Sunday, January 31, 2010

Conformed Not Confirmed!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:28-29

No one looks at the star that shines next to the bright one! When a verse of scripture is memorized and quoted by millions, the words before and after it seem to pale in significance. Romans 8:28 is such a verse. We all love for God to work all things for our good! What a comfort to read this verse when troubling times come.

But Romans 8:29 is of no less significance. It says that His children are “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son!” Notice that it does not say that we are predestined to conform, but rather that we are predestined to be conformed. To conform is a choice you make. To be conformed is conformity which comes from an action taken to change your life!

My spell checker in the previous paragraph suggested that I probably meant “confirm” rather than conform! That is the same misunderstanding we are all tempted to embrace. If we were predestined to be confirmed in the likeness of Jesus that would be God’s recognition of how wonderful our life had become. But being conformed is the process whereby we are changed, and the change is one that is radical!

As human beings we do not have the power to conform ourselves to the image of Jesus. The contrast between my human nature and the Devine Nature of Jesus is too great. I might take a small step in that direction by my own power, but then I take two steps backward. But when the Holy Spirit who lives in me begins the transformation process He “works all things for the good.”

I always assumed that things working together for my good meant that it would be pleasant! Not so! The things that work together for my good are the things that, whether I like them or not, transform me and conform me into the likeness of Jesus!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Words Cannot Express!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Romans 8:26-27

What is a baby thinking when he is crying? Well, of course the baby is thinking, “I’m hungry, thirsty, or wet.” But the baby begins life and cries before he knows these concepts and of course without any words with which to express his feelings. Over the next few months and years the baby learns to speak words that let his mother know what he feels and needs. These words slowly take the place of screaming about felt needs!

But the limits of language, any language still remain in place. The human capacity for feeling is bigger than any words can express. When you speak the words “I love you” to one who is dear to your heart, you are expressing one snowflake in a blizzard of emotion. As you might guess, I am struggling to find the words to adequately communicate the inadequacy of words!

So when I pray how do I say to God the things that I feel for which there are no words? There are times when I simply cry like a baby! A small vocabulary does not change the depth of my thoughts and needs before God. No one would say that a man and his wife who cannot read or write and have a limited vocabulary cannot have a relationship that is as full and meaningful as a couple with college educations. Vocabulary does not determine relationship. The communication that goes on between couples without words is usually greater and more complex than any words could express.

In light of this, consider these words in Romans 8:26. “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

When you cry out to God the Holy Spirit goes to God on your behalf. He tells God the things that you could never put in to words! The Holy Spirit like a good mother hears your cry and knows immediately what you need.

Don’t spend your life trying to find the right words to say to God. Like a newborn baby raise your voice and cry out to God! There is nothing more beautiful than the first cry of a baby!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Heaven’s Green Stamps!

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 8:22-23

When I was a child we took turns saving S&H Green Stamps! Green Stamps were given out by local stores and pasted in a book which could be redeemed at the local Green Stamp redemption center. The process was simple. You found a favorite item in their catalog and then saved enough stamps to fill a collector’s book. The catalog told you how many “books” of green stamps you needed to trade at the redemption store for your prize. I was not very patient so I always went for the items that required only one book of stamps! I do remember redeeming one book of stamps for a King James Bible.

Romans 8:23 speaks of the redemption of our bodies. My body, like a book of green stamps has almost no value. My body came from dust and to dust it will return. But when Jesus returns my body will be exchanged for a new one. It will be changed from a body of death to an eternal body that will never die!

I still remember flipping through my almost full book of green stamps while dreaming about the prize that was soon to come! Just a few more days and I would have enough stamps to go to the redemption store and exchange the stamps for the thing I have dreamed about for so long!

Today I do almost exactly the same thing as I “flip through my almost full book of life” and dream about the prize that is soon to come. Just a few more days and I will have enough to go to Heaven’s redemption store and exchange my life here for the thing I have dreamed about for so long!

You could not buy Green Stamps and you cannot buy Heavenly redemption. It is the gift of God, but only for those who come to Him by faith in Jesus!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jesus is Amazing!

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."

John 4:24-26

Many movies have been made about the witness protection program. Someone is given a new identity and sent away to live without any ties to their former life. I have met a few people who may have been involved, but of course you never know for sure until after their need for anonymity has passed. The stories are always intriguing, but few are told.

When Jesus arrived in Bethlehem two thousand years ago his arrival was announced to the shepherds, the wise men, and Mary and Joseph, but to the rest of mankind He was just another Baby born out of wedlock! As a child there was no halo sitting on top of his head or trumpet blowing angel walking in front as He ran through the streets of Nazareth. Like the rest of us Jesus was hungry, thirsty, tired, and needed a haircut and even a bath!

