Saturday, October 31, 2009

When Jesus was Tempted!

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
2 Timothy 2:3-7

The Vacation Bible School song “I’m in the Lord’s Army” is fun to sing and it presents kids with a deep eternal truth that even old Christians wrestle with in daily living! Military life is 24-7! There are no “unavailable” moments for soldiers. When the battle commences or the commander summons, a soldier engages in the conflict or simply responds to the word of his leader.

I once sat through a three week course of instruction trying to learn a specific job skill. The class was interesting enough but it seemed that something was not right. On the last day of the class someone asked the instructor how long she had worked in a job that demanded that skill. We were shocked when she said she had been employed in that job for only one week! We were being trained by someone who was a novice herself!

As a Christian my Commander in Chief and my teacher is Jesus Christ. He spent thirty-three years living the life He calls me to live. Jesus not only knows what temptation is, He also felt its pull on His very Soul! The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way just like we are! (Hebrews 4:15) It is astonishing to realize that Jesus felt in His body the powerful pull of temptation. In very simple terms, when I am tempted it means that I want to do something wrong. I desire to sin. Some have equated desire with sin. They are not the same. Sin is the fulfillment of wrong desire! Jesus never did that. But Jesus did experience the desire.

So the next time the desire to do the wrong thing overwhelms your being reach out to Jesus and ask the question: Lord how did you deal with this kind of temptation?

In my life one of my major temptations is distraction. Chasing rabbit trails and getting side-tracked are two of my most prominent characteristics. If I were a child today they would have a specific diagnosis for this condition and probably some medication. Like everyone else I am tempted with evil, but becoming distracted from the purpose to which God has called me is a very effective tool for Satan in my life.

I am not a major league base ball player, but if I could “keep my eye on the ball” to the point that when it was thrown at me at a hundred miles an hour I could put the bat on the ball and send it to a specific spot on the field where no opposing player stood ready to catch it, I would instantly be drafted into professional baseball. As a designated hitter the only other skill I would need would be running to first base before the ball could be gathered in and tossed over to the first baseman.

Don’t become distracted from the calling of God on your life. And when you are tempted to sin remember that Jesus was tempted just like this! We sometimes sing a song about being like Jesus. What I need, perhaps most in my life daily is to be like Jesus when He was tempted!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pretend Christianity!

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

John 18:15-16

Who you know is more important than what you know. What you know tells me about your personal knowledge data base. It may be large, and that can be very important, but who you know tells me, or it can tell me about your character.

When you fill out a job application and are asked for character references you always include people who are likely to be respected by your prospective employer. Notorious felons and thieves never end up on resumes as character references.

When Peter and the other disciple (most think it was John) came to the high priest’s door the other disciple was able to go in with Jesus but Peter had to wait outside. He was alone and must have had his head swimming with “what does all this mean” thoughts. He had just tried to cut off the head of the high priest’s servant and did cut off his ear. Would he be prosecuted for that? Should he run and hide or should he stay as close to Jesus as possible? Peter did not know how this story would play out but it made great sense that he was in jeopardy.

Then the other disciple came back and spoke to the girl at the door who let Peter in but she asked Peter if he too was one of the disciples. That is when the denials began.

So here was the man, who had walked on water with Jesus and had drawn his sword to save Jesus from the soldiers, denying that he even knew Him.

We are all like Peter. There are times when we bravely stand up to the world and draw the sword of the Spirit to defend Truth! We tell ourselves and even others that we are willing to die for Jesus. But when everything falls apart and the Gospel is not winning in the world around us, we are easily tempted to deny that we even know Him.

Peter knew Jesus and yet denied his Lord! Today there are many who confess Jesus but do not know Him as Lord. I would rather know Jesus and deny Him as Peter did than to claim that I am His disciple when I am not! Jesus can restore me as He did Peter, but if I don’t know Him at all there is nothing to restore.

Impersonating a Christian is a crime punishable by Eternal Death! Pretending to know Jesus does not bring Glory to God!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fishermen for Christ!

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"
"No," they answered.
He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
John 21:4-6

This story in John 21 appears to be simple enough at first glance, but it is filled with amazing facts! Jesus told the disciples where to catch153 large fish. Why would John remember that specific number and why did they count them in the first place? This passage also says that the net did not rip even though it was obviously overloaded. In fact, they had to drag it to the shore since it was too full to bring into the boat.

Then there is this fact; Jesus already had fish on a fire which had burned long enough to have hot coals. That takes a while. Jesus also had bread. Where did Jesus get the fish? How did Jesus start the fire? This time when Peter got out of a boat to go to Jesus he had to swim not walk on water. Jesus told them to bring some of the fish they had caught to cook with the fish He already had. What significance could that have?

So there are the disciples and Peter who was dripping wet from his swim to shore eating breakfast with Jesus on the shore after a night of fishing.

Then Jesus challenges Peter three times about whether or not he really loves the Lord.

