“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.’” - Numbers 13:30 NKJV.
We know the story, the Children of Israel were on the verge of entering into the Promised Land. Twelve spies were sent into the land. These were carefully chosen leaders from each of the tribes. When they returned the majority reported that indeed the Promised Land was flowing with milk, honey, and fruit. However, they also saw giants and said, “...we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight (Numbers 13:33b).” These ten men saw the potential of the land but primarily they saw the great difficulty taking possession of it would involve.
Caleb and Joshua brought the minority report and as the people were preparing to stone them to death said, “If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them (Numbers 13:8-9).”
Each day we have a choice to make. We can look at our day ahead and only see the giants, the problems, the difficulties, the unpleasantness. Or, we can remember that the Lord our God is with us. Through His power we are “well able to overcome” whatever we may encounter.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for about forty years before finally returning to enter into their Promised Land. Caleb was 80 years old. The land given to Caleb was a mountain full of giants. The giants were no match for an 80 year old man and the Lord. The giants you encounter will do no better when the Lord is on your side.
So Many People
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” - Luke 19:10 NKJV.
The numbers are staggering! Six billion people on planet earth by sometime in October of this year. It only took 12 years to add this billion. It took 13 years to grow from four to five billion people. It is expected that within 12 to 14 years another billion people will be added to the population. We can do the math and in only 100 years, at the current rate of growth, the population of the world will more than double to 13 billion people. However, more people usually means more births which will result in a much higher number in only 100 years.
We have to wonder where will all these people live? If the Lord tarries, in 500 years what will be the population? As we look at these numbers it reinforces the thought that history, God’s history may well be winding down. How much longer will it be possible for humanity to exist. Is not the time for God’s intervention drawing closer and closer?
With these thoughts we have to ponder how much longer do we have to reach the lost? How much longer do we have to tell our friends, our neighbors, our relatives about Jesus? With the ever increasing number of people should not we as Christians increase our efforts toward reaching them? As the population grows it will take more and more Christians involved in evangelistic activity to reach them. Before it will happen there must first be spiritual growth. There must first be conviction in the hearts of the saved that the lost need to be reached.
When was the last time you prayed for the salvation of a lost person? When was the last time you cried because someone was lost? When was the last time you shared your testimony with someone? When was the last time you gave a tract to someone? When was the last time you invited someone to church? When was the last time you picked someone up and brought them to church?
Are You A Disciple?
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” - Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV.
Are you a disciple or are you only a believer? One writer estimates that if the qualifications of discipleship given by Jesus were applied to those claiming to be Christians only 25% would meet them. I believe it is actually a much lower number around 8 to 10% based on a Gallop poll done several years ago. Most of us can agree that when we are “born again,” we are not mature Christians at that point. The apostle Paul speaks of baby Christians and mature Christians. To become a mature Christian, one must be a disciple following Jesus through life.
We know from experience that many Christians never become mature Christians. Why? Is it not because they have not become disciples? Who is a disciple of Jesus? If you are a disciple of Jesus would you be denying yourself, taking up your cross each day, and following in His steps? Of course! The rate of maturing as a disciple will depend on how closely we follow. Are we following closely or are falling further and further behind?
I have heard little children pray some of the most sincere prayers and yet some adults who claim to be Christians will not pray publicly or privately. If we are not praying, we are not following. The same can be said for many other things we know Jesus would want us to do. If we are not reading the Bible, we are not following. If we are not attending church regularly, we are not following. If we are not giving, we are not following. If we are not witnessing, we are not following. If we are not serving, we are not following. If we are not forgiving, we are not following. If we are not turning the other cheek, we are not following. If we are not going the extra mile, we are not following. If we are not always honest, we are not following. So, if we are not following, can we really say we are a disciple? It may be that some of us are really only believers. Let us commit ourselves today to follow our Lord more closely and become disciples!
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” - Romans 5:3-5 NKJV.
When I was in college the last time I considered entering a doctoral program. One professor shared with me some of his experiences in obtaining his doctorate and graduate school in general. He summed it up by saying it was just an “endurance contest.” He said there were many people who were intelligent enough, and even more intelligent than himself, but they did not endure long enough to receive their degree.
According to the apostle Paul, the problems, trials, and tribulations of life require “perseverance,” or as the KJV puts it, “patience.” It sounds like Paul is saying there are some things in life that require endurance. To live the Christian life requires that we endure the temptations of this world, the flesh, and the devil. To live a Christian life we must persevere in the face of harsh and critical words from those around us. We must persevere with kindness in return for the hateful things which are sometimes done to us. We must persevere in the face of temptation; resisting for one more day.
As we persevere day by day, over time we will see that Paul was right. Over time we will see that the perseverance develops character, and this godly character produces hope. In Vacation Bible School this week the theme is “Climbing Mt. Extreme.” In VBS we are climbing to new heights with Jesus. In many ways life is like a climb to the top of Mt. Everest. Stacy Allison, the first American woman to climb to the summit of Everest said this, “The end of the ridge and end of the world... then nothing but that clear, empty air. There was nowhere else to climb. I was standing on the top of the world.” Let us keep on climbing to new heights with Jesus because some bright shining day we too will stand on the top of our mountain, a mountain called, “Life.”
“Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.”
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” - Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV.
The words to the hymn “The Solid Rock” were written by Edward Mote in the 1800s. Two great lines of the hymn are: “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.” Mote knew a little about the sinking sand. His parents operated a pub in London. Mote said that he spent his Sundays on the streets and did not even know there was a God. He was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker and the cabinetmaker took him to church. Through that relationship he came to know Jesus as his personal Savior.
We want to have revival. We want to have spiritual awakening across this country and across the entire world. However, there is a price to pay. The price we must pay is to give up our “sinking sand.” I’m reminded of King Agrippa in the Book of Acts. The apostle Paul shared his testimony of how he had been met by the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul through that encounter was transformed from a crusading murderer into the greatest missionary the world has known.
King Agrippa listened to Paul’s testimony and I think then there was a long pause. Finally, King Agrippa said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” I think there was a long pause because King Agrippa was counting the cost. He was counting the cost of giving up his “sinking sand.” He was thinking about having to give up his crown. He was thinking about giving up living in a palace and the other perks which come with kingship.
I am reminded too of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “You know the commandments,” and began naming them. The young ruler said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” Jesus looked at him and said, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me (Luke 18:22).” Again, I think there must have been a long pause. A long pause as the rich young ruler counted the cost of giving up his "sinking sand." The Bible says, “he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich (Luke 18:23).”
