Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Almost There 11/27/2013

"When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.'” Mark 12:34a

It was typical in Jesus' time and culture to argue and debate the interpretation of Scripture. As one who was not educated in the rabbinical schools of the day, yet teaching as one who had authority (Matthew 7:29), it is not in the least surprising that the teachers of the law would contend with Jesus. One of their number came upon just such a scene, noticed how well Jesus was handling himself and asked him which of the commandments was most important. Jesus replied that loving the one true God with everything we have and loving others as ourselves was more important than (and in fact summed up) all of the other commandments. The lawyer agreed and said that these commands were more important than all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices, which ostensibly were done as both giving to God and as making amends for sin. Jesus complimented his response and encouraged him.

Beloved, what amazing words to hear and contemplate that we are not far from the kingdom of God. In the lawyer's case, it was clear that he demonstrated an awareness of the truth and an acceptance of it even though those like him questioned the validity of the messenger. But nearness to the kingdom is not acquisition of it. What do any of us still lack? It is submitted for your consideration that in this case, there can be no separation between the message and the messenger. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me," John 14:6. The scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the law wanted God but not the only path to Him in existence, Jesus. They seemed to prefer hanging on to their own human wisdom and traditions rather than humbling themselves to accept he who was sent to and for them, the house of Israel, first(Mark 7:27). Even as we attempt to serve God and lead Christian iives, what might we still be hanging on to that represents the difference from being "not far" from the kingdom and being seated in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6)? Let us think on these things.



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Under Attack 11/26/2013

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25

As I was driving home yesterday, I heard an ad that touted a service for the godless, atheist and agnostic. It seemed to be about some sort of directory. I do not remember a lot about the ad because it spun me off into a thought process. We who are a nation formed under God have long since begun to reject Him. Further, those who serve Him are increasingly falling under persecution. Of course we continue to be known largely as a "Christian nation," however, it is a form of Christianity that is becoming increasingly distant from the Bible. Those who adhere to the apostles doctrine (Acts 2:42) are coming under increasing pressure for doing so.

Beloved, it is during these times that we need God even more, and we certainly need each other. We need not cower in corners at the rising tide of society's intolerance for religion. In fact we must plant our feet and move against that which threatens to destroy godliness. We have the Lord, we have the truth, we have the numbers and we must have the will. We must not remain quiet while Christian values are being assaulted and diminished every day. More, we must strengthen and encourage one another against the sometimes overwhelming pressure to give in to secular humanism and debauchery.

Make no mistake. We are under attack in every way imaginable. Let us close ranks with God and with each other. The victory has already been won.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Think to Thank 11/25/2013 (rp)

"Then Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?'  And He said to him, 'Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.'”  Luke 17:17-19

There were ten who were suffering from leprosy who, against all social and legal conventions of the time, put themselves in proximity to Jesus and cried out loudly for relief of their suffering to the only one who could provide it.  Jesus heard their cries had mercy on them and gave them instructions on how to become cleansed.  Once accomplished, just one returned to give thanks while the others went their merry way.  The one who returned was not one of God's own but a Samaritan, a traditional adversary of God's people.

Beloved how often have we found ourselves in the most heartfelt and desperate need?  Be it physical, financial, psychological or relational, we have all been there at one time or another.  We all know what it is like to need relief from an affliction, malady or situation.  We then, like the lepers, cry out for help.  We may pursue our own means but sooner or later we get around to the Lord, placing ourselves at His mercy, begging for assistance.  He is faithful and just and hears our cries to which He always responds.  This can be said with confidence because none of us is suffering from the same malady as yesterday.

Since He comes to our aid just as Jesus came to the aid of the lepers, let us not be as those who went their merry way.  Let us be as the one who came back, threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him.  Remember that this man was not of the people of God.  May it never be said that those who are the children of God are less praising and thankful than those who are not.



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Words to the Beloved Update III 11/20/2013


I won't bore you with all of the ins, outs, backs and "forths" of getting a book published.  Suffice it to say that it reminds me a lot of what Michelle and I went through bringing children into the world (and yes of course she went through more than I did).  Suffice it to say that the baby has finally been born!

