Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Afterthoughts

In a Thanksgiving blog by Michael Hyatt there are some interesting points revealed about the holiday just passed.   I am borrowing a few things from Michael to especially make the point that Christians are to be a thankful bunch, every day they live. Consider his points this weekend as the Thanksgiving holiday is giving way to the upcoming Christmas season.

He begins by saying the action of giving thanks to God should be paramount as a response to the things God has done for us.  Giving thanks is also the very thing which makes us different from all other living creatures God made.

If you are a person that still believes in God as portrayed in Genesis, then you can easily understand how everything created is in debt to God for making it, including us.  Michael points us to the scripture which states, "In Him we live and move and have our being."  So if it's true what the blog and the scripture says to us, then the next statement is true, too.  "Only people can offer thanks to God for life and every other blessing. "

Now, catch the truth Michael teaches us.  "Humans alone have the capacity to realize that we enter the world with nothing and leave with nothing."  So he's letting us know from our beginning at birth to our end at death, everything is a gift.  And what is the response of someone receiving a gift?  The fact that it is a gift demands our response of thanks.  Nothing else God created possesses the capacity to express true thanksgiving. It's up to you and me.

Thanksgiving day was a wonderful time for our family.  We couldn't all be together but those of us that gathered at my daughter's home, enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal, and lots of fellowship and football games, and laughter.  Before our meal, we prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.  God deserved that because we would not have been together, nor would we be alive without God and his gifts.

Can you imagine the difference that would be made in our world if we practiced this principle of being thankful people?  It would keep our minds keen on the truth that it is God who is our source, not the government, not the boss, not even the inheritance.

Oh, one more thing.  The primary thought that drew me to Michael's blog and to deciding to share it with you, was the title.  It's a message in itself.  "I THANK, THEREFORE IAM."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Blessings

                              Grace and Peace to all during Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thinking about Thanksgiving

Last year during the week of Thanksgiving, I gave you these verses to read, study, and make the subject of your prayers.  They are good, not only for this week, but for the daily lives of every Christian.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.  For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge--

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.  

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,  I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Here's the question...

There was a question raised when a group of Christian leaders were having lunch.  It's one of those questions which we have probably thought about before, yet without arriving at answers which seemed adequate.  Here's the question:

Are we guilty of professing to the world around us, if a person becomes a dedicated Christian, totally yielding to the writings of the Bible, then he is in for smooth sailing through life with everything turning out in his favor? 

Think for a moment about your take on that question.  If you decide on an answer like most, you will readily admit since you became a Christian, there have been things which did not produce smooth sailing, and maybe you can count numerous occasions when things didn't turn out in your favor.

While we wish to encourage and assist those on the outside to become followers of Jesus Christ, we do them a disservice if we infer they will never have another problem, never another illness, never another crisis in their family.  We who are already in the Christian family, the church, can testify about the problems of something called "life" still plagues us.

Here is the main thing we need to understand.  Even while living as a Christian in these present days, we are still on the human side of eternity.  It's true, Jesus lives in us which makes our lives prepared for eternity, while we live in this world we are going to face those troubles which are common to all people.

We believe that we are IN this world but the child of God does not have to be OF this world.  That's why you will hear Christians praying when crisis arises.  That's why we continue to seek the lost of the world with the gospel message.  That's why we strive to live our lives as upstanding members of society.

Yes, we are subject to car wrecks and cancer, business failure and even the death of some when they are still young.  These tragedies occur in the world in which we live.  Yet while these are happening around us daily, there is another thing we should understand.

The Christian continues his life in the world, yet when disaster occurs, he is equipped with the presence of God, who is always concerned with his people.  That gives us somewhere to turn when we face the problems.  You will hear Christians saying, in the face of troubled times, "I do not think I could have faced  this disaster, had it not been for my faith."

Jesus instructed us we would possibly face persecution and suffering.   We still have burdens to bear, trials and temptations, and yet through all of this, we face the reality of having our own individual "crosses to bear."

Because this world is in contrast with our eternal home, Biblical truth still points us to work in faith toward our citizenship in the eternal presence of God.  It may not always be easy, it could be painful, but Jesus died so we could be prepared and even anticipate his return when he will take us home.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Do You Want to Get Close to God?

We are using this weekend to get closer to God.  Is it possible?  Is it something you desire?  Can it be done in a weekend?

The Apostle Paul answers each of those questions with a resounding "YES!"  When he was preaching in Athens, a portion of his text reveals the way to get closer to the Lord.

From Acts 17:24-27 he says,  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us."

Use the graphic above and take it one line at a time, dwelling on the aspects where you are already strong, or on those where you need to be stronger.  Be sure and consider each one and how it may be manifest through your life.