Sometimes when I encounter the risen Lord it comes after a long night of failing to succeed at my occupation. Jesus calls out and asks me whether or not I have caught any fish. Then Jesus tells me how to succeed. This is where I am most tempted to wander from His calling on my life. Peter and the disciples could have decided that they could use the “Right side of the boat” philosophy and revolutionize the fishing industry. In what is probably a poor play on words, if the disciples had decided to become “Fishermen for Christ” they would have truly missed the boat. Jesus didn’t want them to fish for fish. He called them to fish for men!

So when I hear the voice of Jesus telling me how to fill my net with fish it does not mean that those fish are the purpose of my life. Jesus is the purpose of my life. The fish that He directs me to catch are the evidence of His power!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Speak Lord!

The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.
Isaiah 50:4

When Samuel was a boy the Lord called his name one night. At first Samuel thought Eli was calling and so he ran to see what Eli wanted. Three times Samuel heard the call of God and thought it came from Eli. Then Eli told Samuel how to respond to the call of God. He told the boy to say “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

How many times has God called your name and yet you ran to someone else thinking the call came from another and not from God? If I am honest, I must confess that I must have heard the voice of God calling my name many times over the years without recognizing that it was Him. It was only when Samuel acknowledged that God was calling that he was able to hear the message God had for Him that night.

When God calls your name it is because He has something He wants to say. But His message goes unspoken until you acknowledge Him and let Him know you are listening.

The story of the two airplane pilots who became so distracted in the cockpit that they overflew their destination by 150 miles and ignored many attempts to contact them is a good example of what can happen to me as a follower of Jesus. If Satan can distract me to the point that I don’t know where I am in life and I don’t hear the call of God to give me daily corrections in my course then I am rendered useless.

So when the voice of the Lord wakes you from sleep don’t run to Eli and ask what he wants. When the voice of the Lord wakes you say like Samuel did “speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

You will be amazed by what you hear God say!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wake the Dead!

“And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
Ezekiel 38:23

How do you wake up in the morning? Do you wake up slowly without an alarm clock or are you shocked to your feet when the appointed second arrives? I once had an alarm that had the sound of a roaring elephant. Frankly, I prefer going to bed early enough so that I do not need an alarm to get up on time in the morning. If I am already awake when the alarm sounds it does not frighten me with a “rude awakening.”

The world today is sound asleep and is dreaming of “sugarplums” and any other thing that might satisfy their personal desires. But those who follow Jesus are waking to the truth that morning is almost here and the sun will soon rise! The Day of the Lord may be just moments away and so we are looking to the skies and praying for His return.

When the alarm sounds we will not be shaken. But when the alarm sounds and “time shall be no more” it will be the mother of all rude awakenings for those who are still sleeping!

Remember that when Jesus returns the alarm that sounds will be loud enough to “WAKE THE DEAD.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good and Better!

7Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
Revelation 11:7-10

Before the days of television the idea of men from every people, tribe, language and nation all looking at anything together was a fantasy and beyond our imagination. With the invention of television the fulfillment of Revelation 11:9 became a possibility. But still how could everyone look at it at the same time? Then came satellites and international live broadcasts. The impossible became totally possible with the internet and live webcams.

In a recent report about a clash on the temple mount Fox News reported that the Arab youths who started the incident would be found because “every foot of the Old City of Jerusalem is covered with security cameras.” So nothing can happen in Jerusalem that cannot be broadcast simultaneously to the whole world!

For those who have faith God gives an occasional “I told you so” by allowing us to see a link between His Word and the world in which we live.

Years ago someone came up with the saying, “God said it, I believe it and that settles it!” That saying is on the target but misses the bull’s-eye. The truth is this “God said it and that settles it whether I believe it or not!” It is wonderful to see the Word of God confirmed in the world around us. But it is even more wonderful to believe the Word of God even when we see nothing of confirmation in the world. That is called faith.

Of course there is nothing wrong with seeing the Word confirmed in the things that are going on around you. We will all see that as we walk with the Lord. But the more important thing is this: Do you trust and obey the Lord Jesus even when you see nothing that He said confirmed in the world around you? Are you building your ark without a cloud in the sky? Do you stand on the Word of God when it is confirmed only by the faith that God has given you?

When you see proof that the Word of God is real and accurate, that is a good thing. But when you need no proof to believe that His Word is true, that is better yet.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Negotiated Faith!

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
Matthew 27:41-42

When a young man asks a young woman to be his bride the answer she gives speaks volumes about the relationship and their potential happiness in the future. The best answer is of course a simple “Oh Yes!” She is pledging herself to him to walk through life together as one. But if her answer is filled with stipulations then you can see storm clouds already on the horizon. When she says “I will marry you if you always _____________ and if you never _____________” the divorce lawyers perk up and see more work coming their way.

If you say to Jesus “I will follow you if you always _____________ and if you never _____________” you can be sure that your love will be tested by your own words. More than thirty years ago I told Jesus I would serve Him anywhere in the United States. I was serious in my devotion to Him, but I just did not want to live on a mission field. As my daily walk with Him progressed it became abundantly apparent to me that there would be no peace for me unless I went as far away from the United States as you can get on this earth.

The irony of these two verses in Matthew 27 is fundamental. The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked Jesus and told Him that if He would come down from the cross they would then believe. But if Jesus had come down from the cross their belief would have been pointless.

What have you said to Jesus about your own faith? Have you said, “Jesus if you do this then I will believe?” The “this” of your offer can be things like “save my child, heal my wife, get me that job,” etc. etc. But when you make such an offer you come to Jesus as a negotiator not a repentant sinner.

If you have stipulations in your relationship with Jesus then repent of them all. Commit you life to Him without demands. Take Jesus as He is! Love Him as He is and He will love you.

When you say “Oh Yes” to Jesus proposal that you give yourself to Him the future happiness of your life with Jesus is guaranteed!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where Do You Come From?

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
1John 4:2-6

I am from Tennessee. I was born in Columbia, Tennessee just after the end of World War II and even though I haven’t lived in the South in almost thirty years I can still be identified as a Tennessean by my speech. I have lost much of my southern accent, but there is still enough of it left to let the discerning listener know where I come from.

I may be able to change the way I sound and the viewpoint of the world that I espouse, but I can never change the fact that I am from Tennessee. When it comes to the things of God there is a big difference. Every man who was ever born is “from the world.” We are born into a lost and dying world and are by our very nature destined to spend eternity in Hell! It is the tragic result of the CHOICE THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING in the Garden of Eden.

But when I accept Jesus Christ and come to Him on His terms the destination of my life changes, but also the origination of my life changes! 1 John 4:6 says that we are from God! That is a miracle and it is often overlooked. I was “from the world” but now I am “from God.” That means that God can not only change my future, but He can change my history as well.

So now I speak as one who is from God not as one who is from the world. I’m sure you can still detect in my speech the fact that I was from the world before I was from God, but I have been changed.

Let Jesus change your future and your past!

Friday, October 23, 2009

There is More!

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."
Ephesians 3:16-18

How do you come to understand the complex things in life? To grasp deep truth you must first have a firm handle on simple truth. The greatest mathematician in the world started with adding and subtracting single numbers. The man who skips the basic understanding will never be competent in the truly mind boggling concepts. So the three year old who counts his blocks is preparing for college calculus.

What about those who are SPIRITUAL GIANTS? How did they start on the road to God’s “Hall of Fame?” Of course those who are the spiritual elite would never claim such a status and would never show up for the award ceremony. Even recognizing their own spiritual stature would bring them down. These men and women are rooted and established in love and therefore have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Grasping the dimensions of the love of Christ makes nuclear physics into child’s play. There is nothing in life more complex and more difficult to grasp that the love of Christ. So how do we begin to understand it?

To understand the love of Christ we must begin like the child counting blocks. When you love another person you are touching the heart of God and tasting the flavor of the love of Christ. That is why Satan so desperately wants to redefine love in our world to be something, anything other than what it truly is. Love is most frequently redefined as physical relations between a man and a woman. If Satan can change the meaning of love then you will not learn the basics of heaven!

That is why 1 Corinthians 13 is such an important part of the Bible. It defines love in God’s terms. Go back and read it again and let it filter and change your concept of love.

I remember when I attended math classes in school that every time I came to master a concept the teacher would say, “That’s great, but look at this because there is more!”

God says the same thing today. When you come to God and pour out your heart of understanding before His throne the Father smiles and says, “That’s wonderful, but look at this because there is more!”

The love of Jesus is a vast reality beyond comprehension and yet because we are rooted and grounded in love we do come to understand it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Disguise of the Heart!

A malicious man disguises himself with his lips,
but in his heart he harbors deceit.
Though his speech is charming, do not believe him,
for seven abominations fill his heart.
His malice may be concealed by deception,
but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.

Proverbs 26:24-26

The original Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies taught a great lesson about the art of disguise. The lesson is that it is very hard to disguise yourself successfully without appearing to be a complete idiot! Clouseau would brag about how good he was at concealing his identity while everyone knew he was indeed Inspector Clouseau!

These Bible verses speak of a malicious man disguising himself with his lips. Then verse 25 says that his speech is charming, but do not believe him, for “seven abominations” fill his heart. When you judge a man by how well he can speak, you are making a serious mistake. A competent actor can play any role he chooses with complete believability. That is an admirable characteristic in the theatre, but when the man becomes an actor during the rest of his life how are we to know his heart?

You may be able to disguise yourself by the words you speak and keep everyone around you from knowing about the abominations in your heart, but God knows them all.

One of the greatest blessings of an earthly father is that he has known you since you were just a baby. He saw you grow to maturity and he can tell when you are, as an adult “acting like a baby.” Before my father died I came to really depend on his evaluation of me and my decisions in life. He could see me like no one else could.

That is what I still have in my Heavenly Father. God has known me from the moment of my conception and before. He saw me grow to maturity and He knows when I am acting like a baby and He knows when I am trying to hide behind my words.

“Lord God, keep me from charming speech and abominations in my heart. Mercifully convict me of my sin and gently draw me again to Your heart. For you Oh Lord, can see me and know me better than I can see and know myself! I cannot disguise myself from You.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

God’s Box!

"Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards,
I struck them with blight and mildew.
Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees,
yet you have not returned to me,"
declares the LORD.
"I sent plagues among you
as I did to Egypt.
I killed your young men with the sword,
along with your captured horses.
I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps,
yet you have not returned to me,"
declares the LORD.
"I overthrew some of you
as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire,
yet you have not returned to me,"
declares the LORD.
"Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel,
and because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel."
He who forms the mountains,

creates the wind,
and reveals his thoughts to man,
he who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads the high places of the earth—
the LORD God Almighty is his name.

Amos 4:9-13

Most people have a rather well defined list of the things that God will do and the things that God won’t do. We even carefully add provisos to the list like “God will do miracles, but He won’t do them in this day and age.” We take the box that represents our world view and try to make God fit neatly inside that box. Frankly, there is no box big enough to contain the reality of God. And when we try to put Him in a box He comes spilling out on all sides in unpredictable ways. It is the ultimate foolishness to spend your time trying to make God Almighty fit in your box. The best advice I can give is simply STOP IT! You are wasting yourself in Satan’s pursuit.

The Good News is this: Even though I cannot put God in my box; God puts me in His box when I accept Jesus Christ. God’s box is big enough to hold every man who ever lived. God’s box has everything I need to prepare me to live eternally with Him.

Once I am in God’s box, if I turn away from Him the discipline of God is very harsh. Amos 4 says God will attack our food supply, send plagues and war, even burn down our cities in an attempt to call us back to Him. And at the end of the day we must prepare to meet God Himself!

When a nation chooses leaders who have no faith in God it is like the passengers of plane choosing a pilot who looks good, sounds impressive, promises many things, but is wearing dark glasses because he is blind. It may work for a while until the plane needs to maneuver around danger or it needs to land. Then the blind pilot becomes more than useless, he becomes a dangerous liability!

Today, it is considered admirable to be able to “think outside of the box.” That may be true until it comes to God. When you try to think outside of His box you always end up with nowhere to go. Stay inside of God’s box. Think inside of God’s box and make wise choices by first considering God’s box in every decision. If your choice takes you outside of God’s box then run away from that option without delay.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No Dogs in Heaven!

Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
Revelation 22:15

In the middle of the most descriptive picture of heaven in the Bible, and the firm assurance that Jesus will return there is this list of those who will NOT be in heaven. In stark contradiction to the movie “All Dogs Go To Heaven” this verse clearly says there will be NO DOGS IN HEAVEN! Before you get all worked up let me assure you this is not talking about Rover.

This is a Bible example of what we would definitely describe as being “politically incorrect.” The Holy Spirit through the Apostle John is calling those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood dogs!

Those sins are pretty specific and relatively easy to understand how to identify in our lives and the lives of others with one exception. What is “loving and practicing falsehood?” Frankly, I think this sin is woven into the fabric of the American culture. Anything other than truth is not almost truth it is falsehood. There are many examples of how we love and practice falsehood even in the most polite exchange with another person. “How are you? I’m fine.” But falsehood goes up the flagpole in our culture to the point of expecting our political leaders to lie skillfully.

So here is the challenge. Examine your heart and falsehood. Do you practice it knowingly and do you love it? If you do then let the Holy Spirit convict you and lead you to repentance.

Get ready because the King is coming!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Unplowed Ground!

Sow for yourselves righteousness,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the LORD,
until he comes
and showers righteousness on you.

Hosea 10:12

The world’s most fundamental profession is farming. Without farmers civilization would immediately regress into a daily scramble to get something to eat! Much about life itself can be learned from farmers.

If you are going to plant a field and produce a crop you must prepare the ground to receive the seed. Even with “no till” farming the seed is carefully inserted into the ground so that it can germinate and grow.

If a farmer takes his precious seed and just throws it on a field of unplowed ground which is full of rocks and weeds the results are entirely predictable. There will be an occasional plant, but no “crop” in the fall!

In Hosea 10:12 the seed is righteousness. The field that must be plowed is my own life. The process of plowing is simply “seeking the Lord until He comes.” The crop that is produced is the “fruit of unfailing love.” And rain that waters the seed is the Lord’s righteousness which He brings after I seek Him.

How does seeking God break up the hard ground in my life?

When I truly seek God I give every decision over to Him. If you were a brain surgeon and you invited me to come and watch you work, I assure you I would make no comment about the quality of your work or would I dare to make a suggestion about how you might do it better! Your expertise would so overshadow me that I would only stand and gasp at your ability to perform such surgery.