I received the author's copies yesterday and am now rejoicing that I can finally hold in my hands what God placed on my mind and heart more than three years ago.  You will find, faithful reader, that you are part of the story.  Here is an excerpt from the book's introduction:
I must tell you, faithful reader that this started out as a God and Lee thing. It was an opportunity to avail myself of His knowledge and to open myself up to really being taught by Him.  By forcing myself into the Word and into prayer on a DAILY basis, my hope, trust, and prayer was to become closer to Him and to better perform His will. Though, like Paul, “I count not myself to have apprehended…”Philippians 4:13a (KJV), there has been growth through His admonition, teaching and nurture.  Since I have not yet apprehended completely, again, like Paul, “I [continue to] press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:14 (KJV).
As I journeyed, it occurred to me that others might benefit from this very personal walk.  I then decided to make it available to all who desired it. Rather than just sending it to people, I informed the congregation I serve that the Daily Devotional was available on the blog that had been established for it.  Those who were interested were added to the distribution list and began receiving it via email every Monday through Friday with the exception of holidays.
After a while I began to receive quite a bit of feedback that let me know that I was not alone on this journey in pursuit of discovery, revelation and spiritual maturity.  It turned out that there were and are many on the narrow path striving simply to know God better and to be more like His darling son Jesus. It seems that as He deals with me, He likewise, speaks into the heart of those who came along side. Furthermore, many of the “beloved” began distributing the Daily Devotional to family, friends, and acquaintances. Some of those to whom it had been distributed asked to be added directly to the distribution so that they could receive it right away.  Still others began publishing excerpts into their weekly church bulletins. It truly seemed that God’s word was not returning to him void (Isaiah 55:11).

As you can see, this has truly been a journey.  I thank you for your companionship, your prayers, your interest and your support.  It has been a lot of work, but everything worth doing or having is.  I thank God for His surpassing goodness and I thank him for you.

To obtain your copy, please visit (official release on 12/7/13).  It is also available on and  If you obtain it from either of the latter, your feedback would be greatly appreciated.



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Follow the Leader 11/19/2013

“'Watch me,' he told them. 'Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do.'" Judges 7:17

The story of Gideon is famous because God once again proved that he could do everything with almost nothing. You will recall that God instructed Gideon to whittle down a gathered force of 32,000 men to 300 in order to fight 135,000.

For many reasons, Gideon is an example of a great leader, though not everything he did was positive. God selected him from all of the people of Israel despite him being the least in his family, who themselves were of the weakest clan (Judges 6:15). Gideon also put God to the test in his famous request to keep a fleece dry while the dew wet the surrounding ground and then again when he asked that the dew wet the fleece while the surrounding ground was kept dry. Even on the eve of the great battle, God told him that if he was afraid to go to battle that he should sneak into the enemy camp and listen to the things they had to say. Even though the Lord had sent home 22,000 men for being afraid, Gideon took Him up on his offer and went.

Beloved, despite what we might consider as negatives or challenges regarding our leadership, we would do well to have Gideons lead us. Consider the following:

  • Gideon was selected by God and was not a man who desired fame, fortune, attention or power.
  • Gideon was a thoughtful and careful man who wanted to be sure that it was God who was leading and directing him.
  • Gideon followed God's instructions to the letter.
  • Gideon did not share his own thoughts, ideas and philosophies with his followers, but the word and the instruction of God.
  • Gideon did not sit back and direct others but lead from the front and by example.
  • Gideon had great compassion for his people.
  • Gideon was a regular guy who, with the help of God, rose to the task and saved a people.

Let us be sure to seek leaders with these qualities. Further, let us seek to be great followers of God's leaders, not because of the individuals themselves but because of the God we all serve.



Monday, November 18, 2013

Be Encouraged 11/18/2013 (rp)

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;" 1 Pet 1:6-7

There is not one among us who does not at one time or the other experience problems, difficulties, tragedies and loss.  Issues come up in personal relationships, work situations, neighborhood interactions, finances and even misunderstandings among those with whom we worship.  Speaking of worship, there may even be times that we are subjected to persecution because of our beliefs.  None of us should be shocked by this.  In fact this situations should actually encourage us and give us cause to rejoice.

Beloved, as Christians, we are called upon to be a different type of person with different beliefs, hopes, dreams, perspectives and certainly different responses to trials and difficulties.  Our savior has taught us by his word and his example that life and reality are bigger than our current circumstances. There is an entire eternity before us against which many of the things we endure today diminish into triviality.  We are sons and daughters of the living God!  That must mean something to us and by extension, those who come into contact with us.  We must look at these events, situations and circumstances as simply faith builders (our faith being more precious than pure and refined gold).  Think about it this way: there is not a single situation out of which God has not delivered you or is not currently in the process of doing so.  Not one.  When he delivers us, our faith that he will do so the next time and the time after that and the time after that grows.  We will eventually come to rely on him completely and begin to accept trials with joy, knowing that God has us now as He always has.