Today the political leaders of the United States are again counting the cost. They know very well our culture has gone astray. They know very well that we need a return to a morality that only God can give to us. But they are counting the cost. How many votes will they lose from the homosexual lobby and the other Godless people across this country? How much in campaign contributions will they lose from the film industry? I would tell them that the cost of the “sinking sand” is too high. I believe King Agrippa and the rich young ruler would tell them the same thing. It is time for our leaders to make a stand and to stand on the “Solid Rock.”
We Need God
“But I will sing of Your power;
Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;
For You have been my defense
And refuge in the day of my trouble.
To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises;
For God is my defense,
My God of mercy.
- Psalm 59:16-17 NKJV.
David knew well his God. David had been so low that at times he hid out in caves while Saul hunted everywhere seeking to kill him. While the enemy raged God was the only defense and refuge David had. God’s defense and refuge never failed David.
We continue to live in troubled times with another school shooting in Conyers, Georgia near Atlanta. There have been almost countless daily bomb threats at the schools across the United States. Just within driving distance of where I live I have heard of several. How troubling for parents and children who continue to attend school during the rest of this school year. But then, what we face here is small in the face of a constant barrage of bombing in Serbia. Think how difficult for the families who have fled from Kosovo. Many still living in tents under difficult conditions. We live in uncertain times, however, our God has not changed and if we look to Him we will still find our defense and refuge. It can be found nowhere else.
We also live in a time of great temptation. Just this week the Dean of the Harvard Divinity School has been terminated from his position. He was terminated because pornography was found on his computer. How terrible. But then we would be surprised at how far spread and pervasive pornography has become in our society. David knew something of this temptation. He committed adultery, even murder as a result of succumbing to the temptation he encountered. The effects of David’s sins on his family and nation were devastating. In the face of moral self-destruction David found God to be his defense and refuge. David found mercy when he turned to God.
We may need new laws but we need God more. We may need armed guards, we may need new policies on clothing for school children, we may need metal detectors, but we need God much more.
We pray and need world peace but we need God more. We may need a new world order; we do need ethnic harmony; we need protection from nuclear proliferation, chemical, and biological weapons; we need a relief from human suffering we see all around; but we need God much more.
We need some control on the evil we see on the internet. We need to stop the access to bomb making sites. We need to put pornographers out of business. We need to stop the hate. But we still need God much, much more.
If we would turn to God we would as David, experience God’s mercy. If we would turn to God we too could sing of God’s refuge and defense. If this world would turn to God we would have a new world order where peace abounds and love overcomes. If only we would turn to God.
“So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road.” - Numbers 22:21-24 (Read all of chapter 22 for entire context.)
This is one of the more interesting passages in the Bible. Where else can you find a talking donkey? “Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ’What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’” (v. 28) Balaam was a prophet who wanted to make some money out of his prophesying. Balak wanted Balaam to bless Moab and curse Israel. God would have none of that. God did give Balaam permission to go with the men from Moab. Balaam, when he received permission from God, planned in his heart to go and say what he wanted to say. The Angel of the Lord blocks the way and makes it clear to Balaam that he is only to speak what God wants him to say.
There is insight to be found in this passage in regard to God’s will for our lives and spiritual warfare. Sad to say, but sometimes we are so far from where God wants us to be we do not recognize when God says, “No!” God had said “No!” to Balaam but Balaam did not want to hear it. Balaam was blocked and he fought against it. He hit his donkey each time he was blocked to try to go on. To gain Balaam’s attention God finally opened the donkey’s mouth so she could talk. With that, Balaam’s eyes were opened and he could finally see the Angel of the Lord blocking his way.
When our way is blocked again and again are we being blocked by the enemy or are we being blocked by the Lord? Are we so determined to obtain what we want that we have left God out of the equation? Sometimes those are tough questions which will only be answered when we spend time with our Lord in prayer and His Word. Sometimes we need to include fasting as well. Of course, if we decide to continue on there is always the talking donkey!
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” - James 4:14 NKJV.
Thomas Hughes, on his way to fight in the first World War wrote a short message, put it in a bottle, and dropped it into the English Channel. His last words intended for his wife were, “Ta ta sweet, for the present. Your Hubby.'' Thomas died two days later in battle. The bottle was finally recovered this past week and presented to Thomas Hughes’ daughter who is living in New Zealand.
If Thomas had known he would soon die most likely he would have written more. If he had known his wife would be dead and his daughter late in life would receive the letter he would have carefully chosen his words. In the news this week is a set of questions a doctor has prepared which you can answer and then use to predict your life expectancy. So many of us live our lives as if we know that we have many years left to live. We live as though the mortality tables of the insurance companies are accurate in every case. The truth is we do not know what will happen tomorrow or even during the rest of this day.
If we knew we would die in two days would there be some things we need to take care of? Would there be some things we would want to say to family, friends, neighbors? If we knew our Lord was coming back today would we live our day differently than we have planned? Would there be some things we would do, say, write? Would there be some things we would not do, say, or write?
A Locust Problem?
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame.” - Joel 2:25-26.
There is a man in our church who has a different kind of testimony than most you hear today. His testimony is that he has never touched a drop of alcohol and he has never done any drugs. Usually the testimony we hear in these days is just the opposite. It is possible through the power of God to live a life free from those sinful things. If we have never become involved with alcohol, drugs, sexual immorality, or other immoral things it is much easier to live a holy life.
What about the rest of us? Those of us who have become bogged down in sin? The Israelites had become bogged down in sin. They went through the feast days just as though they were rituals that had to be performed. They did not really worship God. How could they worship God when their hearts were so far from Him? The further they got from God the worse things became for them. The years they spent in sin were wasted years. The wasted years were years which the locusts ate up just as locusts sometimes eat up a crop.
God said through the prophet to His sinful people and He is saying the same to us today: “’Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm (Joel 2:12-13).”
If the people would turn back to God, if we will turn back to God, He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. No, the years may not be restored in our lives day for day. However, God is able to intensify the quality of life which we have. We may have lived all of our lives in sin and think what is the use of changing now? In addition, to gaining eternal life and living forever and ever in Heaven; God would give you abundant life now. One month lived in the power, strength, joy, peace, love, and fellowship of God is better than all the days I lived in sin. It will be for you too. I John 1:9 may be just the verse you need today.
Leaving God Out
“Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the Lord your God, and the fear of Me is not in you.” - Jeremiah 2:19 NKJV.
The Children of Israel had turned away from God. They were seeking life in other places. Over the weekend I listened to the testimony of two people who have AIDS. They admitted their immoral lifestyles and expressed remorse for the way they had left God out of their lives. However, it was not until they had AIDS that they came to the realization that they needed God.
