Dec 2-4, 2022 – Need the right attitude this Christmas season? Here is the Christmas Version of First Corinthians chapter thirteen:
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.
Dec 1, 2022 – Part 2 – I like prophecy! Perhaps it is because there are so many unknowns in the future…but the prophecies of God’s Word reveal not only the world’s future but also my future. I agree with the fellow who said, “I’ve read the back of the Book and I know how the story ends!” That knowledge gives me hope…and much of that hope is based upon already fulfilled prophecy. (See yesterday’s devotional for Part 1.)
Fulfilled prophecy tells us that God has done it before…and, most importantly, has PERFORMED THE PROPHECY down to the letter. He’s not afraid to step out on a limb and make a bold prediction like a virgin conceiving, because He can bring even the most difficult prophecy to pass. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” I think not!
What are the odds of fulling prophecy after prophecy? Read on!
Peter Stoner writes in “Science Speaks” about the probability of fulfilling just eight prophecies regarding our Lord. “The chance that any man might have fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.” (100 quadrillion!)
Stoner continues, “Take 100 quadrillion silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly. Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up that one marked silver dollar. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing those eight prophecies and having them all come true In any one man…providing they wrote them in their own wisdom.” In other words, much more than man’s wisdom is involved in biblical prophecy!
God’s wisdom makes all the difference in not only prophecy but also our daily lives. It is the basis for verses like Romans 8:28. Also, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Ah, He knows the end from the beginning, the beginning from the end and all points in between! HAVE FAITH IN GOD!
Nov 30, 2022 – Part 1 – Christmas in the Bible is an incredible story from so many vantage points. For instance, consider the vantage point of Mary. G. Campbell Morgan writes, “Think of the pathos of it. ‘She brought forth,’ ‘she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes.’
“It is very beautiful, but oh, the pity of it, the tragedy of it, the loneliness of it; that in that hour of all hours, when womanhood should be surrounded by the tenderest care, she was alone. The method of the writer is very distinct. She with her own hands wrapped the Baby round with those swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. There was no one to do it for her. Again I say, the pity of it, and yet the glory of it to the heart of Mary.”
Consider also the vantage point of the Old Testament prophets. Their prophecies will be the subject of many sermons in this Christmas season. Interestingly, our first Advent reading of this season focused on the Old Testament prophecies. It is staggering to consider the specificity of the prophecies such as is expressed in Today’s Verse: Bethlehem! Which one because there were many? Well, the one associated with Ephratah, the birthplace of David…and, to take the story one step further, how would we recognize the Messiah? Surprise! He would be known as the Son of David! And on and on the prophecies go.
David Jeremiah’s nativity book “Why the Nativity” (excellent devotional book for your Advent celebration) connects all the prophecies in a very unique way: “Can you see the picture that emerges? It is as if many different artists had drawn strange squiggles on paper separately—only to find that when their fragments of art were combined on a single canvas, there was a beautiful portrait of a king we would come to know as Jesus Christ.” What an awesome truth! Ah, what an awesome story!
May God open His treasures to you throughout this Christmas season…and may you “oooh” and “ahhh” at the wonderment of the Messiah’s birth!
Nov 29, 2022 – Little things you may not know about pastors but need to know:
Pastors are human beings with the limitations of being human. They carry a lot of emotional baggage, because they care for people in desperate needs. They’re like the camel…how much can the camel carry? We don’t know until it breaks down.
Pastors have health issues. Health insurance can be a problem. Our state convention struggled to locate ANY health insurance firm that would cover its pastors and state employees. The insurance companies declined, because pastors have a higher number of health issues than normal people. That’s because pastoring wears you down in every way.
Bi-vocational pastors work hard. They have two jobs. During much of my ministry I worked a forty hour a week secular job plus pastored. I worked on sermons on my lunch hour! I often visited until late at night. It was grueling. Practically all of the pastors in our area are bi-vocational due to the small size of our churches. This bi-vocational number will increase as church budgets are squeezed more and more. Indeed, finding a man to pay the cost of such effort will become increasingly difficult. So don’t be afraid to give your pastor a month off from time to time to clear his mind and rest his body!
Full-time pastors (the church is their only job) work hard, too. Pastoring full-time can be the best of times or the worst of times. The best part of my life was being full-time in a situation that welcomed discipleship training. Having the time to fulfill your dreams is very rewarding. But being in a difficult church can be destructive to both the pastor and family.
Pastors see things differently than most people. They are obsessed with eternal values. They’re in this ministry because they truly believe in what they are doing. They believe it’s more important than being the President (which it is). We love God and God’s church. We don’t understand why everyone doesn’t share those values. And it hurts deeply to see people wasting their lives on frivolous, temporary things.
Pastors don’t do it for the money. Oh, a few do but I’ve only met one or two of those in my 46 years of ministry. Practically every pastor could make substantially more money working a secular job. They possess skills that are easily transferrable into a work environment.