There is one more thing that helps us grow into this mindset and this truth: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" 1 Pet 1:3-5 (emphasis mine).  We have every reason to be encouraged, even in the midst of the worse life has to offer.



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Just Believing 11/12/2013

"Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, 'Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.'” Luke 8:50 (NIV)

There was once a man named Jairus who the Bible describes as a synagogue leader. His responsibilities would have been to conduct services, select participants and supervise the worship. In Christianity, the equivelant might be a worship leader, deacon or even minister. In any case, Jairus had a daughter who was very near death. Knowing of Jesus and his capabilities and knowing that he was in the area, he ran to him, fell at his feet and begged him to come to his home and save his daughter.

As a parent, I do not have to imagine what Jairus was going through. I remember writing in my daughter's baby book as she lay in my arms just days old that it was my job and my promise to love her and protect her from all threats. I found out as Jairus found out that you can't protect your babies from everything. I found out that there are things for which there is no defense. I found out what it is like to see her lying in bed and praying that God would just let me trade places with her, knowing all the while that it was nothing more than a desparate father's wish and that it could never happen. I know what it is like to be utterly helpless and reduced to wracking sobs. But like Jairus, I also know what it is like to have hope and faith in Jesus.

Beloved, there are so many things that are beyond our power to affect. We wonder why these things happen while struggling to hold on to God with everything we've got. Our faith is stong but it is SO hard and it hurts so much. It is particularly hurtful to have to stand by and watch someone we love struggle in their affliction. Jairus was told that his daughter had died and to stop "bothering" Jesus (Luke 8:49). But praise God, Jesus said to not be afraid and to just believe. Jesus went to his home and healed his daughter.

My name is Lee and I am the worship leader at the O'Fallon Church of Christ. I humbly solicit your prayers for my daughter who is hurting, for her mother who is hurting, for her siblings who are hurting and for her father who is hurting. I am at Jesus' feet, begging for him to fix my little girl. I believe in him. I believe him. And I believe he will.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Being Like God 11/11/2013

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matt 5:44-46

One of the greatest things about being a Christian is the incredible amount of examples that have been left for us by both our progenitors in the faith and the Source of that faith Himself. It is counter intuitive for us to love our enemies, yet Christ has said that it is exactly what we should do. While we might feel justified in striking back when someone offends us, we are given the example of God providing for all, whether they love Him or not.

Beloved, our greatest goal is to emulate God in all that we do and all that we are.
This is not a message about loving our enemies per se, but aspiring to the highest ideals of morality, goodness and righteousness. It is easy to focus on one thing and to try to be "good" at it, but in circumstances like those, we become unaware of the blind spots we have in other areas. If we focus on being godly in all of our being, that godliness will grow and flow into all that we think, say and do. With time and practice, we will be transformed into the likeness of God and loving enemies would be the easiest of all things. Let us fervently pursue what we claim.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wake Up! 11/7/2013 (rp)

"These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead." Revelation 3:1 

Early in the book of Revelation, the Lord writes letters to seven congregations.  Interpretations of these letters range from them being specific messages to specific and actual churches to being metaphors of the state of "the church" through the ages.  Without regard to where one stands on this and many other controversial issues involving Revelation, there is still a word from God to be heard by each of us.

In the case of the letter to the church at Sardis, the Lord has an indictment.  It is stated that the church enjoys a reputation for things that are no longer the case.  In short, he describes them as being dead.  Of course there would be no need to write a letter to those who are not alive to read it.  What is meant is that the "life" has gone out of their worship and their relationship with God.  Whereas they were once known for the fire and passion associated with Christian living, there is no longer anything observable that can substantiate this image.

Beloved, we must not only be aware of this pitfall in our congregational life, we must be aware of it in our personal lives.  Reflections of our individuality can be seen in our corporate settings.  Each must consider what is being done or what is failing that would cause the Lord to describe us as being dead.  Are we attending worship regularly?  Our we studying the word daily?  Are we giving like we should?  Are we putting others before ourselves?  Are we sharing the gospel with the people we meet? We then must look at our congregation and make the same evaluation. 

Jesus has given us a twofold solution to this critical problem.  First he says, "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God" (v. 2).  As long as we have life, we are not dead yet, however, the first step in correcting a problem is to recognize it.  Waking up involves a sincere and honest self assessment.  Secondly he says, "Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent" (v. 3).  We must be willing to turn from our "dead" ways, remind ourselves both of what God had done for us and requires of us and get to work.  If we our successful, the Lord has promised that he will never blot out our names from the book of life and will acknowledge our names before God and the heavenly host.