Judgment and condemnation eventually came upon the Children of Israel. But God kept telling them that it would happen. The two who have AIDS never thought they would contract the dread disease. Is it God’s fault that they have it? No! It is the result of their own actions. It is, however, the result of leaving God out of their lives. Because if they had been living their lives in the way God wanted the disease would never have been contracted.
Yes, we can leave God out of our lives. But there is a price to pay. “Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you.”
The Living Waters
“For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns- broken cisterns that can hold no water.” - Jeremiah 2:13 NKJV.
These words were spoken to the Children of Israel long before the birth of our Lord. However, they are still true today. People are still turning away from the only source of life and trying to find life where there will never be life. God says, “...whosoever believeth in him (The Son of God - Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).” What is our response? Many try to find life in broken cisterns. They try to find eternal life through their good works. But God says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”
How tragic that once someone comes to know Jesus as their personal Savior they then begin trying to live their lives by sight and not by faith. They try to have life not through their Lord but through other things. Things like money, careers, and other material things. Some try to wrap the broken chains of bondage around them again through sexual imoralities, or through the use of alchohol and drugs. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Those things will not give us the abundant life (John 10:10). Those things are only broken cisterns which will steal life from us.
We can have life only through the Living Waters of our God. Through His resources we can have life while we are living on this earth. Jesus is the Word become flesh (John 1:1-4). God says, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).” Let us not build broken cisterns which destroy life when we can drink from the Living Waters of God which give life so abundantly.
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” - I Corinthians 1:9 NKJV.
In the book of Numbers instructions were given for the making and the use of trumpets. The trumpets were made of silver and must have been very beautiful instruments. They would blow the trumpets to call the people or groups of people to certain activities. The trumpets would call the people to assemble at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. The trumpets would call the heads of the thousands, the princes of Israel to assemble. The trumpets would call the people of the different camps to begin to move forward in an organized way. The trumpets would also sound an alarm or call the people to war.
God is still in the calling business today. He doesn’t use a trumpet but a still small voice which speaks to our hearts. We often speak of preachers and other Christian workers as being called. We talk about missing our call. We tend to neglect that all those who know Jesus as their Savior have been called. There is the initial call to salvation, into His fellowship. The call does not end there. It is a continuing call. We are told in II Timothy 1:9, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling....”
Once we know the Lord through being “born again” we are continually called into a deeper relationship with God which will result in our becoming more and more like Him. The apostle Peter speaks of this in I Peter 1:15-16: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”
Make no mistake God is calling you! He is speaking to your heart at this very moment. The question is “Do you hear Him.” Or, maybe the question should be “Do you want to hear Him?”
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” - 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV.
When I first became familiar with this verse it really did not have the impact it does now. Cares was not a word I used to describe anxiety or worry. For awhile I substituted anxieties for the word care just so I would understand it better. I don’t have to do that now because I understand the meaning very well.
Understanding the meaning came long before the casting of care upon Him. There is something about human nature that just wants to handle it without any help. Or, maybe that is a man thing like never asking for directions until it is the only option. Whatever, the giving up of those cares has not been easy. I have been growing in understanding of this but have not arrived as some seem to have.
The cost of holding onto our care is high. The cares build up and weighs us down. It can result in all kinds of physical ailments. After becoming a pastor the holding onto cares became very noticeable because it was as though I was falling apart. Now I know when I come up against those brick walls, the impossible, that I can’t do it by myself. When I am trapped and don’t see a way out I know I can’t escape in my own power. But there is One who can help. The wonderful thing is He wants to help and we have the assurance that when we come to Him it is what He wants. Because “he cares for you.”
“For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” - Zechariah 4:10 NKJV.
Yesterday was a record setting day in the life of Marshall McDougall and for collegiate baseball. McDougall slammed six consecutive homers and with them knocked in 16 runs. These were both NCAA records. Since I have never hit a homerun I am amazed at the ability to hit even one much less six in a row. When we think of accomplishments most likely we think of something like this day in the life of Marshall McDougall. A record setting day.
In contrast the Bible tells us not to despise the day of small things. Zerubbabel had been leading the people in rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Progress had been slow. In twenty years the people had only seen the foundation laid and they were discouraged. There had been many days of small steps necessary for the laying of the foundation, gathering of supplies, preparing of hearts before completion of the Temple. The things the people had accomplished had been small in their eyes but important in the eyes of God. They had been small things but necessary things.
In our own lives we often become discouraged by the lack of meeting goals, the lack of spiritual growth, the backsliding, and other things as well. To God a homerun in our lives may be a day when we take time to read our Bible and pray. To God a record setting day may be when we overcome through His power a sin that has been besetting us. It may be a temporary victory. We may have held our tongue when we wanted to speak. We may have given when we wanted to keep. We may have blessed when we wanted to curse. We may have witnessed when we wanted to be by ourselves instead. We may have spent time with our children or grandchildren that we wanted to spend in some other way.
The mighty oak tree begins how? Through a tiny acorn placed in the ground. A tiny baby sometimes grows to become a Billy, or a Franklin Graham. But it wasn’t always easy being their mother or father and there were many days of seemingly small things along the way. Today may be a day to plant an acorn. It may be a day when the acorn needs to be watered. A day well lived no matter how small it appears is not to be despised. We may not have a crowd setting on the bench cheering us on. However, there is someone watching. “The eyes of the Lord which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” When we plant the acorn or water it, the Lord knows and the angels in Heaven are cheering and rejoicing.
A Courageous Mother
“So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.’ And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him.” - Exodus 1:22 - 2:4 NKJV.
We know the story. Baby Moses was found by Pharoah’s daughter. Jochebed, the mother of Moses, was hired to nurse her own child until he was old enough to live with his new mother. Jochebed was a courageous mother who would stop at nothing to save her child. There are still courageous mothers, courageous women today. During the past week I have seen many examples. One in particular stands out, the example of Kathleen Walton.
Kathleen and her son, Levi, were traveling on H. E. Bailey Turnpike near Newcastle, Oklahoma a week ago on Monday. That’s when they saw the tornado. Looking for a place of safety they stopped under an overpass. They scrambled up to the top of the underside of the overpass where there was a tiny crawl space. Two women and two men were already squeezed into the crawl space. Kathleen helped her son up into the place of safety but there wasn’t time or room for Kathleen.
Kathleen held onto her son’s hand as the front wall of the tornado passed by spewing debris. Then it was calm for 20 seconds. During those 20 seconds Kathleen comforted her son. She gave him advice and told him, “Whatever you do, hold on.” She quoted Scripture to him and the last words she said were “I love you.”
