Jan 27-28, 2022 – Leslie Flynn tells the story about a man who handed out gospel tracts on a street corner. He did it for several years but he did not see anyone accept Christ so he finally quit and stopped doing it.
Two years later he passed that same street corner. He saw a man handing out gospel tracts just like he had done. He walked over to the stranger and started a conversation. He learned that three years earlier the man had received a tract at that same street corner and, in time, became a Christian.
Then the stranger said, “I’ve come back here many times to thank the man who gave me that tract. But he never came back. So I decided he must have died and gone to his reward. That’s why I’ve taken his place.”
Sometimes we question if our effort is worthwhile. Wonder where that idea originates? With God? No. With us? Perhaps…but perhaps more so with the devil as he works to discourage us from sowing. The devil fears the Word of God and he especially fears the person who sows the Word of God into the lives of people. We have heard the old saying: “The devil trembles when the weakest saint gets on his knees.” Well, it’s equally true when the weakest saint sows the gospel message. The power in both prayer and sowing is not in the saint but in God who has ordained both to His glory.
Let us never forget two, make it three items: 1. God’s Word (including your sowing) will not return void. 2. God will water what you sow. 3. The gospel is the POWER OF GOD resulting in salvation.
Therefore, sow with confidence. And never ever stop sowing for that is the stuff a better ministry is made of.
Jan 26, 2022 – During the Depression a young couple went to the local pastor to be married. The young man gave an envelope to the pastor. The envelope contained a dollar bill and a note. The note said, “Dear Sir, I wish I could give you more for marrying us, but I only have two dollars. This will leave us one dollar to get started on.” They did not have much but they had faith it would work out!
Major league baseball has its “Hall of Fame” in Cooperstown. Football has its “Hall of Fame” in Canton, Ohio (I recommend it for you football fans). The skills required to enter such an elite place are beyond my capability.
But God’s Hall of Fame is much different. To God FAITH is necessary and a prerequisite for fame.
Warren Wiersbe writes, “True Bible faith is not blind optimism or a manufactured ‘hope so’ feeling. Neither is it an intellectual assent to a doctrine. It is certainly not believing in spite of evidence! That would be superstition. True Bible faith is confident obedience to God’s Word in spite of circumstances and consequences.”
Spurgeon explains the relationship between faith and reason with the proclamation, “Faith is reason at rest in God.” Amen!
John Calvin defines faith as “a steady and certain knowledge of the Divine benevolence towards us, which being bounded on the truth of the gratuitous promise in Christ, is both revealed to our minds, and confirmed to our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.” i.e. We believe what God has revealed!
Wiersbe continues, “Faith is confidence in God that leads to obedience to God. True faith is based on what God says and is demonstrated in what we do. People with faith do things for God, and God does things for them.”
- L. Moody adds, “Faith makes all things possible; love makes all things easy.”
Though somewhat cumbersome, Ellicott’s words are worth considering, too: “The fruits of faith are IN the faith which produces them, as a tree is in its seed; they must be developed out of faith, as faith expands and energizes; in the exercise of each grace a fresh grace must issue forth.”
Do you live by faith in who God is and what God has revealed? The entire Bible is a book of faith. All of it! Let those words grab hold of your spirit. Faith is the essence of Christian living. It distinguishes us who believe from those who do not believe. I believe…how about you? Would to God we could believe more! Oh, Lord, increase our faith!!!
Jan 25, 2022 – Has your day already been blessed with grace? At what point in the day do you usually encounter God’s grace? At what point in the day do you run out of God’s grace?
This thing we call grace is an incredible thing, isn’t it? How can you adequately describe it or explain its impact upon your life? The song says, “He giveth and giveth and giveth again.” Another song says, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” and then goes on to explain how grace convicts us, saves us, keeps us, sustains us, comforts us, transforms us, and eventually delivers us. Yes, “the Lord has been so good to me!” A few years ago I thought of writing a book titled, “All of grace is my story.” (The book, not yet begun, would be an exegesis of every New Testament passage containing the grace concept.) I suppose all of us could write memoirs with that title.
A certified public accountant decided to open a journal with God. He wanted to write everything that God gave him and everything that he gave back to God. He started keeping a debit and credit book with God.
If someone did him a favor, he put it down as God’s gift to him. He credited God with the sun, his food, his health, his friends and relatives, and a thousand other benefits he received.
On the other hand, he put down what he did for God. Finally, he gave up! He said, “It is impossible for me to balance the books. I find that God is indeed my creditor and what I have done for Him is next to nothing.”
Jan 24, 2022 – The Australian coat of arms is amazing to behold (it’s worth your time to check it out on-line). It contains two creatures: an emu (a large bird that cannot fly—imagine that!) and a kangaroo. Stan Morrison points out these animals were chosen because of one common characteristic—neither can move backward! If an emu (an emu has big, three-toed feet) tries to move backward it will fall over. The kangaroo is prevented from moving backward because of its what? You guessed it! Its long tail. Thus, both animals can only go forward. (Hopefully, they learn this lesson early in life.)
Perhaps we human beings should be made like these animals. We have a tendency to relapse into a lifestyle or attitude that should remain in the past. We often hear of drug addicts and alcoholics suffering relapses but it is not limited to them, is it? The statement, “There you go again!” provides more than sufficient testimony to our own weaknesses.
This is also true in the Christian life. The song lyrics, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love” expresses such a relapse. The Bible is full of relapses: Noah’s drunkenness, Abraham lying about Sarah’s true identity, Lot choosing sinful Sodom, and, above all, Israel’s monstrous sin at Kadesh-Barnea—refusing to move forward into the promised land but choosing instead to return to the wilderness.
Quite honestly, it is hard to KEEP moving forward. It takes work, dedication and discipline. It requires a deep sense of purpose and mission. It requires a burden of the consequences if one returns to wilderness living. In brief, it requires STRENGTH. Weak people can’t do it.
Sad to say, but many Christians have gone backward since Covid entered our world. Though most people have increased their hours at home, it seems evident there has been less, not more, time devoted to Bible study, prayer and ministry of any kind. A staleness has crept into the lives of so many. Spiritual? No, rather it seems their own spirit has been drained.
Does today’s devotional describe you? If yes, how long will it describe you?
“Only one life will soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Jan 22-23, 2022 – “Gentlemen, it’s quitting time.” The speaker entered the room quietly, without warning, and interrupted the men consumed in their raucous behavior with that announcement. The scene was spell bounding for all. Noise became silence. The speaker dangled the keys in front of the heads of state, the many guests plus the ordinary from off the street as well as the servants and simply said, “Gentlemen, it’s quitting time.” Thus, ended the…well, everything.
Interesting words. “Gentlemen, it’s quitting time.”
The words indicate the speaker has the authority to make such a statement. Only a fool would make such a statement without the authority to back it up.
The words also suggest there is such a time as “quitting time.” Contrary to how humanity thinks, there is a time appointed in the volume of the universe as “quitting time.” Such a time will not be determined by man nor by climate change nor by war. But only by the speaker with the authority to make it happen.
The keys suggest ownership belongs to the speaker. