Friday, March 30, 2012

Confidence in God-3/30/2012 (rp)

"I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." Ps 16:8

This scripture is regarded by many as a prophecy of the trials endured by Christ. Embedded within these words can be seen the very confidence of Jesus in the Father. Surely this is an example for us.

First, we must make God and His will and way for our lives an absolute priority. Once we have been called from the darkness into the glorious light, we owe it to Him and to ourselves to live by every word that proceeds from His mouth. We must avoid giving lip service to our calling, but ensure that we live it every day.

We must then realize that He is always with us. There is no place that God is not, nothing that He does not know and nothing that he cannot do. Only He is deserving of our full faith and trust. Again, it is important to know this on every level of our existence. Only then can we live in a way that is pleasing and acceptable to Him.

Finally beloved, living in a godly manner that is indicative of our faith in Him will give us the absolute confidence to do what He requires of us. Surely there are many things that fit this bill, but they can all be categorized as loving Him with everything we have and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Jesus lived his life this way. Let us follow his lead.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Do the Word-DD 3/28/2012 (rp)

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22

Undoubtedly, we as Christians attend bible studies and worship services where the word of God is taught and preached. It is hoped that the man of God in particular and all of those who have taken on the responsibility to expound upon the scriptures and teach sound doctrine, do so after taking a great deal of time in prayer and study in order to act as the oracles of God. Surely they are messengers of the Almighty and the messages they deliver are gifts from Him who made us.

As with any gift, it is only as effective as the receiver’s value of and use of it. This in no way expresses the absolute and immeasurable value of God’s word, however, what is the effect of a cure to the afflicted who will not avail themselves of it?

Beloved, we must not just attend classes and worship for the purposes of fulfilling some requirement or to be entertained. We must live by the very word of God, Matt 4:4. God has given us our marching orders. We must carry them out to the letter in order to be found within his will. The word of God is living and active. Its power is seen, felt and experienced when we carry out His word in all that we say, do and think.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A God Who Feels-3/27/2012 (rp)

"The sons of Israel said to the Lord, "We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day." So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord; and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer." Judg 10:15-16

The people of Israel found themselves outside the will of God. They forsook His ways and began to serve other gods. To compound their problems their old enemies the Philistines and Ammonites pursued them in war. It was at this time that they cried out to God to save them. Interestingly enough, God was very irritated with the people and invited them to seek assistance from their new gods.

Beloved, it happens far too often that we repeat this mistake. We turn away from the Lord, find ourselves in trouble and come running back to Him to bail us out. It is difficult for us to imagine being refused by God once we have repented. As it would happen, forgiveness and help is available from Him. Our Creator loves us passionately. Despite the long list of human failings, He has always made a way back to Himself for us when we have rebelled. And He has always accepted us when we returned.

It turns out that we serve a God who feels. As a doting parent, He is moved with compassion by our suffering, pain and plights. He comes to our aid and He continues to love us. This is not a license to rebel, but a reason to stay at home.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, March 23, 2012

Famous for Faith-3/23/2012

"you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth," 1 Thess 1:7-8~

What would it be like for us as individuals or a congregation to be known for our faith? What would it be like to have others send emissaries to inquire as to our great love for the Lord, the work it generates and the the results it achieves? The church at Thessalonica was a congregation of whom this was true. They were known throughout the land and were imitated.

Beloved, we have the same ability today. It could easily be argued that it is even more needful for us to exemplify these qualities than it was for them. This requires no special skill or talent, but simply love. When we love the Lord and live for him, amazing things happen. People will line up to be amazed. Let us endeavor to let our light shine before others that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven, Matt 5:16.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Limited Patience of God-3/22/2012

"Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice," 1 Kings 11:9

Most everyone knows that Solomon was the wisest man to ever live. We know that God found favor with him in no small part due to his father David who himself was a man after His own heart. God blessed him with unsurpassed wisdom, fabulous wealth, tremendous fame, amazing power and many of the desires of his heart. We also know that Solomon displayed a complete lack of wisdom by going against the commands of God and becoming involved with 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of whom were from forbidden nations. He was led to the worship of other gods and forsook Yahweh. Despite this, God visited him multiple times to get him back on the right path to no avail. This is the very definition of a tragedy.

Beloved, the question each of us must answer within his or her own heart is how many times must God appeal to us to maintain obedience to Him? Though certainly not on the same scale, God has blessed us with wisdom, wealth, fame and power. He has given generously from his vast storehouse of blessings, yet we at times allow those very blessings to corrupt us, forgetting He who is the source. He appears to us through the movement of his Holy Spirit within us. He appears to us through His word whether preached or read. He appears to us through circumstances, all designed to focus our attention on Him and the even greater blessings He has promised.