When I seek God it is the same. When I come into the presence of God and watch Him work, I stand amazed! I have no comment about the quality of His work or suggestion about how He could do it better. The ground of my life is broken up as I seek Him. Everything I see in Him turns the ground of my hard heart upside down! Then when God looks at my life He will see a crop and not just an occasional plant.

“Lord, show me more of You today!”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Culture and Law!

Before the Lord returns, the wicked one who is doomed to be destroyed will appear. He will brag and oppose everything that is holy or sacred. He will even sit in God's temple and claim to be God. Don't you remember that I told you this while I was still with you? You already know what is holding this wicked one back until it is time for him to come. His mysterious power is already at work, but someone is holding him back. And the wicked one won't appear until that someone is out of the way. Then he will appear, but the Lord Jesus will kill him simply by breathing on him. He will be completely destroyed by the Lord's glorious return.

2 Thessalonians 2:3b-8

Wickedness can be “held back” or it can be released and allowed to flourish in the world. The two ways of controlling evil in the world are by culture itself or by laws. Both can condemn wickedness but only culture can truly hold it in check.

When a culture (the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people) stands against evil, then evil becomes the exception to the rule of human behavior. When a culture does not stand against evil, a mountain of legislation is produced to force or at least threaten people to refrain from evil.

A practical example of this is when a legislative body drafts a new law in response to a heinous crime. The crime was so bad that the culture itself had condemned it and so no law had ever been written. Now that the culture was no longer restraining the crime, a law is written to condemn the act. Please allow me to be ridiculous to make the point. There is no law, as far as I know against eating your own hand. But if for some reason men began to do that I’m sure our law makers would address the issue!

If the culture in which you live is no longer restraining evil and wickedness then what must you do? First of all you must judge yourself rather harshly to see if you have drifted into wickedness with the culture. Secondly, you must judge the culture by the Word of God and reject any part of your culture that contradicts God! Thirdly, you must devote your whole heart to the Lord Jesus Christ and long for His return.

When the world screams, “Everybody is doing it,” then answer with boldness, “Oh no they are not!” When righteousness becomes as rare as gold, then stand by for the RETURN OF THE KING!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Night Vision!

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:1-6

I haven’t heard the phrase used in years, but when I was a child I remember learning about a “Peeping Tom.” A Peeping Tom is a person who, in the legend of Lady Godiva, watched her during her ride and was struck blind. If you have never heard of Lady Godiva I’ll let you look that one up yourself.

Peeping Toms see something that they should not. They invade the privacy of another and observe things that they ought not see usually by looking through a window that has been left open.

When God created the heavens He left the window open and said to mankind, “Look and see what I have made!” When the sun goes down and the stars become visible on a clear night the wonder and awe factor goes up.

I have a night vision scope that magnifies even the tiniest bit of light. When I look through my night vision scope at the stars the number of visible stars explodes! The vast expanse of the mantle of galaxies that surround us screams of the Glory of the Creator. Who could make such a thing? For what purpose did He make it all? And why would He open the window and let me see the evidence of His handiwork?

Rebellious mankind would say it is not alright for me to look at the heavens and be moved by the Glory of God. The world wants me to keep focused on the problems of this world and ignore the scrolling billboard in the heavens that tells of the work of God.

FAITH is like that night vision scope. When I look at the Creation and Word of God through eyes of Faith the evidence of His existence explodes. I see things I never saw before, things that scream of the reality of God! When the night comes and darkness surrounds you pick up the "night vision scope" of Faith and look at the Glory of God!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No More Curse!

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5

Did you know that we all live in a world that is cursed? God delivered the curse after Adam and Eve decided to go it alone. The Fall of Man brought on the curse of God.

Those of us who grew up in North America were carefully taught not to believe in evil spirits and curses. “It’s just a bunch of pretend when someone pronounces a curse on you.” But what if the one who delivered the curse was Almighty God? Re-read the story of Adam and Eve and see what the curse of God did to our world. It brought thorns, pain, suffering, and death!

Each one of those parts of the curse is like the hub of a wheel with thousands of spokes. The curse of God touches everyone and that touch is felt all of the time.

Death itself is part of the curse. So the very last thing anyone does on this earth is to feel the power of the curse as they die. But then there will be no more curse for those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

When you are sick you never know how bad you feel until you get well. I still remember waking up one morning after a strong bout of influenza with the wonderful “I’m well” feeling! Only then do you know how bad it was. When we wake up in Heaven with Jesus we will know the wonderful freedom of living without the curse!

Those who don’t know Jesus often spend their lives trying to reverse the curse through all kinds of innovation and technology. They may temporarily reverse the impact of the curse, but they can never take it away. No matter how long you extend life, death still waits for you in the end.

Those who know Jesus should spend their lives telling people about the One who can save them from death and who will take the curse away on that Day in Glory!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stalking Jesus!

“Their leader will be one of their own;

their ruler will arise from among them.

I will bring him near and he will come close to me,

for who is he who will devote himself

to be close to me?

declares the LORD.

So you will be my people,

and I will be your God."

