom is available. God can bring a new perspective on an old perplexing problem. Even if you have been scammed by someone you trusted, God can bring hope to a bad situation. Even while Jeremiah was in prison, perhaps beginning to question the wisdom of trusting in God, the word of the Lord came to him.

I. WHEN WE CALL TO GOD, WE MAKE THE RIGHT CALL. Decisions are based on information or intuition. When we have the best information, we can make good decisions. We can get our information from credible sources but they may not be infallible. We can trust information from our friends, who may or may not be reliable. Experience is often the basis for decision making. Sometimes we base our decisions on feelings, urges, or our best thinking. But when we call on God, there is no better source. He has never been wrong. He is always right. Calling on Him is the right call.
II. WHEN WE CALL TO GOD, HE WILL ANSWER. He promises to answer. Often we don’t wait long enough to see it. He may be waiting to answer...but He will answer. We can trust that He will. God returns His calls! The answer may come in a form we are not looking for. God can speak through prayer, the word, other believers, and circumstances. Often people pray for an audible voice from on high. In most cases, God often uses other ways to confirm His answer that we may get from our own inner promptings. Don’t depend totally on a direction or an answer that just feels right. Call on Him, and He will answer you!
III. WHEN WE CALL TO GOD, WE CAN FIND WISDOM. We can receive answers to questions we haven’t even thought to ask. Great things, mighty things are available to us. It’s like being in possession of treasured and valuable information. He's the right Counselor. Go ahead. Make that call.

Monday, October 3, 2011

War of Words

So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. (Acts 19:20)

Presidential debates are used as a public display of the presentation of ideas. A war of words, so to speak. As the candidates speak out about what they believe to be the best ideas and solutions for troubled times, we often yawn to ourselves and think that it sure would be nice to hear something new for a change. Something life-changing for a change. Some good news about these times.
Have you ever trusted in someone’s ideas only to be disappointed or even felt betrayed in the end? Some ideas that sounded good actually have proven to be bogus. The pain that folks suffer for choosing the wrong belief system to guide their lives can be pretty intense. If you’ve ever been caught up in the spirit of religious tradition, you know that some ideas are not equally conducive to a spirit of godly worship. Some will say that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. It really does matter.
In the Book of Acts, Ephesus was a center for the arena of ideas. It was also a mecca for idol worship and the industry that supported it. You could believe almost anything you wanted to and even make up a god that represented your belief. In that environment, the Spirit of God proved Himself to be the one true God. He’s still doing that today in the debate of ideas. In a culture of idolatry.


I. THE WORD OF THE LORD GROWS IN HOSTILE ENVIRONMENTS. God is not threatened by demonic influence, sorcery or public opinion. He defends His name and the integrity of His word even when we don’t defend it well. His word is truth anywhere and everywhere. The good news of Jesus Christ is designed for the worst of neighborhoods.
II. THE WORD OF THE LORD GROWS IN STRENGTH WHEN OPPOSED TO STRONG OPPOSITION. God will apply the necessary force to overcome. Whatever it takes to proclaim His truth will be implemented. God has used animals to speak truth and Jesus promised that rocks would cry out to proclaim His joy. Spiritual warfare is the ultimate conflict. The issue is authority. And God is ultimate authority. Rebellion to His word will be vanquished. No matter how the enemy resistance chooses to mount the defense, God is in the business of demolishing enemy strongholds.
III. THE WORD OF THE LORD GROWS EFFECTIVELY WHEN CONVICTION IS FOLLOWED BY OBEDIENCE. Conviction is when the Holy Spirit brings the truth to our hearts. The word of God prevails when we choose to accept it and repent of our sin. God is in the business of changing our hearts. The account in Ephesus is recorded for us to show how men’s hearts are changed to serve the One True God. All other attachments to other gods must be discarded. When we obey God’s word, He prevails.
Do we need to throw away some of our “little gods” or godless ideas?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Self Denial

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

To “deny” something means to contradict, disavow, reject, disown, or abstain. So to deny myself I must act in ways that contradict my natural desires. I must disavow myself, lay down my own agendas, disown my own ambitions, and abstain or not vote “my way” anymore. This is a tall order for most of us who would be disciples. It goes against our natural impulses. It is an upside down way to our way of seeing ourself. In my haste and zeal of winning people to Christ, I find that I sometimes have failed in fostering an understanding of what this passage really means. I have endeavored to teach people to love God and live for God without teaching them how to die for Him. It is painful to watch a disciple walk away from Christ when life gets a little too tough to endure. This is where the discipline of self-denial becomes the hardest to practice. And it’s also a time when we learn that DENYING SELF MEANS DYING TO SELF.