Pastors burn out. We are warned, “You can’t burn a candle on both ends” but we try. I learned that lesson the hard way. After fourteen years of bi-vocational work including achieving my Master of Divinity Degree and helping Ruth Ellen raise three children, my candle burned through and collapsed. I resigned, stop studying for five months, told all that called looking for a pastor to call again in five months…and they did. I learned the hard way. I’m not the only one, am I?
Pastors want to make an impact. They’re like a salesman that has a great new product and is eager to promote it. In the pastor’s case, he has the transforming power of the gospel! He KNOWS it works. So he sows his seed far and wide…and waits on God to give the increase.
Pastors come to know that bigger churches have bigger problems. Pastor Adrian Rogers told his Pastor’s Conference at Bellevue Baptist, “You guys want larger churches than you have. I say you can have them! Big churches have big problems. I’d settle for a small church in the country where I can just concentrate on the Lord and ministering to the people.”
What can you do for your pastor? First, pray for him AND his wife (she is in this work, too). Second, try to understand him. He’s different because God made him to be a pastor. Last, be thankful for him. After all, you could be in a church which can’t find a pastor.
P.S. My website includes a page for Pastor’s Wives. You might like to share this link with your pastor’s wife. https://godsgreenhouse.net/pastor-wives
Nov 28, 2022 – Being “born again from above” changes a person. That’s why the Apostle Paul calls it “a new creation” experience (2 Corinthians 5:17). Here is how it works:
Before theologian St. Augustine was converted to Christ, he was an immoral youth. One day in his garden, dissatisfied and disillusioned, he heard the voice of a child singing in the next garden, “Open the book and read.”
Augustine took the words as a personal message, hurried inside the house and opened the Epistles of Paul. His eyes fell at once on Today’s Verse: “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” He was startled at the directness of the message, as if directed to him personally, which they were! The conviction of the Holy Spirit drove home this biblical message. From that moment he became a different person, turning from his life of sin and “putting on” Christ as his Messiah and Savior.
Shortly after this experience, Augustine met a prostitute on the street. Pretending not to see her, he attempted to pass her by but she called, “Augustine, it Is I!”
He turned to her and replied, “YES, BUT IT IS NOT I.”
Never minimize the power of the gospel for it is the power (the Greek word gives us our English word “dynamite”) of God resulting in salvation. Dynamite power! Life-changing power. “Christ living in me!” (Galatians 2:20). That is why we often say, “The greatest evidence of salvation is a changed life.” How about you? Has your life been changed? Mine has. I pray you know the transformative power of the new creation. IT WORKS!
*** My third book Sanctification: How God Creates Saints out of Sinners covers the entire process of salvation from the new birth to our perfected holy state in heaven. It is a book you will use as a reference throughout your ministry (I recommend the paperback because it contains a detailed Scripture Index). I used Section Three as a textbook in a Wednesday class in my last pastorate. Your pastor will benefit, too. Available at Amazon, Apple, B & N, Kobo, etc.
Nov 26-27, 2022 – William Carey was a shoemaker (he used the word “cobbler”) before he left England as a missionary to India in 1793. During his shoemaking years Carey would travel from village to village sharing the gospel of Christ. One day a friend came to him. The friend said, “I want to speak to you about a very serious matter.”
“Well, what is it?”
“Your preaching is interfering with your business. I advise you to spend more time making shoes. You will then prosper. You need to quit neglecting your business.”
Carey responded, “Neglecting my business? My business is to extend the kingdom of God. I ONLY COBBLE SHOES TO PAY EXPENSES.”
My father worked with a Christian who was a modern day Carey. The man said, “I can retire anytime I wish. I work, though, so I can give more to the Lord.” In confidence, he shared with my father how much money he had invested in his church in the prior year. It was indeed most of his paycheck.
That man’s philosophy may seem ridiculous to the world, but it is not ridiculous to Jesus. There are many people such as Carey and the widow in Today’s Verse who are so in love with Jesus that they are driven to give it all to Jesus: their heart, time, finances, goals, etc. Imagine taking every single thing in their lives and putting it in a huge pile. Guess what is on top of their pile? Jesus. He truly comes first. Being first means He establishes one’s values and attitude. They see themselves as being on a mission and the mission possesses their spirit…drives them to a higher level of performance.
As I’ve stated many times before, IT’S WHO THEY ARE. Therefore, it’s also what they do and why they keep on doing it.
This pastor considers it a privilege to be in the presence of such people. They are different. No, they’re not perfect. But they’re driven – absolutely driven – on an eternal quest that rates eternal needs over temporal, earthly needs.
THEY REALLY BELIEVE. God knows them and most of us know them, too. They’re the people we simply EXPECT to be part of the Christian mission of promoting Jesus Christ. They’re the people we expect to do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. They’re the people you want in a fox hole with you when the enemy is charging with his bayonet. They’re the people you want on your prayer team. They’re the people that still stand for Bible standards even when family members fail.
They’re the people that make a difference. And when they become old and leave us, they are very deeply missed…and leave a big, big hole.