The back wall of the tornado hit even more fierce and powerful than the front. Then Kathleen let go of her son’s hand. If she had held on her son would have been swept out with her. She gave her son advice, quoted Scripture, said, “I love you.” Then, she sacrificed her own life to save her son. Kathleen Walton was a courageous mother, a courageous mother who demonstrated it under the most difficult circumstances. In those few seconds she left a legacy and a lasting impact upon her son that will follow him the rest of his life.
The actions of Jochebed had a lasting impact as well not only upon her baby but upon all people of faith and have been remembered by all generations since. What impact will your actions, your words, your life have upon your family and those around you?
"Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest--when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” - Deuteronomy 8:11-14 NKJV.
As I was growing up my parents tried to teach me about storms. One thing they tried to tell me about was the calm before the storm. They said that just because the wind stops blowing and the rain stops it does not mean the storm is over. Actually, it may mean that the tornado or severe wind is soon to strike. It is a trick of nature luring the unsuspecting into complacency when they should actually be trying to find a place of shelter. It is unpredictable but sometimes the calm before the storm occurs.
Life has a way of luring us into complacency as well. We settle into our routines of work and recreation. We build houses and estates. We take vacations and become comfortable. Our health is good. Our children are good and all is well. During these comfortable times we may begin to take our focus off of the spiritual and place it on other things. Moses was warning the Israelites about just such a time. He warned them about a time when they would build beautiful houses and their wealth would be increased with large flocks and gold. Moses warned them not to forget to be obedient to God and to remember His Words during those comfortable time. He warned them about the calm before the storm.
It was a warning to us as well. A warning to continue to walk with our Lord in the good times and the bad. In the times of calm and in the times of storm. Then, we will be prepared through the power of God to face the worst life may send our way.
Trust and Obey
"Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.” - Job 23:8-12 NKJV.
If anyone had a reason to be depressed it was Job. If anyone ever had a reason to be upset with God it was Job. Job had lost everything except his wife and he probably wished she had gone with the rest. Because his wife told him why didn’t he just curse God and die. Job not only lost his family and material possessions but he also lost his health. Job suffered miserably from his physical condition. His friends were against him. His wife was aganist him. But Job continued on.
In the face of all of the above, Job continued. Job did not understand why all this had happened but he continued to trust. Job did not know where God was during all of this but Job continued to trust. Job did not know why but Job knew that God knew the why. So, Job continued. Job continued to trust God, to obey God, and even to praise God.
It is beyond human understanding but we know it is true. We have seen it this week with testimony after testimony from those who have lost so much to the winds of a monster tornado. They praise God. They thank God. Incredible and yet true! God is giving them strength to go on and to rise up out of the devastation. He is giving them strength to continue to live life.
Before we give up. Before we throw in the towel. Let us take our eyes off of our problems and put them on God. He can give us the strength, and the courage to face whatever life may throw our way. Let us trust Him.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." - Revelation 21:4.
It is clear from this verse that there will be death, sorrow, crying, and pain even for Christians while on this earth. There is more than enough to go around. Kosovo, Columbine, and Oklahoma are the most recent names which symbolize the pain of human agony. I have seen the mother with her face cut up talking of how she held her baby tight in her arms before the tornado came. She heard the tornado and as it struck she lost consciousness. When she awoke she was in a hospital and her baby was gone. Oh, how the heart breaks and yet this mother says she will continue to trust God.
As the tornado roared through Oklahoma families huddled in bathrooms, and hallways; wherever there might be some safety from the killer winds. It has been said there are no atheists in a foxhole. I have not heard any atheists testify to their unbelief. But I have heard survivor after survivor tell of how they prayed and how God protected them. Yes, some Christians died, some Christians were injured, and some Christians lost all of their material possessions. Our Heavenly Father makes the sun to rise upon the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). The wind and the tornadoes appear to come in the same way upon the Christian and the unbeliever.
The unbeliever only has more of the same and worse to look forward to after death. The Christian has hope, the unbeliever has nothing. For the Christian death will bring a new world. In this new world the “former things” will “have passed away.” God will wipe away our tears and “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.”
A Great Wind
“And suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" - Job 1:19 NKJV.
Today is my birthday and some of my earliest memories were of spending nights in a storm cellar on this date. This is the time of year for storms in Oklahoma although they can come at anytime. Last night and still this morning tornados have devastated large areas of Oklahoma with 29 confirmed dead in Oklahoma City alone. In a recent count it was reported there were 159 injured. One family told of how they with two other families squeezed into a small storm shelter. While the tornado passed overhead four men held onto a chain to keep the door of the shelter from being pulled open. I remember when I was a boy my Dad holding onto a log chain attached to the door of our shelter.
So many families have lost so much. Not just in physical property but in lives and dreams as well. Job knew what that was like. One day all was well. Job had a large family and he was very prosperous. But in just a short period of time all his family except for his wife and all his possessions were wiped out. First, the Sabeans came and attacked. Next, fire fell from heaven and destroyed. Then, the Chaldeans came and attacked. Finally, the wind came and destroyed the rest.
How do you respond to such a disaster? Job struggled with this as did his friends. But Job’s immediate response was the one that prevailed. Immediately on hearing the bad news Job responded in this way: "Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.'" - Job 1:20-21.
When disaster strikes God is still God. God is still the only One who can carry us through such a tragedy. God is still the only One with the words of Life. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Grow Like a Cedar
“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” - Psalm 92:12.
When I was a child there was a cedar tree in our yard which I enjoyed playing on. I am sure it was not as large as a Lebanon cedar but it was a cedar tree. As I think of this tree I can see there are things we can learn about Christian growth from the cedar tree.
Under the branches of the cedar I could find relief from the hot summer sun. Its branches seemed to grow longer, covering more and more area each year. As Christians we too should be growing (Psalm 1). The branches of our lives should be stretching out further and further. No matter how bad the weather, even through droughts, the cedar seemed to continue to thrive and grow. As our branches grow we will be able to provide shelter and protection to more of those around us.
Another thing I remember about the cedar is its distinctive smell. Anyone coming close to a cedar will find the fragrance of the cedar is unavoidable. As Christians we should have the holy fragrance of our Lord that touches all who pass through our lives (2 Corinthians 2:14).
The cedar tree is a useful tree. Its wood is used to make countless things from pencils to houses. We too should be useful. Useful to the building up of the Kingdom of God. Let us “grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”
The Day of Battle
“The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, Turned back in the day of battle. They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law, And forgot His works And His wonders that He had shown them.” - Psalm 78:9-11 NKJV.