Jeremiah 30:21-22

What is the difference between a “devoted lover” and a stalker? Both are always near and both put their full focus on the object of their pursuit. The “devoted lover” is there to serve and enjoy the presence of the one who is the beloved. The stalker is there to fulfill his own desires and fantasies. The one is beautiful and the other is ugly and frightening.

Have you devoted yourself to be close to God? Is He the object of your love? Do you follow God to serve and enjoy His presence in your life or are you a follower because He can fulfill your desires and fantasies?

I once knew a man who was very rich. He had been the CEO of a corporation which had seventy thousand employees. He had run for the governorship of a state. He told me with some sadness that at the pinnacle of his power he could trust no one to give him sincere praise. He said everyone who gave him a compliment was suspect of trying to get some benefit out of it.

Is that the way we are with God? We believe and even praise Him, but the power and wealth of the Almighty has become the focus of our pursuit. We follow Jesus for the loaves and fish and for an occasional healing miracle, but not because we are devoted to Him and love Him because He first love us.

Do you love Jesus because He is rich, powerful and will be the ultimate victor in the struggle over evil? Or do you love Jesus because He first loved you? Are you a “spiritual stalker?” Are you following Jesus only for what you can get out of it? Are you devoted to Jesus or are you devoted to the blessings and miracles that come from being near Him?

It is unthinkable and impossible, but ask yourself this question: If Jesus told me that there would be no more blessings for me in this life how would I respond? Would I still love Him and want to be near Him without the “loaves and fish?”

In missionary training the term is “Rice Christians,” people who come to Jesus because they get food and other blessings when they do.

Are you running after Jesus because you desire to be near Him or are you a “spiritual stalker” seeking only the blessings that He can provide?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Judge My Words!

24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Matthew 7:24-27

Someone recently reminded me of the “old saying” AFTER ALL IS SAID AND DONE, MORE IS SAID THAN DONE! Words without action are hollow and meaningless. The essence of a lie is words without action or words without content. When we lie we may speak the right words but there is no action or truth to back them up.

For most of my adult life my work has been involved with words, spoken and written. I enjoy words and I enjoy putting words together to express just the right nuance of meaning for a special thought. I find it satisfying and fun to dabble in the art of creative writing. But words are simply pictures of reality. When I begin to think that my words themselves are truth then I am like an artist who looks at his own painting and believes he is looking out of his window at the sunset. It is quite alright to paint a picture of a sunset, but a man who looks at his own art work and believes he is looking at the real thing is indeed deceived!

The importance of the Word of God is not that it is beautiful and sacred. God’s Word is important because the words in the Bible represent truth in every syllable. When I listen to a man speak I know that his words will be salted and peppered with untruths. After the fall, every man is a liar. Our best lies are the ones we tell to ourselves. Deception is the root of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” But when God speaks there is nothing but Truth! So when I hear a man I must judge whether or not he is speaking truth, but when I hear God’s Word I must judge whether or not my life is conformed to the Truth He speaks!

So I urge you to judge these words, except the quotation from Matthew chapter 7. You must judge my words, but don’t forget that the Word of God is not for you to judge, rather the Word of God will judge you!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Day!

Everything will soon come to an end. So be serious and be sensible enough to pray.
Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other, because love wipes away many sins.  Welcome people into your home and don't grumble about it.
Each of you has been blessed with one of God's many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. If you have the gift of speaking, preach God's message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies. Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ, who is glorious and powerful forever. Amen

1 Peter 4:7-11

When you reach the end of a novel you may question whether the ending was suitable but you never question the fact that the story has come to an end. When you reach the end of a road you have the option of turning to the right or to the left, but you can’t keep going on the road because it has ended.

When the clock strikes midnight tonight this day will end and it will never be again. It will be a day in history, but it will never be a day for anyone to do anything good or bad. But at the very moment this day ends a new day begins!

By all appearances we stand at a momentous watershed in human history. If this is not the time for the end of all things it is at least a time when we are seeing the end of many things! Peter tells us to be serious and sensible enough to pray. He also tells us to love each other and to focus on and use the gift God has given us to serve others.

Even the most optimistic believe that the world is going to experience terrible troubles in the near future. The pot is beginning to boil and the lid cannot stay on much longer. The Nobel Peace prize was given to the Commander in Chief of a war that has been going on for eight years! Men are crying “Peace, Peace” and there is no peace. There is no peace in the world, but there is still peace for every follower of Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate you from Jesus if you are His.

So even though, “The end of all things” may be near, when this day ends a new day will begin. And that new day will last forever!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Plan and His Purpose!

Listen to advice and accept instruction,
and in the end you will be wise.
Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:20-21

When the underdog wins, the victory is sweeter and the glow of triumph lasts longer. There is indeed excitement in taking on an opponent who has greater natural ability and skills. If you lose in such a contest there is no shame, but if you win you will go down in history as did David when he defeated Goliath.

But there is a fundamental difference in the battle between David and Goliath and most of our struggles today. David fought using the power of God to defeat Goliath. Most people today fight against God using their own power in what always proves to be a futile attempt to defeat the Almighty.

