Monthly Archives: May 2017

Too Much to Do?

Isaiah 50:4, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary…”

Christ came to be a voice to the weary. He came to teach the ways of His Father. He came that we might have life. And when He left, He told us He was sending a helper, the Holy Spirit, to live within us (John 14:16).

Do you experience the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to deal with that difficult person at work; the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to handle the foreclosure; the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to handle the sickness;  the ‘KNOW HOW’ to handle the troubled teenager;  the KNOW-HOW to say what needs to be said? If you have a relationship with Christ and have welcomed the Holy Spirit into your life, you have access to it. In fact, it is in you. God has given us a well-instructed tongue so we can speak to the weary in spirit, witness to the non believer, and encourage the broken. When we face hard-times, feel depressed, and all around us seems chaotic, God has given us the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to make it through.

Isaiah 50:4, “…He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed (taught).”

Have you ever thought, “God awakened me!”? It has happened to me numerous times, where I felt with certainty God awakened me for a particular reason.  In fact, this morning at 5 am it happened.  I should have been exhausted but was wide awake an hour early for no reason…or perhaps for a reason.  Whether it was to pray for someone, read a Scripture, listen to His Voice, prepare for a situation I will face, or simply to rest in His presence, I knew He was there…and speaking.  Isaiah is telling us, God wakes us up every morning to instruct us of our day -to tell us how to deal with this or that.

How many of us miss that? He is giving us the ‘KNOW-HOW’ so we can come against any obstacle in our path. How many of us jump out of bed and start running full bore never preparing for our day? How many of us miss out on our instructions and walk blindly through the day? The old adage is “around like a chicken with its head cut-off.” Perhaps that describes how we jump into our day when we could have learned from God what was coming and how to deal with it.

If you want the ‘KNOW-HOW,’ make God your first uninterrupted appointment every morning. If it means less sleep, so be it. Don’t miss out on God’s instruction to you. It is His promise to us when we listen to Him. As the great reformer Martin Luther put, “I have too much to do today not to pray.”


Days to Regroup

Genesis 2:3, “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.”

As a boy, Sundays were different days in my life. The grocery stores were closed. Few restaurants were open. The Ace Hardware – closed. The one movie theatre we had would never be opened on Sunday. No, Sundays were spent at church; home for Sunday lunch; visiting with neighbors; back to church for Sunday night services; a little homework; and to bed. When I was a boy, I loved Sundays, especially if neighbors didn’t come over; then, Dad and I could go fishing in between church services.

God intended for our Sundays to be different; to be days we regroup, reconnect, and refocus. He blessed the seventh day and asked us to keep it Holy.

For many of us, Sunday is just a day. If put it on a schedule, it would look no different from any other day of the week – but it is different. Lately, I have felt in my heart God’s urgency to look at Sunday. How are we spending the time He deemed Holy?

I understand that many of us work on Sunday. It is my job to preach at the church I serve. But I can still make the day Holy. My dad did and still does. God knew what life was all about before He created us. In His wisdom, He knew that we needed a day to recharge, restart, and revive.

What does your Sunday look like? I challenge you to make it Holy. Sit down with your family or spouse or friends, whatever applies in your life, and determine that Sunday will be different; it will look different; it will feel different. Designate the day to honor and glorify God.


All Your Requests

Psalm 20: “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May He remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

Now this I know:     The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king!  Answer us when we call!

Anxiety hits all of us at some point in our lives. Some of us have learned to handle it better than others. God does not want us to be anxious about anything. When we find ourselves in distress, Psalm 20 can bring us the comfort we need. I used to have a friend who carried this Psalm around in his wallet. I often saw him pull it out before football games. The greatest part of this scripture is found in verse 7.

Some of us trust our cars more than God. Some of us trust our jobs more than God. Some of us trust our homes, our education, our friends, our looks or our money. We are putting our faith in the wrong things. None of those things can save you!

God tells us the way to attack anxiety is to trust in the name of the Lord our God. It is that simple.

Today, reflect on Psalm 20. Outwardly speak the words of affirmations – “I do not trust in chariots or horses…NO! I trust in the name of the Lord my God.” Try it the next time you feel worried. See what a difference it can make.