When the woman at the well met Jesus in John 4 she thought she was talking with an ordinary man until He declared to her that He was the Messiah! It was a simple conversation about needing water, the fact that she had no husband and then she threw in a religious question. Finally, she let Him know that she believed that the Messiah would come and Jesus revealed Himself to the woman!

If you want to know something of great spiritual significance from Jesus you must first engage Him in simple conversation. Don’t approach Jesus like a prosecuting attorney and pepper Him with questions for your outline of theology.

Speak with Jesus about the matter at hand and listen carefully when He answers. Everything about your day is of concern to Jesus. The answer Jesus gives always goes far beyond the question you ask! If you ask Jesus how He likes your haircut, He can tell you how many hairs were cut and how many you have left! Isn’t that amazing?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

War Stories!

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Luke 13:34

There is a big difference in an army of volunteers and an army that is drafted into service. When you are forced to take up arms and fight, your heart may not be, and usually is not in the war!

The rousing Vacation Bible School song, “I’m in the Lord’s Army” has a serious foundational concept that is worthy of pause. If you are in the Lord’s Army then how did you get there and what is your job?

When Jesus calls together the Army of His followers there is no room for fear. Like Gideon, Jesus tells His followers who are afraid that they are excused from service in the present battle. Jesus has an all volunteer army. If you are not willing to participate in spiritual warfare you will not be forced to do so. That does not mean that while you stand idly by you will not be pummeled by Satan in his rampage through the world.

It seems that there are some Christians who are conscientious objectors, not to earthly war, but to spiritual war! They love wearing the uniform and marching in step on the parade field. They certainly enjoy the war games and especially the Army-Navy football game where they can gain bragging rights over other Christians. But when it comes to stepping on to the field of battle where real bullets are flying they have no heart for it.

As the spiritual war rages around you today you have a choice. You can choose to lay down your weapons and simply dodge bullets while you find a place to hide, or you can take up your Sword and enter the fight!

Remember, the most powerful testimonies of Christians are when old soldiers tell war stories!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Built by the Branch!

‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.'

Zechariah 6:12b-13

This prophecy about Jesus tells us that He will build the temple of the Lord, be clothed in majesty and sit and rule on His throne.

Of all the occupations that existed when Jesus was born, it does seem appropriate that Jesus would learn to be a carpenter. Jesus must have learned to build many things out of wood. Trees have been important in the Bible from the very beginning. It was the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” that sidetracked Adam and Eve from God’s original design. It is the “Tree of Life” that we, one day will be able to eat from its fruit and live forever! Mankind was saved when Noah built an ark out of gopher wood. And Jesus was crucified on a tree not on a rock!

So Jesus Christ was a carpenter while on this earth, but He has been a builder in a much greater sense for more than two thousand years. The Bible says that followers of Jesus are in their own bodies the Temple of God! The Holy Spirit lives in those who follow Jesus.

Jesus is building His Church and it is the Temple of God. Jesus also sits on His throne in your heart and rules!

When it comes to Jesus’ work in my life there is an “Under Construction” sign on my heart! Every day His work moves forward or I refuse to let Him work. Some days I even tear down something He is working on in my life! So today, I set my heart and mind toward allowing Jesus to do His work in me!

Every carpenter is an expert when it comes to nails. Jesus bought me by letting the soldiers put nails in His hands and feet as they hung Him on the cross. For Jesus to do His work in my life, I must let Him put nails in my heart as He fastens me to the Tree of Life!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Say Amen!

Come near, you nations, and listen;
       pay attention, you peoples!
       Let the earth hear, and all that is in it,
       the world, and all that comes out of it!

The LORD is angry with all nations;
       his wrath is upon all their armies.
       He will totally destroy them,
       he will give them over to slaughter.

Their slain will be thrown out,
       their dead bodies will send up a stench;
       the mountains will be soaked with their blood.

All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved
       and the sky rolled up like a scroll;
       all the starry host will fall
       like withered leaves from the vine,
       like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

Isaiah 33:1-4

Which nation in today’s world is honoring the Lord by the way it conducts its affairs? Is there a righteous nation by the standards of heaven? The United States still does wonderful things when reaching out to tragedies around the world, but we take the glory for doing it and praise the goodness of the American people not the God who made us!

Why would the Lord not be angry with all nations today? And if He is, then what is my responsibility as His follower?

