Monday, April 30, 2012

This is the God I Love and Serve

Psalm 111

 1 Praise the LORD.
   I will extol the LORD with all my heart
   in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
 2 Great are the works of the LORD;
   they are pondered by all who delight in them.
3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
   and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
   the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
   he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
   giving them the lands of other nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
   all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are steadfast forever and ever,
   done in faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He provided redemption for his people;
   he ordained his covenant forever—
   holy and awesome is his name.  
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
   all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
   To him belongs eternal praise.

Several trusted scholars agree this psalm is an acrostic poem, the lines of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Although that probably adds nothing to the truth contained therein, it is interesting to note the completeness of the description of God through the eyes of David.

Here are some highlights that I picked out, which continue to encourage people in today's world in the direction we all should follow.  Important characteristics are seen in every line about God the Father who loves and cares for each of us.  The words that speak to me may be different than the ones that speak to you.  Here is my list:

1. Worship is important to God.                                       
2. He provides redemption
3. His works are pondered and remembered                 
4. He is holy and awesome
5. He provides our food                                                     
6. Following him brings understanding

No, that isn't a complete list.  I have left some of them for you to pick out, in hopes you will read it closely and let it speak to you, too.  Here is a God that loves you, provides for you, cares for you, and wants to bring you into a relationship with him. 

To him belongs eternal praise. 


Sunday, April 29, 2012

How Much Love?

How much love does it take for you to love someone who has betrayed you?  How much love does it take to love someone who had the same opportunities to develop a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, yet they have led a life rebellious to Gods calling?

I know the most important commands in Scripture tell me to "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"  Luke 10:27

I would be hard pressed to deny my love for God. After learning all that he does for me and provides for me, I would be crazy to say he doesn't love me. In spite of the fact that I am still a sinner in need of his grace, he loves me.  I have no doubt about that.  I love him, too, perhaps not to the degree which he expects, but I do love him, and part of my spiritual growth in life is to grow to love him more.
Most of us have difficulty with the second part of the verse, in loving our neighbor as ourselves.  I can name countless times when those who I am trying to love have let me down, participated in things which made them so unlovable, and committed acts against me or my loved ones that were meant to result in spiritual harm.  Surely God does not expect me to love them. 

Let's read from the Bible again."Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.  But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them."  1 John 2:9-11

Ouch! God says I have to love you or I am still living in darkness. It is emphasized again by John in these words. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1 John 3:14-15

It sure looks like God is going to make our spiritual lives hinge on the love we have for one another.  Some would find that hard to believe. Others may choose to not have any part of it. I have difficulty with it too, until I remember one thing.  God's love for ME does not require me to be lovable, he loves me the way I am. His love for me is not conditional on the fact that I am sinless, He loves me in spite of my sin. 

We must conclude that the way God loves us, is the way we are to love one another. That does not mean God's approval of my sin or stubbornness, it means that he loves me enough to extend his mercy, grace, and forgiveness. That's the same way he wants us to be loving toward each other. 

John Oxenham expresses it like this in poetry. "Love ever gives--forgives--outlives. And ever stands with open hands. And while it lives, it gives. For this is love's prerogatives--to give, and give, and give."


Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Letter From Your Friend, Jude

It's a small letter with a big punch.  The writings of Jude, located close to the end of your Bible, right in front of the book of Revelation, contain two admonitions for Christians. It is vitally important we do not miss these. 

First, he addresses the church as a whole with a warning against false teachers.  I have to admit to you, the picture in my mind when I think of false teachers is one of some burly brute forcing me to listen to, and be brainwashed by, something other than biblical truth. That isn't always the case. The Bible paints another picture of them in this small letter to the church.  Take the time to read Jude, verses 3-16.

In these verses, the false teacher is described in various scenes, such as," they claim authority from their dreams, live immoral lives, defy authority and scoff at the power of the glorious ones."  Or look at this description, "these people mock and curse the things they do not understand. Like animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and bring about their own destruction." Jude even says when you try to be in fellowship with the false teacher, "they are like a dangerous reef that can shipwreck you." 
All of this tells me Satan is no dummy. He uses his tricks and schemes to infiltrate the lives of those in the church and Jude's warning is that we must be prepared for them.  He says to us, "Look, the Lord is coming with thousands of his holy ones. He will bring the people of the world to judgment. He will convict the ungodly of all the evil things they have done in rebellion and of all the insults that godless sinners have spoken against him."  Ok Jude, I get it.  These rebels and sources of untruth will be among us, and God is going to see that they get what's coming. 

