Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hanging by a leg....

I see it often, living in the Texas Hill Country.  With the huge population of whitetail deer, seeing one that was caught in the wires of a fence is not rare.  Most of these happen in rural locations and often the trapped deer, unseen by humans, dies, still hanging in the fence.

Although I live in town, my back fence is a 5-strand wire fence with wooden posts, and beyond that fence, is pasture land.  Numerous deer live out there and visit neighborhood backyards looking for food on a regular basis.  It's not uncommon for me to see 20-30 deer crossing my yard, heading to the creek, every evening. 

I didn't see the deer last week, when it got a back leg wrapped up in the fence.  I don't know how long she was there, hanging by a back leg from the top two strands of twisted wire.  This yearling deer  was afraid. In fact, she was shivering with fright.

As I approached the deer, she began to kick and flop.  A deer's association with humans isn't something the deer desires, unless that human is scattering food.  I thought seriously about not trying to help her, because of her kicking, knowing that her hooves were sharp and could inflict injury with just one kick.  I also had to consider this deer may not survive, even if I can get her leg free from its restraint.

I got close enough to pet the deer on the head and I talked to her as I ran my hands across her shoulders and down her back.  Surprisingly enough, she calmed down.  That gave me the time to reach up with my wire cutters and with one snip, the deer was freed.  I watched her closely, thinking maybe her leg would be broken, but she raced away, using all four legs to create distance between her and the human.

She ran at full speed and caught up with the group of deer grazing in the vacant lot across the street, and started eating, and enjoying her freedom.  

I tell this story today, happy that I could be instrumental in the deer's rescue.  You already know I was thinking of the way we get ourselves in situations just as severe.  We only have two legs, but that poor deer, hanging upside down from a back leg, showed me the picture of how desperately impossible it is for us to experience the freedom we were designed to enjoy.

We know how sin separates us from God.  We also know how impossible it is for us to save ourselves, by our own merits and abilities.  We allow ourselves to become ensnared and unable to escape by ourselves.  That is when we cry out to God in our desperation.  It was his Son, that had already paid our sin-debt while on the cross.  We need his blood to wash us clean.  He is our only hope for eternal life.  We should be seeking his love and grace and forgiveness so we can enjoy the freedom he brings.

Our only other choice is to keep kicking and flopping, trying to pull ourselves to safety.  That choice leads only to eternal separation from God.  While God offers eternal life, many still make the wrong choice.

"Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15”


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shoes in Church

Shoes in Church     By Doug Warburton

I showered and shaved............. I adjusted my tie.
I got there and sat............. In a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer.......... As I closed my eyes.
I saw the shoe of the man next to me...... Touching my own. I sighed.
With plenty of room on either side....... I thought,'Why must our soles touch?'
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine... But it didn't bother him much.

A prayer began: 'Our Father'........ I thought, 'This man with the shoes, has no pride.
They're dusty, worn, and scratched. Even worse, there are holes on the side!'
'Thank You for blessings,' the prayer went on.
The shoe man said A quiet 'Amen.'
I tried to focus on the prayer....... But my thoughts were on his shoes again.

Aren't we supposed to look our best, When walking through that door?
'Well, this certainly isn't it,' I thought, Glancing toward the floor.
Then the prayer was ended........... And the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud...... Sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters......... His hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear. The shoe man's voice from the sky.

It was time for the offering........ And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached. Into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out.......... What the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft 'clink' . As when silver hits tin.
The sermon really bored me......... To tears, and that's no lie.
It was the same for the shoe man... For tears fell from his eyes.

At the end of the service...... As is the custom here.
We must greet new visitors, And show them all good cheer.
But I felt moved somehow....... And wanted to meet the shoe man.
So after the closing prayer...... I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark.... And his hair was truly a mess.
But I thanked him for coming......... For being our guest.
He said, 'My names Charlie..... I'm glad to meet you, my friend.'
There were tears in his eyes....... But he had a large, wide grin.