I. DENYING SELF IS A TRADE OFF OF DESIRES. Consider a child wanting to follow a parent. They may have to put their shoes on or be instructed not to take their favorite dolly. The child has some preparation to make and something they cannot take. So it is with a desire to follow Jesus…there is preparation involved…a commitment to follow. And there is also something not to take – self. If we desire to follow…we will deny our self-centered desires. Is our desire to follow Jesus stronger than our desire to “go our own way?”, “to be our own boss”, or “to have it your way”? I once saw a hat that said, “Don't follow me…I’m lost!” The reason we desire to come after Jesus is He is not lost…but without Him we realize that we are. He not only knows the way…He is the way. Trading our desires is like the plight of the addict who will not recover until he desires a different way of living. Until the desire to love sobriety is greater than the desire for drunkenness, he will not change. We are addicted to serve self rather than God. We are addicted to sin. Do we desire His way more than our way? Like an addict, we must love the alternative more than we want to remain as we are to be able to recover.
II. DENYING SELF IS ACCEPTING GOD’S DESIRES IN PLACE OF OUR OWN. What are God’s desires? What does He want? “Not my will, but Your will,” was Jesus’ prayer. Can it be ours? God’s desires are always good, even when it looks bad. What does God desire? According to an Old Testament prophet, this is a valid question. God’s desire is that we love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly before him. Self does not want to act justly. Self does not love mercy or show kindness unless self is to be gratified. Self is always on parade with a “look at me” attitude, void of humility. So what does it mean to deny self? To act as Jesus acts. If we would come after Jesus, we will deny self. There is no one on parade when we follow Jesus but Jesus and those who follow Him.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mission Accomplished

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:30)

I often have a problem finishing what I start. It depresses me to see how much unfinished business I have been involved in. Contrast my depression to the joy of one of my granddaughters. She exclaims, “I did it!” to convey her joy after she has finished an assignment. It expresses the joy of a mission accomplished. When it comes to God, we can rest assured that He finishes what He starts. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, He was saying “Mission accomplished.” “I did it!”
Sometimes we become bogged down with so many unfinished projects we don’t know where to focus our time. And the thing that matters is left undone. God sent His son, God the Son, on the most important mission in human history. On the cross, Jesus declared that the mission was accomplished. To accomplish the mission, one must know several things.

I. THE MISSION IS CLEAR. A clear understanding of the nature of the mission is crucial. We must know the objective. We must know when it is over. Jesus knew He was the perfect sacrifice that was offered for sin. Jesus knew when the price for our ransom had been paid. He knew when it was finished. Do we understand this today? Or are we still trying to add to the price of our salvation?
II. THE MISSION IS COSTLY. The cost of the mission must be counted. Did Jesus ever wonder if the goal of the mission, the release of the captives, was worthy of the price to be paid? Do we often consider our great worth to God?
III. THE MISSION HAS BEEN PREPARED FOR. From the foundation of the world, God determined that in the proper time and place a Savior would come. Timing is everything in a hostage rescue mission. The time for our redemption has come and is coming. In God’s preparation it was determined that there was no easier way. But often we still look for another way to save ourselves; perhaps it is because we cannot submit and surrender our lives to the One who paid the price.
IV. THE MISSION HAS BEEN PAID FOR. The cost has been borne by the Mission Planner. We do not have the resources to pay the ransom. Only God had the resources to accomplish the mission. And He fully funded the mission with the precious blood of Jesus.
IV. THE MISSION MUST BE COMPLETED. The One on mission must have been willing to endure the hardship and suffer for the outcome. The One on mission must be willing to pay the ultimate price. The question becomes, if we are on mission with Christ, are we willing to trade our lives for His?
V. THE MISSION MATTERS MOST TO THE MASTER. The mission mattered to God. And it still does. Does the mission matter to me? Has my life been changed to know that I matter to God? Has Jesus finished His work in you? Are there areas of your life that He is waiting for you to release to Him? Do you want to know the joy that Jesus knows when a mission is accomplished? The joy surpasses the cross. Hebrews 12:2 says “... looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We can now tell the story of our rescue. We have been bought and paid for. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Well Built Home

