Jun 24, 2021 – We learned as a child, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who’s the fairest of them all?” Undoubtedly, the Fairest of all is the Lord Jesus Christ. Do I need to be reminded of who I am and who Jesus is? Yes. The Bible provides an incredible service to me: it provides a mirror to my soul, my innermost being…the most powerful mirror of all. A mirror on the wall reveals how we appear on the outside; however, the Word of God reveals what we actually are on the inside. Which is more important? The inside because the inside is the real me. Unfortunately, my outward appearance may be a camouflage that hides the real me. But God knows, and to a large extent, I know the real me. Thus, the Bible encourages us to gaze into its mirror (Psalm 119). A brief glance gives us only a brief view, but a gaze gives us opportunity to think upon whom and what the Bible reveals. Sometimes the Bible confirms our suspicions, but sometimes it reveals something previously unidentified. Sometimes it confirms we are right, but sometimes… A police magistrate developed a new way of dealing with the drunks brought into the police station. He lined the drunks before a large mirror on the wall. The drunks did not need to gaze to see themselves as they really were. Some were humiliated to such an extent they signed a pledge to leave their alcoholism and seek help. The mirror helped them recognize the truth! In a similar way, an African woman was asked if she enjoyed reading her new Bible. She answered, “Sir, I am not reading this Book. This Book is reading me!” The woman’s statement is quite accurate. The Bible, unlike other books, reveals “us to us.” Please give it the time to speak to you! And to reveal you…to you!
Jun 23, 2021 – How would you like to be remembered? The old saying is so true: “The person who aims at nothing hits nothing.” Most people wander through life looking for who-knows-what and, of course, never finding it because they never define their goal. If we ask the average Christian to identify the most important characteristic of Noah, he will likely respond, “Noah built an ark.” That is indeed a tremendous accomplishment. But nothing is said about building the ark in today’s verse. Isn’t that weird? The #1 item we expect is missing. What is mentioned? Peter mentions the #1 cause Noah represented: righteousness. Perhaps that is because Noah was on the ark less days than he stood for righteousness. Perhaps that is because the ark influenced less people than his call for righteousness. Regardless of the reason, Noah must have really let his “little light shine.” His generation was best known for its UNrighteousness, not righteousness. What is righteousness? The simplest answer is to say “righteousness” is “being right” or “standing for what is right.” Who, though, determines what is right? It is God. If God says something is right, it is right. If God says something is wrong, it is wrong. God’s people are called to stand for what is right; in so doing, we will often find ourselves taking a stand against that which is wrong. (Caution: This stand includes much more than the abortion issue. Christians are not called to be one-issue people but multi-issue people.) Philosopher Edmund Burke says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” What, though, about us? Do we have the courage to be like Noah and take a righteous stand? When we pass on, will anyone say about us, “He or she was a person of righteousness”? Oh, God, may it be so!
Jun 22, 2021 – According to a recent survey, around 65% of Americans believe that we use only 10% of our brain. That, however, is not true. One common brain imaging technique, called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), can measure activity in the brain while a person is performing different tasks. Researchers have concluded that most of our brain is in use most of the time, even when a person is performing a very simple action. Yes, the brain is even active when a person is resting or sleeping. Perhaps that explains why we often awaken during the night with a fresh idea! Science has determined the brain’s memory capacity is the equivalent of 2.5 petabytes of memory capacity. As a number, a “petabyte” means 1024 terabytes or a million gigabytes, so the average adult human brain has the ability to store the equivalent of 2.5 million gigabytes digital memory. To put that in perspective, my current computer has 1 terabyte of storage capacity. In other words, my brain’s capacity is more than 250 times that of my new computer. How can that be? I am amazed at the power of my computer. But it is nothing compared to what I myself possess. I am indeed “fearfully (I stand in awe or reverence) and wonderfully made (made with great wonders that never cease to amaze me).” Quite honestly, I am much better made than I appreciate. Augustine writes, “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.” Perhaps today would be a good day to look at more than the wrinkles or the extra pounds in the wrong place. Perhaps today would be a good day to reflect upon how much we possess in knowledge, wisdom, ability, experience, etc. Quite honestly, when we pass away the world will be the poorer, because it will lose what we know and who we are. Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Jun 21, 2021 – Please take your Bible and look at the first word of Mark chapters 1 & 2. While you are at it, look at the following chapters too. Most translations begin the majority of Mark’s verses with the conjunction “and” or another conjunction such as “but” or “because.” For all intents and purposes, the book of Mark consists of one run-on sentence. My English teacher would have flunked Mark for his writing style; however, by so doing Mark teaches us a very valuable lesson about ministry (as well as life in general). Mark presents the ministry of Jesus in terms of one long, unending flow of ministry events rather than an occasional event such as teaching a Sunday School lesson once a week. Jesus was constantly ministering…each day of the week, to whomever He met in whatever circumstance He found Himself, constantly viewing Himself as being on mission for His heavenly Father. Why? Jesus might explain it like this: “It’s who I am, it’s what I do, it’s why I keep on doing it.” The concept of Christian ministry was entirely engrained in Him. He lived it and breathed it. He did so when He felt like doing it; He also did so when He did not feel like doing it (Garden of Gethsemane). Yes, He rested from ministry (Mark 6:31), and He enjoyed friendship (with Lazarus and others). But He never ceased BEING what He was supposed to be. In a similar way, the best Christians are not the flashy Christians that make a big splash on Sunday but the ones who never cease BEING what they are supposed to be. It begins internal, not external! They simply do it and keep on doing it, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year and decade after decade. They aren’t measured by events but by an everyday process of representing God before man. The effectiveness of such lives cannot be measured in the here and now; I salute so many of you who have made your Christian calling your #1 calling for your life. Rest assured, you have indeed made a difference…and will continue to make a difference. “It’s who we are, it’s what we do, it’s why we keep on doing it.”