'Let me explain,' he said......... Wiping tears from his eyes.
'I've been coming here for months.... And you're the first to say "Hi."'
'I know that my appearance.........Is not like all the rest.'
'But I really do try.................To always look my best.'
'I always clean and polish my shoes. Before my very long walk.'
'But by the time I get here.........They're dirty and dusty, like chalk.'
My heart filled with pain ...........And I swallowed to hide my tears.
As he continued to apologize.........For daring to sit so near.

He said, 'When I get here...........I know I must look a sight.'
'But I thought if I could touch you. Then maybe our souls might unite.'
I was silent for a moment........... Knowing whatever was said would pale in comparison...
I spoke from my heart, not my head.

'Oh, you've touched me,' I said......'And taught me, in part.
That the best of any man............ Is what is found in his heart.'
The rest, I thought, ......... This shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am... That his dirty old shoe touched my soul.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Make my joy complete

I've been reading "SPIRITUAL CPR," by Todd Phillips.  My reading so far has been rewarding in my thinking and meditation, all along the lines of the ways our spiritual lives can receive a fresh wave of renewal.  Those who work in the medical field will appreciate the sub-title of the book, "Reviving a Flat-lined Generation."

Can we individually use such a revival?  The next question is obvious.  Can we collectively as members of the body of Christ, use such a revival?   My thoughts today come from a chapter of the book called, "Your Very Own Spiritual Fountain of Youth."  It centers around the subject of the Christian's joy, and how much God desires us to be a people of joy.  Look at these verses from 1 John.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

Directing you to the very next verse, 1 John 1:4,  We write this to make our joy complete.

I detect there is something about John's opening verses concerning the personal testimony of those who had seen and heard and even touched Jesus, and that brings a completeness to their joy when they write about the fellowship between humans and deity.   Look at a couple more verses.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:9-11

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2.

Spend a moment in meditation about the love God has for his Son, how the Son loves us, and the encouragement for us to remain in his love.  Keeping the Lord's commandments and remaining in his love brought joy to Our Lord,  so we could experience complete joy.

Even Paul, in the verse from Philippians encourages his readers to make his joy complete by being one in spirit and of one mind.  Joy, in Paul's writings, is more than happiness.  It includes a union with Jesus, comfort from his love, sharing the spirit, tenderness and compassion, and being one in spirit and mind.

The message from Todd Phillips' book speaks to you and me as we navigate through a world filled with those who have no joy.  Adding to the sadness of that situation is the possibility for Christians to lose their joy. 

Lord, bring us to learn and experience the completeness of our joy through our faith and obedience.  We face heartbreak and disappointment, suffering and hurting, unfairness and anger.  May we open our hearts to receive your love and grace, and continue to share you with our neighbor.   --Amen


Monday, April 27, 2015

After Jesus Prayed.....

Matthew 6:14-15
"14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Those two verses come from the Sermon on the Mount and are the words of Jesus immediately after the Lord's Prayer.  And remember, it is in the Lord's Prayer, where Jesus said, "This is how you should pray,"  and it includes the part where we are taught to pray for God's forgiveness in the same way we forgive one another.

What prohibits us from having this type of forgiveness toward others when we pray?  We who are so ready for God to forgive us, so ready to experience the freedom of his forgiveness, cannot come to grips with God's insistence for us to be forgiving toward others.  God says we either forgive those who sin against us, or he will not forgive our sins.

The remedy for this dilemma lies in the depth of our understanding of the love of God.  God must really love us because he keeps on forgiving us.  That should lead us into another truth.  The reason we have difficulty in forgiving those who sin against us is because we have not learned to love them.

We love our families, some of our neighbors, we love sports, we love cars, we love golf, we love fishing, we love God.  When it comes to someone sinning against us, we want justice.  They have acted in a way that does not deserve forgiveness.  They may try to make things right, but we have the tendency to hold their sin over their heads from now on. 

If you remember nothing else today, remember God forgives you, and in every sin you commit, you do not deserve his forgiveness.  He forgives you because he loves you.  You can only experience God's forgiveness when you are forgiving toward those who wrong you.