Wake up!



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Which is the Real You? 11/5/2013

"Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, 'Eat and drink!' but his heart is not with you.  You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments." Proverbs 23:6-8

We are all familiar with people who say one thing yet mean quite another.  Perhaps we are those people ourselves from time to time.  The thought process of today's Scripture is that in an effort to be well thought of, a person may display hospitality and generously invite someone to their home and offer them their finest.  All the while, however, he or she is focusing more on the inconvenience and the disappearing of their goods.  With every bite, the cost is added up and held against the guest.  Therefore, the true measure of a person is not as much what they say or do but what is in their heart.  Further, what is in the heart will eventually be revealed.

Beloved, no one enjoys a two-faced person.  They are inconsistent and insincere in all of their ways.  They cannot be counted on to be truthful and they operate from questionable motives.  The point here is not to root out and expose people with these characteristics.  They will eventually do that themselves.  Our goal should be to constantly self-examine, ensuring that we are not guilty ourselves.  We are members of the body of Christ and should conduct ourselves as he did without guile on our lips or malice in our heart.  We are called upon to be tender, loving, sincere and caring for others more than for ourselves.

Let us consider the words of the prophet Isaiah as we interact with one another: 
"He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity,
He who rejects unjust gain
And shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe;
He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed
And shuts his eyes from looking upon evil;
He will dwell on the heights,

His refuge will be the impregnable rock;
His bread will be given him,
His water will be sure."

Isaiah 33:15-16



Monday, November 4, 2013

(Don't) Leave Us Alone 11/4/2013

"Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ' Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." Exodus 14:12

After 430 years of crying out to God for relief from the brutality and imprisonment of slavery, in His own time and in His own way through His chosen agency, God responded by freeing His people from Pharaoh's grip. As it would happen, Pharaoh experienced a bit of a change of mind and famously came after them. It was in the midst of this perceived threat (and I say perceived because God was with them) that the Hebrews apparently changed their minds and decided that slavery was not so bad after all.

Human nature can be both amazingly wonderful and tragically flawed. We have the strength, intelligence and fortitude to go from building the pyramids to going to the moon, but often times lack simple patience and faith. How could it be that the people, after crying out to God for so long, lose sight of His chosen deliverer, the miracle of the plagues (particularly the last one), be allowed to leave with the plunder of all of Egypt and think that all estimated two million of them (or even one of them for that matter) would be destroyed in the midst of God's hand? It is fascinating that not only do we want to be delivered from our negative circumstances, but that we want it done in a particular time frame, by particular means, in a particular manner. Otherwise we throw up our hands and seek our own means or reconcile ourselves to our situations. In other words, we sometimes would rather enjoy the "luxuries" of slavery than the "inconveniences" of freedom.

Beloved, faith is believing and trusting God. It means that when we pray for deliverance, we leave the who, what, why and where to Him. And if we happen to look out the window and see a threat coming our way, let us look away from that threat and look back at God. He is in control and we are not. And if the day would ever come when we could determine the conditions and features of our own deliverance by dictating them to Him, who then would be God?

Consider this wise piece of advice: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV).



Friday, November 1, 2013

Good News and Better News 11/1/2013 (rp)

"So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." Heb 9:28 (NIV)

It is difficult for any human being to look upon Jesus' suffering on the cross as good news.  The gospel account is actually quite horrifying and humiliating.  Nevertheless, without it, humanity would be doomed to an an irreversible destruction. It is only because of our Savior's great sacrifice that we can be reconciled to the God who made us.

The one thing that mitigates the sorrowful treatment of God's son is the fact that he took up his life again.  With resurrection power, he arose and walked out of his borrowed tomb to verify the truth of his words and spread the good news of their meaning.  Having completed his work on earth, he returned to the heaven from which he came and now sits on the right hand of God.

Beloved, all of this is as if a cure has been discovered for a terrible disease to which we are all subject.  The goodness of the news does not reach its zenith until we are ourselves inoculated.  This will take place when the same Savior who rose into the clouds comes back in those clouds and reaps the harvest of all he has planted on earth.  That is when good news will get even better.

Let us be sure that we are part of that harvest.  Though he will return for those who are waiting for him, remember that we must be prepared in our waiting.  As the wise virgins had their lamps filled with oil, ready for the bridegroom to arrive despite not knowing the hour, we too must have our lives in order.  Only then we will be able to take advantage of the best news possible: the announcement that it is time to go home.