Jun 18, 2021 – Some years ago, in the city of Toronto, a young man passed a street meeting. He heard the street preacher quote one verse from the Bible. “Son, give me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:26). The young man kept walking and heard nothing else. The verse seemed to go in one ear and out the other. Fifty years later, though, the verse became alive to the now much older man. The verse continued to repeat itself to his mind. At last, the conviction of the Holy Spirit fell upon him, then belief came to him and he fell upon his knees, crying to God for mercy and forgiveness. The lesson is so simple: The Word of God is a living book unlike any other book in the history of the world. But, above all, this Book must be understood or it accomplishes nothing. Today’s verse establishes the goal of the teacher/preacher must be more than simply communicating knowledge; it must be the goal of providing understanding. The Apostle Peter instructs us to, “Feed the sheep, not feed the giraffes.” The masses of church members are not giraffes with the ability to eat the higher fruit but sheep that eat at ground level. Vincent Van Gogh reminds us, “How difficult it is to be simple!” There is an art to making things simple. It is not easily learned. My father (also a pastor) gave me a book in 1982 (my sixth year of ministry) with the following inscription: “May God grant that you should always speak so that others will understand and follow Him.” Then he highlighted this Bible verse: “in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, in order to teach others also, than 10,000 words in another language” (1 Corinthians 14:19). May we make the message clear and simple! And may our listeners understand what we are saying!
Jun 17, 2021 – “I’ve got a secret for you!” Those words usually cause our ears to open wider, our minds to activate to a higher level, and our attention to become very focused. The CBS network actually broadcast a game show by that name for FIFTEEN years. Evidently, Americans really wanted to know the contestants’ secrets! But God’s secrets are even more special. The word “secret” in verse fourteen has the idea of “intimacy” or “counsel” as in “secret counsel” or “intimate counsel.” Although it may be translated “friendship” it seems to go much deeper in this context. The entire Psalm is a plea to know God better but also deeper. Knowing God intimately begins with an act of our will. Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know…” (John 7:17). Our will must want to know Him, not merely hear about Him. In other words, one must become more than a Sunday morning Christian. Second, our attitude must include a spirit of reverence. We can’t be a television news reporter squawking a question for the sake of the viewer or for mere knowledge; rather, we must possess, not merely demonstrate, a reverence for Him (“fear Him” in vs 14). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). Knowing Him is actually viewed as understanding! “The fear of the Lord can be defined as a continual awareness that you are in the presence of a holy, just, and almighty God, and that every motive, thought, word, and action is open before Him and will be judged by Him.” Such an attitude does not produce a sniveling coward but rather one whose spirit has been brought under the control of Someone much bigger than him. This person is allowed to live in God’s presence and know God intimately. In so doing, the rest of the Psalm somehow “magically” happens. It is amazing what God can do when we enter such an intimate relationship with Him. Some people know God, but some people REALLY KNOW God! Which person do you wish to be?
Jun 16, 2021 – Esau is not normally thought of in good terms. But consider that God kept His promise to Esau, too, because that’s the kind of God we know. J. Vernon McGee writes, “Back in Genesis 36 we learn that Esau lived in Seir (Edom). Jacob had received the birthright and God gave the Promised Land to Jacob and his descendants. Esau went to Seir, and it is NOW CLEAR that God has given that to the people of Esau as their possession….God clearly tells Israel that they cannot touch the possession of Esau…God always keeps His promises. Even to a people such as the people of Esau, God remains true to His promise.” Consider another promise: Verse 7 (two verses later) talks about God keeping His promise to Israel. “During your 40 years wandering in the wilderness, you lacked nothing.” Those words sounds similar to this precious verse: “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want or lack.” What did Paul say? “My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Pause for a moment and make a list of three promises God has made to you (not Esau, Jacob, Israel…but you) in His Word. Know today that you can “Stand upon the promises…promises that cannot fail. Living by the Word of God I shall prevail…” because I am what? Ah, you know!
Jun 15, 2021 – “Count your many blessings, name them one by one!” Let’s do that. H. A. Ironside titles his book “In The Heavenlies” because the term “heavenlies” expresses an environment for “other world” living—a distinct expression to describe the victorious (not defeated) Christian life. Verse 1 indicates our complete environment. Criswell writes, “Environment means ‘to circle around,’ and we are encircled by three things. First, we are in Christ. Our Christian life is lived in Christ. Second, our life is lived in the fellowship of the saints. Third, our life is lived in our own Ephesus, in the world around us…We are not saints in heaven, we are saints in our Ephesus.” And we are wonderfully blessed while living in our Ephesus! Blessed beyond all measure in the here and now. Ephesians develops those blessings throughout its six chapters. The blessings include more than salvation from sin (God already sees us seated in heaven in Christ); they also include our eternal purpose, our union with Christ, our daily walk, our role in God’s church, family and work relationships, the believer’s armor against Satan, plus much, much more. We have received not only the first blessing, not only the second blessing but thousands more…and they keep coming. Each verse in Ephesians is a case of Paul counting his blessings…and yours! Are you discouraged today? Then look up! Ephesians is the “look up” book. You will then realize the reality of these words from the early church father Clement of Alexandria: “God has turned all our sunsets into sunrise.”