Thank You, God, for giving them to us.
Nov 25, 2022 – Ever need good advice about your ministry? It is wise to always keep good advice close to where you study or prepare for ministry (including your prayer time). Keep this advice where you will occasionally see it even if you are not looking for it. In my early days I kept such advice in my sermon book; my sermon notes were always placed directly behind my collection of wise sayings. This advice served as a constant reminder of the keys to effective ministry!
This holiday weekend is a good time to unwind and listen to the counsel of others who excelled in their own ministry by the grace of God.
Bonar: “A ministry of power must be the fruit of a holy, peaceful, loving intimacy with the Lord.”
Unknown: “Unless there is within us that which is above us we shall soon yield to that which is about us.”
Hudson Taylor: “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.”
Watchman Nee: “When the Galilean boy brought bread to Jesus, what did He do? He broke it. God will always break what is offered to Him. He breaks what He takes, then blesses it and uses it to meet man’s needs.”
Jowett: “We never reach the innermost room in any man’s soul by the expediencies of the showman. The way of irreverence will never lead to the Holy Place.”
Sam Jones: “The Lord fishes on the bottom, and if you want to get to his bait and hook, brother, you’ve got to get right down on the bottom.”
Unknown: “No man is fully accepted until he has been, first of all, utterly rejected. It takes a crucified man to preach a crucified Savior.”
Ravenhill: “It takes broken men to break men. We have equipment but not enduement, commotion but not creation, action but not unction, rattle but not revival. We are dogmatic, but not dynamic.”
Perhaps one or two of the above statements are very pertinent to your ministry. Be sure to keep these words of counsel close to you for occasional review. Notice their main emphasis is the condition of your heart. Ah, dedicate yourself to being a heart minister!
Nov 24, 2022 – Ten lepers were miraculously healed by the Savior. MARVELOUS! But only one returned to give thanks for being healed. NOT SO MARVELOUS! Would I be the one who returned to say, “Thank You!” or the nine who went flippantly on their way without expressing any thanksgiving to the One who healed them?
(Interestingly, Jesus (a Jew) healed nine Jews and one Samaritan (contemptuously deemed a half-breed by the Jews). None – not one – of the Jews returned to give thanks. Only the half-breed Samaritan returned…the very one that you would not expect to return.)
The Lady Elgin, a steamer ship of long ago, was nearing Chicago when it began to sink. The people on the shore watched the floundering ship but did nothing. However, two young theological students responded. Nat picked up a rope and swam out to the sinking vessel. His brother held the end of the rope on the shore. When Nat reached the boat, he grabbed a passenger and pulled him back to the shore to his brother holding the rope. They repeated that process for seventeen people.
Then Nat, totally exhausted, collapsed. He could not go out again. But when he heard the screams of the people on the Lady Elgin, he said, “I’ve got to go!” He went again and again until twenty-three people had been rescued.
300 people went down with the ship and lost their lives. But twenty-three were saved by Nat. When he brought his last one in, he was so exhausted that he became unconscious. He was taken to the hospital. He slowly recovered, but he never regained all of his strength because of that strenuous effort.
That brings us to the conclusion. In the years that followed not one – not a solitary one – of the twenty-three thanked him for what he had done. Not one sent a letter. Not one came to see him. Nat bore the strain of that effort for the rest of his days…but not one acknowledged his effort in any way.
May God help me (and you) to be thankful enough to always say, “Thank you!”
Nov 23, 2022 – We KNOW…but we still need to be reminded! Case in point: The great composer Beethoven was terrified at the prospect of becoming deaf. After all, how can a musician write music if he cannot hear music? In his opinion, hearing was essential!
But Beethoven reached a point in life where what he feared most began to creep into his life. O, the turmoil this health issue caused in his heart! The doctors had no remedy. Homespun remedies failed, too. His hearing continued to deteriorate…until one day it was gone. Totally gone.
He mused, “What can a deaf musician do? The only thing I know to do is continue on!” Beethoven proceeded to write some of his best music AFTER he became deaf. What happened? Apparently, the deafness shut out the many distractions of everyday living. He was left alone in his mind. Experienced total freedom from distraction. As a result, musical melodies poured into his mind with greater speed and clarity than ever before.
Here is the key: Beethoven’s deafness became his greatest asset.
Look around you at the many people who became better people AFTER they encountered a bruising experience. No one likes to be bruised. But many of life’s most important lessons are learned at such times. Such experiences serve to change things but, most notably, change us.
“Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay! MOLD ME AND MAKE ME after Thy will, While I am waiting Yielded and still.”
Keep those words always in front of you. They will help you the next time you get bruised.
Nov 22, 2022 – Have you ever considered the exactness of the Word of God that we teach and believe? Some imagine only the Bible’s general thoughts are inspired or God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), but Scripture indicates that even the “jots and tittles” (Matthew 5:18) are inspired in the original writings. (Think of a tittle like one of the slash marks in the letter “k.” That means the Bible is precise and exact!) In days past you might have received this instruction:
“Make sure every jot and tittle in the contract is perfect. We can’t afford to lose money over some typo or technicality. We’ll be scanning each jot and tittle of these documents for errors.”
