Friday, January 31, 2014

Follow the Crowd?

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My dear friends, you have been warned ahead of time! So don't let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance. Let the gift of undeserved grace and the understanding that come from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ help you keep on growing. Praise Jesus now and forever! Amen.

2 Peter 3:17-18

My mother would say to me when I was a little boy, "You wouldn't jump off of a bridge just because everyone else was doing it, would you?" Of course I would tell her that I would not jump, but as the years have passed I have discovered that the temptation to hurl myself off of that theoretical bridge can be very strong!

There are so many things in this life that we do just because other people are doing it as well. Some of them are benign and really make no difference, but there are those that are physically and even spiritually fatal.

I remember when almost no one objected to smoking. Everyone had ash trays in their living rooms even if they did not smoke because a visitor was always likely to "light up." My father even told me that he thought that smoking cigars would keep him from catching a cold. There was no such thing as a non-smoking motel room and restaurants were salted and peppered with smokers without restriction. Also you could not smoke in an airplane while taking off or landing, but that was about it. Then came the realization that smoking causes lung cancer. With that fact the national attitude about smoking began to change. Now, smoking is highly regulated and banned completely in many states from motels and restaurants. Most countries in the world have some sort of smoking regulations. Now the "temptation" to begin smoking is not as strong as it was many years ago because society itself frowns on it.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, you will be tempted to look to others for direction in your life. Follow Jesus, not the crowd! If you only follow men who follow Jesus, then how will you know if you are being led astray? Of course it is good to walk in the ways of righteousness as you see other believers walk, but unless you are hearing from Jesus Himself, there is the potential for being led astray by the "errors" of others!

"Lord, help me to jump off of the bridge only at Your command and not because I see others doing it. May You be the compass and commander of my life. And may You be praised forever! Amen."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Who is Your Teacher?

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When the festival was about half over, Jesus went into the temple and started teaching. The leaders were surprised and said, “How does this man know so much? He has never been taught!”

Jesus replied:

I am not teaching something I thought up. What I teach comes from the one who sent me. If you really want to obey God, you will know if what I teach comes from God or from me. If I wanted to bring honor to myself, I would speak for myself. But I want to honor the one who sent me. This is why I tell the truth and not a lie.

John 7:14-18

More than 50 years ago I had a high school English teacher who made a tremendous difference in my life. Earlier this week I found his telephone number and called him to tell him how much I appreciate what he did for me! I'm sure I should have done that years ago, but I was not thinking about how I could bless Dennis Loyd in return for the way he blessed me.

Have you thought about how you can bless Jesus for what He has done for you? One way to start is by simply telling Jesus how much you appreciate what He has done for you. Another way of thanking Jesus is by obeying God. If we want to obey God we will be able discern the source of the teaching we are hearing. Being able to identify theological error comes from our sincere desire to be obedient.

Let Jesus be your teacher. Listen to His Words and soak up His teachings into your heart. Let your life be a moment by moment response to His precepts. Then you will bring honor to God!

"Lord Jesus, I am tempted to listen to things that men simply think up and then teach as truth. May I have the wisdom and the courage to focus exclusively on things that come from Your Word and not from men! And Lord, I want to thank you again for everything You have done for me! Praise Your name forever. Amen."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Who Owns Your Gold?

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On the twenty-first day of the next month, the Lord told Haggai the prophet to speak this message to Governor Zerubbabel, High Priest Joshua, and everyone else:

Does anyone remember how glorious this temple used to be? Now it looks like nothing. But cheer up! Because I, the Lord All-Powerful, will be here to help you with the work,  just as I promised your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt. Don't worry. My Spirit is right here with you.

Soon I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake the nations, and their treasures will be brought here. Then the brightness of my glory will fill this temple. All silver and gold belong to me.

Haggai 2:1-8

You see or hear the commercials in the United States almost every day. Someone is trying to sell silver and gold. They tell me it is a safety net for the "bad times" that are sure to come. And if you can afford to own a piece of silver or a piece of gold it can be very helpful when a money system collapses.

Did you know that no matter how much silver or gold you have in your safe, God says that He owns it all? I suppose that means that if I give to God what belongs to Him I must give Him all of my silver and gold!

And if I give God all my silver and gold why shouldn't I give Him everything else, including my heart? If someone asks you "How much are you giving to God?" let the answer be "Everything!"

If you transfer everything you get to the Lord's ownership as soon as you get it, life becomes much simpler. Then when the Lord moves on your heart to give away something you possess it is not a problem because you know it doesn't belong to you anyway.