Jun 14, 2021 – Life is like a pencil. It needs to be sharpened to accomplish anything of value. We usually try to accomplish too much; as a result, we accomplish too little. That is not so, though, for the Olympic athletes. They have established a goal which requires great sacrifice…but, in their eyes, the reward outweighs the sacrifice. Something has to come first, something has to come second, etc. World-changing Christians (they influence the world around them) cannot achieve that goal unless they are similarly disciplined. David says, “One thing have I asked from the LORD.” Again, “I have set the LORD always before me” (Psalm 16:8). What about the Apostle Paul? Paul defined his life’s pursuit in five words, “That I may know Him!” Therefore, Paul was able to say, “this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature, let’s have this attitude.” How sharp is your pencil? It does not mean one ignores his family or work obligations and retreats to a monastery. Rather, it means we establish who is in control and allow that person to establish our priorities. The “Ten Commandments” is built on that premise. The first commandment is about the priority of God above all else. The next nine commandments (some suggest the entire Mosaic Law contains 613 commandments) are derived from Commandment #1. It is similar to Jesus calling the apostles, “Come and follow Me” (Matthew 4). But where to? What will we do? How will we live? Those questions would be answered in due course. But, “First, come and follow Me. That will establish your priorities. It will also determine who you become.” So it was with David…a mere shepherd who became a man after God’s own heart. John Philipps points out, “David had a deliberate passion and a daily passion.” He was more than a Sunday seeker of God. His goal was “all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the LORD…to know Him.” Perhaps today is a good day to take out the ol’ knife and start whittling some more.
Jun 12, 2021 – There are consequences to our choices: both good and bad. Some believe that God may someday show us the “life which might have been” had we “wholly followed the LORD.” How good a parent? How good a pastor or teacher or soulwinner or employee or example? How far might we have gone or how much might we have accomplished? One thing is certain: We will never achieve that level of performance unless we choose a very disciplined life and “wholly follow the LORD.” Caleb intentionally chose a life of faith. He did not turn away from God at Kadesh like the rest of the nation. He embraced God’s promised land as something worth fighting for…worth giving his life for…worth every day’s effort. Amazingly, this disciplined attitude did not change for forty years. Unlike so many, he started the race well, he continued the race well and he ran the race until God called him home. How did he do it? He was a disciple or disciplined follower. J. Vernon McGee says, “What do you want of God? If you think you can sit on the sidelines and get it, you are wrong…you are going to have to go out there and take it. God said He would give to Caleb the land that he had TRODDEN upon. A great many of us today are not being blessed because we are spending too much time sitting down. That is the wrong place to be if we want the blessing of God. We are to walk. There is a great deal said in the Scriptures about the Christian’s walk and very little said about the Christian’s sitting down. We need to lay hold of God’s promises.” Go forth and become a Caleb!
Jun 11, 2021 – Evangelist Monroe Parker was one of the finest preachers I have ever heard. Monroe told us at Tennessee Temple, “I announced in one revival I would preach the next night on the ‘Eschatological Implications of the Theophanies in the Pentateuch.’ On the next night, though, the choir began the service by singing, ‘Sing it o’er and o’er again, Christ receiveth sinful men. Make the message clear and plain. Christ receiveth sinful men.’ I changed my sermon and made the message clear and plain. Be sure you do likewise!” Sometimes we overcomplicate the ministry. We minimize our ability (“Oh, I am too weak to be used by God!”) and over-emphasize another’s ability (“I wish I could minister like him!”). Preachers try to out-do themselves. Paul, though, lived within himself. Some picture Paul as a short fellow with a crooked nose (I’d have a crooked nose after being stoned!) and an unbecoming, squeaky voice. We do not know all of Paul’s weaknesses but he certainly was no Apollos! But he was used by God! The most effective Christians are not the most talented Christians but the Christians who are genuine in their faith and live out that faith. The Holy Spirit enjoys taking the ordinary and blessing it. He proves over and over again that He is the most important part of our ministry…not our ability, knowledge, finances, etc. Just put yourself in His hands…be an Isaiah and pray, “Here am I! Use me!” You will be surprised in eternity (the only true measurement) to discover how God has used you.
Jun 10, 2021 – “This is what the Lord says: The wise man must not boast in his wisdom; the strong man must not boast in his strength; the wealthy man must not boast in his wealth. But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me—that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things” (Jeremiah 9:23). Paul’s version is shorter, Jeremiah’s is longer (hence, it was made into a praise song). What is wrong with my boasting? Simple: It is a case of ALL OF US midgets arguing over who is the tallest. We would be puzzled at such a scenario, because the tallest midget is still short compared with the rest of humanity. Well, let’s compare ourselves with the Almighty; compared to God are we even as tall as the smallest midget? No. We cannot conquer death, the need for sleep or food, cancer and other diseases, earthquakes, even the simpler things like human relations. The Bible even teaches we cannot know God unless God chooses to reveal Himself (He does). We’re like 2021’s cicada swarm: here today, gone tomorrow or as the balding man moaned, “Hair today, gone tomorrow.” But what about God? God created an entire universe, established life, revealed Himself so His creation might know the Almighty, provided a Savior to rescue Adam’s race, guaranteed to save anyone to the uttermost that would come to Him through the blood of the cross, will resurrect all men at the last day, and, as a curtain call, He will create a new heaven and new earth. Compare that to my (or your) puny accomplishments! I’m no longer the tallest midget nor the smallest midget nor even a tadpole. Similar to Job, I must humble myself in the ashes and repent for exalting myself. “Lord, help me today to remember it is not me that counts. It is You that counts. To God be the glory, great things He hath done!”