As always, please write to me at the email address below, with your progress and success in drawing closer to God.  Remember, "He is not far from any one of us."


Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Day in the Life of Jesus

Have you ever had one of those days when you had too much to do, your schedule was filled, and you didn't know how you would get everything done?  Jesus had some days with lots of things to accomplish, too.  Follow the events of the day in the life of the Son of God.

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”  At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Matthew 9:2-3

The ministry of Jesus was seeing some of its highest level of activity as our Lord performed miracles and directed his teaching toward the religious leaders of the day. These two verses from Matthew 9 are an example of those very things. A paralyzed man was brought to Jesus by some men, which I assume were friends or at least compassionate toward this man's needs. Jesus told the man, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." Notice the progression of the event. First, the faith of those who brought the man to Jesus. Second, the pronouncement that the man's sins were forgiven. Now third, the religious leaders and teachers accusing Jesus of blasphemy. 
Jesus begins questioning the religious experts, "Why are your minds directed to such evil? Is it easier for me to say his sins are forgiven, or to tell him to get up and walk?" I get one of those "gotcha" smiles when Jesus leads the Pharisees into deep thinking like this. He has already told the paralyzed man his sins are forgiven, and that pronouncement alone got Jesus accused of blasphemy.

So ask yourself the same question he asked those law teachers. What is easier?  To tell this man his sins are forgiven or to tell the man to get up and walk? While you are pondering that, look at what Jesus did and said next. 

"I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”  Then the man got up and went home.  When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man."

We aren't told how the religious leaders responded to that, but the assembled crowd started praising God.  The verses of Matthew 9 which follow, include Jesus calling Matthew to follow him. He went to Matthew's house for a meal and the Pharisees questioned why he was eating with a tax collector and sinners. Following that, Jesus had to answer questions about fasting. The chapter continues and we see Jesus raising a woman's daughter from death, and healing a woman which had been bleeding for twelve years. She simply touched the hem of his garment and Jesus pronounced her well, because of her faith. Then he healed two blind men after they expressed their faith in him. His day was capped off with driving out a demon which was preventing a man from speaking.

Jesus was really busy that day. Lots of people were expressing faith and experiencing healing. Lots of accusations from the Pharisees and teachers. What is the lesson for us to learn?  Jesus has the authority and the power to forgive sins. Regardless of the opposition and evil that may be present, he is still the solution for life's difficulties. That remains true for us just as it was true for every person he encountered during his busy day. 


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Do-Over

NOTE:  Today's blog is a "tag-team" effort.  Some of the contents come from a sermon written by my son, Russell, and some comes from me.  So begins the Father-Son-Tag-Team.

In the neighborhood vacant lot, the kids have gathered for a game of kickball.  Teams are chosen and the game begins. Everyone is having a great time until....there is controversy.  It's a contested play at home plate.  The scoring team says "safe," while the outfield team says, "out."  There is some discussion, which turned into an argument, which was on the verge of turning into something worse.  A voice from the disagreeing teams called for a "do-over."  Maybe you remember such sandlot jurisprudence from your younger days.

God's prophet, Jeremiah has some things to say about do-over's.  In Jeremiah 18, God asks the prophet to go down to the potter's shop and God would speak to him there.  Jeremiah did as God asked and when he got to the potter's shop, he saw the potter working at his wheel, but the jar he was making was not turning out right. The potter crushed the wet clay into a lump and started over.  That's when Jeremiah understood the object lesson and God's message came to him.  Look at verse 6: "O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand."

During this time when God's people were being rebellious and disobedient, they really needed a do-over. God even warned them, "I am planning disaster for you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right."  Verse 12 gives the people's reply, "Don't waste your breath.  We will continue to live as we want to, stubbornly following our own evil desires."

After that, these stubborn people turned on the prophet!  When you don't like the message, the first thing to do is attack the messenger.  Jeremiah was under attack as they made their plans to kill him.

The contents of this story create for us, a glimpse of ourselves when we live our lives in rejection to God and his ways.  Just like Israel, God longs for us to become like the moldable clay in the hands of the potter.  That's why God laments, "O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay?"

Instead of listening to God's plan of a do-over, these wicked people rejected God's plea, and the scripture calls them hopeless.  It's not a hopelessness in the sense of having nowhere to turn.  They were hopeless because they had deliberately chosen to reject God.

Where are we?  Can we see the marvelous love from God, Our Father, when he gives us another chance by reshaping and molding us into a vessel fit for his service?  Who, or what, are you allowing to shape your life?