We are, at best temporary stewards of the things that God has created. If you "own" a house ask yourself who will own this house in fifty years? If you are very young, maybe you will still live in that house, but if you are past retirement age yourself you know that you will not own that house fifty years from now.

"Lord, thank You for allowing me to be the steward of some of Your silver and gold. Show me today how to use the material blessings that You have put in my care. Let me be a channel of Your blessings to those who are in need! And may You be praised forever. Amen."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Torture with Fire!

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I saw another angel. This one was flying across the sky and had the eternal good news to announce to the people of every race, tribe, language, and nation on earth. The angel shouted, “Worship and honor God! The time has come for him to judge everyone. Kneel down before the one who created heaven and earth, the oceans, and every stream.”

A second angel followed and said, “The great city of Babylon has fallen! This is the city that made all nations drunk and immoral. Now God is angry, and Babylon has fallen.”

Finally, a third angel came and shouted:

Here is what will happen if you worship the beast and the idol and have the mark of the beast on your hand or forehead. You will have to drink the wine that God gives to everyone who makes him angry. You will feel his mighty anger, and you will be tortured with fire and burning sulfur, while the holy angels and the Lamb look on.

Revelation 14:6-10

I hear it often. "We don't torture anyone. We are better than that!"But are we better than God? These verses clearly say that God will "torture" with fire and burning sulfur those who make Him angry. How can that be? I thought God is love. How can a loving God torture anyone?

There is no simple answer to that question. But the stark reality of eternity is this: Those who are not saved don't simply miss the joys of Heaven. They are also subjected to eternal suffering. The fact that we are born to live forever is a very serious matter. Heaven and Hell are not simply stories in the Bible. Heaven and Hell are real destinations for all men and women who live on this earth and you and I will end up in one or the other!

If you are in a loving relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ, then there is nothing to worry about. If you are not, you should be afraid, yes very afraid. The wrath of God is not something to be ignored.

"Lord Jesus, I thank You that You gave Your life that I might live forever with You. Lord, give me opportunity this day to share the "Good News" with someone who doesn't yet know You. And may You be praised forever. Amen."

Monday, January 27, 2014

What Did Jesus Say?

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Joseph from Arimathea was one of Jesus' disciples. He had kept it secret though, because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders. But now he asked Pilate to let him have Jesus' body. Pilate gave him permission, and Joseph took it down from the cross.

Nicodemus also came with about 30 kilograms of spices made from myrrh and aloes. This was the same Nicodemus who had visited Jesus one night. The two men wrapped the body in a linen cloth, together with the spices, which was how the Jewish people buried their dead. In the place where Jesus had been nailed to a cross, there was a garden with a tomb that had never been used. The tomb was nearby, and since it was the time to prepare for the Sabbath, they were in a hurry to put Jesus' body there.

John 19:38-42

A memorial service for Jesus did not happen when they put Him in the tomb. Joseph and Nicodemus simply asked for His body and quickly put it in the grave. These verses imply that there was no time for a funeral because the Sabbath was soon to start and who would show up for a funeral for Jesus anyway? Everyone must have been afraid that showing up for a funeral might prove to be a death sentence for the followers of Jesus.

It was Friday afternoon when Jesus died and by Sunday morning He would no longer be in the grave. There was only one full day when Jesus was not among the living. That Saturday was filled with gloom, despair and helplessness for all who knew and loved Jesus. There is no indication that any of them, even though Jesus had told them, expected the resurrection.

That makes me want to carefully read the scriptures again looking for things that Jesus said, but I didn't really hear! If the disciples had "heard" what Jesus said about rising from the grave they would have been spared lots of grief and pain. Are there any of today's problems in my life that trouble me because I have not listened to the Words of Jesus?

"Lord Jesus, remind me again today of Your Words and help me know how Your Words relate to my circumstances. And Jesus help me to believe every Word that comes from You, especially the part about You coming back to get me! Praise Your Name forever! Amen."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Loving Jesus!

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My dear friends, we must love each other. Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows we have been given new life. We are now God's children, and we know him. God is love, and anyone who doesn't love others has never known him. God showed his love for us when he sent his only Son into the world to give us life. Real love isn't our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven. Dear friends, since God loved us this much, we must love each other.

1 John 4:7-11

There are two words in the English language that we frequently confuse. We use one when we should use the other. The words are "Love" and "Like." The feelings associated with the words are the same but one is directed away from a man and the other one is totally focused on the man himself.

Love is focused on the object of that love. It is kind and helpful and seeks to fulfill the desires of the one that is loved. Love gives without worrying about what it will get in return. By definition you cannot love an object. You may like a new car or a new house, but you cannot "love" a thing.

