Thursday, June 28, 2012

Seeking the Old Path-6/28/2012

"Thus says the Lord, 'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.'  But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’"  Jeremiah 6:16

There is an old saying among preachers and biblical teachers that states, "If it's new it ain't true and if it's true it ain't new."  Perhaps they are borrowing from the writer of Ecclesiastes when he said, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look!  This is something new?'  It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time" Eccl 1:9-10.

As a society, we are obsessed with the newest, latest, greatest thing from news and information to technology to gadgetry. Who among us does not have or want the latest cell phone for example? More relevantly, people are constantly developing new philosophies of God (or god figures), religion and worship.  Should you ever have the time or interest, look up "religions" like Creativity Movement, Nation of Yahweh, Church of All Worlds, Universe People and the more well known Church of Scientology.  Though these organizations are easily dismissed (despite the growing number of adherents to some), far more dangerous changes are being made in churches all over the world today.  One example of this is in 2003, the Episcopalian Church of the United States of America became the first mainstream religious organization to consecrate an openly gay non celebate bishop (see Rom 1:26-28 and 1 Cor 6:9-10).

Beloved, the word of God and all that it teaches is tested, tried and true.  We serve the Ancient of Days who is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Our God is not fad driven nor subject to the whims of fickle humanity.  It is we that must conform ourselves to Him and not the other way around.  While I will agree that their are new approaches to delivering the message (we now have print, microphones, air conditioned houses of worship, television, radio and the internet), the message does not change.  Let us seek the old and good path and walk in it.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Gentle Reminder-6-27-2012 (rp)

"Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder," 2 Peter 1:12-13

Peter had just espoused a number of virtues that lead one to the other. These involved diligence, faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self control, godliness, brotherly kindness and brotherly love. In that God has supplied us with everything pertaining to life and has made an eternity with Him available to us, Peter encourages us to be all that God has called us to be by constantly working on these virtues.

To be sure, when we came to know Christ and accepted him as our personal Lord and Savior, we were only too prepared to make the changes that would demonstrate obedience to him and love for him. We all wanted to be better people. As is this case with human nature, however, our attention span narrows, our enthusiasm wanes and our attention becomes diverted.

Beloved, anything done well is accomplished by constant focused attention. When it comes to something as important and permanent as our eternity, we cannot afford to take our eye off of the prize (Phil 3:13, 14). We must be consistent in our effort to live godly lives. But because we are human, we sometimes need reminders.

Let us be reminded through prayer. Constant communication with God (1 Thes 5:17) reminds us that He is and that we have a relationship with Him. Let us be reminded by His word. Consistent study of the scriptures adds to our knowledge and understanding (Prov 4:7). Let us be reminded by the regular assembling of ourselves to worship Him (Heb 10:25). It is through our coming together that we better understand that we are His people, brothers and sisters made so by a common Father. And finally, let us be reminded by telling others (Matt 28:19, 20). We tend to talk most about what we believe and live every day.

The Spirit has said that we already know these things. Let us endeavor to keep the word and will of God and their product, our salvation, top of mind.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

For the Love of Christ-6/26/2012

"Therefore 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

Whenever I think of Jesus on the cross, it fills me with the greatest of mixed emotions.  The first is an overwhelming sadness.  Crucifixion is a horrible way to die.  The process is filled with pain and degredation.  Not only were stakes driven through the body but the person being crucified was put on public display.  Imagine the horror of having to shift your weight from your bent legs to your spread arms to get away from the pain, but finding no refuge.  Soon wracking cramps would attack the muscles and there would be no relief.  Because of the spread arms, the diaphragm slowly begins to lose its effectiveness affecting the ability to breath.  Death ultimately comes through suffocation, but in most cases only after days of unimaginable suffering.  It is tough to think of anyone enduring such punishment.  It is even tougher to think of it happening to Jesus (and when I think Jesus, I think of everything that is).

Then my emotions swing widely when I realize that had it not been for that suffering and that death, there would have been no resurrection.  And if there was no resurrection for him, there would be none for me.  Paul said, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins" 1 Cor 15:17.  It took nothing less than his ultimate sacrifice to bring worth to my faith and cleansing to my sins.  I know that it is nothing I could possibly have accomplished on my own or for myself.  That he had enough love for me to pay the ultimate price fills me with joy and humility...and even shame when I fail to live up to his expectations.  Even this, however, is mitigated by the knowledge that his forgiveness is vast and complete.

Beloved, how much must he love us to go through such terror?  How much must he love us to have gone through such pain and humiliation?  How much must we love him?  The answer is simple.  We must love him the same way he loves us: with everything we have!

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, June 25, 2012

Are You Ready?-6/25/2012

"Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." 1 Thess 5:1-2

I have a wonderful relationship with my earthly father.  This relationship was born out of love, nurturing, teaching, provision and discipline.  I have many fond memories of being raised in his household.  There was much laughter and joy and his vocation allowed my sister and I to see parts of the world of which many can only dream. I also remember the not-so-fun times when I had to answer for some of the mistakes I made. 
Through all of it, however, I learned what love is and that my dad had plenty of it for me and the rest of our small family.  Through it all I learned to love him with everything I am.  It was because of both love and discipline that I learned to follow his directions because I knew they were for my good.  When he said to have something done by the time he came back, it was not an option in my mind to do anything less.

Beloved we all have a great and loving heavenly Father.  He likewise provides love, nurturing, teaching, discipline and all that we need for life.  And while a point inevitably comes when our earthly fathers cease raising us, we are constantly being given encouragement, direction and resources to grow by our heavenly Father.  Where that which can be provided by our earthly fathers comes to an end, it gets infinitely and everlastingly better with our heavenly Father if we heed His direction for our lives.  For this reason, just as it did not occur to me to be unprepared for my earthly father's return, we should all likewise have the same attitude for the calling of the Lord.  He has given us much to do in his absence, but has told us, "if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" John 14:3.

Are you ready?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, June 22, 2012


"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,  casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." 1 Pet 5:6-7

Humility is not a trait that comes naturally to most people. It only develops as a matter of circumstance or of will.  There are many things in life that can drive us to our knees but the least painful distance to the floor is through the path of simple obedience to God.

When you think about pride (placing oneself above others or an over estimate of one's means or merits), there is little good that comes from it.  Pride almost necessarily includes the demeaning of others.  It shouts, "I do not need anything from anyone and I pull myself up by my own bootstraps."  This attitude can find that person alone and without at their greatest time of need and without doubt, that time inevitably comes.  What is God to do with or for those who do not want or need Him?

Beloved, God desires that we rely fully upon him.  Prov 3:5 reminds us to "Trust in God with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding."  Have you ever seen that trust exercise where a person crosses their arms over their chest and falls backwards, relying on someone to catch them?  This is the word picture behind trust.   A proud person would pad the ground in advance to avoid injury in case "plan A" fails.  There is no back up to God.  He is absolutely trustworthy and will do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever hope or dream.  He not only catches us but lifts up.  Those who refuse to humble themselves are in danger of being left to their own fallible devices.

Whatever challenge, problem, sorrow, pain or even pleasant expectation of eternity we may have, we must rely fully on Him who made us.  Pride can never save you, but God, in His own time, does. This a truly humbling thought.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spiritual ADD-6/19/2012 (rp)

"Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep." Jonah 1:2-5

Oftentimes, we as Christians suffer from spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). With our minds and mouths we acknowledge God as the King of our lives, our Creator, the Almighty and our Father. We are His people and we know it. We are to be obedient and we know it. He loves us and wants the best for us and we know it. Our actions from time to time, however, belie these truths. In fact, we will sometimes go out of our way to be out of His way.

Jonah was a prophet of God. His whole reason for existing was to impart God's word to those whom he was charged to give it. That said, not only did he refuse direct instructions from God to preach to a people desperately in need of the word, he actually paid money to get on a ship headed the opposite direction.

Beloved we all have storms in our lives. They come in a variety of guises, but none of us is ignorant of a storm when we are in one. During these storms, we must ask ourselves if God is trying to get our attention.

