Thursday, October 29, 2015


I read a story this week about some of the details surrounding the release of prisoners of war as World War II was ending.  The year was 1945 and plans for the release of Japanese prisoners were being outlined.  The U. S. Army had devised a route the prisoners were to take in order for them to safely return to their homeland.

The Bilibid Prison Concentration Camp in Manila was going to be empty for the first time in years. Men would be arriving home to rejoin their families. The good news for Americans and Japanese alike was simple. The war was over. 

One thing the average person might not think of, is the importance of following the details of release to the letter. In this case, the prisoners were given an exact route to take.  Any deviation from the given route would be taken as an act of aggression.  Not only was the safety of the prisoners at stake, but also the safety of their  captors. 

The majority of the prisoners followed their instructions exactly. They were so happy to receive their freedom, nothing could have persuaded them from following the prescribed route. They had been released,  and arriving home to families was their goal. 

The tragedy of the story involves a small group of prisoners who decided they knew a better route.  They knew a different way, which in their minds, was quicker and easier to achieve their freedom. Their decision to deviate from the route given proved fatal.  American troops given the task of overseeing the release followed orders, seeing the disobedience as an act of aggression.  This group of prisoners died because they did not place their trust in the instructions given, and instead chose to follow their own wisdom. 

I tell you this story to illustrate how typical it is in today's world. I may have a tough time convincing you of this, but most people today are imprisoned by something.  In our land which prides itself being based on freedom and liberty, we have allowed many things to keep us in bondage.  The obvious things we think of are alcoholism, drug addiction, or any habit which has us under its control. There are also things like gluttony, gossip, hatred, racial discrimination, dishonesty, and the list goes on. The basis of all of these constitute what God calls.......sin. 

God has clearly given us the route we need to take in order for us to realize liberty and freedom from the imprisonment which sin brings.  We have His directions to lead us in our escape. In the gospel of Christ, we have his promise to be "the way, the truth and the life," for each one of us.  Not only that, we as Christians are to go into the world with his message which frees us from the guilt, the misery, and the penalty of our sins. We are his ambassadors in leading others to his love and forgiveness. 


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Need a Pep-Talk?

Lance Gunn played for the Texas Longhorns in the early 1990's and amassed numerous defensive records, ultimately becoming an All-American. Because of his success in college football, he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.  He then played for the New Orleans Saints and ultimately ended up playing in the European NFL for the Frankfort Galaxy. His ultimate goal was to play in the Canadian Football League and work his way back into the NFL here in the states.  Then, in 1996 a life-changing event happened.

Lance's father became very ill and to save his life, Lance donated a kidney to his father. This meant an end to playing football, and an end to his high paying salary, and an end to his dreams and plans of working through the ranks to become among the best of the best in the NFL. "I felt very fortunate to be able to add that quality to my dad's life, the person who gave me life," Lance said. "It was a no-brainer decision." 

I recently watched a video where Lance was giving a pre-game pep talk to a present-day team from UT, and his insight prompted me to share three points with you. 

1.  We are connected.  Lance wanted the team to know they were connected to each other, and that connection included winning games, becoming good at the job they were called to do, and be a better person through reaching common goals. 

2.  They think they know, but they have no idea. He was referring to the opposing team. They may think they know us, through our history or perhaps watching game films, but they have no idea what we can accomplish when our hearts, minds and bodies are set on being successful. 

3.  Accomplish this task for yourself.  Lance went on to explain this was not in the sense of being stingy, but that making sure we were accomplishing something for ourselves actually explodes into winning for the team, the school, and the community.

Now look at how closely these three points can relate to your Christian life. Think and pray about them.

1.  We, too, are connected.  In spite of the variety of our personalities, occupations, backgrounds, etc., we are connected in the Body of Christ. It is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit that all our differences can come together as "one," and we become a force for doing God's work.

2.  Satan may think he knows us, but he has no idea where God wants to lead us and the sense of eternal security, personal dedication, and our determination to be victorious over anything the devil sends our way. 

3.  Accomplish this task for yourself.  Not to be boastful in our accomplishments, but to know the things we do and the words we say just might be the determining factor for others coming to Jesus.  It is as though we are building a spiritual legacy to pass to those that follow us, as we function in the life of the church, always giving God the glory. 

Oh, and Lance is currently using his marketing degree and is the Director of Sales for Frito-Lay in central Texas.  You can thank him for his example, and for the pep-talk we all need from time to time.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Promise Keeping

Isaiah 43:1-3
 But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

At the time these words were given through Isaiah, the children of Israel were in Babylonian captivity. We probably could not understand all the difficulties associated with being held captive, as individuals and as a nation of people.  Even though these people had a history of unfaithfulness to God, always leading them to troublesome times, the verses above are words of assurance from God who continues to love them. 

Comforting words are always appreciated when we are in trouble. None could be more comforting than words like, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you: I have summoned you by name; you are mine."  While I can only speak for myself, I hope you can sense during difficult times in your life, you also would welcome the message from God that he knows your trouble, he cares, and he claims you as belonging to him.  That is the message God longs for us to grasp in faith, no matter how dismal our situation. It doesn't even matter to him that most of our problems are the result of our own doing. 

While those words from Isaiah 43:1 bring assurance from a God who loves us, verse 2 gives us a glimpse of the great degree of that love.  Spoken in a way that there will be no doubt, God wanted them to know his presence is with them when they pass through the waters.  Further, when they pass through the rivers, they will not be overtaken, and when they walk through the fire, they will not be burned. The flames will not set them on fire. 

Perhaps we can visualize our difficult times, like Israel's, as devastating as passing through rushing water, forging the force of a river swollen out of its banks, or even walking through fire, surrounded by flames that could bring our demise.  God says, these things shall not overtake you. 