June 9, 2021 – In the old days, a blacksmith said of Norman McLeod, “He never came to my shop without talking to me as if he had been a blacksmith all his life; but he never went away without leaving Christ in my heart.” What a testimony! What a goal for each one of us! Our words preach, our actions preach, our character preaches, our influence preaches, our money preaches, our recreation preaches, literally everything about us can be an instrument to “turn a sinner from the error of his way.” Look carefully at the words: “Sinner” represents his designation before thrice holy God. He is not holy but rather unholy—in need of salvation from sin and, therefore, being a sinner! “Error” = he has chosen wrong. It may not be a sinful choice but it is definitely a worldly choice. (See yesterday’s devotional.) “Way” = pattern of living. His “error” is not occasional but a pattern because he follows an erroneous philosophy of life. He has joined the majority of people on the broad road that leads to destruction. “Death” = death is not cessation of being but eternal separation from God (Matthew 25:41). Such a person needs our pity…but, most of all, needs our guidance. Use today to influence a sinner from the error of his way!
Jun 8, 2021 – What motivates you to minister both to and for the Lord? Like everyone else, I enjoy being right and I don’t like being wrong. It would be much better to be eternally right than eternally wrong. Our investment in Christ is geared more to long term, eternal results than short-term, temporal results. Is such an investment worth it? We need to be reminded of the value of eternity. What better verse than today’s verse to motivate us? To remind God’s servants that we are right? A new heaven…new earth…for eternity in contrast to the short-term focused first heaven and first earth passing away. Enjoying eternal rewards…never ending rewards is the right kind of rewards for me, how about you? “The eminent Dutch historian, Hendrick Van Loon, thus describes the length of eternity. High up in the North, in the land called Svitjod, there stands a rock. It is one hundred miles high, and one hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years, a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of Eternity will have gone by!” Ah, that’s what I call motivation!
Godsgreenhouse.net Jun 7, 2021 – Are you under pressure today? Today’s world seems to bring a new pressure every day. Solve one issue and another arises. Worst of all, they’re so unpredictable, too. It is as if someone spends all day INVENTING new pressures. Do you agree? Good. We have therefore established that all pressures cannot be avoided. Thus, the key is not whether pressures will come but how will we handle the pressures. We should write on our bathroom mirror at bedtime, “How will I handle today’s pressures?” and let that message be the first message we see on the morrow. Will I yield and do something I should not do or will I stand for righteousness and do what is right? David fell into sin for Bathsheba whereas Joseph ran from sin with Potiphar’s wife. Paul stood steadfast before kings whereas Demas abandoned the cause. John the Baptist declares the standards of righteousness to King Herod whereas Lot drunk from the cup of wickedness. The Bible emphasizes that pressure, trials, and temptations can be faced in the power of the triumphant Christ (Phil 4:13). Never think you cannot remain steadfast in representing Christ, because many have remained steadfast. They “stood the test” like a Marine being tested in boot camp. They stood! And kept standing! And God noticed. “Receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him enough to stand the test!” Macdonald writes, “Take comfort, afflicted Christian! When God is about to make pre-eminent use of a man, He puts him in the fire!” Remember: God is watching and rooting for you! Do right until the stars fall!
Jun 5-6, 2021 – How dumb are you? The answer depends upon whom you compare yourself with. Again, in which subject(s) are you the dumbest? Each one of us has our strengths (“we know”) and our weaknesses (“we don’t know”). Vice-President Dick Cheney said, “It’s not what you don’t know that will hurt you, it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know.” Sadly, we’re not as wise as we need to be and we make costly mistakes. Strauss writes, “The outstanding characteristic of this generation is the absence of true wisdom. Through knowledge man has learned to travel faster than sound but shows his lack of wisdom by going faster in the wrong direction.” We live in an anti-God, anti-wisdom world, yet the Bible cautions, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight or understanding” (Prov. 9:10). How can we acquire wisdom? Two ways: 1. Read the Book of wisdom: the Bible, and particularly Proverbs. Proverbs ought to be on the New York Times best seller list; read it for yourself and tell me if you agree. 2. Prayer. “Ask of God.” Go to God instead of the internet. God made you, is active in your life’s circumstances, and knows the best outcome. If Solomon needed God’s wisdom, how much more do we? Did you pray for wisdom in the last seven days? “Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).
Jun 4, 2021 – Why is it so difficult to pray? Is it hard to pray if you’re in a foxhole with the enemy charging at you? No, we’re desperate! Perhaps that is the answer we seek. We do not always sense the urgency of prayer. We have time to do everything else except pray…except for those times when times are no long ordinary and we sense the urgency! Like the apostles, we sleep in the Garden while the Master is intensely praying. Today’s text reveals we also fail to pray because we often pray and do not get immediate answers. We “lose heart.” Therefore, we stop taking the matter before God. We are like the preacher pacing the floor…who is asked, “What is the problem?” He answers, “I am in a hurry but God isn’t.” No, God is never in a hurry. But God hears! A Scottish brother testified, “I was a worldly man but I never found satisfaction. My father, a delightful Christian, passed away. I learned he had given large sums of money to Mr. Mueller’s orphanage. I said, ‘I am sure my father would like me to help that work. I will visit it.’ I went and found they were having church. I listened and God saved my soul. I told them my name and I had received Christ. They said to me, ‘We are not surprised for Mr. Mueller never ceased to pray for you for the last 38 years.” It is likely someone has not yet given up praying for you. Will you do the same for someone?