Folks, our very lives are the handiwork of the potter. You are the Master Potter's Masterpiece.  Eternal life is within you.  God longs for all of us to live by His Spirit, freely given to all.   It's the reason we sing, "Make me new, Lord Jesus, make me new.  For it seems that in so many ways I'm not enough like you.  Take this weary vessel I am in and mold me once again. Take my life, take my spirit, make me new"

<>    (and thanks to RussellB)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

God's Promises to YOU!

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Which of us that has accepted Jesus' invitation to "Come to me," can say he left us empty or lifeless? Haven't we tasted of God's love, mercy and forgiveness, and found rest for our souls in realizing our eternal purpose is to be in relationship with him?  The truth is this; these things are promises from the scripture, and we can know his promises can be trusted. 

Let's look today, and through the week at some of God's promises, and as we dwell on them, pray about them, and carry them in our hearts and minds, growing to place more and more trust in him.

Look at his promise to Jeremiah,  which allows us to see that God  has plans for us and has us in his plans.  " For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

Next from the writings of Paul, we have God's promises that he is a sustaining God. His blessings which sustain us are from God himself.  "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:19

How about this promise of God, again from the pen of Paul. " For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 6:23.  Here is God's promise that our salvation is a gift of his love for us.  It isn't something we earn or inherit from our parents, it's God's gift to you and me personally. Remember again, "God so loved the world that he gave his Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

This is one of my favorite promises from God.  Through Isaiah the promise is given, " but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  Isaiah 40:31  In our weakness, we find his strength. Running and walking are evidences of life. Fainting and weariness are evidences of spiritual depravity or even spiritual death. We can soar on wings like eagles...God promises that to those whose hope is in him. 

This is just a sampling of the multitude of promises God makes in his word.  We would all be wise to read and make note of them all.  May God bless your study and meditation.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Your mission.....should you choose to accept it...

Here's the biblical account of Jesus sending out some workers, who were to go by twos into every place that Jesus would visit.  They were the "front men," to prepare the hearts of the people with a message, "The kingdom of God is coming near to you."
Luke 10:1-7
"After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house."

The basics of the story include:

1.  Jesus is sending out front runners  which he will be following soon.
2.  They are going two by two into every town and place.
3.  The purpose of their mission has several aspects.
        a. To pray for and recruit people to be the harvest of workers for Jesus.
        b. The work is dangerous.  Like lambs among the wolves.
        c. Pack light. No purse, no bags, no sandals.
        d. Don't waste time with social visiting.
4. Proclaim the message of peace.
        a. If your message falls on a promoter of peace, it will stay with them.
        b. If the message falls on those not promoting peace, it will come back to you.
5.  Eat and drink with the families welcoming you.
6.  Don't move around from house to house.

This is the mission plan of Jesus himself, as his workers were sent out to reach others.  How does it compare to your concept of mission working?  However we answer that, remember when doing this type of work for the Lord, there will some success in reaching others, and some will not be moved in the direction of Jesus' mission.
Notice Jesus did not give them a list of the things to take along.  Instead, he mentions several things they should leave behind.  Someone has suggested when we are called on to make a mission endeavor for the Lord, we pack by first making three stacks .  Stack one, will contain the essentials, everything we know as necessary for such a trip and work.  Stack two will include the things we would like to take, but are not exactly essential for the trip.  Stack three contains the things that might make the trip more comfortable for us, and add a bit of luxury to our lives while we are working.  The suggestion of the three stacks concludes by telling us to discard stacks two and three, leaving only the first stack.  That's the way Jesus wants to prepare you for your work and influence.

No one has ever claimed mission work is easy.  However, it is the only way we can be instrumental in fulfilling the commands of the Great Commission.  It is mission work with a purpose if you are dealing one on one with someone over the back yard fence, or if you have the opportunity to talk to multitudes.
For you and me, as children of the Most High King, telling  others the gospel story, is a way of life.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Chasing a Comet

It's been on just about every news program this week.  An unheard-of accomplishment by the Europeans in the field of space travel.  I am writing this from memory so all the statistics are subject to correction, but I think I got most of it right.

Those working on this project have been busily involved since the early part of the century, and about ten years ago, a rocket carried an unmanned spacecraft into outer space on a very unique journey and mission.  That mission involved the hopes of successfully landing the small space ship onto a comet.

My first bit of suspicion came when I remembered that comets travel at a tremendous speed, and how could this little space ship ever travel fast enough to catch up with it?  That was soon answered for me with the news account of the space vessel orbiting around the earth for a while, then navigating itself out of earth's grasp in a "sling-shot" maneuver , which increased its speed tremendously.  In fact, I believe the news reports stated there were several of those sling shot tricks used throughout the mission.

The landing this week raised the hopes of all who are interested in space travel.  Things were done with the craft that have never been done before.  Just to make it interesting, the spacecraft was equipped with microphones so transmissions could be made to earth to hear what a comet sounds like.