It is indeed a tragedy on the scale of the "Rich Young Ruler" who walked away from the riches of heaven in favor of earthly riches, when we take our eyes of of God and become disobedient. Sin is a slippery slope. Once the slide begins, it is difficult to stop. Even now, God is appearing to you and I to stop the slide that may have already begun. Nothing good exists at the bottom of such a hill.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An Offer You Cannot Refuse-3/21/2012

“'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the LORD. 'Though your sins are as scarlet,they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool. If you consent and obey,you will eat the best of the land;'"
Isa 1:18-19

There is nothing simpler than the "if/then" proposition. God instructed the prophet Isaiah to inform the people of Israel of His discontent with their behavior. God had given them everything and had made them a chosen people. Despite this, they continued to rebel through idolatry, vain worship and immoral living. The utter nonsensical nature of this is made unmistakably clear when he says, "The ox knows its master, the donkey its owners manger but Israel does not know, my people do not understand" (1:3). Despite all of this, God condescends to appeal to their simple logic. He offers them a deal based on obedience.

Beloved, God is still offering that same deal. The majority of the Bible is talking to or about those who believe. As Israel once held the sole designation of God's people, now it is all who call upon the name of Christ. Doing so, however, does not exempt one from the same bad decisions and misbehavior of our progenitors. In fact, because of the freedom we experience in Christ, the argument could be made that we are more likely to be out of step with the Father.

For us, He has given His son. Through him He has given truth and salvation. It is important that we do not deviate from the path in our daily living. We must be on guard against our former destructive habits, sinful ways and attraction to that which is not godly. After all, does our Father not provide for our every need? Has he not gifted us with His Holy Spirit? Has the Lord not gone to prepare a place for us? Is God not available to us through prayer and present with us always? Is there anything in this life or the next that can exceed what God so generously gives?

Come now and let us reason together.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear? 3/20/2012

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." Rom 10:17

There are many things that compete for our attention today. We are currently in the midst of the high political season and are inundated by messages approved by the candidates. Some make claims of what they will do if elected. Others complain about the job the incumbent is doing. Others still complain about those against whom they are competing. Each spends millions of dollars (or have millions spent on their behalf) to get their message out to us. Because we are all looking for a better life and something in which to believe for ourselves, our children and our children's children, we attend to some of these messages and make decisions based on what we are told.

Beloved, our Heavenly Father has a message too. It has been the same message since man was created. It is a message of hope made available due to our own shortcomings. It is a message of life in the midst of deserved death. It is a message of love to the unlovable. It is a message of promise to the undeserving. As we seek a better life, let us not cast our eyes to the television or our ears to the radio to hear the message of man. Surely the message changes with the wind and we will inevitably be disappointed with the outcome of placing our faith in him. Let us instead attend to the life giving words of the Lord who is "the same yesterday and today and forever," Heb 13:8. We will see that concerning abundant and everlasting life, "the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call," Acts 2:39. This is the source of our faith.

God approves this message.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, March 19, 2012

Handling the Little Things-3/19/2012

"He said, " Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." Job 1:21-22

Most everyone is familiar with the story of Job. We seek or are referred to his story during times of duress and great tribulation. We are fascinated by the depth and breadth of his calamities. We are also fascinated by the grace and humility with which he faced them. He always kept God at the forefront. These thousands of years later, we still draw strength from his life.

This is presented not to give us inspiration to endure our lowest lows, but to cast in relief our smaller trials. Let us consider the things that send us off the deep end. We are subject to road rage in traffic. We often argue with the ones we love over trivialities. We are ready to feud if someone slights us socially. If the boss has a less than complementary word for us, it turns into a bad day for everyone with whom we come into contact. If our child has a disappointing showing on the field of play, we forget how proud we are to have them as flesh of our flesh.

Beloved, we spend an inordinate amount of our time majoring in minor. Let us not allow the smaller things to be blown out of proportion. To be sure, the significant accidents, diagnoses, employment situations, losses, etc., will come to us personally or to someone with whom we are close. Proportional reactions in those case would be able to be understood by anyone. Remember, however, the grace with which Job handled the worst incidents imaginable. Consider then, how would he have handled the smaller things.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Saturday, March 17, 2012

When All Else Fails-3/17/2012 (rp)

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Ps 46:1

There are times when we all find ourselves at the end of our own resourcefulness. During those times, we would have done everything we could ourselves do, taken all the advice we could listen to from friends and family and even found that professional help has come up short. These could be issues of grief, relationship woes, financial troubles, legal concerns, work problems, spiritual woes and any number of other things that send us to the end of our rope.