The first part of verse 3 was the promise to Israel, and now to us. "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."  Trust in his promises through all your times of trouble. 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Come to this fountain.....

We can learn a lot about God by the way he dealt with his chosen people in Old Testament times. The children of Israel had many of the same problems we have, in remaining faithful to the Heavenly Father. Most of the prophetic writings of the Old Testament not only give us glimpses of the coming Jesus, Messiah, but also let us see some very specific qualities of God that we might otherwise miss.

Jeremiah was the prophet chosen by God to proclaim messages which contained doom and destruction to the unfaithful, and messages which portrayed God as one who longed for his people to return to him, and seek his forgiveness for their disobedience.

We've looked at some of this before and noted Jeremiah's message from God to the people included the mentioning of the Israelites defiling the land, they followed after worthless idols, they did not seek God, and even their leaders, the teachers of the law, were in rebellion. 

Jeremiah 2 gives the message and the picture for Israel looks bleak. The people who had known of God's deliverance and his provision, were now turning their backs on God and practicing idolatry. God is so displeased with them he and lets them know about it.  He asks this question, "Has a nation ever changed its gods?" (Yet the gods they turn to are not really gods at all.)  We can sense the sorrow and sadness from the throne of God to the entirety of Israel.  And yet, through God's displeasure, he still wants to show his love and forgiveness to  every one of them. 

Through the sins of the people itemized to this point, we can understand why God expresses his displeasure. Further down in Jeremiah 2, God sums up the root of their problem.  Verse 13:

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
Jeremiah 2:13

There are the two sins. They have forsaken God, the spring of living water, and they dug their own cisterns, that cannot hold water.  Both the Old and New Testaments have examples of the life giving source of spirituality illustrated by the provision of water. These people could have turned to God at any time and enjoyed an  awakening to the spiritual blessings from above.  Instead, he said they built their own cisterns that cannot hold water, a demonstration of their lack of trust and faith in God. 

Mankind still refuses to drink the water of life from God, the only sustaining source. We still like to call all the shots and make all the decisions.  We, like Israel in Jeremiah's day, need to learn the calamity that awaits when we choose our own way, our own abilities, our own strength.  The grace of God gives us the better perspective of knowing him, loving him, and following his direction. 

Come to the fountain, the source of the water of life, and drink from the spring of living water. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dinner Guest Brings Forgiveness

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.   A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.   As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.  Luke 7:36-38

A word of caution.  Be careful when accepting dinner invitations.  You never know who else might be there.  Such was the case when Jesus went to eat in the home of a Pharisee.  A woman with a poor reputation showed up and begin to  wet Jesus' feet with her tears and dry them with her hair.  Kissing his feet, she poured a perfume on them.

In reality, the invitation for Jesus to visit in that home was not for social reasons.  The Pharisee only invited him there to check him out.  They wanted to trap him into disagreeing with their version of law and tradition. 

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus there reasoned, "If he is really a prophet, then he will know about this woman.  He will know she is a sinner."

But Jesus spoke and told a story. "Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,  and the other fifty.   Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

Then starting in Luke 7:42, "Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

It caused quite a stir when Jesus forgave that woman.  The people in that house began to wonder who Jesus thinks he is, that he even forgives sins.   I tell you, the most wonderful words you will ever hear are the words that sinful woman heard that day,  "Her many sins have been forgiven."  Then there was something we sometimes miss in this story.  Jesus, without saying it, invites the Pharisee dinner host to look at the evidence of her forgiveness.  Her great love shows it!

The typical Pharisee, always observing himself as the picture of perfection, is stuck with the last words of the story, "But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

For the sinner who recognizes his sinful condition and seeks a relationship with Jesus, is well on the way to hearing words of forgiveness.  He is the one who demonstrates his forgiven life, by his love.  That's the love we need as individuals, and as a church. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pray in every situation...

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  Philippians 4:6

We've looked at the verse before, we've heard sermons on it, most of us can quote it.  Read it again while you also think about your prayer life, and ask yourself if you are ever anxious, or do you in every situation, present your requests to God?

Some time ago, another Christian blogger made a statement about prayer which I found interesting.  The blog was from, and the statement was made by David Platt.  See what you think.

"You don't need prayer when there's nothing at stake in your walk with Christ." 

What?  Christians are a praying people.  They recognize the need for a healthy and regular prayer life.  Yet, it is relatively easy to see the point Platt was making when we realize there are some who are satisfied with occasional church attendance and Bible reading, as one of the respondents to the blog stated, and some just do not hunger and thirst for righteousness. 

Is it possible that we who are in a personal relationship with Jesus, our Savior, and have recognized as "normal" the concept of conversing with God by prayers, petitions and thanksgiving, have not communicated that normality to others in the body of Christ?   

Perhaps the message concerning prayer could be best understood in the comments of some others to Platt's statement.  " Going without prayer is like going for a day without talking to someone most dear to you."   "No one could live without prayer because prayer is the key for opening up doors and changing peoples' lives."   "Prayer is a means of talking to God and waiting patiently for Him to respond to us."

What would be your one or two sentence response to summarize what prayer means to you and your walk with Christ?  Does your statement reflect that you pray often, and you possess the assurance your prayers are heard and answered?

The Bible sufficiently gives us instructions for praying, and communicates to us the power of prayer.  In just about every writing of the Apostle Paul, he solicits the prayers of his readers.  Jesus teaches us about the intimacy of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount.  

So we have seen in scripture, in testimony, and in example, prayer is vital to the Christian life.  Know this, daily I pray those who read this blog.  People I do not know and will probably never meet are mentioned in my prayers.  Above all, I pray that you will come to know Jesus, and of his love for you. 

I encourage you also to make prayer a very real part of your life.  We Christians do need prayer because there is so much at stake in our walk with Christ.