First of all, I need to cling on to Jesus with all my strength. Unless I stay close to Jesus I will be of no use to anyone else. As the terrible times come on the world, those who wander away from Jesus will find that they, themselves are blowing with the wind or drifting on the waves. But those who hold on to the Lord will become light houses and rescue stations for the lost!

My job is to be the body for the incarnation of the Holy Spirit! When Jesus was alive there was only one human body which was filled with power from on high! Now every believer who walks in the light is another example of “Christ in you.” To this you must daily say AMEN!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Godly Plagiarism!

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.      

Colossians 3:16-17

If you become a powerful wordsmith and write for many others to read you must constantly be careful about plagiarism. Taking what someone else has written and using it like it was your own is unethical and dishonest.

If you want to become a writer, most mentors will encourage you to read the works of others, but there is a caution in doing so. If you become so enamored by the work of another author that you begin to write like him or her you must be careful that you don’t accidentally incorporate paragraphs from their creations into your own writing. Doing so could end your writing career!

When I was a full-time radio talk show host my mentor, Dick Casper advised me not to listen to other hosts. He warned that if I spent time listening to them I would pick up some of their ways and move away from the uniqueness of my own presentation. I followed his advice probably to my own decline in the business!

Here is a shocker! God wants His children to be plagiarists! Jesus wants you to use His words as if they were your very own. There is a big difference in quoting the Word of God and speaking the Word of God as if it were your own! When I read the writings of the Holy Spirit every day and listen to Him speak to my heart, then I will begin to say the things that He has said. I will not quote what Jesus has said about a situation; rather I will speak the things that Jesus has said to my current circumstance.

When the Word of Christ begins to flow out of your mouth as if it were your very own, then you will see the world around you respond as it did when Jesus Himself spoke those Words!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brick or Bricklayer!

“I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and with those of my Lord , David your father.”

2 Chronicles 2:13-14

When King Solomon was preparing to build the Temple for God, Hiram, King of Tyre sent a man named Huram-Abi to help with the construction. Huram-Abi was a trained craftsman and artist who could “execute any design given to him.” That means that he could make in gold, silver or stone a perfect representation of what the Designer had in mind. As important as his work was, Huram-Abi was not the architect of Solomon’s Temple!

Huram-Abi is not listed in the Bible with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is not mentioned with the Apostles or the Prophets. Huram-Abi is never compared to King David. Huram-Abi was a man of training and skill and that was indeed useful in accomplishing the purposes of God in the world, but nothing is said about the heart of Huram-Abi. King David was a man after God’s own heart in spite of his permanently recorded sins!

When I was small I read about King David and all the other men and women of God, but I wanted to be like Huram-Abi. I wanted to hone my skills to be used for the glory of God and execute His design perfectly! It was a wonderful goal, but it fell far short of God’s plan for my life. God can use my skills, and He does, but what God wants is my heart.

There is a big difference in using your training and talents for God and in letting God use you as a brick in the temple He is building.

Today in the Temple of God I would rather be a brick than a bricklayer!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Are Finished!

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Revelation 21:5-6

I am a man of unfinished projects! I can dream up a useful and even necessary activity with the active imagination God has given me. It is no problem for me to brainstorm how to address a specific need. I can even start the job and plow the ground to get it underway. But when it comes to finishing I fall short with the best of them!

The mundane, day to day execution of the work often loses my interest and I am tempted to turn to the more exciting activity of starting something new. The best example of my procrastination was a small bathroom renovation that took two years to finish.

God is not like me. He always finishes the job he starts. He never leaves an unfinished job forever! When Jesus hung on the Cross His last words were “It is finished.” Jesus was given a job to do on this earth and He completed its every detail.

When you gave your life to God and became a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit moved in and began a work in your life. Every day since that moment you have been a project that God will complete!

That’s why you have been going through these difficulties. You are seated squarely on God’s workbench and His tools are forming and shaping you into the image of His Son!

There was a song some years ago with the lyric: “He’s still working on me!” There will be a day when Jesus will look at you and declare to all Eternity, YOU ARE FINISHED!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The “O” List!

 "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Vacation and retirement are two concepts that only work in affluent parts of the world. When the daily struggle for food, water and shelter is a full time job, vacation and retirement are not part of the daily dialogue.

A major focus of many in the western world is to plan for retirement and take vacations on a regular basis.

As a follower of Jesus Christ is it “permissible” to take a vacation or to plan for retirement? Of course it is, but the Bible reminds us that there is something much more important.