Now here is the very disturbing truth. You can "love" the world. If you love the world then you give yourself to the world and you are destroyed in the process. When you love something it is evidenced by the fact that your very life is consumed by your pursuit of it.

When you love Jesus the same is true. When you love the Lord your life is given over to Him and what you would have been in this world is sacrificed for what He wants from you!

The purpose of your life is totally about "what does Jesus want." He is able to live on this earth through you because everything you do is something that Jesus would do if He were still living in a body on this earth today! That is what loving Jesus is all about.

Will you love Jesus perfectly? I dare say no, but you will love Him more every day as you seek His face and immerse yourself in His Word! You will find yourself with no time for anything except "something for Jesus."

"Lord Jesus, loving You is more amazing than anything I have ever imagined on this earth. Help me to love You more today than ever before. And may Your Holy Name be praised forever. Amen."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

God's Plan for this Day!

After Jesus had finished speaking to his disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed:
Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you. And you gave him power over all people, so he would give eternal life to everyone you give him.  Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent. I have brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you gave me to do.
John 17:1-4

When Jesus did something that God had planned for Him to do it brought Glory to God! I believe the same is true for you and me. God, who sees and knows everything, even the future has plans for me today. There are situations that I will encounter today which God has already determined how I should respond. My job is to implement God's plan for this day and be prepared to do the same tomorrow.

When things "go wrong" and troubles come we so often call on God to remove the circumstances rather than confronting them as He has planned for our lives! Don't feel guilty though. Jesus Himself asked God if the Cross could be removed from His life, and that was the night before it was to happen!

Lord, help me to understand that You are not Glorified by the things that don't happen in my life, but rather by the things that do as long as I confront them in the way You have planned!

"Jesus, I don't understand the value of my suffering, but I do understand the value of Yours. Help me today to embrace the cross in my life even as You did in Yours! And may the Father be glorified by everything I do today. Amen."

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told!

I kneel in prayer to the Father. All beings in heaven and on earth receive their life from him. God is wonderful and glorious. I pray that his Spirit will make you become strong followers and that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. Stand firm and be deeply rooted in his love.  I pray that you and all God's people will understand what is called wide or long or high or deep. I want you to know all about Christ's love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is.

Ephesians 3:14-19
There is a desire deep within the heart of every man to want to know where he came from. The study of genealogy can captivate your interest and can become addictive. When you look to those who came before you, you are tempted to blame them for some of your problems today and credit them with your successes. And to some extent we can accurately do that, but there is a source for our lives that is much more direct and important.

Your life came from God the Father! It was God who fashioned you in your mother's womb. It was God who enabled you to take your first breath and join the ranks of the human family!

It was the love of God that caused you to be born. Your mother loved you as well, perhaps more than any other human being could, but God's love for me and for you is greater than a mother's love.

That love was most vividly expressed in the sacrifice that Jesus made by coming to this earth and dying on the Cross. The Bible is indeed the greatest love story ever told! All Jesus wants from you is your heart. He is blessed by your love more than anything else you could ever do for Him! Jesus has already given you His love and now He waits today for you and me to to show our love for Him!

"Lord Jesus, show me today how to let You know that I love You! Open my eyes to the ways I can let Your eyes see my love for You. And may You be praised forever. Amen!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Full Life!

Jesus said:
I tell you for certain that I am the gate for the sheep. Everyone who came before me was a thief or a robber, and the sheep did not listen to any of them. I am the gate. All who come in through me will be saved. Through me they will come and go and find pasture.
A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so everyone would have life, and have it fully.  I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. 
John 10:7-11
Even a thief has a purpose in what he does. The purpose of a thief is to rob, kill, and destroy. The purpose of Jesus coming to this earth was to give everyone life and not just life, but a full life!

If you are a Christian how is your new, full life different from the old one? Suffering, pain and sorrow were all part of the old life before you became a follower of Jesus, but suffering, pain and sorrow are all part of your new life as well. Before you became a Christian the threat of being martyred for what you believe was probably not part of your life. But as a Christian you may very well have to give up your life for Jesus.

So what is this "full life" that Jesus says He came to give us? The full life is simply a life filled with faith, hope, peace and purpose and with the love of God flowing through you to everyone around, even your enemies! It is an existence marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit and sweet fellowship with God Himself in prayer! It is a life of joy in knowing that nothing can separate you from God because of what Jesus did on the Cross!

Has anyone ever lived life to the fullest? Of course I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know that my life with Jesus has a long way it can go!

"Lord Jesus I ask You today to give me more of the 'full life' You make available to those who follow You. May I feel Your power surge through me like the woman who touched the hem of Your garment. And may Your name be praised forever. Amen."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Holy Spirit and Prayer!