Beloved, it is often at times like these where we find God. This is not to say that He has not been there the whole time, but we so often fill our lives with things that crowd Him out of our awareness that we miss him altogether. It is unfortunate but sometimes it takes situations like these to put us (back) in touch with the Father. It has been famously said that, "we don't realize how much God is all we need until God is all we have."

When we have exhausted all of our other options, we will find that He is a limitless resource. Once this is truly experienced, it is seldom if ever forgotten. When He has delivered us as no one or no thing possibly could, we learn to increase our reliance on Him and our faith in Him. The hardest learned lessons are the most permanent. Learn to make Him your first (and only) option instead of your last resort.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Keep to the Path-3/13/2012 (rp)

"Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on." Prov 4:14-15

Sometimes, we as human beings just want to see. We like to try things for ourselves. I remember a specific time in high school where a group of kids had gotten together in a hallway and were intently looking up at the ceiling. Every time someone walked by and looked up, they started laughing and added to the count of those they influenced to do what they were doing.

Beloved, falling to sin can be just like this. Once we have been saved from the darkness, it always beckons to us to come back. Often, the agents of this call are (perhaps former) friends who attempt to seduce us with words like, "Oh come on, just once isn't going to hurt anything," or "This isn't a sin, we're just having fun." We are counseled by God to give such enticements a wide berth. Any contact with the object of our temptation at all can represent a fast and slippery slide.

Beware of such enticement. Remember, "to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." James 4:17. We were called by the Greater. Let us not fall to the lesser.

Loving Like Jesus,


Monday, March 12, 2012

Knowing and Doing Better-3/12/2012

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus," Titus 2:11-13

My mom used to say all of the time, "Son, when you know better, do better." At the time,the only thing I could take from that was that I had done something wrong. This was one of her gentler ways of letting me know that her expectations of me were higher than my performance. It was only with age and experience that I came to realize the import and the impact of what she was saying.

Beloved, God has a similar message for us today. There is not one who calls upon the name of Christ that does not know life before him and all that it entailed. The apostle Peter wrote, "For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries," 1 Pet 4:3. In other words, we have been there, done that, and some of us have bought the t-shirt. Now that we are children of God, we are called to a higher standard. We are called to this because we have become educated about who God is, what He provides and what He expects. There was so little benefit to the lives we were living previously. Now our path is set, our destination is sure and the benefit is out of this world.

Now that we know better, let us diligently pursue doing better and being better.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, March 9, 2012

Where is Your Focus?-3/9/2012

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." Col 3:1-2

What goes through your mind when you think about the Lord? What goes through your mind when you think about God? How do you envision heaven? What do you suppose it will be like? What decisions do you have to make in order to gain access? What things may you have to shed to get there? Is the life that you are leading consistent with what He who makes a way for us requires?

Beloved, these questions and thoughts should occupy the mind of every Christian. To be sure, these thoughts were involved when we obeyed the gospel. Unfortunately the things that are yet before us can be a tremendous distraction. As it was with Peter when he walked across the water toward Jesus, once we take our eyes off of him, we can find ourselves beginning to sink into that which can consume us. Remember, Jesus has saved us from darkness, "if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard," Col 1:23. This means that our salvation is not accomplished by a one time act of obedience, but of a continuous lifestyle of obedience.

Let us always cast our eyes and hearts heavenward that one day our existence will be there also.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Avoiding Complacency-3/8/2012

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude." Col 2:6-7

Every now and then, it is important that we are reminded of what our Christianity is all about. It easy to "let the seat back" and relax in our relationship with God. It becomes almost like some souvenir from an event gone by or picture on the wall of our living room. We relegate our faith to something that is just there. Yes, it is important, but not active.

Let us remember the fire we had when we were convicted in our hearts to be obedient to the gospel of Christ. Many came with hearts full of love, minds full of both resignation and resolution and eyes filled with tears. It was at this time we became converted, rooted and established. As we got to know our brothers and sisters in Christ, we began to mature in the faith, understanding what it means to be a member of the body of Christ and a child of God. To supplement our experience, we were taught in bible study, in worship, in personal studies and in prayer. We learned what it means to be a Christian, what it took to create that possibility (Jesus' great sacrifice) and the benefits associated with such a gracious blessing as becoming elect. In all this, we were thankful to God for saving us from the destruction for which we were destined. We never knew how dark was our existence until we were shown the light.

Beloved, let us always remember the beginnings of our relationship with the Lord and let us never lose our first love. God is easy to take for granted because He provides so much. Let us never fall into the trap of complacency but remain ever thankful in our hearts, diligent in our prays and faithful in our walk.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Deciscion Time-3/7/2012 (rp)

"It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world." John 4:42

Jesus had a critical conversation with a woman he happened to meet at a well drawing water. They discussed religion, morality, history and the future. She left the conversation convinced that he was the Savior. She went and told everyone she knew to come and meet him, citing that he told her everything she had ever done.