To live a Christian life in our society takes courage. To live a Christian life is a battle. John F. Kennedy said, “Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which...men have lived.” Today it takes courage for children to go to school. It takes courage for their parents to send them. To raise a family in a Christian home requires courage. To be a Christian employee in an unChristian environment requires courage. To reach out to others in the Name of Jesus requires courage. To lose a husband, or wife, or child to death and still go on with life requires courage.
We are in a battle, a battle for life. The enemy would take life away from us and have us hiding behind the doors of our houses trembling in fear. The children of Ephraim were well armed but turned back in the day of battle. They forgot about the mighty miracles God was capable of performing, they forgot about the weapons they held in their hands, and fled before even engaging the enemy. Many our doing the same today.
Let us remember our God is still the same. He has not changed. As His children He has given us the weapons, and all the resources necessary for victory. Let us not turn back in “the day of battle!”
Hunters of Peace
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” - Romans 14:19 NKJV.
The practice of this verse would revolutionize the world in which we live. “Pursue the things which make for peace.” So often when someone offends us we may not retaliate but we become angry inside. This anger builds and builds until it finds a release. While the anger is building we become bitter people. The anger can be defused. We can rid ourselves of anger by pursuing peace toward those who have offended or harmed us. As we “edify” them (build them up), thinking not of ourselves but of them (Philippians 2:3-4), our anger will begin to disappear.
Bud Welch who lost a daughter in the Oklahoma City bombing would tell you that this is true. After his daughter’s death he was filled with hate. Until one day he reached out to Timothy McVeigh’s father. Through his effort of forgiveness and love toward McVeigh’s family Bud found he was built up and restored. His anger was taken away.
We have a choice. We can be angry and bitter people who are offended at every little thing. They used to call this having a “chip on your shoulder.” Or, we can be forgiving and loving people. We can be hunters of peace, pursuing peace as a hunter pursues game. Instead of tearing down, we can build up.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” - Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV.
Today many of our young people are travelling on the “broad” way. In response to criticism in the wake of the Columbine situation I have heard many young people say don’t blame the music. They say just because they dress in a certain way and listen to certain things doesn’t necessarily make them killers. We knew about Marilyn Manson and the evil he represents. For many of us it was a surprise to hear of related evils called the Goths or Gothic culture many young people are immersed in.
The Austrian composer Frans Schubert died at the young age of 31 in 1821. During his short lifetime he wrote 1000 classical pieces. He was still studying to learn more and to improve when he died. He was still a relatively young man who knew considerably more about music than the vast majority of those living or dead. Schubert once made the statement that if he could control the music to which young people listened he could control the country. It is obvious the Gothic music and culture is having an influence on the young people of the USA.
Most young people who are listening to and involved with the Gothic culture would deny any violent intentions. But when do they know when the line is crossed? When did the two in Colorado cross from being “different” to being consumed with thoughts of murder? The “broad” way is the easy way for many because their friends are all doing the same thing. Don’t be deceived! When will you know when you have gone too far and it is too late?
“Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.” - Psalm 119:165 NKJV.
The ramifications of the Columbine High School tragedy are far reaching. The relative safety of our schools has been breached in the minds of most people. Now we know the perpetrators had been carefully planning their attack for a year. During the past year few noticed any obvious changes from previous behavior. The response of many will be not to trust anyone and to suspect almost everyone. As our perception of safety is stripped away our level of tension and anxiety will rise.
How can we avoid the suspicions of others, the increased tensions, and anxiety? Only through the power of God. Even in these times we can have peace. Not only can we have peace but we can have “great peace.” How? Through God’s Word. In Psalm 119 the virtues of the Word of God are extolled over and over. God’s Word will give us great peace if we love the Word to the extent that we are obedient.
As we walk with God each day in accordance with His Word nothing can make us stumble. We will have peace which will overcome bad circumstances, bad news, temptations, and even death itself. Do you have suspicions? Tension? Anxiety? Love God’s Word and He will give you “great peace!”
Faithful Until Death
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” - Revelation 2:10 NKJV
“Do you believe in God?” One of the killers asked Cassie Bernall. Her response: “Yes, I do believe in God.” Their response: They shot and killed her.
Most of us live in relatively safe places and the closest we come to what happened to Cassie is a bad dream. However, it was all too real for Cassie. It is has been all too real for hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of Christians through the centuries. “Be faithful until death...” has been the harsh reality faced by many. It began with the original disciples. Tradition says all of them but John were martyred for their faith. John also suffered for his faith by being exiled to the isolated Isle of Patmos.
Let not the sacrifice of Cassie and other martyrs be in vain. Let us understand that we are here on this earth for a limited amount of time. Let us commit ourselves anew to being true disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him!
Part II - Can Jesus Call You His Friend?
"Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” - Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV.
If you are really the friend of Jesus you will love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, to the innermost part of you - you will love Him. The Bible in Romans tells us a person believes unto righteousness with the heart (Romans 10:10) and in Proverbs we are told the heart is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Pause for a moment. Think of the Lord Jesus. Think of what He has done for you and all those who would believe in Him. As you focus in on your relationship with Jesus, is there a glow of love within your heart for Him? Is there a stirring of warmness springing up from your heart when you consider Him? There should be.
If we are a friend of Jesus not only will we love Him, we will also love others.(Matthew 22:39; John 13:34-35; I John 3:14). If we have trusted Jesus as our Savior, and He is living inside us, we will thrust away our prejudices through His power. Through His power we will forgive those who have offended us. Through His power we will turn the other cheek, and go the extra mile. Instead of hating our enemies, we will pray for them!
Can Jesus call you His friend?
Can Jesus Call You His Friend?
“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” - John 15:15.
As our friendship with Jesus is vitally important to our lives and to the lives of our children we need to ask ourselves if we are really His friends (See yesterday’s devotional for full context.). To be the friend of Jesus requires more than a mental knowledge about Him. Before I became a Christian I knew about Jesus. I knew that Jesus suffered and died for my sins. I knew that He was the Son of God. I believed there was a Heaven and a Hell. But this knowledge about God did not really make any difference in the way I lived my life.
To be a friend of God means that we have gone beyond a mental or head knowledge about Jesus. The Bible speaks of calling upon the Lord (Romans 10:13). The Bible speaks of believing in the Lord and of confessing Him (Romans 10:10). The Bible speaks of receiving Jesus (John 1:12). The Bible speaks of opening the door of our heart so Jesus can come in (Revelation 3:20). The Bible speaks of confessing our sins (I John 1:9). These are all actions of the heart which goes beyond the accumulation of information about Jesus. When we take these actions we will truly be the friend of Jesus, and it will make a difference in our life.