In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don't know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.  All of our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit, as the Spirit prays for God's people. 
Romans 8:26-27

As a human being, knowing what to pray for is sometimes very hard. If I could see the future and know tomorrow like I know yesterday perhaps it would be easier to bring requests to God who knows it all. In my frustration it becomes easier to simply pray "Your will be done" than to bring a specific request to the Father. But once again the Holy Spirit comes to help!

I stand before God like a helpless child not knowing what request I need to make. Then the Holy Spirit brings to God the perfect request. The Holy Spirit who lives in me and knows every part of my body, soul and spirit along with the future brings requests to God on my behalf. So when I pray "Lord strengthen me today" the Holy Spirit lists a thousand ways that God might do that for my eternal benefit!

When I pray for God's blessing on you the Holy Spirit translates that request into specifics that I could never know! That is how the simple prayer of a child of God roars through eternity with the power of the Holy Spirit expanding to infinity the impact of that prayer!

When you learn to pray in league with the Holy Spirit the power of God is unleashed in ways you might never have imagined. You are no longer surprised at miraculous answers to prayer. And you even see the power of God working in ways that you didn't ask for but were in response to your prayers with the help of the Holy Spirit!

"Lord Jesus I don't know what to pray for today, but I come to You knowing that the Holy Spirit is bringing to You my real needs and more detailed requests for others than I could ever imagine! Lord teach me to pray! Praise Your name forever! Amen."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fire of Faith!

Abraham had been promised that Isaac, his only son, would continue his family. But when Abraham was tested, he had faith and was willing to sacrifice Isaac, because he was sure that God could raise people to life. This was just like getting Isaac back from death.

Isaac had faith, and he promised blessings to Jacob and Esau.  Later, when Jacob was about to die, he leaned on his walking stick and worshiped. Then because of his faith he blessed each of Joseph's sons.  And right before Joseph died, he had faith that God would lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. So he told them to take his bones with them.

Because Moses' parents had faith, they kept him hidden until he was three months old. They saw that he was a beautiful child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king's orders.  Then after Moses grew up, his faith made him refuse to be called the king's grandson.  He chose to be mistreated with God's people instead of having the good time that sin could bring for a little while. Moses knew that the treasures of Egypt were not as wonderful as what he would receive from suffering for the Messiah, and he looked forward to his reward.

Hebrews 11:17-26

Amram and Jochebed were the parents of Moses. Hiding the baby Moses so that he would not be killed by Pharaoh qualified them to be included in this list of great men and women of faith. So when you think of faith filled people in the Bible don't forget the parents of Moses. Without their simple act of faith nothing would be as it is today!

Now here is, what I believe to be the most important part of the faith of Amram and Jochebed. When they protected their little baby from being killed they had no idea what an important step of faith that was. All they could see was a beautiful child who needed their protection. And so they hid the baby and then put him in a basket on the river where he could be found by the Pharaoh's daughter.

What about my faith and yours? Do you know the ultimate impact of your faith on generations to come? Faith is like striking a match and throwing it into a pile of leaves in the forest. You do not and cannot know how far that fire will burn. Your faith may ignite the next revival in the world, or it may simply be the torch that lights a fire in one lost sinner who turns to Jesus.

Will your name be added to the list of people of great faith? If it is, it may be because of one right word you spoke at just the right time. It may be because of one baby you saved from death, even before he was born.

Men and women of great faith generally do not see themselves as having faith that is notable. Every mountain climber is still looking up no matter how high he has made it on the mountain.

So today my task is to concern myself with being faithful in everything God sets before me. I am not to judge the tasks He gives me as to how important they are to God. A cup of cold water given in His name is critical in your walk of faith.

"Lord Jesus, help me to be like the parents of Moses. Give me the faith to put my hand to the task You have given me today and not try to judge how important it is in Your eyes! But never let me forget that everything I do in Your name may indeed impact generations to come! And may You be praised forever! Amen."

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jesus and Superman!

I am saying this to you now, so that when the time comes, you will remember what I have said.
I was with you at the first, and so I didn't tell you these things. But now I am going back to the Father who sent me, and none of you asks me where I am going. You are very sad from hearing all of this. But I tell you I am going to do what is best for you. This is why I am going away. The Holy Spirit cannot come to help you until I leave. But after I am gone, I will send the Spirit to you.
The Spirit will come and show the people of this world the truth about sin and God's justice and the judgment.

John 16:4-8
Have you ever wondered about why the Holy Spirit could not come while Jesus was still living here in the flesh?For most of my life I have just passed it off as one of those "some day I will know the answer, but I guess it is not really important" questions. But I am coming to believe that the answer to that question is indeed significant in my walk as a follower of Jesus today.