I hope we are not thinking that any of the brethren that disagree with us are automatically rebellious false teachers. God has made provisions in his plan for there to be unity in the midst of diversity.  And just  because someone expresses an opinion that is not the same as yours, doesn't mean they are out to wreck the church.  That's why Jude made his second point.

 He issues a plea for God's people to remain faithful. Look at verse 20. "But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit. He makes a further encouragement to live in ways that God's love can bless you. Show mercy to those with wavering faith. 

Then his closing admonition. And now, all glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy. All glory to him, who alone is God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to him, in the beginning, now, and forevermore. Amen"

May God strengthen us with discernment when dealing with workers of evil, and may we always hold  to his truth which has been graciously entrusted to us.  ALL authority belongs to him. Amen.

<>          (Bible verses from New Living Translation)

Friday, April 27, 2012


"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. "  2 Chronicles 7:14

It's a passage that is used and quoted over and over in our day.  We see the condition of our world and the depths to which some of our leaders have lowered themselves, and we need biblical instruction on how to deal with it.  Usually such a search will take us to the above verse. The really tough part is that we see the need for change in the lives of our leaders, while failing to see the need for change in us.
The verse from 2 Chronicles isn't about everyone needing to change except me, it is about all people, called by God's name, seeking him and turning from sin.  It's about a spiritual transformation.  The transforming process isn't always easy, and there are bound to be obstacles which continually hinder us. The difficulty of changing, nor the effort to overcome adversity should cause us to go down in defeat.  Look closely at the verse again, and especially how there is part of it that shows our responsibility, and the other part which shows God's promise.

If my people will........................ then I will..................   It gets no clearer than that. God is telling us if we want a renewal and revival, we must be humble, pray, seek him, and turn from sin.  The he is going  to hear us, forgive us, and heal our land.  It may surprise you, but there are countless promises of God in the Bible that are given in that same format. There may be parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand, but promises like this one are crystal clear.

Today, with this promise in mind, I would suggest several directions we could take in our prayers.  You may either focus on one or two, or perhaps you wish to prayerfully consider them all.

1. Seek God's forgiveness for the way we have hindered him through our unbelief of his promises.
2. Give thanks to God for his willingness and promise to heal our land, and bring us individually and collectively into his forgiveness.
3. Seek God's blessings on our church leaders that they may direct us in paths of transforming grace.
4. Pledge yourself to do what God asks in the 2 Chronicles passage.
5. Pray that God will remove the barriers that divide us.
6. Give thanks to God.  He wants you changed into the likeness of Jesus. He longs to heal our land.

Also today, please consider Paul's admonition in Romans 12:1-2.  " Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."


Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Learned Something

It has happened once again.  While reading the writings of a Christian author, I was introduced to  a passage of scripture which I had read before, but I probably read through it so fast I missed the meaning.  It caused me to stop for a moment and ask myself if I have been reading scripture just for the sake of reading the bible cover to cover, without spending some time in prayer or in meditation to allow the scripture to actually speak to me. 
The verse which was unfolded for my learning experience this week is a one line truth from the Psalms, which gives tremendous insight to our lives of desiring to follow Jesus in faith and obedience.  Read it carefully and see if there is a message for you, too"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." Psalm 111:10
Yes, we have read it before, and have taught the first part...”the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." We have expounded how we should have the proper respect and reverence for the Lord, for who he is, for all he has done and continues to do for us. Perhaps we have even grasped the truth that this really is the beginning of wisdom. That is a wonderful passage we need to learn and live by.
But keep on reading...."all who follow his precepts have good understanding."  Especially pay attention to the order in which our understanding occurs.  We get it right when we learn to follow his precepts, obey his commands, and in faith honor his direction and orders for us. THEN we will have good understanding.
Let's see how this works, for example, in the commands for us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  It seems such as easy task for us to love God. Anyone would be crazy to say they aren't going to love him.  But when we get to the point of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, we have a tendency to hesitate.  We ask why.  Why should I love my neighbor when he obviously doesn't love me, and he has done things and said things which are so unloving?  If I am going to accept the truth of the Psalm, then I am going to love my neighbor in obedience to the command of Jesus, and then the good understanding will come.
Follow the same analogy with each and every commandment you can find for New Testament Christians.  With each commandment that is given, we have a obey or not to obey. Our tendency is to question some commands and find ourselves wondering why God would ask us to do something like that.  For a few more examples consider his commands on unity, prayer, baptism, or the Lord's Supper. Are these commands which we follow because we love him and trust him and want to do what pleases him?
What about the command of Jesus, "follow me?"  Scripture tells us of those who left their jobs, families, and previous lifestyles in obedience to that command, and followed him, not knowing all the details concerning where it would lead.  All of the information and understanding they may have desired before following Jesus, took a back seat to their willingness to obey him. I am suggesting that is the type of obedience Jesus is looking for in us.
As recipients of God's saving grace, we become a people who aim toward obedience to his commands, simply on the basis of our love for him, our trust in him, and knowing he will never leave nor forsake us. 
Read the verse again. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." Psalm 111:10