Draw close to God as you need and seek his forgiveness, but draw closer to each other as you are forgiving toward them. 


Friday, April 24, 2015

Be Humble, Like Me!

Someone once joked about writing a book entitled, "Humility and How I Obtained It."  Needless to say, if a book did receive a title like that, it would not be able to teach and direct us to a life of humility.  The subject of humility, or being humble, is really a serious topic which should be approached with the same respect toward the Word of God as prayer or forgiveness, or even love.

In our weekend studies, we are suggesting a closer look at the Bible theme of humility, with the aim of strengthening our lives and bringing us closer to God, and possessing more of the likeness of Jesus.
Here are the suggested verses:  (the key verse of your study should be the one from 1 Peter 5:5)

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

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

Psalms 25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

Psalms 55:19 God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah because they do not change and do not fear God.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
Psalms 149: 4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 


Thursday, April 23, 2015

When you wish....

James 1:17  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

Philippians 4:6  "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

The idea of thanksgiving becomes an automatic practice for the child of God.  While we may often forget to tell God "thank you,"  the very lifestyle of Christians should show they are a thankful being toward their gift-giving God.  We readily admit we would be in a hopeless condition were it not for God's provisional nature toward us.  That's why we thank him for our food, our homes, our families, and on and on to include everything we are and everything we have.  He is a loving God whose love toward us is seen daily in the abundance of blessings he provides.

Are there times when you feel God has shorted you, especially in the "blessings" department?  We see our neighbor prospering and having things we have longed to have.  He drives a better car, wears nicer clothes, takes more vacations, and another list goes on and on. 
What is it, you want right now, that you want to ask God to provide?  Here is your chance.  Make a wish list.  Let me help you, by making a list of some things that I have personally wished for. 

New truck, new house, a complete new wardrobe, a big fat bank account, a bass boat, fame, an iPad, safety and health for my family, Caribbean cruise, a trophy buck in my gun sights,  (I could keep making this list forever!)  Does your wish list look anything like mine?

I was on a roll with my list, then I thought about a quote I read earlier today.  It goes like this:
"What you take for granted, someone else is praying for. What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"       OUCH!

Look back to the top of the page and read, really read and absorb the two Bible verses.  And there is one more verse I wish to share with you.   It's from Philippians 4:11-13 and the pen of our old friend, Paul:

"I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. "  
Someday I may have everything on my wish list.  On the other hand, my earthly life may come to an end before I have anything from the list.  That teaches me to be content with what I have, knowing all gifts are from God, and it is he who calls me to do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  While that makes my wish list "not so important," it enriches my life for God when I know he is my source for all things.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sore Joints and Weak Muscles

The Apostle Paul is praying for the Ephesian Christians:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   Ephesians 3:16-19

The older I get, the more I can appreciate the Bible writers, like Paul, when they pray for continued development, maturity and strength.  Yes, I know his prayer is for an inner strengthening which happens when we yield more of ourselves to the direction of the Holy Spirit.  But you will see the applications apply to bodies with age, when there is a constant plea for the joints and muscles which need strength.  And you will never pray a better prayer, than to pray that you can be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  

There is another section of Scripture from Paul which sounds like it would fit perfectly with our topic:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I love the way Paul teaches us with his word pictures.  And his teaching is quite simple to understand.  We grasp what it is like to grow physically.  We watch our children and grandchildren mature and get taller and stronger.  We would quickly know something was wrong if their physical development didn't happen.  But Paul paints another picture for us when he points out how our bodies eventually waste away.  And while that is happening and we learn to live with our aches and pains, there is the description given that "inwardly we are being renewed day by day."  Even with the troubles and problems that face us in daily living, I want to cling to his promise that I am being renewed day by day.

My prayer for you can be found in Paul's words from Ephesians 3.   My encouragement for you, regardless of your age, young or old, is found in Paul's writing in 2 Corinthians.  Read and meditate on these two important sections of scripture.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


"I have set before you this day, life and good, and death and evil.  Choose life, that you and your descendants may live."  Deuteronomy 30:15, 19

God has such a marvelous way of letting us know we are a people of choices.  Life and good things exist as one of our choices.  The other choice is described as death and evil.  No matter how hard we try to fathom the concept of a loving God sending people to an eternity of condemnation, the Bible teaches we make that choice ourselves.