Do you remember the story of Superman and Clark Kent? Clark Kent was the "mild mannered reporter" who was never there when Superman showed up. I suppose you know the truth that in the story Clark Kent and Superman were one and the same. Clark Kent had to leave if Superman was to arrive! The illustration is not perfect by any means, but I believe it makes a very important point about the Holy Spirit.

Jesus once said "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father." Jesus is plainly saying that it is even better to have the Holy Spirit live in your heart and guide your steps than to have Jesus in the flesh to walk with you on the road of life!

Somehow I have always thought that the Holy Spirit was a kind of "interim substitute" for Jesus while we wait for His return. Jesus did not say that at all. Jesus said we would be better off with the Holy Spirit in our hearts than the disciples were with Jesus walking with them daily in the flesh!

Please understand that what I am about to say is a gross understatement. When Jesus was here in the flesh we had Clark Kent, but now with the Holy Spirit we have Superman living in us! Remember Jesus even said that we would do greater things than He did in our walk with the Lord!

"Lord Jesus, I am truly amazed that You have sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and work through us as we wait for Your return! Thank You Jesus forever! Amen!"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Words of the World!

The priests do their work each day, and they keep on offering sacrifices that can never take away sins.  But Christ offered himself as a sacrifice that is good forever. Now he is sitting at God's right side, and he will stay there until his enemies are put under his power. By his one sacrifice he has forever set free from sin the people he brings to God.
The Holy Spirit also speaks of this by telling us that the Lord said,
 “When the time comes,
I will make an agreement
with them.
I will write my laws
on their minds and hearts.
Then I will forget
about their sins
and no longer remember
their evil deeds.”
Hebrews 10:11-17

A little baby is like a blank piece of paper waiting for someone to begin writing the words that will shape and form his or her life on this earth. For most of us the first impact on our page is the love of a mother. She embraces her child and cares for every need as she teaches the first lesson of love. She writes it carefully on the mind and heart of her baby.
Before we sin for the first time, and we all do, we establish a relationship with our father who teaches us to trust and obey his will for the family. If he is a good father his contribution to our life will be large and lasting.

But then we become accountable for allowing our hearts and minds to receive the words of the world. They come slowly at first and begin to challenge the truths we have learned from those who love us best. The drop of rain becomes a shower and then a down pour. Then comes the flood of words that contradict the truths of God Himself. It seems there is no room left on our page for any more writing, at least not until Jesus arrives in our life!

When Jesus comes to your life He begins to write on your mind and your heart. Jesus not only writes truth on your life, but He erases the words that the world worked so hard to write on your heart!

"Lord Jesus, I ask You today to write more of Your heart on my heart. Put more of Your mind in my mind and help me to forget about my sins even as You no longer remember my evil deeds. And may I be one of those who praises Your Name forever! Amen."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Conscience and the Cross!

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Christ died once for our sins.
An innocent person died
for those who are guilty.
Christ did this
to bring you to God,
when his body
was put to death
and his spirit
was made alive.

Christ then preached to the spirits that were being kept in prison. 20 They had disobeyed God while Noah was building the boat, but God had been patient with them. Eight people went into that boat and were brought safely through the flood.
Those flood waters were like baptism that now saves you. But baptism is more than just washing your body. It means turning to God with a clear conscience, because Jesus Christ was raised from death. Christ is now in heaven, where he sits at the right side of God. All angels, authorities, and powers are under his control.
1 Peter 3:18-22

How do you get a clear conscience? There are those who sincerely believe that they have never done anything wrong, and so their consciences are clear. Oh they may have committed a little sin or two and asked God to forgive them, but they feel no guilt and believe that they stand right before God. The only problem is that their clear consciences are not based on the Blood of Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross! 

The human heart is wicked and totally lost without Jesus Christ. The filthy rags of human righteousness are useless in covering the sinfulness of a man's heart. 

Anything that makes you feel justified and good about yourself other than the Cross of Christ is a deception and a lie! What can wash away my sin? "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!"

If you live a "good and moral" life in order to please God and secure for yourself a place in Heaven, you will be most surprised and eternally disappointed. You will find out that real righteousness in your life comes because of the blood of Jesus and not because of your human self discipline. 

When you live in the reality of His deliverance you will appear to be the most self disciplined of all, but in truth you will be the most yielded to His moment by moment will for your life! Never forget that the Cross is the source of your clear conscience!

"Lord Jesus, I am so tempted to trust in myself, or others and the ways of this world. Let my walk with You demonstrate to everyone that I am daily under Your control! May You be praised forever. Amen!"