It is interesting to know that once guilt ridden Jonah was thrown overboard at his own request, the storm that was afflicting the innocent around him ceased immediately. Further, Jonah spent the next three days in the belly of a fish. This was plenty of time to contemplate both the benefits of obedience and his relationship with God.

What will it take for God to get your attention?

Loving Like Jesus,


Monday, June 18, 2012

Needing God and Each Other-6/18/2012

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." James 5:16

To be sure, we all need God.  There is nothing without Him.  A close second, however, is the fact that we all need each other.  Among the greatest and most beneficial things God created are relationships.  Everything He created relates in some way to every other thing, most relevantly male and female animals and the creation of man and woman.  Nowhere in Scripture are we command to worship God in isolation but in association with others.

As parents raise their children together, so God raises His.  We teach our kids to love honor and respect one another as well as others, but these are lessons we learn from our common Father.  The benefits of living life in association with others are innumerable.  Among the things we can do with and for each other is to grow our relationship with God through prayer.

Beloved we all need encouragement.  We need companionship.  We need to be corrected when we are out of line.  And we need to be needed.  By confessing our sins to one another we are not only positioning ourselves to receive needed help, but we are empowering brother(s) and sister(s) to obey God and to use the gifts with which they have been blessed.  It is not unusual for a person to feel so down that they cannot pray for themselves.  This is where our relationships are most effective.  As the Scripture says, great and wondrous things can be accomplished through prayer.  Verses 17 and 18 of the same passage outline the fact that Elias prayed and it did not rain for three and a half years.  He prayed again and the rains came bringing forth fruit.  Imagine using that power for one another.  God would have us to relate to one another within our relationship with Him.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, June 15, 2012

Believing in God-June 15, 2012

"You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? James 2:19-20

The claims and boasts of Christianity on the part of many are much exaggerated.  This is said not from a standpoint of judgment but of observation.  Consider a couple of examples:
  • A nationally syndicated morning radio show host starts his stand up routine with "I am a Christian but I am not perfect.  God is not done with me yet."  From there he proceeds to perform a routine laced with profanity and sexual innuendo.
  • A morning television personality on a well known news network recently said while discussing the then unexpressed gay marriage views of the President, "I am a Christian and I believe in gay marriage."
There is no reason to believe that either of these individuals or the President for that matter do not believe in God.  They have said they do and their word is as good as anyone else's; but then what?  So anyone can claim to know and even love God but is it just a statement or reality?  Is it a position or a conviction?  Is it talk or is it walk?

Beloved, one need never claim to be a Christian anymore than there is a need to claim to be a human, a man, or a woman.  In most cases, these things can readily be seen by observing the differences between what you are and what you are not.  In that we do not have fur, fins, feathers or tails we are clearly human beings.  Observe how Jesus said Christians can be identified:
  • "If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples." John 8:31
  • "By this all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another."  John 13:35
  • "Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples." John 15:8
In short, we must do what he said do, love all mankind and be productive in the kingdom.  Belief is expressed in what we do, not what we say.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, June 14, 2012


"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are." 1 John 3:1a

We as human beings have an innate desire to belong. It is a built in instinct for men to seek women and women to seek men and together build a family. We also desire friends with whom we can share and interact. At work, we build relationships with co-workers with whom we accomplish goals and develop social networks. Even in our leisure activities, we wear the colors of the local or favorite team, join fraternities and sororities and various other clubs and organizations. Our identity is inextricably intertwined with those with whom we have relationships and the things for which we stand.

For the Christian beloved, our identity is given to us by the love of God. He answers every single need we have to belong. It is He that made man and woman to belong to each other while belonging to Him. It is He that created the partnership of work as seen in giving Adam responsibilities and Eve a role in helping. It is at God's direction that we are fruitful and multiply. And it is He who told us to love others as we love ourselves. Even our "organizational" need to belong is fulfilled in the Lord in that "God added  to the church daily such as should be saved" Acts 2:47 (KJV).