The scripture states that they came and believed because of what she said. Beloved is there anyone who has come to faith in Christ on the strength of your testimony inspired by your own experience with him? To be sure, you may be the only Jesus that someone will ever meet. The question may be asked, "What if they don't believe me?" The scripture goes on to say that there were also those who believed because of their own experience with him. They were able to do this because they were told and because they came. When is the last time you invited someone to worship?

Our responsibility is to share the good news. It is everyone's responsibility to decide. Our ever lasting hope and prayer is that all of man will believe. Let us begin with those with whom we have an audience.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Praise Where Praise is Due-3/6/2012 (rp)

"And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb,be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." Rev 5:13

None of us are strangers to extending great amounts of praise to others. We are all familiar with experiencing jubilation over the acts of those outside ourselves. I am reminded of the recent Superbowl. It is said that over 100 million people watched this sporting event. Without a doubt, those who watched were moved to joy and were complimentary to those who made great plays at some point during the game. Local fans of the winners sold out a stadium and endured near zero temperatures to gather, render praise and celebrate their team.

I'm also reminded of this award show season, consisting primarily of the Grammys and the Oscars. We all root for our favorite artist, song, performance, movie, actor or director. We watch with baited breath and after all is said and done, we cannot wait to get to the water cooler the next day at which we seek agreement on how great "so and so" was/is and how happy we are they won.

Beloved, these are momentary thrills at best. Our loyalty is almost always based on "what have you done for me lately?" We are then on to the next new thing, praising the Justin Biebers of the world as we once did Brittani Spears and before that, Debbie Gibson (who? right!). I recommend we give praise where praise is due. It is God who is our creator, our benefactor and the supplier of all of our needs. When we are at our lowest, it is Him we call upon. When we are at our highest, it is due to His supply. He has done more great things in our lives than we can even remember. He is always our champion and has never lost.

The next time we scream and yell at a competition or ask a great player, artist or performer for an autograph as we gush over their accomplishments, let us contrast this behavior with our enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for our Creator. Let everthing that has breath praise the Lord!

Loving Like Jesus,


Monday, March 5, 2012

Expectations of God-3/5/2012

"And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me." Luke 7:23

John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one to come or if they should wait for another. There is a great deal of speculation as to why John requested this information. After all, he was present at the baptism of Jesus, saw the Holy Spirit come upon him and heard the very voice of God identify him as his son. Some think that John was lamenting his stay in prison which occurred because of his righteous stand in the face of King Herod's sinful behavior. Others say that John recognized Christ as the son of God but was not sure if he was the prophesied Messiah. This was thought because it was expected that when the Messiah came, Israel would be restored to her former glory and the occupying Roman Empire would be sent packing.

Jesus' reply to John's followers was to tell them to report back the things they had seen concerning his work, namely, the changes he was making in people's lives through the power of healing and ministry.

Beloved, we must be thoughtful about the expectations we have of Jesus. Many expected a royal born King only to find a poor born baby in a manger. It was expected that he would be a great military leader, but he lead the fight against unrighteousness. Many expected him to heal a nation, but he brought salvation to the world. There are those that depart the Lord because personal expectations are not met. It is against this background that the Lord pronounces blessings upon those who have faith, see the bigger picture and remain steadfast. The encouragement to John is encouragement for us. Let us always remember that though God may not do things we would do, or do them our way or accomplish them on our timetable, He knows what He is doing and we should trust him.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, March 2, 2012

The Source of True Nourishment-3/2/12


Contextually, Satan is appealing to Jesus' human need for food after a 40 day fast in the wilderness. His effort was an attempt to get Jesus to sin. One of the three main ways we are tempted is the lust of the flesh (the other two are the lust of the eye and the pride of life according to 1 John 3:16). How many of us submit ourselves to sin because of the things that our flesh craves?

Jesus lifts the conversation by indicating that there are more important things in life than the satisfying of what the body needs. We are not just physical beings but spiritual beings also. Long after our current bodies have gone the way of decay, our spirits (which will be housed in glorified bodies) will continue on into eternity. The best way to determine how that eternity will be spent (and whether we get the glorified body) is found in our attendance to the word of God.

Beloved, so often we allow our attention to be distracted by things that have questionable benefit. We suffer from a type of spiritual ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). We need not be concerned about the needs of the body. The Lord has said, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you" Matt 6:33. The psalmist likewise said, "I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread" Psa 37:25. God knows exactly what we need and He does provide. Ours is to focus on His word wherein true nourishment is derived.

Rejoicing in the Lord,