Remember Noah, of the floodwater days?  He lived in an era when wickedness was the way of life for almost all of mankind. Scripture describes that generation by letting us know "every imagination of the thoughts of the hearts of man was evil continually."  We might readily suggest God had lost control.  Satan himself must have been the controlling force.  But while it seems that way, the actual decision of each and every person destroyed by the flood had chosen the way of wickedness and evil.

We often say, "the devil made me do it," when offering an excuse for our bad behavior.  We think in terms of Satan having control over us, while God is letting us know the only power Satan has is that which we willingly give him.  If he really controls us, it's because we made the decision to allow it.

The ultimate control was that of God when he called a halt to all unrighteousness and wickedness through the flood of destruction.  He destroyed the life of every individual who had chosen to disregard him, choosing rather the way of evil.  Only Noah and the faithful of his family were spared.

We can look at generation after generation from Bible days until today, and come to appreciate and believe our God is in control.  We are his by creation and redemption.  We belong to him.  Those who put their trust in God and faithfully choose the life of loving him, obeying him and inviting him to reside in their hearts, will be participants in the "life and good" God promises.

Read the verse again.  This time, determine which choice you are making.  It's a decision of eternal proportions, but also a decision each of us must make.

"I have set before you this day, life and good, and death and evil.  Choose life, that both you and your descendants may live."  Deuteronomy 30:15, 19


Monday, April 20, 2015

How much more....

We have looked at Romans 5 before, and have seen in the first part of that Bible chapter, the themes of peace and hope for the people of God.  It is vitally important that we see the relation between those themes and God because as we saw in earlier studies, He is the source of our peace and hope.

Another look at the remaining portion of the chapter gives us so much more.  If you follow repetitions and know the repeated use of a word or a term in Scripture sheds light on the importance of the subject matter, then look what Paul does with the term, "much more."

Verse 9, "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!"  The verse identifies the Christian as one who has been justified by the blood of Jesus.  Yes, we are sinners, but have been made clean by Jesus' blood.  But much more we have been delivered from the wrath of God. 

Now, in verse 10, "For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Paul uses logic here.  If, while living lives as enemies of God, we were reconciled through the death of Jesus on the cross.  Then he says, much more, since we are reconciled, we will be saved through his life.

Paul then starts talking about Adam's sin, which brought the pronouncement of a death sentence for all mankind.  Verse 15. "For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!"  Did you catch all of that?  By Adam's sin, we have inherited the death sentence because we are all sinners.  So if many died because of the sin of one(Adam,) much more did God's grace overflow to many. 

Look in verse 17, "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!"   Paul's repetition makes this easy to see.  Again, death reigned through Adam, much more shall we receive God's provision of grace and the gift of righteousness through Jesus.

There are four times Paul uses the term, much more.  His repetition drives home the truth of the message of our standing with God.  Using terms like "justified, reconciled, grace overflowing, and gift of righteousness" Paul describes US!  The source of these applied terms is God himself, through his Son Jesus. 

You would think Paul had used or overused the "much more," and that would be the entire picture. However, I think Paul is just getting started, and wants us to become as excited about our lives in Jesus as Paul is about his own life.  The longer I am involved in the Christian walk, I come to know God is not finished.  Like Paul, I will use the term "much more."  Past accomplishments behind us, let us get so involved with God that we can experience the "much more" he still has in store for us.

Paul gives us a hint in the 8th chapter when he says nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, because we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through God who loves us. 


Friday, April 17, 2015

Be Steadfast!

First of all, thanks to those who have sent positive comments on our schedule of sending a weekend study of verses on Bible topics.  This weekend, please spend some time in reading these verses which relate to us being steadfast in our faith. I like to read the verses aloud, and dwell on the teaching provided in each one.  God bless your prayer and study time.  --RonB

1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV   Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Psalm 61:3 ESV   For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Titus 3:5 ESV   He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

John 16:33 ESV   I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Matthew 10:28 ESV   And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Revelation 21:1-27 ESV   Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” ...