When I seek good things for myself, whatever they may be, it is not ultimately beneficial or constructive. When I satisfy my own desires I am doing the same as any human being would do. But when I seek not my own good, but the good of others, I discover the joy of Jesus when He took the form of a man and lived among us. The Bible tells us that Jesus would get away for a while to spend time in prayer, but there is no mention of Jesus taking a vacation or planning for retirement.

The only preparation for the future on this earth that Jesus made was when He told John to take care of His mother, Mary.

Today, I am challenged to seek and look for opportunities to “do good” to others. If while doing that, I run out of time to do good for myself I will hear no condemnation or even criticism from God!

Check your TO DO list and mark the entries with an “O” for others or “M” for myself. Be sure to keep the “O” list as long as possible!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Heaven’s Refrigerator Door!

Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you

Deuteronomy 16:16-17

When you open a gift the most important thing is not what is in the box. The most important thing is what is in the heart of the one who gave the gift. The difference between a gift and a bribe can be seen only in the motive of the giver.

Money given to someone with a need can be a loving and compassionate gift or it can be a bribe to get something in return. The Bible says that God gives “good and perfect” gifts, and He does! God’s gifts are motivated by love and are in no way bribes to get men and women to do what He desires. That is clearly seen in that His rain falls on the just and the unjust!

No loving father tells his children that he will give them food and clothing and shelter if they will always obey him. Giving these gifts to a child is never contingent on the child’s obedience.

But what about my gifts to God, when I give some of what God has given me back to Him what is in my heart? Do I give because it is my obligation, or do I give because I love God and want to bless Him in whatever way I can?

For me, the best gifts are the pictures that hang on the refrigerator that were carefully drawn by my grandchildren. Each of these drawings is a few moments of focus to bless me by showing me what they can do. The wonderful part of those gifts is that my grandchildren wanted to give me something. It doesn’t matter what the gift is, I am blessed!

My gifts to God are like refrigerator pictures. I diligently work with paper and crayons! I try to imagine what God would really like from me, and then I give my gift! If I am trying to bribe God to bless me by giving my gift to Him, my gift will do more harm than good. But if I give to God because I love Him and want to bless Him, then the picture I have drawn is hung on HEAVEN’S REFRIGERATOR DOOR!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

God’s Plan and Me!

The LORD Almighty has sworn,
"Surely, as I have planned, so it will be,
and as I have purposed, so it will stand.

Isaiah 14:24

When my plans fall apart and I fail to fulfill the things that I desire, no one is surprised. It is the exception rather than the rule that a man actually fulfills his dreams. When you go to the “all you can eat” buffet, piling more food on your plate than you can actually eat is not uncommon.

The plans of God are never left on His plate! When the Bible boldly states that for those who love the Lord and are the “called according to His purpose” everything works together for good, we get a glimpse of genius of the Creator. God can hit every curve ball out of the park! Every “Hail Mary” pass, (isn’t that an interesting phrase?) thrown by God is caught for a touchdown!

The question is not about God’s ability or faithfulness. The question is whether or not I am part of the plans and purposes of God. If I have accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life and been filled with the Holy Spirit, then my life is part of His plan!

Perhaps a good illustration of the life with God that empowers us to make it all the way to the End is a man flying in a plane. If you are in the plane, you are safe from the tornado force winds that sweep past the wings and the oxygen starved atmosphere that would make it impossible to breathe if you were standing on the wing. If you are simply clinging on to Jesus and His Word, but are not “in Christ,” then the storms that come will blow you away. But if you are in Christ like being in a plane you can be at peace and watch the glorious view as He takes you to the heights!

The purpose of God for your life is the flight plan and God’s plane never crashes! Instead of asking God to rescue me from the troubles of this life I must strive to be in Christ because nothing then can separate me from His love!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No Earthquakes in Heaven!

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.

Matthew 27:50-51 & 28:1-2

Even the smallest earthquake is unsettling! When the earth begins to move beneath your feet and solid ground is no longer the firm foundation on which you depend, everything can change forever in a few terrifying seconds.

Without being able to depend on the foundation under your feet no one can go on with life as usual.

I have a friend who lived in southern California for years until the frequent earthquakes became too much for him to bear.

When Jesus died on the Cross there was an earthquake. When Jesus rose from the grave there was an earthquake. When the return of Jesus is near there will be earthquakes. Earthquakes seem to be symbols of how Jesus shakes the ground under our feet and calls us to depend on Him as the foundation of our lives.

In Ephesians 2:6 the Bible says:

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

As the nations rage, the oceans roar, and wars and rumors of war increase around the world, as a follower of Jesus, seated with Him, remember that there are NO EARTHQUAKES IN HEAVEN!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hey Batter!