Can Jesus call you His friend?
“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” - John 15:14.
We have had another school shooting here in the USA. This one at the Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Many have been killed and many are injured. We again ponder the “why?” Why would someone or in this case possibly several do this to their fellow classmates? Or, maybe we have seen so much violence on our televisions we have become insensitive to the point of not even caring? How do we prevent the next tragedy from occurring? How do we keep those in our own families from ever doing anything similiar to this? How do we keep ourselves from doing some terrible thing?
The truth is that by nature we are not good people. The Bible says in Romans 3:23 that, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Many have grown up in good families and yet have become criminals. Having been a parole officer I have had several murderers under supervision. Only one had an obvious psychological problem. None of them came from a deprived background. There was one thing in common between those murderers I have known. None of those killers had parents who demonstrated a committed faith in Jesus Christ.
How can we prevent our own children from becoming killers or doing some other terrible thing? There is no foolproof way. We know Adam had some trouble with one of his boys. However, from my observations it appears that being committed a Christian does make a difference for us and our children. A lack of commitment to the Lord appears to increase the likelihood of criminal behavior.
Being a true friend of God and teaching our children the same is still the best way to go!”
Peanut Butter and Crackers
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” - John 14:17.
There is a story I once read about a man who planned to go on a cruise. Now this man was not rich, actually he was poor. So over the period of a few years he saved the money he would need for his dream vacation. Finally, he called and made the reservation for the vacation of a lifetime. He knew he would not be able to afford the cost of meals during his trip. To prepare he packed peanut butter and crackers and other non-perishable food items.
While on the cruise he was having a good time. One evening a porter asked him how he was enjoying the great meals on board the ship. The man was embarrassed but shared with the porter how he was not able to afford to dine with the other passengers but simply ate in his room. The porter then asked him, “Didn’t anyone tell you, the meals are included in the cost of the cruise?” The man could have been dining with the other passengers all the time!
In much the same way, we as Christians may not realize all that we receive when we become a child of God through Christ Jesus. Here is some of what we receive:
We have a share in the Joy of Christ: “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” - John 17:13
We share in the Power of Christ: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” - John 14:12.
We share in the Knowledge of Christ: “...for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” - John 15:15b.
We share in the Love of Christ: “...and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” - John 17:23.
We share in the Work of Christ: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” - John 17:18.
We share in the Glory of Christ: “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” - John 17:22.
We share in the Home of Christ: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” - John 14:2.
Why eat peanut butter and crackers when you have been given so much, so much more?
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” - Jeremiah 29:11-13.
At the beginning of the Israelite’s captivity in Babylonia there were false prophets saying they would only be there for a short period of time before returning. Jeremiah made it clear that this was wrong. They would be in Babylon for 70 years (29:10). Jeremiah was telling them they needed to go ahead and live there lives. Go ahead build houses and plant crops. Go ahead and marry and have children. The Israelites did exactly that and we know from artifacts found by archeologists there were many with Jewish names who were doing very well in Babylon.
When God called on the Israelites to return to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah there were many who followed. However, there were many more Israelites who chose to remain in Babylon. You have to wonder how many of the descendants of those who did not return were fighting on the wrong side during desert storm? How many of the their descendants have been involved in terrorist acts against Israel and other western countries?
Many today are fighting on the wrong side as well. They have refused to follow God’s plan for their lives. As a result their lives have been shattered. But there is good news for those who have been following the wrong plan. The good news is we can switch plans. We can begin to follow God’s plan for our lives. God says, “...ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity...(vv 13, 14a).”
You Can Recover!
“So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep.” - I Samuel 30:3-4.
David had lost everything. He had lost his possessions, his home, and his family. How could he recover from such a loss? The Amalekites had taken everything but God was just using them to bring David back to Him. David had lost his focus. We can understand. He had been the hero of the nation but had become a hunted man. David had begun to listen to his own voice instead of to the Voice of the Lord. As a consequence David was living among the enemies of his people, the Philistines. Fighting in some ways against his own people, the people of God.
We see people doing the same kind of thing today. Things get a little tough, they become discouraged and instead of moving closer to the Lord they move further away. They blame the Lord for their problems. They stop praying, they stop coming to church, they stop reading God’s Word, and they stop doing anything for the Lord. Some actively oppose the work of God’s people. But for many it becomes even worse. So many times people turn to alcohol, or drugs, or they gamble, or they become angry, and bitter and they too end up losing everything.
David had a similar situation. He had lost everything. What would he do? Sit down and have a pity party? No! David did what we need to do if we have lost it all. David we are told in I Samuel 30:6, “...encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” This was while the people were talking about stoning him!! David turned to God and asked God what to do. God gave him a plan and as a result in verse 19 we read, “...David recovered all!”
If you have lost it all, why not turn to God? Ask God what His plan is for your life at this point in time. Ask God how you too can recover. He’s waiting.
Living By Faith
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” - Hebrews 11:6.
Living by faith. Hebrews chapter 11 is the roll call of faith, the heroes of faith. Reading through the chapter you can begin to sense some of the difficulty of living by faith. Why would we want to go through the things these men and women went through? As a Christian rock song puts it, “I can’t see straight in the broad daylight.” How true!
By faith the heroes of the faith trusted and believed those things God told them. God could see what was ahead but they could not. There was a purpose in all they experienced and went through in their lives.
By sight we hear the doctors say the diagnosis is cancer, and the prognosis is poor. By faith we pray. Then we are amazed when with the next doctor’s appointment comes the news that the diagnosis has changed. This time after prayer there is only scar tissue, or the machine has malfunctioned. Just in the short time I have been writing this devotional and receiving prayer requests it has happened many times.
How many times have we prayed for those with financial problems and seen God move to provide for their needs? By sight we would say it is impossible but by faith people walk through incredibly difficult situations. As they walk they grow stronger with each step. However, we have seen some answers we did not like. Some have passed to another life though we prayed they would live. Some have not experienced the financial miracle they would have liked. But we know we cannot “see straight in the broad daylight” and we must trust our God who can see what is ahead.
Drifted and Slipping?
“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the thing which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” - Hebrews 2:1.
Another translation puts the last part of this verse as ”...so that we do not drift away.”
Most of us know someone who has been a Christian leader and they have slipped. They have drifted away. Or, it may have even happened to us. We remember some of the big names who have brought embarrassment to the Christian faith and to their families. Most have expressed remorse after being exposed. Some like the Chaplain of Bourbon Street did not express remorse at the time. But years later did return to the fold. So many years lost because of slippage.