Someone once said that true insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different outcome the second time. No one has ever defeated God, including Satan himself. The outcome is settled, God wins and we lose. The lie of Satan is the same as it has always been. Satan calls God a liar and tells us that we can oppose God and win!

So make your plans and work to see them prosper. But know for sure than when your plans and God’s purpose collide you will be like a man on roller skates running head on into a MAC truck! But when your plans and God’s purpose are going the same direction, as a child of God you can jump on the truck and have the ride of your life!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

No Strangers in Heaven!

I, even I, am the LORD,

and apart from me there is no savior.

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—

I, and not some foreign god among you.

You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God.

Yes, and from ancient days I am he.

No one can deliver out of my hand.

When I act, who can reverse it?"

Isaiah 43:11-13

For years I have wondered about life insurance advertising and why companies are allowed to declare that life insurance “protects” you. Life insurance doesn’t protect the policy holder at all. Life insurance will not keep anyone from dying. The beneficiary is rewarded with money if the policy holder dies, but no one is truly protected! But it sounds so comforting to use the word “protect” when it comes to someone dying.

The Bible says that every man has an “appointment” with death and after that the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) There is no way to avoid it. Freezing your body as you are dying will not provide a way to escape the judgment of God. Living longer than anyone else ever has will not keep you from facing God in the end.

There is no way around the mountain of God. For a little while we can avoid the final confrontation. We can immerse ourselves in all sorts of pleasures and even “important” diversions, but there will come a day, and it may be very soon, when every man who has ever lived will be on his knees before his Creator waiting for God to pass sentence on his life!

On this earth there are some jobs that are filled not by how qualified you are, but rather they are filled because of who you know. It is the same in heaven. Heaven will not be populated with those who have qualified themselves to be there by their own righteousness. Heaven will be filled with those people who already know Jesus!

When you go to heaven you will already be well acquainted with Jesus. You will know Him so well that you will feel quite at home with Him there. There will be no strangers in Heaven!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Spiritual Retirement?

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
2 Peter 1:16-18

Later in life when Peter spoke of the three years he spent with Jesus as a young man the stories must have been truly captivating. When I meet Peter in Heaven I hope to hear his account of stepping out of the boat to walk on the water. Peter could tell of that night in the garden when he kept going to sleep while Jesus prayed. He certainly would mention day of Pentecost when three thousand people responded to his sermon.

But it was not the memories of his youth that sustained Peter when he became an old man. The memories must have been precious, but the thing that kept Peter strong was that Jesus lived not with him but in him!

The excitement of a newly engaged couple is obvious to everyone, but the peace and joy that can be theirs after more than forty years of marriage dwarfs the original thrill.

When you first met Jesus and discovered that He came to save you from your sins the thrill was overwhelming. But as you walk with Him for dozens of years the peace and joy of the relationship dwarfs the emotion of the first encounter.

After years of knowing Jesus and living with the Holy Spirit indwelling there is still a time of wonder and discovery when I spend time pondering His Word and considering His Majesty! The more I know Him; I discover that there is so much more of Him to know. He is a vast eternity of blessing, joy and peace. As I touch the hem of His garment and receive the Power of God in my life I look up and see how much more there is to be touched!

Don’t spend your time like the old soldier who sits around and tells war stories from years ago. There is no such thing as a “retired believer” in Jesus. The testimony of what Jesus did for you in your history may be helpful to those who would listen, but the life changing Power of God is seen in what Jesus is doing for you, with you and through you today!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hole in the Boat!

(If God) condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.
2 Peter 2:6-10

How did the “filthy lives of lawless men” distress Abraham’s nephew Lot? The Bible even says that he was “tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.” Why should one man’s sin distress and torment another? Shouldn’t you be free to do whatever you want as long as it does not limit my own freedom to do what I want to?

The answer to that question might be seen in a short story about two men in a boat. The story is not true, but its message is absolutely true.

Two men decided to go out in a boat together to fish. Ed and Bob both knew how to fish and their families needed the food. Their first disagreement came when Ed and Bob both wanted to fish from the front of the boat. The boat was small and there was only room enough for one of them to fish from the front. Bob demanded his rights and Ed let Bob take his place fishing in the front of the boat. The second dispute came when they disagreed about where to fish. Ed wanted to fish above the dam and Bob wanted to fish near the beach in sight of the swimmers. Bob demanded his rights and they took the small boat near the beach. Finally, Bob decided that his feet were too hot and he took a small hatchet and began cutting a hole in the bottom of the boat to let the cool water come in around his feet. Ed protested loudly because he knew if Bob continued the boat would sink to the bottom. But Bob demanded his rights and Ed sat quietly while they both sank to the bottom with the boat!

The distress and torment of Lot may have been that he was seeing those around him destroying the very fabric of society. Lot knew that what the Sodomites were doing would bring on the judgment of God if left unchecked.