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Jude 1:17-21

It has been at least twenty years since I coached a little league baseball team. It was a memorable enough experience and I did learn some good lessons that year. I remember the coaches who built their entire lives around baseball. For them it was not a game, but truly a religion. They knew the rule book better than most preachers know the Bible. If my team was fortunate enough to win against one of these teams it always made me feel bad for the other coach who seemed to feel that life had just dealt him a major setback!

If you have seen boys playing baseball you may have seen the boys in the field taunting the batter. They would yell: “Hey batter, batter, batter!” It was hard enough for a young man to keep his composure while trying to hit the baseball in front of two small crowds, one friendly and the other one hostile. I always thought this added pressure was unnecessary and really unfair. Baseball should be a game of physical ability not emotional stability!

Life itself is a little like young men playing baseball. You are up at the plate hoping to hit the ball and not strike out. The world is scoffing at you and everything you believe! You hear cries from the crowd and from the opposing team trying to take away your peace as you wait for the next pitch.

But life is not like baseball for followers of Jesus. The winner of the game of life is not determined by your skill and physical ability. It is not decided because of your intelligence or wisdom. When you stand at the plate waiting for the next pitch Satan will throw across the plate you can feel the arms of God reach around you and His hands fold around yours. When the ball comes you feel the bat begin to move because of His power. In reality you become a spectator yourself as you watch the Holy Spirit take over your life!

My job is to be alert and let God move me to respond to everything that comes my way in life.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What Has Jesus Done?

I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
The LORD has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
Open for me the gates of righteousness;
I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD
through which the righteous may enter.

Psalm 118:17-20

The major debate going on in the world today is not about health care or the war on terrorism. The debate is about what God has done or has not done. The very essence of the theory of Evolution is that God did not create life! It is an attempt to deny what God has done.

It is rather curious that we, as tiny specs of dust in a vast universe would confidently proclaim knowledge of the limits of God. It is intellectual absurdity to say that God did not create life. But if we had no Word from Him giving us enlightenment about what He has done, it would be just as absurd to say that God did create it.

If God had not revealed Himself though the Bible and through the life of Jesus Christ the debate would be a “he said, she said” argument with no certain outcome!

Here is where the debate comes home for every Christian. Persecution doesn’t come because of what you believe about God and who He is. Persecution comes because of what you say He has done, is doing and will do in the world!

An accurate theological description of God is not unsettling to unbelievers. An assertion that God has you in His sights and desires that you turn your life around and follow Jesus is most disturbing.

Today when you tell other people about who Jesus is, don’t leave out the part about what He has done, what He is doing and what He will do. That is the part of the message that convicts the world of sin and righteousness.

The point of conversion comes not when a man recognizes who Jesus is, but rather when He accepts what Jesus has done and is doing.

The controversy is this: Christians believe that all other gods have done nothing, but Jesus has done everything! What has your god done for you?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Needs and Desires!

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

It sometimes is not easy to know the difference between a need and a desire. I may need something but not desire the thing that I need. I may also desire something that I do not need.

When I desire the thing that I need I must sort through the facts, feelings and emotions to properly judge the action that I plan to take. That sounds like a big project, but it can happen in a flash as I determine whether or not I need to eat a piece of pie or just want to eat one. That is probably not a good example since a piece of pie rarely falls into the “I need it” category. How many times have I said to a waitress, “I would love a piece of pie, but I don’t need it!”

We think of needs in terms of things that have pleasant and positive fulfillments. I need a drink. I need some lunch. I need a nap. But when I was a little boy I remember my mother asking me this question: “Bill, do you need a spanking?” Of course, she asked the question because I was doing something contrary to her will. My thoughts in response were always: “Whether I need a spanking or not I certainly don’t want one!” Then I would initiate a short public relations campaign to change her mind and avoid the threatened spanking! It usually worked, but there are some memorable times when it did not!

It is easy to know the desires of your heart. No one has to research a matter to find out if he desires a thing. Desires almost always spring spontaneously from within. It is not so easy to know your needs. You may need to have your appendix removed, but I have never met a person who desired the operation until they were in great pain and were told that the operation was the only solution to their agony!

If you are a child of God the Bible says He will supply all of your needs. Of course that means the needs that coincide with your desires, but it also means the needs that do not. God’s goal with me is to bring me all the way to Glory so that I may stand before His throne forever and join the multitudes in praising Him! The things that I need to bring me there He will do for me, even if it means that I must suffer for righteousness sake on the way.