He Goes Ahead of You

John 10:1-4, “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

This morning as I type this devotion to you, I’m thinking of the words, “he goes on ahead of them…” I know God is an intricate part of my day. I ask Him to control who I meet with each day. I ask Him to help me as I speak to others and put the words He wants to come from my mouth. I pray for His guidance in decision-making and His ability to love others unconditionally; but today I’m focused on that particular group of words. “He goes on ahead of them…”

Isn’t it a comfortable feeling to know someone is blazing the trail for you? The feeling that there is someone up ahead taking in the issues; covering the difficult parts; preparing the way? The reality of it all is most of us really don’t believe that. After our prayer time, some of us shower, get the kids to school, walk the dog, maybe jump on the treadmill or go to the gym. We start our work days with coffee and fruit. We open emails and answer texts and somewhere about mid-morning we have totally forgotten Who is making our path. We’ve forgotten because we are making our own. Does that describe you?

I remember hiking with my children, and we came up to a cave. My daughter grabbed my hand and whispered, “Daddy, you go first.” She wanted to know everything was OK inside that cave. If I went first, she would follow because I would never lead her into harms way. If something bad happened, she knew I’d get her out of there. My daughter knows, I’d kill a tiger with my bare hands for her. That’s how God is for us – only so much more. And when we take control of our day; when we pass Him on the trail; we open ourselves up for trouble.

Today, put the machete away. The trail you’re cutting is going nowhere. Stop trying to make your own way and let God lead. Use God’s GPS for a change.


The Beginning of Knowledge

Proverbs 1:7 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The Hebrew word for fool in this context, and in other places in the Old Testament, is a word which means morally defiant. The fool Solomon describes here is very much like a snake, deaf and unable to charm. Until the fool is willing to know God, he despises Godly instruction.

According to the psalmist in Psalm 58, unredeemed people are seen as wicked in the eyes of God, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies. Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer however skillful the enchanter may be.”

Some of the psalmist’s words are hard to understand. The important part to remember is, when David wrote these words, he is asking God to punish the wicked; he is not asking God to allow him to punish them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, anti-Nazi, and one of the greatest martyrs for Jesus Christ wrote a small book called Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. Bonhoeffer lived his life according to the richness of the Book of Psalm. He understood from his prison cell in Nazi Germany what it was like to be tormented by the wicked. He felt the depth of evil, as David is describing in Psalm 58. He knew well of the existence of the ungodly.

Many times in the Book of Psalm, the authors cry out to God to punish the wicked; to declare judgment upon them: “The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.” The words are very sobering when we consider our God to be of love and light. David meant here simply the wicked will die and the righteous will not.

So what do we do with Psalm 58 and others like it? First, the important words to remember are, David was asking God to handle those who harmed him. It is no different from what we pray when we turn people over to God; those who sin against us or are cruel to us; those we believe are unjust and unfair. We lay them at the foot of the cross; we place them in the hands of God. It is not for us to handle but for God to handle in His time.

Secondly, we were all wicked before the redemption of Christ; before we were reborn in Him. Whether we want to accept such a thought or not, until we drenched the blood covering protection of Jesus Christ over us, we were/are considered lost among the wicked. That is why the battle for souls is so important to God and so important to Satan. Every soul counts.

Because Jesus was human on earth, He understands what it feels like to be treated cruelly and unjustly at the hands of mean and hateful people. The Psalms are the prayers and cries of human beings to God; humans in desperate situations; humans who believe in a God who protects and defends them against evil.

Bonhoeffer writes, “It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne every human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God, and who stands in our place and prays for us.” Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, page 20-21.

Most of us will not experience the depth of evilness as David, Bonhoeffer, and many others tortured for their beliefs; but, some of us understand what it is like to face unfairness, hateful people, and cruelty. Some of us know the deep emotions of betrayal and heartache at the hands of another. As David, we must turn those feelings over to God to handle. Only He can punish fairly. He is the only just Judge.

Today, as you pray, ask God to help you find peace with your enemies. Put them in the hands of God. Let Him deal with them. Remember who stands in your place and prays for you.


And Does Not Hate?

Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” 

When I first read this scripture, probably 40 years ago in Sunday School, my first thought was, “Luke must’ve gotten it wrong! Jesus didn’t say that!” How can the Son of God, who commands us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), who tells us the greatest of all commandments is to love one another (Matthew 22:37-39), who tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), say such a thing? You mean I have to hate my dad and mom? My sister? Hate myself?

As I’ve grown older and a little wiser, I have learned what Jesus was describing, what He expected from disciples; and it is no easy walk. Love to Christ is absolute. The definition of absolute according to Merriam-Webster reads, “A value or principle regarded as universally valid or viewed without relation to other things.” If you think of it in terms of absolutes and opposites, love for Him is absolute, and therefore every other love in comparison is hatred. Our love for HIm is to be absolute.  When it is, no other love even comes close in comparison – not love for a person, a car, a pet, a career, a hobby, a home; nothing should compare. The love we have for our wife or husband, our children, our parents, and our siblings is secondary when ranked next to what He expects from us if we are His disciples.

Like most things, it is easier for us to think of victory, Christ resurrected. I remember reading to my children the scriptures regarding the Cross and the crucifixion. One of them yelled out, “Daddy, just get to the resurrection!” Aren’t we all a little like that? The crucifixion is messy. It is horrific and grueling. It turns our stomach. The pain He endured is incomprehensible. We just want to get to the part that saves us. The part that tells us we are going to Heaven. The part where Christ wins! Just skip the other, particularly when it tells me I have to be totally sold out, absolutely in love with Christ.

Christ longs for us to understand the requirements of being a disciple.  That is why He clearly articulates the need for absolute love for Christ.  “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Hold on, I have to carry a cross?  Yep.  And part of that cross is placing Christ on the throne of our hearts, making Him such a priority that everything else pales into insignificance.

It is a higher calling to be a disciple of Christ, a calling that requires suffering at times; a calling that requires disobedience to acts of government that go against the teachings of God. A sold out heart worships God, “Lion’s den or no lion’s den,” to summarize Daniel’s words. Saying “no” to political correctness; to peer pressure; to cultural acts contrary to God’s law. How would you respond if you were outside the safety of the United States. We read and study the word, worship and praise God, and walk safely in the assurance of religious freedom; but would we seek Him fervently in China? In Iran? In areas of the world where worshipping God is a death sentence? Are we praying for God to bring peace and prosperity to our nation, to our world, while refusing to allow God to bring it through us? Are we the disciples Christ has called us to be?

If you take the word Christian and remove the letters CHRIST, you are left with IAN – an acronym for I AM NOTHING. Without Christ, we are nothing, simply beings, living and breathing the goodness of God with no regard for Him.

Christian discipleship is about walking with Jesus; carrying the cross you are asked to bear; loving one another; and being committed wholeheartedly to Him.


Blessed

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

This scripture is the first of the beatitudes and comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus makes nine statements regarding “who is blessed.” The word Beatitudes comes from the Latin word “beatus” meaning, “blessed” or “happy.”

What does Jesus mean when He tells us “poor in spirit?” If you substitute the word “humble” for “poor,” you’ll understand. Simply put, Jesus is telling us to be humble in our spirits by realizing our dependence on Him. We must acknowledge our own sin; our emptiness; our poverty. We cannot be proud in our hearts, thinking we do not need God. Humbleness starts with the recognition that we cannot exist without God and He is the Commander of our lives.  When we are humble before God, it creates a bond that cannot be broken; a relationship that gives us the life God wants for us.

Arrogance does not exist in a person who is “poor in spirit.” Arrogance over-rides God and puts Him as a secondary source of strength and puts one’s self as a primary source.

How do you become “poor in spirit?”

1. God’s standards cannot be reached by you and me. We need Jesus.

2. Full and total repentance. Our sins lead to death; our dependence on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, leads us to life eternal. There is NO other way.

3. Acknowledgement of our spiritual worthlessness without God. We are nothing without Him. We can do nothing without Him.

4. You cannot save yourself. Only Christ can give you salvation.

Who in the Bible had this attitude?

1. Gideon: Judges 6:15,  “‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.'”

2. Peter: Luke 5:8, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’”

3. Jesus: John 5:30, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

The best explanation is summed up in Ephesians 2:7-9, “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”