The unrighteousness of our Nation and the world is bringing once again the judgment of God. If you are not distressed and tormented by it then examine whether or not you are chopping away at the bottom of the boat yourself.

The good news for the Children of God is this: God will rescue you even as He rescued Lot and His family from Sodom. If you remember the story and especially Lot’s wife remember to keep your eyes on Jesus and DON’T LOOK BACK!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rest of the Story!

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,"

declares the LORD.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

I remember two little boys talking about things they did not yet understand. From the perspective of more than fifty years later the conversation would be great comedy! My friend and I knew a little about “grown up” things, but very little and our attempt to fill in the void in our knowledge with speculation demonstrated the pinnacle of inaccuracy!

But “when I became a man” as the Apostle Paul said it, I put away childish things.

Today when I think about Heaven and our life with God after this life on earth comes to a close, I feel much like I did as a child. I know a little of what is to come, but the specifics are not available to my limited ability to grasp such truth. And yet I am encouraged to “set my mind on things above.”

I feel like the man who is given the task of counting all the grains of sand on the beaches of the world. The man can count. Counting is easy, but the enormity of the task of counting the sand is beyond any man’s ability. It simply cannot be done! Knowing the thoughts and ways of God is the same. We can know His thoughts and His ways, but not all of them. When God reveals to us one of His thoughts or one of His ways we can know it, but the remaining reservoir of His thoughts and ways has an infinite supply!

Drink deeply from that water and rest in the Love of Jesus. The rest of the story will be ours to know when we arrive at His feet in Glory! Both meanings of the word “rest” are appropriate in this sentence!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Now is the Time?

10Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12"But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17All men will hate you because of me. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By standing firm you will gain life.

20"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Luke 21:10-28

How much of a Bible scholar do you have to be to know that the return of Jesus may come at any moment? The description of the time of the return of Jesus in Luke 21 is one that fits this day and age perfectly. We have terror, tsunamis, great earthquakes and pestilences just to mention a few.

How can I add words to the warning? All I can say is BE PREPARED TODAY!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Desire of Jesus!

Father, I want everyone you have given me to be with me, wherever I am. Then they will see the glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the world was created.

John 17:24

Many stories spring from the “three wishes” and the “genie in a bottle” concept. It touches our greatest yearnings. If our greatest longing could be fulfilled, what a difference that would make in our lives.

That is why people waste their money buying lottery tickets. There is a chance, if even an extremely small one, that they will win the lottery and have every earthly desire fulfilled!

But what does Jesus desire? What does He put high on the list of things that He wants more than anything? Even loving children rarely think about what their parent’s desire. As Christians we rarely, if ever think about the desires of Jesus. I think we believe that since Jesus is God then anything He desires is automatically His to claim. The desire of Jesus is at the heart of the story of the Bible. Amazingly, God created a world in which the fulfillment of His desire depends on the choice of man. Jesus said, “Father, I want everyone you have given me to be with me, wherever I am.”

God has created man with the ability to reject Jesus or accept Him. Like nothing else in all of creation we can reject God’s desire. Eternal punishment for rejecting God is certainly appropriate, but the awesomeness of God is clearly seen in the fact He created us with the ability to reject Him.

The glorious truth about the creation of Man is that God bestowed on us the ability to bless God. We can give to God that which He cannot force us to give. We can freely love God and His Son Jesus Christ! God gave you everything, but you can give to God that which He cannot give to Himself.

So when I choose to spend my day “with God” I am giving to God a blessing. Being with Jesus is fulfilling His desire.

I need Jesus more than anything else in life, but the mind boggling reality is that Jesus needs me too!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Follow the Fire!

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Exodus 13:21-22

When the wise men came to see Jesus after His birth they followed the star that led them to the Lord. When the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years they followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They did not have to wonder if the way they were going was really the way that God wanted them to go. All they had to do was to follow the cloud or the fire!

I have often wondered why so many have great difficulty in knowing which way to go in following Jesus. Does He want me to do this or is He leading me to do something else? The best advice of course is to pray, read the Word, listen to the council of other Christians and move in faith. But why can’t I simply see the cloud or the fire and follow Him in full assurance that “this is the way to go?”

When the wise men were following the star to find the new King how did they know it was the right one to follow? The Bible does not tell us that part of the story but these men followed one star that appeared among a vast multitude of other stars.

When the Israelites followed the cloud there must have been days when there were many other clouds which could have led them astray. Even at night when they followed the fire they could have been paralyzed by fear of the darkness surrounding them.

So as darkness falls on the world around us and fear sets in on men who were once courageous let us keep our eyes on the fire and keep step with God on our journey although we can see nothing else but His fire.

The real secret in following Jesus is in knowing Him. The more time you spend simply letting Jesus infiltrate your heart and mind the easier it is to know if the way you are going is according to His will.

When two people are walking in the dark together it is much easier if they hold hands. The old song says it well: “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand.”

The darkness is coming! Hold tightly to the Hand of Jesus and FOLLOW THE FIRE!