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a curious thing. For many years it has been the object of curiosity and even admiration. One writer said that it continues to be a place where people come to celebrate something built crooked. According to engineers the degree of being out of plumb is increasing. It will never right itself and one day will fall. The problem lies in its foundation.
The way we build our lives can result in visible crookedness. The pain that comes from crooked living does not give us cause to celebrate, although it may become a spectacle! The problem with crooked living is that somewhere our lives are built on the wrong foundation or we became detached from the right one.
When we come to the determination that our life is off center, we must have come to the realization that there can be only one standard of measure. God measures our lives like someone holding up a plumb line. He is the true standard of measure for right living. A beautiful life is one that has been rebuilt on a more secure and solid foundation. A rebuilt life glorifies God.

I. THE ROCK IS THE FOUNDATION. Building on rock is the most secure method of construction. It keeps our house from shifting, sinking or settling. God’s principles for right living is our solid foundation. Submission to His authority stabilizes our home.

II. THE ROCK IS GOD’S AUTHORITY. God’s authority is solid, stable, and immovable. It is unchanging, unlike sand that shifts when floodwaters come. His authority is universal and beyond this world. We can build upon His authority. His teaching is the “building code” for building successful lives.

III. OBEDIENCE TO GOD BUILDS OUR HOUSE. It is our contribution to fasten our house to the foundation. It takes time to do this and we must be intentional. When we hear His word and fail to obey, we build on an inferior foundation. Building on sand is foolish. The house will not survive the storms of life. Even when we build a “good house”, doing good things, unless we are grounded into the foundation, we will “slip-slide” away. Our lives are only as safe as hearing God’s word and applying it. We take risks when we take shortcuts. Foolish builders skip steps, building unstable lives.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Little Things Mean A Lot

For who has despised the day of small things? (Zechariah 4:10)

My wife’s numerous bouts with kidney stones have given me a fresh understanding of small things. A kidney stone is impossible to ignore until it goes away. At least it was in her case. It was amazing to watch how her whole body focused so intently on that tiny little thing. Very little comfort was found between waves of nausea and extreme back pain. That little thing became a large focal point in her life and the lives of others around her.
Have you ever been made to feel as though your contribution to life didn’t matter? Those of us who have experienced being belittled by our siblings or snubbed at school by the “in crowd” know the pain of feeling small. An elderly lady once told me that people had made her feel small in their dealings with her. They made her feel too old to do important things any more. Her perception was that she was given menial things to do so she could still feel that she had some value. She came to despise these “small things” because she felt that she was insignificant. Feelings of insignificance seem to follow us throughout our whole lives. When we begin to believe that we really don’t matter, it is very painful.
No matter what others may say, no matter how they act toward us, our value to God is measured in drops of blood at the foot of a Roman cross outside the city limits of Jerusalem almost 20 centuries ago. Insignificance is a lie. God’s barter system says so. The ransom price for me that says I matter has been paid in full. You and I matter to God. And that’s what really matters! God is a God of the small thing. He said that if we are faithful in small things, we will be given opportunities to be faithful in the large.

I. SMALL STEPS ARE LITTLE THINGS. Children who are exceptions will walk before they crawl. Usually, it’s the other way around. But no one runs before they can walk. They begin to walk with small steps. It is important that we learn to walk with God before we can run with Him.
II. SMALL THINGS ARE BASIC THINGS. The first things we learn about living are basic things. What to touch and what not to touch, where to go and where to stay away from. These are basic to survival. Basic obedience to God is basic training for life.
III. GOD CAN USE SMALL THINGS TO DO GREAT WORK. Little is much when God is in it, so one old song says. Little people, inhabited by God, have the potential of greatness. Our spiritual work is begun by God. And He will complete it. One step at a time in our walk with Him.
Don’t despise the day of small things. Don’t think less of your service to God than He does. He thinks we matter. Learn to appreciate the small things that matter to a great God. There are no little people in the kingdom of God. Can you remember a time when God took something small in your life and magnified it to His glory? Someone around you may be feeling pretty small today and needs to hear that story.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Name Dropping

And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15)