At the root of all of this is the individual relationship we have with our Creator, our Father, our Abba (Dad). He loved us before we knew to love Him. And He did something that we could not do ourselves; He made us His own and He made us a family. There is no greater belonging than belonging to God.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Always II-6/13/2012 (rp)

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." John 14:16-17

It was during a conversation with the apostles that the Savior uttered these bittersweet words. The words were bitter in that he was informing them of his imminent departure. The words were sweet in that he was also informing them (and us) that we would not be left as orphans but that he would come to us.

Beloved it is critical that we understand the importance of these words. It was necessary for Jesus to be taken from the world physically in order to pay our debt. The good news, however, is twofold. First, his willing sacrifice enables us to become children of God rather than remaining orphans. Second his presence would not only be with us but within us! Through the Helper, also called the Comforter and Holy Spirit, we become temples because the presence of God has moved in! You will recall that in Acts 2:38, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit upon repentance and baptism. We also know that the Spirit, among other things is God's assurance of our redemption and inheritance, Eph 1:13-14.

Not only are we never alone after we have accepted Christ, he has told us that we will never be alone again. God truly lives within you.

Rejoicing in the Lord,

Monday, June 11, 2012

Called to be Different-6/11/2012

"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Eph 4:1-3

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus from prison, encourages them (and us) regarding the way we should live our lives. As Christians, there are different expectations of us then those who are not. To be sure, God desires that all people would be saved and therefore come into compliance with His will, however, it is not realistic to expect someone to follow a manner of life in which they do not believe. This makes it that much more important that those who do believe do just that.

Paul models the very behavior he calls for despite his incarceration. Even under the worst conditions, he gives God all of the glory. While he is confined, he is unashamed. And from his cell, he prays not for himself, but for those who would be exposed to his words (the Ephesians were instructed to circulate the letter to other churches). He prays that they would be strengthened through the Spirit and that Christ would dwell in their hearts in order that they might fully understand what they truly have in him.

Beloved, the words and actions of a prisoner would not be given much credence today, however the Holy Spirit moved this man to write these very things from God. The words implore us from across the centuries to be who we have been called to be. In so doing, we glorify God. In so doing, we will come to the realization that He can do immeasurably more that all we could ask or imagine and that we can be filled to the measure of all of His fullness. Lastly, by doing so, we can be an example to all of those who do not believe. Perhaps there will be one who will look at you and ask about your faith.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, June 8, 2012

Always 6/8/2012 (rp)

"I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matt 28:20

It seems that people are constantly moving in and out of our lives. It has also been said that people enter our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Even this, however, does not speak to the quality of those relationships. We all know what it is like to experience the highest highs and lowest lows as a result of having interacted with the people who have touched our lives.

What we often lack in our relationships is stability and consistency. Think about it. Relationships designed to be permanent, like marriage, are deteriorating at a rate of fifty percent these days. Our children who we nurture from before birth eventually develop relationships of their own, leave home and even move away. Similarly, ask yourself if you have any former best friends.

Beloved, the one relationship that we can count on for quantity and quality is with our Lord and Savior, Jesus. He has said that he will never leave, nor forsake us, Heb 13:5. He has said that we are his friends, John 15:15. He has said that where he is, we will also be, John 14:3. He has laid down his life for us, John 15:13.
If you are ever feeling alone and are of a mind that no one cares or understands, know that Jesus does. Our relationship with him is one on which we can absolutely count.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Meaning of Life 6/7/2012

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." Eph 2:10

It is an age old question to consider the meaning of life. Many a person has looked toward the heavens and contemplated their reason and purpose for existing. Thousands of philosophies, religions, theories and social constructs have arisen in attempt to answer such questions. In truth, we only need look to the originator of life to find the answer.