“It is written!” These words appear in the Greek text as a perfect verb. Based upon the first paragraph in this devotional, we can safely conclude the verb tense is as inspired as the word itself. Why do I emphasize that? It is because the perfect tense sends a very impressive signal about the Bible’s finality. Literally (this is a mouthful so for that reason no translation translates it this way), the text reads: “It was written and it is STILL written.” In other words, God has not changed His mind! What He wrote in Bible times is still valid…still true…still accurate…still worthy of man’s time and obedience. Man intentionally distorts Deity into a god of his own design; no matter to God! He just says, “You can’t break the Word of God, because it is still the Word of God! Someday you’ll find out!”
We need to remind ourselves that THE MESSAGE HAS NOT CHANGED. Not since John closed the last words of the Revelation! Brother and sister, modern day man needs to hear and to heed what God has ONCE AND FOR ALL shared with us!
A liberal minister foolishly preached about what he perceived to be errors in the Bible…even stating that God did not mean what was written by the Bible authors. Finally, one irritated saint rose to his feet and demanded, “If God didn’t mean what He said, why didn’t He say what He meant?” The liberal had no answer, because there is no answer.
Well, let there be no mistake about it: God has said what He meant to say. Interested? His words are as close as your Bible!
Nov 21, 2022 – “’Grow—make that keep growing—in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Grow today, grow tomorrow, grow the day after tomorrow, and the day after the day after tomorrow and keep on doing it. Eventually, you will experience a lifetime of growth. And you will look back and realize that growth did indeed happen. As a matter of fact, you will realize how much you have grown . . . and that your life is worth sharing with others.
“Near the end of my life I wrote two books that became part of God’s holy Word. My books include many, many items that pertain to your spiritual life, but I also included some personal experiences. Why? I believe my life, dear reader, will serve as an example to you about how many times one can fail and yet, in the end, over time, grow up spiritually to achieve God’s purpose for his life.
“I believe all of those up-and-down experiences can be helpful to you in your Christian journey. I have learned the Christian life is not one of 100% successful triumphs, but it also has more than its share of miserable failures. But I never allowed those failures to stop me for long. And I urge you not to allow your failures to stop you for long, either. If I could keep going, so can you!
“I leave you with these simple words of encouragement. These words also represent the very last words I wrote in the Bible. In many ways, they may be the most important words of all because they are based upon my own experiences.
“’Grow and keep growing—be constantly growing—in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ If I were writing the same passage today, I might phrase it like this, ‘Grow and never stop growing . . . never stop becoming more and more like Jesus.’
“In so doing, you will be greatly blessed, and you will become an even greater blessing to others.”
* Excerpt from Chapter One “Growing Up Spiritually…From a Friend of Long ago” in the book “Sanctification: How God Creates Saints out of Sinners” by Tom Swartzwelder.
Nov 19-20, 2022 – “Our attitude is not automatically good just because we are Christians.”
The author (I believe it is John Maxwell) continues, “It is noteworthy that the seven deadly sins (pride, covetousness, lust, envy, anger, gluttony and sloth) are all matters of ATTITUDE, inner spirit and motives. Sadly, many carnal Christians carry with them inner spirit problems.
“They are like the elder brother of the prodigal son, thinking they do everything right. He chose to stay home with the father. No way was he going to spend his time sowing wild oats. Yet, when the younger brother came back home, some of the elder brother’s wrong attitudes began to surface.
“Often we overlook the true meaning of the story of the prodigal son. We forget that we have not one but two prodigals. The younger brother is guilty of the sins of the flesh, whereas the elder brother is guilty of the sins of the spirit (attitude). When the parable closes, it is the elder – the second prodigal – who is outside the Father’s house.
“First came a feeling of self-importance. The elder brother was out in the field doing what he ought to do, but he got mad when the party began at home. He didn’t get mad because he didn’t like parties. I know he liked parties, because he complained to his father that he would never let him throw one!
“That was followed by a feeling of self-pity. The elder brother said, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet YOU HAVE NEVER given me a kid…”
One must wonder when his attitude problem developed. It seems clear it did not develop when his younger brother returned; on the contrary, that event merely revealed an already existing attitude…an attitude he may not have recognized previously. Somehow he got off track and his life became miserable…wonder how it happened? We’ll never know for sure, but we can know with certainty that we are prone to this same underlying weakness. And, sadly, we, too, may be blind to its influence in our own life until it suddenly manifests itself by gobbling us.
What is the cure? “Let this attitude be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” The rest of Philippians 2 addresses this attitude. It might be good reading for you, too. Attitude development is an every day process. May God bless you with a transforming Christlike attitude.
Nov 18, 2022 – George Sweeting, the sixth President of Moody Bible Institute, says, “Some Christians try to be secret believers, but this is a mistake. Just imagine Dr. Jonas Salk keeping the Salk vaccine a secret! That would have been criminal.
“So, too, a knowledge of salvation places us in debt to the whole world. Silence really is sinful, because we owe the world a witness.
“So are we guilty of lying when we sing, ‘I Love to Tell the Story’ when we are as silent as a sphinx about the Savior and His mightiness to transform lives?”
The poet writes,
“You talk about the weather, And crops of corn and wheat;
You speak with friends and neighbors, That pass along the street.
You call yourself a Christian, And like the gospel plan;
Then why not speak for Jesus, And witness where you can?”
Christmas is coming. How about enclosing a gospel tract or your own salvation testimony in your cards this year? Or sharing Jesus on the internet? Inviting people to your church’s Christmas program? Sharing the birth of the Savior? Wearing clothing that testifies (and opens the door for a discussion)? (I encourage you to read the article 11 Ways to Make Christmas Your Best Outreach of the Year on the Evangelism page at godsgreenhouse.net and perhaps print a copy for your church leaders.) How about developing a prayer list of unsaved friends/loved ones and sharing it with a small prayer group? How about sharing gospel messages that appear on social media with your network of acquaintances?
Don’t be a secret Christian! Be a telling, testifying Christian! KEEP SOWING JESUS!
Nov 17, 2022 – Homer Webb, one of my childhood pastors, once conducted the wedding of a very nice couple. He imagined that they might give him a generous gift. After the wedding, the newlyweds gave him a pair of nice winter gloves. Nice, but he was hoping for something more. Some months later Pastor Webb was preaching in a winter revival. It was cold! His wife got out those gloves for him to wear. But he could not get them on! After cleaning out the fingers, he found $100.00 in each finger. He said “I had it all the time and didn’t know!“
Many Christians fall into this trap of, “I had it all the time and didn’t know!” Vance Havner often says, “We Christians live such subnormal lives that if we ever lived the normal Christian life the world would think we are abnormal.” Sadly, the victorious “living in Canaan” life expressed in the book of Ephesians is not experienced by most Christians. This writer often falls short of it, also.
Ephesians pictures the Christian life as a conquering inner man overcoming any anti-God influence in this worldly system of ours. Jesus describes it as “the abundant life” (John 10:10) and “out of the believer’s innermost being shall flow RIVERS (not trickles) of living water” (John 7:38). Paul pictures it as “Christ living in me” in Galatians 2:20 and “Christ who is our life” in Colossians 3:4.
That’s powerful stuff. Indeed, it’s transforming…transformational…revolutionary…life-changing…attitude adjusting…goal establishing…outlook improving…faith inspiring…Holy Spirit leading, teaching and filling. Sound good? Yes! It’s far better than the experience of most people. Ephesians living doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, but it does solve the biggest problem of all: the hole in my own heart for something more.
I leave you with this prayer from the Apostle Paul in chapter three: “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 (be at home) in your hearts through faith.” Amen.
Nov 16, 2022 – “Can’t do it. I have no ability. I have no message. I have no authority. I am not eloquent of speech. I am the wrong choice. I CAN’T.”
“Can’t? You’re right, Moses, but you are forgetting that I CAN through you,” said God, and Moses not only could but did. All it took was Moses saying, “Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, BY THE POWER OF GRACE DIVINE; Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, And my will be lost in Thine.”
“Can’t do it” stops more Christians than even the ol’ devil himself. Remember: You can always try and then decide it didn’t work. That happens when you fix a meal, too! But if you don’t try, you’ll never know for certain what God could have done with your effort. And you’ll never know how God would have grown you either…
By Edgar Guest
Can’t is the worst word that’s written or spoken;
Doing more harm here than slander and lies;
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
And robs us of courage we need through the day;
It rings in our ears like a timely sent warning
And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.
Can’t is the father of feeble endeavor,
The parent of terror and halfhearted work;
It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,
And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.
It poisons the soul of the man with a vision,
It stifles in infancy many a plan;
It greets honest toiling with open derision
And mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.
Can’t is a word none should speak without blushing;
To utter it should be a symbol of shame;
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
It blights a man’s purpose and shortens his aim.
Nov 15, 2022 – The Christian doctor Paul Tournier writes in his Doctor’s Case Book, “There was one patient of mine, the youngest daughter in a large family which the father found it difficult to support. One day she heard her father mutter despairingly, ‘We could well have done without that one.’ That is precisely what God can never say. He is a loving Father to every one of His children.”
Are you discouraged today? Here is God’s promise to you for today:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
“For I know the plans I have for you plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
You’re not alone today. Not even TO your old age and IN your old age.
Nov 14, 2022 – In the old days there was a young boy in England whose father died. This boy had to quit school to provide for his family. He sold his newspapers every day then stopped by the toy store to look at the toy soldiers in the window. He imagined the thrill that would be his if he could play with those toy soldiers. But, unfortunately, there was a glass between the soldiers and him. All he could do was imagine what it would be like to play with those toy soldiers.
One day, though, the boy did not come. The shopkeeper went out into the street and asked, “Has anyone seen the little boy who would look in our window at the toy soldiers?”
Someone said, “Haven’t you heard? He was hit by an automobile early today and is now unconscious in the hospital.“
The storekeeper immediately gathered all of the toy soldiers and took them to the hospital. He set the toy soldiers at the foot of the boy’s bed then left.
The boy soon regained consciousness. He saw his mother then he looked at the foot of the bed and saw the toy soldiers. He could not believe what he saw!
He reached his hands toward those toy soldiers… getting closer and closer until, at last, the soldiers were in his hands. He then turned to his mother and said, “Oh, mother, look! Here are my soldiers and now there is no glass in between.“
I now see heaven through a glass. I can’t touch heaven at all! I know some people in heaven, but I cannot touch them. I know they are singing in heaven, but I cannot hear them. I know they have perfect bodies in heaven, but I cannot see them.
But someday God will take away the glass!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Nov 12-13, 2022 – It’s called the “Expectations Game.” It also reveals a common problem in spiritual growth. Consider the following oft-repeated story:
A pastor received a telephone call. A lady said, “We’re looking for a church where we can be blessed.”
The pastor said, “That’s fine, but we’re looking for members who can bless our church.”
She said, “You don’t understand. We’re looking for a place where we can be fed.”
He said, “That’s fine, but we’re looking for members who can feed others.”
She asked, “What kind of church is this anyway?”
The answer is that it was a New Testament church, and a New Testament church is built upon giving instead of receiving! God’s design for every single one of us is that we excel in ministry for Him! In being a blessing to Him, to each other, and to His church.
We need to move beyond the “Feed me” stage. After all, only immature children or infirmed adults say those words. But many Christians are hung up on this “Me” stage. The Apostle Paul defines that condition as the carnal or flesh controlled condition in 1 Corinthians 3 and elsewhere…and carnal living falls far short of “the spiritual stage” of 1 Corinthians 2:15.
True ministry is not about me getting but about me giving. It is built upon a sowing concept of sowing myself in the lives of others. If I receive back, great! But if I do not receive back, I keep giving or sowing because that is being like Jesus. Imagine Jesus calling your pastor and saying, “I’m looking for a church where I can be blessed, be fed.” How absurd! That isn’t the Jesus we know! Nor should it be us either.
Be a disciplined sower. Be a disciplined giver.
NOTE: My simplest book “15 Spiritual Laws to Grow People” helps you develop the sowing discipline or lifestyle. The $3.99 e-book is available at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and many other sites. It should be read annually in order to keep you on the right track. It would make a great study guide for your church staff, too.
Nov 11, 2022 – IT’S VETERAN’S DAY! It is a day to honor those among us that have served the Grand Ol’ Flag in any capacity. It is not only patriotic to do so; it is also RIGHT to do so.
My mind reflects upon so many that deserve to be honored. I spent time with my father-in-law Emerson Wiseman this week. Emerson served as a radio operator on the submarine U.S.S. Puffer in the Pacific Ocean in World War 2 for several dangerous tours. Congressional Medal of Honor winner Woody Williams spoke to my church in the late 1990’s about his harrowing experience on Iwo Jima in that same war. So many more can be mentioned and deserve to be mentioned…people who served and came home, others who served and never returned home. Others whose lives were marred physically or mentally from what they experienced. Still others who never experienced combat…but who would have been in the thick of conflict if their duty demanded it.
We owe so much to so many.
They served…and their service continues to provide us with freedom unmatched anywhere in this world. Just think for a moment about this past week’s election (regardless of whether your candidates won or lost). Over 100 million votes were cast in a non-presidential election! The concept of such freedom is inexpressible. We can even voice our support for or opposition to a candidate. All one must do is compare our freedom with the tyrannies that have prevailed throughout man’s history…or still exist in Russia, Iran, China, etc. and one can get a glimpse of how different America is from other governments.
I have often said I am a big believer in two documents: the Bible and the Constitution. We live in a day when it is so easy for the talking heads to take issue with the Constitution. “Nit-pickers!” is the best word I can use to describe them. What the critics fail to understand is that the Constitution is the greatest man-made document ever produced. Is it perfect? Of course not. But has man ever devised anything better? No, not by a long shot.
Quite honestly, all of us need to take a deep breath, back off from this election rancor and realize we live in an experiment called the United States of America. Throughout history no other country has ever experimented with so much freedom. (This high degree of freedom terrifies the current leaders of China!) Our country is still young by historical measures. We do not know for sure that our increased level of freedom will survive the test of time. But what we do know is such freedom is ours because a vet has served to make it so.
So celebrate your freedom today…and be sure to thank a vet who served to give you that freedom!
Nov 10, 2022 – Do you know what the book of Proverbs actually is? Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings about every area of your life whether it concerns your spiritual life, physical life, financial life or your family life. It does not matter what your problem is; there is a wise saying to deal with your specific problem.