I was so wrapped up in the news about riding a comet, I recalled the times I have watched events of the space shuttle, and from the ground have actually seen the shuttle and the space station as they orbited the earth.  All of those things are beyond comparison when it comes to the imagination of those who are interested in space. 

My interest in the European venture faded somewhat when the news announced the purpose of their mission.  They were hoping, by riding on a comet, they could come up with more information about the way our universe was formed. That question was settled for me long ago when I was taught and then accepted the truth of Genesis 1.  Not only that, I have read a couple of Lee Strobel's books on how a journalist in his early life worked hard by using science to explain away biblical truth, then came to realize the longer he studied the subject, there was more reality when studying the bible to prove scientific reality.

Reading those books and studying (and understanding) the things which science deals with can be a slow process, involving lots of study and examination, while coming up with a variety of theories.  Landing a small spacecraft on a comet traveling at 41,000 MPH is a great accomplishment and I applaud them for that accomplishment.  Learning our origin is best understood in believing and trusting in God to share the truth of the matter with us. 

Here is your weekend challenge.  Read Genesis 1, and even chapters 2 and 3.  Read with an open mind and heart.  Even if you have read it before, read it again.  Learn about God's power and his plan.  It's truthful, and a lot less expensive than chasing comets through the universe!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

A message from God in my heart.....

Psalm 36 begins with these words:
I have a message from God in my heart
    concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
    before their eyes."
David, the man after God's own heart, says from the very beginning of this psalm, "I have a message from God in my heart."   The verse continues and we learn David's heart message concerns the sinfulness of those who are wicked.  David has detected this by noticing they have no fear of God.
I'm going to agree with David on one part.  That's a message that needs to be preached.  Even our preachers today sometimes begin their Sunday morning sermons by confessing their message will be about something that has been weighing on their hearts.
Let's see what else was on David's heart.  If you read the next three  verses, there will be revealed he was taking on the entire forces of hell with this message from his heart.....and he was.
In switching gears, David then begins to educate us on the greatness of God.  Verses 5-9 show us attributes of God like justice, righteousness, preservation, refuge and abundance.  Needless to say, those people described in the section about wickedness and sin, needed to be taught about God's goodness and His grace.
Now notice verses 10-11:
Continue your love to those who know you,
    your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
    nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.

Did you see that?  Apparently God is concerned also with the heart of David.  Davis is praying in verse 11, " Don't let this message to the people be accompanied by my attitude of pride and arrogance."  Further, "Lord, keep me from the wickedness which my heart's message is combating."

I am praying that God continues to work in this same way in the presentation of the gospel today. It's a message people need to hear, from someone who has a heart motivated by love toward those who hear it.  And not only that, there is a message for the messenger, too.  God wants us to know we are doing HIS work, and proclaiming HIS message.  How foolish for us to depreciate the power of that message by making it about us.
Lord, we yield our hearts to you, praying you will fill us with your Spirit, our words to you, and pray you will take control of our lips to speak your word, our lives to you, praying we will be directed in your ways.   Amen.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Two Important Words

Four verses from Romans 8
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,  God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

No other segment of scripture says it so directly, "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  To the first recipients, the Roman Christians receiving this message, and to us, the boldness of the inspired writer, Paul, lets us know when we are in Jesus Christ, we will not be condemned.  The world may despise us, anti-Christian groups may hate us, individuals and masses may try to do away with us, and even the legalist which may rise us among us will say it's impossible, but God, the one that counts, tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

To support the statement, Paul continues, "because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death."  Shortly before Jesus' death on the cross, he told his followers about the "Comforter" he would send.  This Comforter was none other than the third personality of our triune God, The Holy Spirit.  Followers of Jesus were promised the presence of the Spirit who would guide them, lead them, comfort them, empower them  and even live inside them. Now Paul lets us know it is this Spirit that delivers us from the law of sin and death.

 More supportive scriptural information is in the verse that follows,  "For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering."  The law could establish principles by which we should live, it could serve as a standard for dealing with others, it could even place God as the one true God for us to serve. But like our scripture under consideration says, what the law was powerless to do, weakened by the flesh, God did when he sent Jesus in the flesh to be our sin offering.

To summarize, " And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."  Paul supplies in his teaching the proposition we are not condemned in Christ, supported his claim by showing us the law of the Spirit, continued supporting this truth by telling us how God did it, ending by saying we no longer live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

My closing is to tell you the most important two words of that section of Scripture. Care to guess? They are the words found in verse 3,  "God did."  They are the most important because you cannot save yourself, but you can enjoy the blessings of salvation because of what God did.  Because of what God did, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.