Jun 3, 2021 – Let’s suppose you could pray only one prayer (limited to fifteen words) for your children and loved ones. For what would you pray? Many would pray for health, finances, and worldly success. I believe today’s verse is the greatest prayer I can pray for my children. “Grace and peace from God” for ALL their days is the greatest gift I could ever bestow upon anyone. First, it is not given from my limited ability but from God the Father and God the Son. “Their coffers are full, they have riches untold.” That’s why we sing, “He giveth and giveth and giveth again.” Bringing God into their lives is the smartest thing I can do! Second, grace, in this case God’s grace, cannot be measured because it impacts every area of one’s life. Grace is “unmerited favor” or God’s blessings in spite of who we are or what we do. All of us are weak and most of us are weaker than we realize. Even the billionaire did not achieve his billions without God’s grace. That is why God has problems with the rich (James 5); the rich do not acknowledge God’s grace. Third, God’s “peace” meets the deepest need of the human heart. “Being declared righteous by faith we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1) and peace “with” God can soon become the peace “of” God or God’s peace in every problem of life (Phil 4). God’s peace is not external but internal. It is like a bird being at rest in a nest overlooking a turbulent waterfall. The internal prevails over the external! So I pray for you today: “Grace and peace to you from God!”
Jun 2, 2021 – “…did not know…” The genuineness of Christianity is amazing to behold and deserves consideration from each of us. We live in an era of “promotion.” One boss told me, “If I don’t promote myself, no one else will.” He valued us (his employees) as his stepping stone to bigger and better things. It’s the American way but does it work in REAL, GENUINE Christianity (not to be confused with the pomp and splashiness that is permeating Christianity today)? Today’s verse indicates the most effective “promotion” for Jesus is not a billboard or trying to stir up some excitement with something new (some think we have to out-excite the world). It is rather the transformed life that results from spending time in God’s presence. Moses spent forty days alone with God. The experience changed him on the inside; that change was also reflected on the outside (his face shone). And he did not know it! He did not carry a billboard advertising Jesus; he himself was the billboard. Beware of approaching Christianity from a worldly perspective. The heart of Christianity is a changed life. Not a flashy, multi-talented life but a changed life. Let Christ change you…and we will then see the difference.
Jun 1, 2021 – Do you ever get discouraged with the current state of the world including our own country? Isaiah did. He recognized there was only one force that prevented his country from a total decline into the sinfulness of Sodom. That force was the followers of Jehovah. These followers weren’t known for their skills in politics, economics, or education. But they were known as the LIGHT of the world…the SALT that prevents total decay from sweeping the land. The Bible makes it clear the most important people in America are not the people in Washington D.C. but the people who radiate God’s presence in their communities. But it’s not an easy calling! A Christian woman found it difficult to be true to her Christian principles at work. She expressed her frustrations to her pastor. The pastor asked, “Where do you put lights? In a bright place?” “No,” she replied. “In a dark place in order to make it light.” Then she saw why God had placed her in such difficult surroundings! Go forth and be God’s light to someone today!
May 31, 2021 – What kind of God do you have? Throughout history each religion has developed its own view of Deity. Sometimes that view gets modified as time passes if people don’t like the original idea. The Christian’s view of God, though, is not evolving, changing, being modified…never has been. The God whom we know is the same God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, Peter, Paul, etc. The same consistent view of God has been presented throughout holy Scripture. Verse 8 is David’s testimony about his God. Note “LORD” is entirely capitalized. That is the way of designating the Old Testament name of Jehovah or “I AM” (Ex. 3:14). “Jehovah” means “self-existent One.” I like to say, “God’s like the Energizer Bunny…He never needs re-charged.” What kind of God is this SUPREME, ABOVE ALL, Being? Based upon man’s sin and ruination of God’s creation, He could have been “vengeful, angry, hurling rocks at us constantly.” But He chose to have pity. “Gracious…merciful…SLOW to anger…lovingkindness…” “Not willing that any should perish.” That’s how David wants the world to view his God. Sounds like Someone I need! How about you? Allow God to reproduce those same values in you today!
May 29, 2021 – Ever had your plans go astray? Look forward so very much to some event only to have it cancelled or perhaps you became ill and could not attend. That experience has never once happened to God. God makes a plan and nothing is big enough to prevent God from fulfilling His plan. Today’s verse says, “I WILL DO THIS!” Sometimes life goes haywire for you and me. There are so many disappointments in life and that includes ministry, too. We may have a pity party like Elijah and wonder if ministry is worthwhile. That’s where faith must arise and conquer our doubts. Throughout my 45 years of up-and-down (mostly up) ministry I have remained convinced of: 1. The power of God to change lives through His WORD; 2. The call of God upon my life to be a minister in whatever capacity He wishes to use me; 3. That God will keep His word and bless the sowing process (Matthew 13). God will bless what we sow. The harvest may come today or next year or even after the Lord calls us home. But it will come. God’s will WILL be done. He will accomplish whatever He pleases. Above all, never ever give up. Have faith in God! The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this!
May 28, 2021 – Always begin your study by putting Scripture in its proper context. The passage begins (vs 20-24) with a warning for two cities that would not “Come to Me.” Jesus did many fantastic miracles in those cities but they “repented not”—they refused to leave their sin and come to Him. Verses 25-27, though, emphasize that some (like you and me) are not like them. We have a different attitude toward Jesus. God’s truth has been planted rather than rejected in our lives (“fallen on good ground”). The cities saw but did not really see, heard but did not really hear whereas we both saw and heard. How are we to respond? Remain in our miserable condition (labor and heavy laden)? No. “Come to me.” The remaining words mean nothing unless we first “Come.” “Come” requires an act of the human will. The human will fights the call of God with all of its might. Jesus said, “you are not WILLING to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40), i.e. your will is not willing. No one can be born again until the will finally yields and receives Christ as Lord and Savior. “Yielding” settles the “Lordship” issue and “receiving” settles the Savior issue. Have you yielded and received? I said “No!” on January 13, 1965 but I said “Yes” on January 14, 1965. It is the best “Yes” I have ever said. How about you?