1 John 2:15 ESV   Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Ephesians 2:10 ESV   For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

I'm a Loser

Remember back in the 90's when Coca-Cola, and maybe other soft drink companies, had the "Twist and Win" game?  You could win prizes when you twisted off the cap of the bottle, if you had a winning bottle cap.  There were some cash prizes and vacation trips given away, but most of the winning bottle caps prized the winner with another bottle of Coke. 

On a weekend trip, we stopped at a convenience store and bought three bottled cokes.  Back in the car and on the road, I asked my daughter if she was a winner.  She wanted to remove her bottle cap last, so I started unscrewing the lid of mine.  Inside the cap were the words, "Try Again."  I remember voicing the words in a sad tone, "I'm a loser."  I urged my daughter to look at her bottle cap, but she insisted on being last so Mom went next.  Her bottle cap contained the same message as mine, "Try Again."   She could be heard saying, "I am a loser, too."   Now it was up to the daughter.  She slowly removed the bottle cap, read the message inside, but wouldn't tell us what it said.

We coaxed her enough she finally gave in, and confessed her message was just like the other two, "Try Again."  Then she said, "I shouldn't expect anything else.  I come from a whole family of losers."  I remember all the laughter as we enjoyed our Cokes, and teasing each other about being losers.

Joking aside, do we Christians ever think of ourselves as being losers?  We can lose at a board game, we can lose to a better team in sports.  We can lose our job or lose our house.  We can lose a loved one.

Is there ever a time when losing is a good thing?  I think there is.   What if you lost your habit of gossip? Or what if you lost all of your bitter feelings toward others?  You might even see an improvement in yourself if you lost all envy, impure thoughts, the love of money, or countless other things.  In fact, if we all could just lose everything that stands between us and God, what a difference that would make. So think about being a loser of some specific sin or weakness, and realize what a blessing that could be.   

Are you willing to lose everything?  Consider with me, as we contemplate losing those things that bring spiritual harm to us, we are in a good position to gain eternity, when we are willing to give up everything else.   A better way to think of it is, we humans have the opportunity to trade our nothingness, for everything God has to offer. 

When you are a loser by the world's standards, that brings you down and finding happiness and completeness will always be beyond your reach.  When we are losers, based on eternity, we must be willing to lose it all, to empty ourselves of our accomplishments and the world's rewards, to receive that which Jesus promises he is preparing for us.  That's the kind of loser I want to be.

"What shall if profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Any Doubts?

Today, we are going to encourage you to think about your faith, your devotion to God, your willingness to make Jesus the Lord of your life, and maybe some other concepts which are the natural response of people who really strive to be a spiritual being.  It would be interesting to hear responses from everyone on their thoughts just from the opening sentence, but I want to challenge you with an important question.   Here goes:

Do you ever have doubts?  Allow me to expand with several questions we should ask ourselves.  Do we, as the people of God, find ourselves doubting him?  Are we always able to pray with the faith that he hears and answers?  Do we find ourselves thinking more about the physical rather than the spiritual?

When I think of a doubting Christian, my mind turns to that follower of Jesus named Thomas.  We have even become comfortable in calling him "Doubting Thomas."  We call him that because it seems so strange for us to think of anyone who has been with Jesus in his earthly life, hearing him speak, seeing his wonders and miracles, and developing such a strong spiritual closeness to the Son of God, the word "doubt" should not be in our vocabulary.

Then I try and put myself in the sandals of every man Jesus called to be his closest follower and you can catch a glimpse in each one that they must have had some doubts.  Yes they were drawn to Jesus, interested in Jesus, and followed Jesus.  The one thing, unique in the calling of the twelve, is each one was in for a change.  That change is what we come to know as .......transformation.