Think with me! If God could teach me about my:
- home, what would God say? “Read one chapter of Proverbs every day.”
- finances, what would God say? “Read one chapter of Proverbs every day.”
- attitude, what would God say? “Read one chapter of Proverbs every day.”
Guess what? The book of Proverbs is the very FIRST self-help manual that was ever written. Before there were cookbooks, craft books, parenting books and computer books there was Proverbs, aka Sayings of Wisdom.
Who buys self-help books? People who are admitting they are dumber than the author of that book.
One of the most famous self-help series is the “Dummies” series. “_______ for Dummies.” Guess who buys those books? Dummies. Well, the book of Proverbs is God’s book for dummies! It is a book we ought to read just as much as Romans, John, Acts or whatever book we like to read. Why? It is because we need to be constantly reminded of how to make right decisions. Proverbs helps prepare us for new problems but also helps keep us from repeating the same mistakes.
How about taking the next month and reading a chapter a day? You will be surprised at the many pearls of wisdom hidden throughout this book.
Nov 9, 2022 – “For God SO LOVED!”
One of the greatest evangelists of the 20th century was a Christian Jew by the name of Hyman Appelman. I listened to Appelman preach in the 1970’s about the love of God for sinners. Oh, how he poured out his heart to us! He emphasized, “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance!”
Appelman covered the crucifixion of Jesus for sinners in great detail. The blood ran red, the whip was brutal beyond belief, the nails were pounded with large hammers, the stress of hanging on a cross was beyond his ability to adequately describe.
Then Appelman made a statement which I have never forgotten. He pointed off into the distance as if he was pointing to the cross of Calvary and he proclaimed, “I tell you, there must be a hell for a man who would reject that kind of love! There must be a hell!” I thought to myself, “Dr. Appelman, you are right! I know you are right!”
My next book is tentatively titled, “The Major Judgments of God: God’s First Call to Last Call to Man.” One chapter will focus on how God can be just or right in punishing any sinner with hell for the length of eternity. Many answers can be provided but Today’s Verse provides the greatest answer of all: “There MUST be a hell for a man who would reject that kind of love.”
Perhaps you are an unbeliever in Christ. Perhaps you have never given much consideration to your soul and this matter of eternity. One item can be conclusively stated: God loves you enough to provide a Savior, the means of escape from the judgment to come. It is a love which must be either accepted or rejected. Don’t you think it’s time you seriously considered this matter? Read the twenty-one chapters in the book of John and you will discover how much God loves you. He loved you enough to become human, to walk this earth and reveal God to us, and to then offer Himself as the only pure sacrifice that can appease the wrath of God against our sin. And now that same God is opening heaven to you. All because He loves you.
Yes, “there must be a hell for a man who would reject that kind of love!”
Nov 8, 2022 – “The rules don’t apply to me.” Really? There is an arrogance within our culture (including Christianity) that some are so talented, so charismatic, so skilled that the rules don’t apply to them…to me, yes, but as to such people, “we can do whatever we wish because we can get away with it…the people will follow…it will work.” Again, I pose the question, “Really?”
Today’s Verse nailed King Saul of Israel to the wall because Saul felt God’s rules did not apply to him. His “winsomeness” attitude became a “losingness” end, because no one can circumvent God’s rules and expect God’s blessings. (Oh, yes, it may still look good on the surface but let’s remember judgment day is yet in the future and we do not know what is actually happening beneath the surface. All that looks good may not actually be good.) The priest Samuel explained God’s reason for rejecting Saul in the next verse: “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” Circumventing God’s rules represents an act of rebellion against the Rule-Maker. One writer correctly notes that Samuel equates such rebellion to the horrible sins of paganism and witchcraft. In other words, this attitude is a very serious issue and should not be taken lightly.
The old saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is true for presidents, pastors, church leaders and followers. God sets up safeguards called rules for a purpose. His rules should not be confused with man’s oft convoluted rules, but should be recognized as clear principles which lead to spiritual success.
For example, the Ten Commandments form a great foundation for how we are to approach God as well as our fellow man. They are not the Ten Suggestions!
“Reap what you sow” is another rule. Too many people are now reaping bad harvests that cannot be undone due to bad decisions in years past. Please note: Forgiveness does not prevent a bad harvest!
“Without Me you can do nothing” reveals the utter futility of the flesh. To rely upon talent or schooling is futile, too.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” God’s will is more powerful than our own will. Just ask Saul in Today’s Verse. Be submissive to His will.
“Be holy as I am holy.” Too much of today’s Christianity is built around talent. Too little attention is given to a holy character. There is no replacement for holy character.
A very talented, cocky young preacher was booked as a special speaker. He was introduced to the audience as an up and coming star, responded by walking pompously to the pulpit, then proceeded to make a total mess of things. His mind went blank. He stuttered, stammered, groaned, made a fool of himself. Totally defeated he walked out of the pulpit and stepped down to the front pew.