May 27, 2021 – “The words of the prophecy of this book” appear in vs 7, 9, 10, 18, and 19. It is a five-fold teaching that the return of Jesus Christ WILL occur, but it will occur on God’s time. The Bible warns us not to predict the date…men have done that for 2,000 years and been wrong for 2,000 years. What do we know? We know that when He comes, He will come quickly…suddenly…practically instantly rather than like an old wagon train slowly crossing a prairie. This event will have meaning for me, too! The great preacher Spurgeon received a copy of Andrew Bonar’s excellent commentary on Leviticus. He was greatly blessed by Bonar’s comments. He returned the book to Bonar with this request, “Please autograph this book, and paste your picture on the title page. Then return it to me.” Bonar did as requested plus added this note: “Hear is the book with my autograph and my photograph. If you had been willing to wait a short season you could have had a better picture. When I see Christ, I shall be like Him!” Amen!
May 26, 2021 – Do you have a speech problem? Abraham Lincoln suggested, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” I suppose all of us have proven the wisdom of that statement. It is said of the Apostle Peter, “Every time he opened his mouth he changed feet.” Always putting his foot in his mouth! Someone (it was not Peter) said, “God gave us one mouth and two ears but we act like He gave us two mouths and one ear!” My childhood barber had a sign which said, “Be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear.” Wise words but hard to follow. Quite honestly, how much we talk is often a reflection of how important we perceive ourselves. People with a Peter problem have a tendency to value their opinion too highly…and the opinion of others too lowly. You may face this very challenge today. Someone may need you to simply listen…not talk but listen. So take the time to listen. In so doing, your ear may become a bigger blessing than your…
May 25, 2021 – Robert Murray McCheyne teaches, “Study universal holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on this for your sermons last but an hour or two; your life preaches all the week.” Sin scandals among our “elite Christian leaders” rock Christianity on a continuing basis. Perhaps it is because we have been “at the work” for so long we believe we are invincible. But sin does not respect us for our length of service; instead, sin uses it to his advantage. As we age in the work, do we pray as much? Do we read our Bible as much? Do we long for Him as much? Or do we rest on who we have become? Psalm 119:11 needs to be read in its immediate context of verses 9-16. It begins with “How shall a YOUNG man cleanse his way?” and then discusses how the Bible keeps our head on straight by helping us think straight. Thinking straight would save many a testimony, marriage, child, investment, etc. Give God’s Word time to DAILY revolutionize your mind! Learn to think like Christ!
May 24, 2021 – There are consequences to how we live. We are taught early that we reap what we sow, thus, sow something good! Many lives go wrong because of decisions we make once we leave our parents’ care and enter our independent twenties. As a result, some goals are no longer achievable. For example, Esau could not reclaim his birthright in spite of his tears of repentance. The knot of life had become too knotty! The great Moses was not great enough to avoid that same trap. He sinned terribly at Meribah in Numbers 20. Therefore, God would not allow Moses to cross over the Jordan River and enter the promised land…the beautiful land…that good hill country with the grapes of Eschol. It was a terrible jolt to a man who had faithfully served God but had also failed at a very critical moment. This prayer occurred shortly before Moses’ death, but God refused to change His mind…Moses would die in the wilderness just short of the promised land. Perhaps you are facing some difficult decisions in the next month. Be sensitive to the leadership of the holy Scriptures and Holy Spirit. You don’t want to be wrong. And you certainly want to sow a good decision that reaps benefits down the road. Those benefits may apply to your loved ones, too. So keep your nose to the plow and sow what is right.
May 22, 2021 – How do we evaluate someone new? First, by appearance. One’s choice of clothing often gives us insight into a person. Second, what is their “air”? Their “air” of humbleness or superiority also sends signals. Evaluation Item #3: what do they say and how do they say it? We dismiss some people because their first comments are disagreeable, harshly critical, abusive, or downright “rotten!” Wuest defines the Greek word “sapros” as “rotten, worn out, unfit for use, worthless, bad.” Contrast that with “what is good or builds up or encourages.” We know the difference! A woman said, “My temper is like a shotgun. I just blow up and then it’s all over.” A friend said, “But look at all the damage that remains!” A gossip came forward to confess her sin and said, “I want to lay my tongue on the altar.” The pastor said, “I’m sorry but our altar is not long enough!” Paul says, “Don’t put yourself in that situation. It’s YOUR tongue. YOU control what comes out of YOUR mouth. Use YOUR tongue instead to encourage and build up!” Is that too difficult? Abraham Lincoln counseled, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Let’s write this goal on today’s calendar, “No rotten talk today!” The choice is ours as to whether we are “rotten” or a “builder.”
May 21, 2021 – “Blessed are the peacemakers”…the ones who intentionally MAKE peace rather than conflict, who seek peace rather than argument, who seek to lower the temperature rather than raise it. That is not a description of modern day America. We have been fooled into becoming a nation of loud-mouthed critics. There are so many troublemakers in today’s hyperbolic world. Am I one of them? How well am I learning the art of getting along with other people? Do I sow seeds of peace and blessing or division and strife? Do I share Christ, the best peacemaker of all? Peace making should not be merely something I do; it should also be who I am! A little girl once said to her mother, “I was a peacemaker today.” The mother asked if she had settled a quarrel for others. “No, I knew something and I did not tell it.” An humble preacher of small rural churches was being buried. This comment was made: “He was not a wonderful speaker but he knew how to make peace between his neighbors.” What a way to be remembered! Then again, a pastor was called to do the funeral of a dear lady who went to be with the Lord. He said, “Wherever she went, flowers grew in her pathway and the air was always sweeter when she entered the room.” Let’s try today to “pursue peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14).