It seems so odd that Jesus would have a tax-collector in his ranks, or someone that had such a temper, or even those who were dubbed the sons of thunder.  None of them stayed the same when they encountered Jesus.  The same is true with our friend, Thomas.  When Jesus allowed Thomas to put his fingers in the nail-scarred hands, he wasn't a doubter anymore.  He was transformed!

Heavy on my mind and heart right now is the change that took place in the life of Saul on the road to Damascus.  It was a complete turn-around from being an enemy of the cross and becoming the greatest Christian worker and church planter.   Paul's transformation gives us the picture of how the Lord can take the doubt and replace it with such a strong faith.

We fail in our work of spreading the gospel when we bounce off of one doubter and move on to the next.  All the while we have the words and events in the life of Jesus himself who refused to give up on anyone.  And aren't you glad he doesn't give up on you?  The key in all of this is when we allow him to do his work of transformation in us.

 "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."  2 Corinthians 3:17-18


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I have confidence

Real Confidence from Proverbs 3:21-28

21 My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,
    do not let them out of your sight;
22 they will be life for you,
    an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
    and your foot will not stumble;
24 when you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
    or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be your confidence
    and will keep your foot from being snared.

Solomon was known as a man of great wisdom and the Proverbs are filled with his words which will lead us to making wise choices. He would have us to know that wisdom in the life of the believer is a learned set of principles based on following those ideals which are pure and right. The segment of Proverbs 3 above comes in the form of promises that belong to those whose lives are an example of such wisdom. 

The earlier verses of Proverbs 3 encourage us to make choices which will not only determine the direction we want our lives to go, but choices which will exemplify who we are.  Let's look at some examples:

Verses 1-2  - Keeping the commandments and teachings close to our hearts will bring long life and prosperity. 

Verses 3-4 - If love and faithfulness are always in our lives, they will bring about the favor of both God and man.  (There is a truth that is needed in every corner of our lives and our world!)

Verses 5-6 - Trusting completely in Lord, in every situation, acknowledging Him, brings His guidance into right paths. 

Verses 7-8 - Don't be wise in your own eyes, but have a reverent fear of the Lord, and He will bring  health to our bodies.

Verses 9-10 - Honor God with your income of wealth, placing Him first, and he will honor you with abundance. 

In the wisdom we learn from Solomon's writings, we find confidence. Verse 26 assures us, "  the Lord will be your confidence."


Monday, April 13, 2015

How can we know the way?

(Re-post by request.)

Do you recognize that verse?  We know it from the discourse of Jesus after he told his closest followers he would be leaving them soon. 

I can only imagine their feelings, their broken hearts, their unrest.  After all, these were the ones Jesus had personally invited to "Come, Follow Me."

Some of these men had worked as fishermen when they got the invitation to follow Jesus. The Bible says they left their nets and followed him.  For some, the following of Jesus was not an easy choice.  They would be leaving their families, their livelihood, their friends, and their way of life, to embark on the unknown.  Perhaps this is why the news of his departure hit them so hard.

In an attempt to bring comfort to his upset followers, Jesus spoke.   “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”   John 14:1-4

We need to remind ourselves these were men who had placed their trust in Jesus, but at times he referred to them as "You of little faith."  The earthly mission of Jesus was drawing to a close.  He had spent his ministry here in teaching like no one had ever taught, performing miracles of restoring sight, driving out demons, raising the dead and more.  The followers of Jesus had heard his parables and had witnessed his encounters with the Pharisees.  And Jesus knew they believed in God. 

He was telling them there was no reason for their hearts to be troubled because they believed in God, and they could also believe him. Further, he assured them of the preparations already made and being made by Jesus to make everything ready for him to come back and take them with him.

The Scripture then brings us to the event that gives Thomas his nickname as "Doubting Thomas."  Continue reading with verse 5,  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”   Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

If we believe that final sentence, "No one comes to the Father except through me,"  then we will find comfort and peace for our lives in knowing Jesus as the way.  His way becomes our way.  We will know Jesus as the truth when in faith we accept his truth.  And we can know Jesus as the life when we experience his life in us.  Our fears, our doubts, our struggles will cease when we know him like this.