The Bible also says in Psalm 37:4:
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Like any good father God will not give us our desires if they work against our needs.

“Lord, help me today to know the difference in the things that I desire and the things that I need.”

Saturday, January 9, 2010

One Small Step!

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.' "

Haggai 1:2

There is a little word game I love to play with my grandson Jakob. I ask him why today is never called tomorrow. Today is yesterday’s tomorrow, and when tomorrow arrives it is always called today. Jakob is seven and verbally bantering back and forth is fun, but there is a deep truth here that I hope he comes to understand.

Tomorrow is the mother’s milk of procrastination. Dreaming about what you will do tomorrow while doing nothing today puts you in the “Good Intentions” Hall of Fame. While it may be true that someone was “born yesterday,” no one was ever or ever will be “born tomorrow!”

The prophet Haggai wrote a telling indictment when he quoted the Lord who said, "These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.' "

They were busy taking care of their own business, but were ignoring the things of God. They were declaring that there would be a time in the future when they would apply themselves to His priorities. It seems that the things they wanted to accomplish for God tomorrow never found a place in the bustle of today.

When you stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment the Bible does not say that one of His questions will be: “What thing for Me did you plan, hope or intend to do?”

The farmer who plans, hopes and intends to plant his field but never puts his hand to the plow will not reap a harvest.

Look now at your hopes, plans and intentions when it comes to the things of God. Pick one of those things and put your hand to that plow. You may not be able to do very much today, but the smallest step you take today is worth far more than the giant leap you plan for tomorrow!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Yesterday’s Repentance!

All your fortresses are like fig trees
with their first ripe fruit;
when they are shaken,
the figs fall into the mouth of the eater.
Look at your troops—
they are all women!
The gates of your land
are wide open to your enemies;
fire has consumed their bars.
Nahum 3:12-13

The city of Nineveh turned to God when Jonah reluctantly brought the message of judgment. It was dramatic and even shocked Jonah. The prophet delivered the message, but his heart was hoping the city would not repent so he could watch the evil culture get what was coming to them. They did repent and the city of Nineveh was saved.

If the timelines of history are accurate it was only a few decades later that Nineveh was destroyed. This time there was no Jonah and there was no repentance. It was not a pretty picture. You can read about it in the prophecy of Nahum.

The city had become weak and was an easy target for their enemies. Nahum 3:12-13 says that their soldiers were like women. I don’t believe this is a negative statement about women, rather it is pointing to the fact that God did not create women to be warriors. I recently heard of a home invasion tactic to lure a woman to open her door. The invader uses a device that makes the sound of a crying baby and places it outside the door. The instinct of a woman is overwhelmingly focused on helping a baby in need. You can say all you want about women being as strong as men, but there are no women playing in the National Football League. Someday there may be a kicker, but I seriously doubt that will ever happen.

The lesson for me is simple. Like Nineveh there was a time when Jonah came and brought the message that I must repent or be destroyed. I repented and God moved mightily in to my life. But now that several decades have passed am I still strong for God or am I, like Nineveh trying to defend myself with my own weak designs rather than the power of God?

When I stand before the Lord He will not question whether or not I, like Nineveh repented “once upon a time,” but He will find out where my heart is today.

Yesterday’s repentance means nothing if today your heart is set against the Will of God. Repent again today!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Miracle Moment!

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Ephesians 6:19-20

When a baby gets big enough to imitate the sounds he hears from his mother, we say that he is beginning to speak! And he is, but his first words are simply parroted noises rather than real attempts to communicate. Crying is the communication tool for babies and very small children. It takes time for words to be laced together as sentences and to then be used to express the feelings and desires of a child.

Even great orators began their verbal journey in life with very simple words. Everyone learns to speak by listening to someone else. Speaking a specific language is not given to us as a gift from God. My oldest son was born in Indonesia and spent the first three months of his life there. He does not know how to speak the Indonesian language. As a child he did learn how to speak English with a perfect Tennessee accent! Now he is 35 years old and has a good vocabulary so that he can communicate without difficulty with others who speak his language.

When you first meet Jesus you begin to learn His words. Jesus speaks your language but with an accent that is clearly Heavenly. At first we simply parrot His words and it sounds like we are spiritual and know what we are talking about. Like a child we may have a favorite word or phrase that we learned from Jesus. We say it over and over and try to apply it to every situation. At some point, we graduate from simply imitating what we hear Jesus say and begin using the Words we learned from Him to communicate the depths of our hearts to Him. We also use the Words we learned from Him to tell the world around us about Jesus!