May 20, 2021 – 1 Timothy 1:15-16 represents Paul’s personal testimony. The reader can sense the depths of his heart being opened to us. “Trustworthy” or “you can take it to the bank that this is my story. No hype. No big splash to get me on tv or promote a book.” “I’m the WORST.” Paul’s pre-conversion days were as anti-Christ as one could be…attacking the church, imprisoning the saints, presiding over the execution of Stephen…someone who deserved hell as much as Hitler. But God chose to save the WORST and in so doing proved that all of us are savable. No one is beyond God’s reach. The old saying is true, “God saves from the guttermost to the uttermost.” Likewise, Mel Trotter was a converted drunkard and probably sunk as low as any man could sink. He’d even stolen the shoes off the feet of his little dead daughter when she was in her coffin, took them out and hawked them to buy liquor in order to get enough courage to go to the funeral. You just don’t go any lower than that! Yet God saved him, and he became an outstanding evangelist. Is God demonstrating His patience with you? Remember: you can join all of us worst sinners at the cross!
May 19, 2021 – There are many people who have nowhere to turn when difficulties come. That is not so for the believer in Jesus Christ. We are BLESSED with support of the highest quality. “Blessed” or “fortunate” is certainly better than “cursed” or “ignored” which happens to be the fate of many. But this blessing is not based upon a random style of living. It is based upon one knowing the God of Jacob (we might have expected Abraham’s name instead). I never met Jacob but I have met his God! Jacob’s God (“El”) met him at Bethel when he was running for his life from brother Esau. Jacob was a scoundrel in those days, yet God became his help. Jacob was later swindled by a greater scoundrel, his uncle Laban. Yes, Jacob stumbled all over the place. Sound familiar? Who, though, became Jacob’s help and the help of all stumblers? God (the Hebrew name “El” references God’s power/ability to do His will). I must humbly confess He is the kind of God I need! How about you?
May 18, 2021 – This chapter has a promising beginning…indeed, the best beginning! “Word came from the LORD (Jehovah).” To US! The remainder of the chapter is one of intense conflict regarding the people’s reaction. Some liked Jeremiah’s message; others rejected it. However, the messenger cannot control the reaction of the hearer. The messenger’s duty is to make certain the message is delivered…even in an intimidating situation. Can you think of any better message to deliver to today’s society than the Word of the LORD? I cannot. Second, let us be thankful that God has actually spoken to us. He could have passed by and said nothing. But God chose to speak! What a tremendous act of grace! God lifted the fog and allowed us to see and hear truth. God spoke! These words are still valid today! God made known what He wants us to know. HE REVEALED HIS MIND! He gave us His opinions, His advice, His warnings, His blessings. Amen! Jesus Himself popularized the saying, “He that hath ears, let him hear or let him consider!” Ask yourself, “Do I really hear what God has said? How high a priority do I place on what God has said? Do I hedge on what God has said or make the message clear and plain?” God help us to treasure the Word of the LORD!
May 17, 2021 – Today’s verse is contrary to the philosophy of Western “now-now-now” culture. God’s culture is often “wait-wait-wait.” Noah waited 120 years on the flood (how many years did he work on the ark?). Abraham looked for a city but never saw the city, nor inherited all of the “promised land” in this life. Paul was a builder in God’s church but never lived to see the final construction (nor have I). I have sown the seed of God’s Word for more than forty years…have seen some of the harvest but am expecting more in the YEARS which are ahead. Some of that seed will likely bear fruit after I am with the Lord in heaven. I have learned to wait on results…and such learning did not come easy. A. J. Gordon writes, “The promises of God are certain, but they do not all mature in 90 days.” Milton adds, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Is your timetable different than God’s? Perhaps it is time to cut God some slack and let Him do things His own way…and His own way is always the best way.
May 15, 2021 – Jer. 23 reminds us everything which calls itself Christian is not biblical Christianity. It begins with God attacking the shepherds/pastors who are misrepresenting Him before the people. Far too many see a Bible in his hand and assume he is sharing the Word of the Lord. Not always so! Jeremiah 23 is proof the devil has false preachers throughout the world. Verse 28 gives this charge to the preacher/teacher: “let him who has My word speak My word truthfully. What does straw have in common with grain? declares the Lord.” Falsehood (straw) can never substitute for truth (grain). Today’s people don’t need something that makes them feel good; they need truth! And the truth sometimes hurts. Will the truth work? Ah, yes! God’s word is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. God has promised to empower His Word, not man’s latest ideas. Let’s share truth—God’s truth—with one another! The young pastor G. Campbell Morgan was sitting one Sunday evening in his study. God asked him, “What are you going to be? A preacher or My messenger?” Campbell spent the evening examining his life. “What are you going to be? A preacher or My messenger?” He finally said, “Your messenger, Lord. I will speak your words from this day forward, adding nothing to them and taking nothing away.” AMEN!
May 14, 2021 – Most religions have many external traditions to make man right with God. They reason, “If a man DOES, he shall live.” Jesus countered that practice: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and Pharisees. You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup…but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!” (Matthew 23:25) Man has sought to appease God by bringing THINGS to God. But God does not want THINGS. He wants our heart or our human will to be broken or yielded to Him. Contrast these two personalities in the Bible: First, the proud and very religious, ceremonial Pharisee! He prayed, “I thank you, God, I am not like those awful tax collectors. Let me tell You everything (external) that I do” and he proceeded to list his external activities! But the sinful tax collector was so broken in spirit he would not even look up to heaven. He bowed his head (and his heart) and prayed, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18) Jesus said, “Only the tax collector went home right with God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.“ Let’s ask ourselves, “Am I primarily an external or internal person? How is my heart and will before God?” Remember: God’s measurement is the only proper measurement.