How can we avoid the drifting and the slipping which results in the fall? Before we can drift there must be compromise. We must forget some of those things we have been taught before we fall away. We must forget some of our commitments or weaken them before we drop out.
The writer of Hebrews tells us to “...give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard.” What have we heard? We have heard in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We have heard in Luke 18:1, “...that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” We have heard in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
So let me ask you, Have you started to slip, to drift away from these most basic commitments to the Bible, prayer, and attending church?
“How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? forever? How long wilt thou hid thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” - Psalm 13:1-3.
You could say David is depressed. He appears very distressed and frustrated. He is not a happy camper. Why is it that sometimes we pray, we pray, and nothing seems to happen? Why? The Bible does have some answers:
The answer we are most familiar with is when we are involved in sin God may not answer our prayers. In Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
Another reason for unanswered prayer is given in Jeremiah 29:13, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” There seems to have been a lack of complete commitment. It sounds familiar. Remember the church of Laodicea mentioned in Revelation? Why is God going to “spew thee out of my mouth?” Because they are “lukewarm.”
A third reason is that we might grow spiritually. That we might become more conformed to the image of our Lord. James tells us in James 1:2, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” We must remember the apostle Paul sought the Lord “thrice” to remove his thorn in the flesh but it was not removed. Why? “...lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations....” In response to the unanswered prayer Paul responded, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
When God does not answer our prayers in the way we would like it is important to remember as Isaiah points out (59:1), “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.”
What do we do? We do what Paul did and what David did. We keep on praying. We continue to trust Him. We continue to serve Him, We continue to love Him. We continue to praise Him. As David puts it in the last two verses of Psalm 13, “But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”
Lose Your Life
“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” - Matthew 10:39.
I heard Dr. Eddie Lieberman share his testimony several years ago at a conference. Dr. Lieberman was raised in a Jewish family but after going to a federal prison he received Christ as his Savior when he was 19 years old. After his release from prison it was nine years before his mother would see him. For this family conference he was not allowed to stay at the family home. He had to stay at a motel.
At the family conference Eddie was told that his decision for Christ had brought shame on his family and other Jews. His uncle was a multi-millionaire and offered him a job paying five times as much as he was earning if he would renounce Christ. This confrontation with his family went on until 1:30 A.M. in the morning. Dr. Lieberman then went back to the motel and said that he thanked God for allowing him to go through a little persecution for the sake of Jesus. He never saw his family again.
Dr. Lieberman would be the first to tell you that Christ was worth it. He found his life by losing his Jewish life and family. He lost all that he was but gained eternal life through Jesus Christ. God calls on us through His Word to make some tough decisions. We are called on to live a moral and upright life. We are called on to abstain from evil. To have real life we must make a total commitment of our lives to the Lord. We must lose the life we lived before to gain the abundant life our Lord wants us to experience now. No part way, no half way commitment will do. Dr. Lieberman could not live in the Jewish world he had known and follow Christ at the same time. We cannot continue living as we did in the past and follow Christ at the same time. We must die to the old to be alive to the new.
A Secret Weapon?
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” - I Corinthians 2:9.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” - I Corinthians 2:12.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” - I Corinthians 3:16.
Secret weapons seem to be a familiar story to Americans. The government is good at keeping secrets. There is a long list with the atomic bomb, the H-bomb, the U-2 spy plane, and stealth technology being among them. With the war in the Balkans we have seen the first use of the B-2 bomber with its stealth technology. Of course, that technology is 20 years old and we have not been told whether there are other secret weapons perhaps hidden at Area 51.
Even though there is a war going on most of us are not yet directly affected. We have other problems we must face and cope with each day. It is called life. We have a slate full of enemies. We know their names. There is sickness, pain, suffering, financial problems, job problems, people problems, school problems, car problems, political problems, racial problems, and many more. Sometimes we are even our own worst enemy. Then, one day we will face a final enemy called, death.
It would be nice when confronting these enemies to have a secret weapon. The truth is we do have such a weapon. When you look at a Christian what do you see? On the surface little appears different from looking at any other person. But there is a tremendous difference. Because, God Himself is living inside the shell of a body we see when we look at a Christian. Contained within the body of every Christian is the Living God. Which means there is more power contained within one Christian than a hydrogen bomb. More power than the human mind can imagine living within every Christian walking on this earth. I would call that a super secret weapon wouldn’t you? Power for living our lives and it is inside every child of God.
Unless some sudden catastrophe comes most Christians do not even think about God living inside them. Well if things get really desperate for us, and we cannot handle it ourselves, as long as no one knows, maybe we will pray about it. Might even get out the Bible. Might even go to church. To access the power of God for living, our priorities must be rearranged. God must be at the top of the list not once a week but each day. If we will have that daily quiet time of reading God’s Word and spending time in prayer it will change our lives. It will not change it the first day. But within six weeks the difference will be obvious to you and to everyone else. Make a commitment!
The Value Of Life
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty: And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.” - I Corinthians 1:27-28.
John Haggai wrote the book “Lead On! Leadership That Endures in a Changing World.” John speaks to leadership conferences including church and evangelist conferences. He has been involved in developing leaders for world evangelism to reach the unreached areas of the world.
John Haggai’s son, Johnny, was born with severe physical handicaps. Johnny was unable to care for most of his physical needs and could only communicate “yes” and “no.” He only lived 24 years. Yet, Johnny’s mind was active and intelligent. Over the years of hearing his father speak about those in the undeveloped countries Johnny developed a deep spiritual burden for them. Johnny gave hours of time to prayer for world evangelism and to his father’s ministry with evangelists. The world would call Johnny’s life a mistake. Only in Heaven will we know the full extent of the victories won through the years of Johnny’s faithful prayer.
Most likely you have heard more about webcams than you want to know. Yesterday on the morning news I saw the wombcam. Through the wombcam they showed a baby only 25 days from conception. You could clearly see the head, eyes, body and it was clear this was a tiny baby. What this tiny baby will grow to become only God knows. In our human wisdom we would say that some lives are not worth living. But are we really in a position to judge and decide the worth of a life?
No More Sea
What does the word, “sea,” represent? The “sea” represents the mysterious terrors and unknown horrors of the world. Much of the sea was uncharted in the first century. Many stories, many “fish stories” had been told of the dangers that were in the sea. The sea represented unrest, separation, danger, and death. The sea represents your worst nightmare.