Then comes an amazing moment when I open my mouth and Jesus gives me the words to say! It is shocking when you hear yourself saying things that you did not plan to say, and yet those words were appropriate and powerful in Glorifying God and touching the need of the one to whom you are speaking! You become a pipeline for the precious oil of Heaven and Jesus has another moment to speak powerfully to the world that so desperately needs His love!

Stand close to Jesus today and when the moment comes, open your mouth and trust Him to give you the Words.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Amen Forever!

The end of all things is near.
Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:7-8

The last two words of every story are the same. “The End” is the universal statement that there is no more to come. When I read a good mystery novel there is the excitement of finally finding out who committed the crime and why, but then there is the letdown of “The End.” The better the story, the harder it is to get back to reality after there are no more pages to read.

The Bible says “The end of all things is near.” There will be an end of everything on earth but even if you and I are not alive when that happens there will be an end for us when we die.

But life on this earth is not like reading a novel. When you read a novel and you reach the end, it is complete, there is no more! When you reach the end of your life on this earth there is more, much more!

If the story of your life on this earth was titled like the Frank Sinatra song, “I did it my way,” then the “Hell on earth” you generated here will come back to you with a full, eternal fires of Hell experience! It is not a happy thought and one that makes me want to cry when I think of the people I know who will walk that road unless they repent and turn to God!

If the story of your life here on earth is titled “Trust and Obey,” then the end of life here will be the beginning of a glorious forever with Jesus!

The years we spend here are just the opening line of a song that will never end. If you learn your song from Jesus and sing His song on this earth, in THE END you will stand forever before the throne of the GREAT I AM and sing AMEN forever!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

God’s Deaf Ear!

To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.

Psalm 28:1

I don’t know the details of the story, but when my father was only four years old, somehow he fell down in the street and a horse drawn wagon ran over his head. The accident left him unscarred but permanently deaf in one ear. My father passed away almost twenty two years ago, but if I remember correctly his deaf ear was his right one. That explains why my mother would always use a loud voice when talking to him while sitting in the right front passenger seat of the car. Actually, my mother used a loud voice on many occasions. It is one of the things she left for me to carry on!

So even as a very small child I quickly learned that if I wanted to whisper something to my father it would do no good to speak the words into his right ear.

Please don’t get too philosophical about what I’m about to say, but God Himself has a deaf ear. Like the horse drawn wagon that ran over my father when he was four a Satan drawn carriage of Sin ran over God in the Garden of Eden. Since that day God has been deaf to the cries of sinful man. The Righteousness of God will show no mercy to a plea from a man of sin. There will be no one in heaven that arrives in Eternal Glory because of the pity of God. The collective cry of everyone in the bowels of Hell will not move God to send one drop of cooling relief.

With the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem the only hope of heaven came to man. God has no deaf ear when it comes to Jesus. Sin never touched Jesus so that God would not hear His cries. The only time God ignored the cry of Jesus was when Jesus took my place and my punishment. It is a simple equation. Sin will not go unpunished. When I came to Jesus and became one with Him, I did the sin and Jesus did the time!

Does it still bother me that so many billions of people do not know Jesus and will spend eternity separated from His Glory? The answer is yes it does and it troubled Jesus as well. For every lost and dying sinful man Jesus is the answer. He is the only way to approach God and receive mercy. Jesus is the answer. My task is to let the world know what Jesus did so that God will hear their cry!

If you cling on to your sin and cry out to God you are addressing the Father in His deaf ear. Repentance and being “in Christ” opens the ear of God to your every whisper!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Breath of God!

A voice says, "Cry out."
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8

Unredeemed humanity is like the grass and flowers of the field. There is beauty for a brief time, but there is no strength or stamina like a towering oak. When the hot breath of God blows across the field men wither and fall losing all the beauty they once had.

Some flowers can be preserved by drying them carefully and slowly. Dried flowers are still beautiful to see and they last a long time, but the life is gone and they do not grow or bring fragrance to the room. Any child can see the difference between a bunch of fresh flowers and the same flowers after they are dead and dried.

The breath of God always comes when He speaks His Word. When you hear God speak you always feel His breath. The breath of God dries up the part of you that is still alive and involved in the things of this world. The Word of God brings life that is “more abundant” than the life you had before you were confronted with the reality of the Almighty.

The longer you serve Him and receive His Word the more alive you become to the things of His Spirit even as His breath dries up the life you once had in the world.

Stand close to Jesus so you can hear the Word of God clearly and so the BREATH OF GOD can do it’s necessary work in your life.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Washed in the Blood!

"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city."