A sage walked over to him and said, “Sonny, if you had gone up the way you came down, you might have come down the way you went up!”
God help us to walk according to His rules!
Nov 7, 2022 – It happened in a tent revival. Just before the sermon an elderly man named A. T. Humphrey came forward to sing. Dr. Humphrey’s specialty happened to be music. He had taught music for many years at Appalachian Bible College in Beckley, West Virginia. I wondered what kind of song he would sing – maybe a song with several key changes, maybe a song which we had never heard before, maybe a new song which no one understands except the singer!
A. T. Humphrey raised his eyes toward heaven, and, to my surprise, he sang a song from many years ago, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, My treasures are laid up Somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
Dear Christian, do you ever wonder why you sometimes feel like you’re from a different planet? The people at work want to do one thing, but you aren’t comfortable with that. The television shows often depict activities that are revolting to you. The comedian’s jokes…well, you’re not comfortable with his material either. So many things rub against your soul like sandpaper applied to wood.
Why are you different? It is because God’s salvation is designed to make you different. Today’s Verse indicates you are a chosen generation, even a holy nation. Think of yourself as belonging to a different race except the distinguishing mark is not the color of your skin but the condition of your heart. Your heart possesses a born again nature that makes you radically different.
Your role in life is also different, because you are a priest in God’s priesthood…a priest with access to Him 24 hours a day. We can now “come boldly to the throne of grace, casting all our cares upon Him!”
Furthermore, the KJV expression “a peculiar people” actually means “a people of His own” or “a people of His possession.” We “are no longer our own, but we have been bought with a price.” We belong to Him by virtue of our salvation. Saved FROM the wrath to come, saved FOR the Master’s use.
Guess what? Our Master is not of this world system either! He has saved us to live apart, yes, even ABOVE this world system. To “set our affections on things above, not on things of the earth.” He has programmed us to prefer His lifestyle over a worldly lifestyle. Living the Christian life is now the preferred life, because it is the more COMFORTABLE life.
So don’t be surprised if you are different from this unbelieving world. After all, God designed you to be like Him…and He is different!
Nov 5-6, 2022 – If the Devil were to write his Beatitudes, they would probably look like this:
–Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians in Church – they are my best workers.
–Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked – I can use them.
–Blessed are the touchy, with a bit of luck they may stop going to church – they are my missionaries.
–Blessed are those who are very religious but get on everyone’s nerves – they are mine forever.
–Blessed are the troublemakers – they shall be called my children. –Blessed are those who have no time to pray – they are easy prey for me.
–Blessed are the gossipers – for they are my secret agents.
–Blessed are those critical of church leadership – for they shall inherit a place with me in my fate.
–Blessed are the complainers – I’m all ears for them.
–Blessed are you when you read this and think it is about other people and not yourself – I’ve got you. – Unknown
Nov 4, 2022 – Do you remember how God chose Abraham? It was based solely upon God’s grace. Then God chose Isaac instead of Ishmael and Jacob instead of Esau. The Arabs do not like God’s decision but they cannot get rid of Israel. Why? “Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
God chose Abraham…God chose Moses…God chose the Apostle Paul and I am convinced that God is still in the choosing business today.
For example, why did the entire world hear of Billy Graham? It was because God put His hand upon Billy. It wasn’t because Billy was the best nor does God put His hand upon you because you are the best. (Never overestimate yourself by placing yourself above others. There is someone (probably many more someone’s than you can count) who is better than you…even if you haven’t met that person yet!)
Someone said, “A big shot is a little shot who just kept on shooting…” but that’s not necessarily so because lots of little shots keep on shooting and never become big shots!
Who raised up Joseph from the dungeon to be the Prime Minister of Egypt? God! Who raised up Moses from the backside of the desert to free the nation of Israel? God! Who used uneducated fishermen (Peter and John) to shake the entire world and begin the movement of Christianity? It was God!
The Apostle Paul teaches, “Who then is Paul and who then is Apollos but mere ministers? I have planted, Apollos has watered, but it is God who gives the increase. The one who plants is nothing, the one who waters is nothing, but it is God who gives the increase.”
Perhaps you have read about the great preacher of the 1800’s who was invited to meet the President. This preacher went to Washington D.C. and was shown into an empty room in the White House.
The President arrived a few minutes later. The President had not yet seen a picture of this great preacher. The President walked into the room and found himself with a short, plain-looking, nothing-exciting-about-him kind of man. The President looked around the room for someone else who looked very distinguished. He suddenly realized that the famous evangelist was actually this very plain looking man standing in front of him.
The evangelist sensed the president’s confusion, reached out his hand, and said, “Mr. President, isn’t it wonderful whom God can use?”
My friend, when I look in the mirror I, too, must say, “Isn’t it wonderful whom God can use! That God can use someone like me for His honor and glory!”
Can you look in the mirror and say the same words? One truth is certain: It is the Lord’s purpose that prevails…even through our weaknesses!