Beloved it is God who created each and every one of us whether we acknowledge Him or not. He did not create us to sit around in the lap of luxury but to accomplish that which would glorify Him. Even in the Garden, Adam had responsibility to carry out the will of the Father. Throughout the history of mankind it can be seen that there were always those involved in transmitting the word of God and exemplifying the behaviors He expects of His children. The more contrarily the world population behaved, the stronger the message became. God has always seen to it that there is a consistent message from Him expressed to all from those faithful to Him. We were created to do His will. What is His will? Most simply put, we must love Him and each other. On these two things hang all the lessons of the inspired Scriptures.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rewarding Work 6/6/2012

"For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done." Matt 16:27 (NIV)

Who among us does not like to be recognized and rewarded for his or her work? In the business world, reward, recognition and pay are among the top motivators for employee performance. It is the same in the world of sports, music, acting and art. In fact, it is the same for every human endeavor regardless of age, gender, national origin or ethnicity. Naturally there are those who excel in their chosen areas and some who rise to near universal notoriety because of their accomplishments. Conversely, there are many more who accomplish little and receive little.

Beloved it is important for all believers to know that Christianity is not a destination but a pursuit. Having been blessed by the Lord with salvation, one does not at that time sit and wait thinking that he or she has arrived and that Jesus will take care of everything else. He spoke about this frequently, including the familiar passages, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me" John 5:17, and "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few," Matt 9:37. We are also familiar with the parable of the talents that involved great reward for those who accomplished a return on the Lord's investment while the one who did not was "cast into outer darkness," in verse 30.

No one can interact with the Scriptures and come away with anything less than that there are expectations associated with being a child of God, just as we have expectations of our children. We reward them when they do well. Though we cannot possibly earn the free gift of salvation, rewards, according to the word of the Lord, can be earned. Are you motivated?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Following Christ 6/5/12

"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.'" Matt 16:24

There are many who claim to be followers of Christ. There are fewer who understand the true meaning of such a claim. In truth, being a true follower of Christ involves much that is counter intuitive to most people. Though this scripture is certainly not an exhaustive list of requirements, consider what the Lord is saying specifically to those who were actively following him at the the time.

First, he speaks of selflessness. It is natural for us to think of self first and others second. Jesus is advocating a life of service, forgiveness, love and sharing. The scriptures are replete with advisements and commands to treat others better than self. Jesus models this when he relates that he came to serve rather than to be served.

Second, we must be willing to sacrifice. When one thinks of the cross, it is difficult to think of anything else but the fact that it is the place that Jesus gave it all that we might have a way to be reconciled to the Father. In order to be a true follower of his, we must likewise be willing to lead sacrificial lives. Paul elaborates on this concept when he says, "I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" Rom 12:1. As he gave his life for us, we must be willing to give our lives to him.

Lastly beloved, we must not be followers of Christ in just word, but also in deed. This simply means to be obedient to his commands and to follow his example. His command is to love God with everything we have and to love others as ourselves. His example was to humble himself, take responsibility for others and to serve, even by washing dirty feet. How many of us would "lower" ourselves to the very heights of his performance? Let us carefully consider these things because therein lies true follow-ship and fellowship with Him who made us.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, June 4, 2012

What is Your Priority? 6/4/2012

"For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Mark 8:36-37

There was never a time that Christ interacted with men and women that he did not leave them with words of wisdom with eternal implications. In this instance he speaks on prioritizing the spiritual over against the secular, the promised over against the present and the heavenly over against the earthly. As we look around, it is easy to see the value that humanity places on money, material, financial success and accumulation and fame. Forbes magazine routinely publishes lists of the richest individuals and organizations in the world. These are by far more popular than some of their other offerings. It is against both the background of men's minds 2000 years ago and perhaps even more so today that Jesus asks this rhetorical question.

Beloved you will recall the story of the rich young ruler. He was willing to pass on the heaven he requested in order to maintain his earthly possessions. Clearly his possessions, as much as they may have been, could not have come close to owning everything in the world that exists. No one can. Jesus asks, even if one could own all that there is, it all disintegrates into insignificance when weighed against one's eternity. James famously says, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" James 4:14b. What good does it to have every indulgence imaginable for the relative blink of an eye, only to suffer hell for a time longer than one can imagine?  The purusuit of such things most certainly relagates God to secondary status if recognized at all.

The Lord is telling us to prioritize. He is not critical of possessions or wealth, however, he is critical of placing them above all that God offers to the faithful. None should desire or own anything that will keep him or her on this planet when Christ calls us home.

Rejoicing in the Lord,