What is your worst nightmare? What is the worst that could happen to you? When I was a young boy, living on a farm, I slept in a small room with four large windows. At night I could imagine all kinds of monsters that were looking in those windows at me. Because of my fear I began to sleep with a pillow covering my head. I do not know what your worst nightmare is but I have had some bad ones. Sometimes I was wide awake when I was having them imagining all the terrible things that might possibly happen and many that were far beyond the realm of possibilities. None of those things have ever happened that I used to imagine or have bad dreams about.
Right now in Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, and Serbia the worst nightmares of most people have been realized and most likely surpassed. How can they ever recover from these horrors? How can they go through those to come? Many are thinking and saying, “When will it end!”
Some bright, shining day for those who know Jesus as their Savior there will be no more nightmares, or day mares, or holocausts. There will be “...no more sea.”
Keep The Fire Burning
“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” -Acts 2:3.
In the stone age fire was of vital importance. There were no matches to start quickly another fire. We know it is possible to rub sticks of wood together and if conditions are right start a fire. But those conditions and materials were not always available. As a result it is believed a fire was constantly kept burning. A spark was always kept alive. That fire, that spark, was constantly guarded to make sure it did not go out.
The fire of the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples in the upper room on Pentecost. The fire has been burning in the hearts of the followers of Jesus ever since. However, the fire must be guarded or it will be quenched. It is quenched when we disregard our conscience, when we willfully sin, when we give in to selfishness, pride, or any immoral thing.
The fire of the Holy Spirit may also be starved. It is starved when we neglect and fail to take advantage the glorious resources of God through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:19). We fan the flames when we read and study the Word of God. We fan the flames when we spend time in prayer and when we spend time with other spirit filled believers worshipping our God.
The fire of the Holy Spirit may also be smothered by its own ashes. If we are not actively spreading the fire the ashes build up in our hearts until eventually the light can no longer be seen. We must keep the fire fresh, alive, and brilliant by sharing the fire with others.
The fire has been carefully guarded and maintained over almost 20 centuries. We are now the guardians of the flame. Let the flame not die but blaze in our hearts. Let us be ablaze for God!
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” - Isaiah 26:3.
In a world in turmoil we need protection. In a world where modern conveniences can be taken away in a moment of time by a cruise missile or by a bigot of a neighbor we need protection. It may not be a smart bomb, or an angry neighbor; instead it may be a tornado, hurricane, volcano, or other natural force that devastates our lives. The plight of hundreds of thousands of refuges flooding out of Kosovo is heartbreaking. It is even more heartbreaking to think that most of them are moslems and do not believe in the One true God. They do not know the God that we know to stay their minds upon during this horrific time.
Our homes may be taken away. Our cars, our money, and even our clothing may be taken away. Family members may die or be killed. Even our health may be taken from us. But if our minds are stayed on God nothing can take away our peace. In the midst of whatever tragedy that may befall us let us never cease to trust our God. He loved us so much that we have a day called Easter.
May the One Who left His home in heaven,
Who left His Father's love,
To come to earth to live and die,
Become to you, your life!
May the One Who walked the shores of Galilee,
Who healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead,
Who knew temptation as we know, but was without sin,
Become your strength and shield!
May the One Who walked up Calvary's hill,
Who struggled under the weight of the cross,
Who accepted the stripes and shed His blood that we might be healed,
Become your healing and your strength!
May the One who suffered agony and shame,
Who cried out "My Father, why have you forsaken me?"
Who experienced death, hell and the grave,
Become your atonement and peace!
May the One Whom death could not hold,
Who stormed the gates of hell,
Who battled Lucifer himself
And retrieved the keys of death, hell and the grave,
Be your stronghold and defense!
May the One Who stood in their midst after His death,
And said, "See the nail scars in My hands and side,
Do not be afraid, it is I. Touch Me and see,
For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have"
Be your confidence and hope!
May the One Who said He would send forth His Promise,
That mighty, energizing Holy Spirit,
Who would clothe you with power from on high,
Fill you to overflowing!
May the One Who declared that
Repentance for forgiveness of sins
Should be proclaimed to all nations,
Be your message and song!
AND NOW, He who ascended on high,
Who is now seated at His Father's right hand,
He Who is waiting for that final call from His Father,
To make all things new, may He make you new!
MAY YOU EXPERIENCE HIS RESURRECTION POWER,
THAT REVOLUTIONIZING POWER,
THAT AWE-INSPIRING POWER,
THAT RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD-
LET IT BE YOURS!
HE IS NOT DEAD
HE IS RISEN,
(Written by a pastor's secretary. Name not given.)
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. - Romans 5:10.
Some time ago I cut out and saved, a Wizard of Id cartoon. The friar says to the king, "Happy Good Friday Sire!" The king says, "What's so good about it?" The friar answers, "It took an act of God but they finally found somebody willing to die for you." (Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc.)
As Jesus was nailed to the cross suffering and dying, the disciples must have thought, "What's so good about this?" For the followers of the Lord the crucifixion was the ultimate tragedy, the ultimate nightmare. Jesus had told them over and over again, what was to happen, but they did not comprehend until after His resurrection.
With the crucifixion, we see the ultimate in tragedy. With the resurrection, we see the ultimate in God's ability to bring good out of the bad (Romans 8:28). With the resurrection, there is no longer a body in a tomb. No, instead we have a Savior! With the resurrection, we have evidence that God is alive and well. We have evidence, that His resurrection power can transform the deadness of our own lives into eternal life. No wonder they began to call it "Good Friday!"
For some today may be a bad Friday. Your world may be falling apart. Today catch a vision of the love God has for you. He loved you so much, that He sent His only begotten son to suffer and die for you. No matter how bad it may be, God does have the power to bring good from the bad. He has done it before!
The April Fool
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” - Psalm 14:1.
Ray Comfort was for many years an open air preacher in New Zealand. He now resides in California. I heard him speak this year at an evangelism conference. I bought one of his bumper stickers which say in large bold letters: “April 1 The National Atheist’s Holiday.” Underneath in much smaller letters is the quote from Psalms. At the evangelism conference Ray said one day he saw a man staring at the bumper sticker he had on his van. Apparently the man did not understand so Ray said, “That’s a Christian bumper sticker.” The man responded, “I know, I’m an atheist!”
It has been reported that while the Emperor Napoleon was travelling by ship he once overheard some of his officers discussing the existence of God. Apparently they were atheists. Since it was a clear night Napoleon interrupted their discussion. He pointed to the stars and said, “Gentlemen, who made all of that?”
The fool would say the universe and all that is in it is an accident of nature. The wise man can look at his thumb and know there is a God. “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” - Proverbs 9:9 - 10.
Copyright 1999. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.