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Never Say Never

Note: The following article was released in our church newsletter some time ago, but I wanted to share the story through the blog because Christians everywhere will want to be praying for this young man. He is an outstanding example of how we can all put our complete trust in God. <>
 Never Say Never
His name is Zackary, and he has been on our prayer list for a long time. He is eleven years old and suffers from a brain aneurism. Treatment attempts have seemed successful at times, only to find out later that things aren’t going so well. His basic diagnosis is an inoperable brain aneurism and Zackary knows his prognosis isn’t good. He and his family are becoming more and more accustomed to the reports that contain bad news.

Zackary’s mom posted information on this amazing young man recently that I want to share with you. She states, “He continues to amaze me and has inspired so many. He has started to collect the tabs from soft drink cans, and others are collecting them for him, too. Zack wants to accumulate all the tabs he can, and donate them to Ronald McDonald house which will use the money from the tab rewards to continue their program of helping others. What an amazing way to make a difference!” She continues, “I can’t go on without telling a little story about Zack. We went to see the movie, ‘Never Say Never,’ with Justin Bieber. On our way home Zack said he almost cried when Justin Bieber was singing the song, ‘Never Say Never,’ because like the song, Zack wants to never give up.” Zack said, “I will never give up on Jesus, I will never give up on my friends, my teachers…and mom, I don’t want to give up on my dreams.” (I know a big dream of Zack’s is to play soccer.) His conversation with his mom continued, “If I can’t play soccer here, mom, I will be playing soccer with God. So see, never say never. I will breakdance with him, too.” Now mom relates, “It was an endless conversation where all I could do is listen to him speak from his heart. Why God just doesn’t heal him I don’t know, but all that matters to him is to praise God because of all the storms God has brought him through.” Zack and his mom send their love and hugs for those who have supported them and asked that we continue to remember Zack in our prayers.

I must add one more story about Zack. This was one of the first stories I heard about him after he learned how sick he was. He was asked by someone. What is your favorite animal?” His reply was quick and convincing. “My favorite animal is the zebra, because it reminds me of Jesus, and the Bible says ‘By HIS stripes, we are healed.’”

A psalm of David and the teaching of Jesus give these words, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”

Thank you, Zack, for continuing to teach us about perseverance, and commitment, and praise, and prayer, and God’s love, and zebras.

4/24/2012 update from Zack's mom:  "My friend Dana posted on her Facebook, asking all her Facebook friends to leave a little message for Zack on her page of how Zack has inspired them in any way. The response was amazing and while sitting in the doctors office lobby we were both reading them. He smiles and says, 'Mom I'm a little teary eyed, because God's love reaches all around the world. I can share him with the whole world and the whole world shares His love with me'"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Consider All The Data

I remember well the day I told dad I was going to go look at a new (used) car. He and I had both been looking around to find a replacement for a car that had become undependable.  So there I was, on my way out the door, when dad said he wanted to go with me.  It was my choice to go alone, but he insisted that he go, claiming he just wanted to ride along and examine the car with me. This was all happening in 1967, and what I hadn't told dad was we were going to look at a Mustang, the vehicle of choice for all the guys that were really cool.

We drove up to the residence where the advertised car was for sale, and I immediately felt the ice cold silence of disapproval.  I couldn't hold back my first reaction to seeing the shiny red automobile of my dreams, and I blurted out, "I wonder how fast it will go?"  Dad never changed expressions, but said, "I wonder how good the brakes are?" It took a few years, but I finally understood dad's wisdom.  The speed of the car was not relevant, when compared to its ability to safely stop.

I further learned the same truth after passing my ham radio license test, and reading the suggestions for purchasing equipment. Those who had been in ham radio for a long time were all telling me to spend a little more money on a receiver, and a little less money on the transmitter. On the surface I disagreed, because I wanted a powerful transmitter so I could talk all the way around the world.  Then it dawned on me, talking to someone on the opposite side of the globe would not be worth much, if I couldn't hear them when they talked back to me.