Have you ever been a “name dropper”? Sometimes people claim a personal relationship with a powerful person they've never even met. We want to be connected with power.
We can suffer great damage being a spiritual name dropper. Many today claim to be “Christian” with no visible difference in their lives than the ones who make no such claim. They suffer the results of sinful lifestyles, knowing nothing of Christ’s prohibitions and principles of Christlike living. They don’t even know what they believe. Sadly, some of these are in the church. Some are church leaders. And the painful trials persist and prevail.
God was about doing His work in the first century church. Many were going around, casting out devils in the spiritual realm. In our passage, the question is posed by the demonic entity to those who were using the name of Jesus without knowing Jesus. The results were devastating. God was glorified.
I. USING THE NAME OF JESUS WITHOUT KNOWING HIM IS POWERLESS. The power of the name is given to those who identify with Jesus. Peter and John were told not to use the name of Jesus. But it was evident to all that the power they possessed was because they had been “with Jesus”.
II. USING THE NAME OF JESUS WITHOUT KNOWING HIM IS DANGEROUS. The spiritual world recognizes spiritual power. And they know when they don’t see it. Engaging spiritual enemies without spiritual weapons is not only foolish, it is dangerous. We are no match for spiritual warfare with the enemy without the Spirit of God. We only receive the Holy Spirit through a personal encounter with Jesus. God will not be conjured up at the whim of people who don't know him. He is not a subservient god.
III. USING THE NAME OF JESUS WITHOUT KNOWING HIM IS HOPELESS. There is no hope for people who are without hope. People without Jesus are without hope. We are defeated and despairing at the hands of a merciless enemy.
IV. USING THE NAME OF JESUS IS SOMETHING THE PEOPLE OF GOD SHOULD TAKE VERY SERIOUSLY. His name is holy and never to be used in vain. There is power in the name of Jesus and its power is not to be used for personal gain or self exaltation. God will judge us as to how we ministered in His name.
V. WE ARE NO ONE WITHOUT A NAME. Our identity is fragile and insignificant without a name. No matter what shame is attached to our name, when we are born again into God's kingdom, we are given a new family name. And we can do all things through Christ. What a name. The name above all names!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blessing A Barren Life

Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. (Isaiah 54:2)

I often tell folks that one of my goals in life is to move all of my belongings in the back of a pick up truck in not only one afternoon, but all in one load! My wife says I'm living in a dream world. I tend to agree. Even after our last move into a more spacious house, it seems that our space is filled to capacity. If we keep growing, we'll have to move again. So maybe we can squeeze in a little more. I'm not ready for the change.
There are people around us everyday that have struggled for many years to find meaning in their lives. Their pursuit has not always been fruitful and painful trials along the way have been their lot. Sometimes it seems that their whole lives have been spent in a wasteland. A life of barrenness, absent of life and empty of blessing.
In times of barrenness, God may be preparing us to handle His blessings. Our text talks of times of change for Israel. Sometimes they would pray for a change in their situation and had trouble handling the change when it came. So do we. But God is a God of change. He wants His people to prepare for it.

I. WHEN GOD BLESSES A BARREN LIFE, LIVING ROOMS MUST BE LARGER. The spiritual house must be bigger because of the larger presence of the Spirit of God. Life with God is not just another activity on our agendas. Life with God should be the focal point of living. Larger rooms are needed for abundant living!!!
II. WHEN GOD BLESSES A BARREN LIFE, LIVES ARE STRETCHED OUT OF SHAPE. Like a comfortable piece of clothing that fits our shape, our life will be stretched beyond our capacity for comfort. It will take on a new shape, different from the one that has fit us for so long. A new way of thinking will challenge us to change. A blessed life is all about adapting to change. We will be stretched to trust God.
III. WHEN GOD BLESSES A BARREN LIFE, LIFELINES MUST BE LENGTHENED. Our connection to God must not be broken in the process of stretching. It must take on a deeper dimension. Our prayer life must be expanded to a continuous conversation with the One who sustains us. We learn to pray at all times.
IV. WHEN GOD BLESSES A BARREN LIFE, FOUNDATIONS MUST BE FIRMLY FIXED. Through it all, our foundation must be revisited and secured. Our tent pegs must be tightened. Our roots should grow deeper into the source of our strength. We drive our stakes deeper and more securely as we spend intimate time with God in His word. We are subject to take God for granted in times of blessing. Our gratitude to God for blessing our barrenness should be our first step of strengthening for the next wind that blows through our lives. Surviving the storms give us a story to tell.