Revelation 22:14

One of the blessings that God has given to those of us who live in the affluent western world is the ability and opportunity to wash our clothes frequently. I am expected to wear clean clothes to work every day. If I come to work in soiled and fragrant apparel the offense could grow into some kind of action by the company for which I work.

If I have a job, some of my income will be spent on keeping my clothes clean.

But what about my spiritual clothing? How do I wash the robe of my life and stand pure and holy before Jesus? Unless I do wash my robe I will not have the right to eat of the Tree of Life and go through the gates into Heaven.

There are many jokes about someone standing at the gate of Heaven wanting to enter, but this reference in Revelation 22 is not a joke. Unless your robe is washed and clean you will not go in to the Holy City!

When a little child is pretending to wash his clothes, they may get wet and soapy, but the clothes will not be clean in the end. If you are pretending to wash your robe by doing good things, being nice, or just by being an honest person you will not be able to eat of the Tree and enter the City. There is only one way to wash the robe of your life and that is to wash it in the Blood of the Lamb. Only the Blood of Jesus can make your robe clean enough for you to eat of the Tree of Life and enter Heaven!

Remember the standard for a Christian is not: Are your robes as clean as or even a little cleaner than everyone else around you? Having the cleanest robe of anyone who is refused entry into Heaven is no honor. Compare your life not to those around you, but compare your life to Jesus Christ Himself. It is only when you are clothed with His sparkling clean righteousness that you are acceptable to God Almighty.

On the night before He was crucified Jesus told Peter, “If I don’t wash you, you don’t really belong to Me.” (John 13:8b)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Walk on Water in the Storm!

Woe to the city of blood,
full of lies,
full of plunder,
never without victims!
The crack of whips,
the clatter of wheels,
galloping horses
and jolting chariots!
Charging cavalry,
flashing swords
and glittering spears!
Many casualties,
piles of dead,
bodies without number,
people stumbling over the corpses-
all because of the wanton lust of a harlot,
alluring, the mistress of sorceries,
who enslaved nations by her prostitution
and peoples by her witchcraft.

Nahum 3:1-4

How does God view a nation? Does He still judge the actions of a nation as it relates to the rest of the world? He certainly did that in times past. And He was the author of the downfall and destruction of many nations throughout history. Nations who set themselves against the ways of God ultimately fail and fall from foolishness that is supported by their own “wanton lust.”

Unless a revival sweeps our land we are destined to join the long list of former great world powers. We have leaders who are making monumental changes to our system based on the desire to keep the blessings of God without God Himself. We love Freedom, but we abhor the only one who can give it. We demand that no one lie to us, but we orchestrate and implement lies in every area of our lives. We go to war for no noble purpose except to keep ourselves comfortable. We ban the mention of God unless His name is used as a curse word. We have marched to the unguarded gates of Hell and are warming our hands from the flames. Like the pull of a strong undertow on a beautiful sunny day we are being pulled out into the uncharted waters of open rebellion against Almighty God.

Many people of God have watched the great nations they call home topple from the heights and become only footnotes in history. We are not the first to see such a calamity and if the Lord tarries we will not be the last. But what is the thing that God would have us do in the midst of such a disaster?

As the ship of state is sinking Christians must be those who man the lifeboats and call fellow citizens to faith in Jesus Christ. The most amazing thing about turning to Jesus in a time like this is that Jesus can enable you to WALK ON WATER IN THE STORM!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Guided Into All Truth!

"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

John 16:12-14

I hate Karaoke! Karaoke is a way for the entire world to see that I cannot sing in the smooth and captivating way I have always wanted to! In a very real sense I cannot bear the truth about my ability as a vocal musician.

Jesus said in John 16 that his disciples would not be able to bear the truth that He could speak to their lives. But He said the Holy Spirit would come and guide them “into all truth.”

In some ways the Holy Spirit is like a language translator. The Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of believers and helps them understand the things of God that otherwise would be unbearable. When Jesus said the Spirit would “guide” us into all truth the implication is that it is a process. Step by step the Holy Spirit reveals the things of Jesus to His disciples.

Like a good mystery novel the unknowns of life itself are revealed to God’s children as they journey across the span of years allotted by God. Many of the things I know now would have been unbearable truths when I was very young.

You can know for sure that the store of unrevealed truth is a bottomless well of amazing reality. The greatest imagination of man cannot even approach the wonder of Eternal Truth!

When I was a child I remember being asked by my father: “What did you learn in school today?”

As the Holy Spirit fills and guides your life into all Truth, your Heavenly Father asks the same question: “What did you learn in life today?”