Godsgreenhouse.net Psalm 150 has been appropriately titled “The Hallelujah Chorus” of the Hebrew hymn book (Phillips). It is labeled a “Double Hallelujah Psalm” because it begins and ends the same: “Praise the Lord!” It was written 2,700 years before Handel’s Messiah but its composition (both in words and music) may excel Handel’s work. We must remember the Psalms are actually songs. Psalm 150 serves as the climax of the entire psalm/hymn book. Wonder how it sounded? First, triumphant. Second, triumphant. Third, triumphant. One can only imagine the voices shouting in triumph that their God is the one God of the universe…a Being not only in awesome might but also in grace, mercy, love and holiness. It is a Psalm that lifts our spirits, our hearts, and causes us to look up…because looking up helps us see the One that is the solution to life. Praise the Lord!
May 12, 2021 – Treasure! As a boy we played the treasure game…placing something of nominal value in the ground and then developing a game around it. Like many in our day, we grew up poor. Our imagination was the richest item we possessed. We had watched the black-and-white pirate movies and were captivated with their search for treasure. In time, though, our generation supposedly grew up. What did we do? Treasures in the back yard became cars, houses, jobs, hobbies, and bank accounts. And now… What do you treasure? What do you deeply value? Perhaps it would be beneficial to list (in order) the ten items you think you value most. Then tomorrow take a fresh look at that list and ask yourself if your life revolves around those ten items. (We spend the most time with the items we truly value.) Then on the next day take another look at the list and ask yourself how those ten items rank as judged by eternity. The Apostle Paul cautioned “we can take nothing out of this world when we die” (2 Timothy 6:7). Therefore, do I build my life around items that will not last or will last? Perhaps reading about Jesus might open our eyes to what truly matters.
May 11, 2021 – Choice! God created us with the ability to choose. Life is a matter of choices and every choice you make, makes you into who you are. The believer can choose to put on (think of it in terms of putting on clothes) the new man (the born again nature is patterned after God’s own nature in righteousness) or the old man (the Adamic nature that is ours by physical birth). Pastor Jerry Pirkle told of his little boy Chris staging a temper tantrum at the kitchen table. The father said, “Chris, be filled with the Spirit.” Chris responded, “In a minute, dad, in a minute!” Who do I choose to be in this particular minute? Do I yield myself to my Master (Romans 6) and commit today’s minutes to Him or do I…? The choice is ours. “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”
May 10, 2021 – “Thine be done” was Jesus’ reaction when He looked at the sufferings of the cross…and my need of Him securing my salvation. “Thine be done” was Job’s reaction when he suffered his enormous losses (Job 1). “Thine be done” was Paul’s reaction when he “suffered the loss of all things that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8). “Thine be done” was the reaction of Peter, Andrew, James and John when they left their nets to follow Christ, not knowing where it would lead (Matthew 4). “Thine be done” is our reaction when we pray, “Lord, what will You have me to do?” Perhaps “Thine be done” is the highest form of worship. It certainly incorporates the Ten Commandments, the Great Commission, and the Great Commandment. Indeed, “Thine be done” is the simplest formula for expressing Christianity to our world. Can anyone doubt our purpose when we pray and live “Thine be done”?
May 8, 2021 – Why are you in Christian ministry? It is good to reflect occasionally on that question. The answer is not in what we “think” our motive to be, but in what we actually do. The Apostle Paul writes these words from prison…clearly, there was nothing in ministry for him personally. He could not even write a bestseller about his experience! It would have been easier for him to become a recluse and live in a monastery. But that decision would have cut him off from others! Paul, though, was just the opposite. In the first eleven verses of chapter one he uses the words “you” or “your” eleven times. In other words, my effort is for you…is on your behalf. Did the “others” always respond as Paul wished? No. But some did! And some will for you, too. Let’s concentrate on ministering to others and leave the consequences to God. “Others, Lord, yes others. Let this my motto be. Help me to live for others That I may live like Thee.”
May 7, 2021 – John Maxwell writes, “Your attitude determines your ALTITUDE.” In today’s verse, the Apostle Paul urges us to adopt the humble attitude of Christ in our daily walk. The next verses state, “Who being in the form of God humbled Himself, became a man, and even died for others on the cross to obtain THEIR, not His, salvation” depicts the essence of Paul’s thought. Christ came to serve, not be served. Likewise, the word “pastor” does not mean “top dog” but rather “shepherd” – a shepherd assigned to care for sheep. “Serving Him in serving others” is one way to describe today’s ministry. Andrew Murray adds, “Just as water seeks to fill the lowest places, so God fills you with His glory and power when He finds you empty and abased.”
May 6, 2021 – On January 8, 1956, 28-year-old American missionary Jim Elliot was martyred, along with four missionary partners and friends. They were attempting to minister to a native tribe (the Huaorani) in the jungle of Ecuador. These words were found in Jim’s diary. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Centuries earlier the 17th century English preacher Phillip Henry had said, “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.” The Christian life is not based upon the principle of getting/me-first but upon giving/Christ-first. The Apostle Paul found greater satisfaction in losing earthly things (because he gained a more intimate knowledge of Christ) than in gaining earthly things. Sometimes earthly things accompany our thirst for Christ, sometimes they do not. But the treasure of knowing Christ makes everything else secondary. May you seek Him today!