 Considering all the data before making decisions in our lives is very wise.  Dad knew the value of safely bringing a car to a halt as opposed to the temptation of keeping the speedometer pegged at the highest speed.  My friends in ham radio helped me in making the decision to purchase equipment which would adequately receive as well as transmit. 

Would it surprise you to know that Jesus wants us to consider some important things before we become one of his disciples?  In Luke 14:28 he gives us the picture of a man building a tower.  Jesus asks, "Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?"  Then he gives the story of a king that is about to go to war with another king and suggests that he needs to consider the size of his army and the size of the army of his opponent. It is similar to his teaching in Matthew 10, starting in verse 37, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  Then in Mark 8:34 Jesus says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. "  Jesus wants us to consider what it means to follow him, and what it may cost us to follow him. Are we willing to deny our choices , and follow the purposes of Jesus for our lives?  The Bible warns us it might lead to ridicule from our friends, or rejection from our family, or even death. 

The person who is completely wrapped up in his own abilities and strengths will probably keep on trusting himself.  For those of us who recognize the impossibility of going it on our own, and our constant battle with sin, will seek to serve Jesus and accept his forgiveness. Giving up self and following him can bring the assurance of his presence every step we take.

 Paul told the Roman Christians to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."


Monday, April 23, 2012

I Am Really Worried

I  wrestled with my feelings that week, as did most Americans. How are we to feel toward to death of an international terrorist? Most of the news reporting had leaned one direction or another in speculating the things that will happen next. Osama Bin Laden masterminded the death of around 3,000 of our fellow Americans over a decade ago, and the search for this criminal ended in a battle with the elite Navy Seals. We could relax a bit.....he was finally dead.

Part of me wanted to celebrate the fact that our world has been ridden of such a mean and viscous person. We do not have to worry about this criminal planning for the death of any more of our countrymen. Another part of me was brought to the reality that the person that takes his place could be even worse in his assault against Americans.

Then I wonder how much, if any, Bin Laden had ever heard about God, or love, or the cross, or salvation, or grace? Would he be a candidate for the same eternal life that I yearn for? I know his religious beliefsdiffered from mine, but what if he had heard the truth of God’s revealed plan to redeem mankind? I mention all these questions not because I have the answers, but just to illustrate what I believe most of us could have been thinking since his death. The part that really alarms me is the warning that continues for all of us to be on alert for suspicious activities and the possibility that America will be the target of revenge.

Then I am reminded of the many wildfires that destroyed massive areas of Texas last summer. Lack of spring rains had its effect on us all. And while that was going on, only a few hundred miles to the east, some of the most devastating floods in history were washing away homes and towns. Add to this the fact that our gasoline is rapidly approaching $4.00 per gallon, grocery prices continue to rise, and just about every location is experiencing increased violence and crime. Human nature brings me to put the blame on politicians, or anyone that disagrees with me, or in general, the downward spiral of society. The real truth is ……we are in a mess!

Jesus taught his disciples some important principles of life one day. In the list of those things he taught there is something called “worry.” Look at what he has to say: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:2527)

 Jesus goes on to speak of the lilies of the field, and how their splendor is greater than that of Solomon, all because God takes care of them. He says the same is true of the green grass that is clothed by God even though it is here only for a while. He wants us to know if God takes such good care of lilies and grass, then we are weak in faith if we doubt his willingness and ability to take care of us. So Jesus says, “Don’t worry about these essentials like what you will eat or drink or wear. God knows you need them.”

Here is the solution to our dilemma, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Verses 3334)

Shall we continue to worry about every detail in our world’s current events? Gas will probably go even higher, unemployment may continue to rise, and terrorists may attack us again. Jesus says our priority remains seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness. We serve a God who doesn’t want us to get so anxious over the things of this world that we lose the excitement for what he is preparing for us.

When seeking him is our priority, he takes care of the rest.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

"One Another"

For the weekend blog, we are taking a look at some of the verses in the New Testament which contain the phrase, "one another."  The "one another" verses of the New Testament are numerous. Most of them are repeated admonitions from the words of Jesus, but I have included some others for your consideration today. Please read them, learn them, apply them. It will increase your love and respect for others in the Lord's body, and will be a tremendous example for all.

John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Romans 12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

John 13:35 " By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 13:14 "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.

Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly Do not be wise in your own estimation.

1 Corinthians 12:25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

 Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

1 John 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

I pray God will bless your study today.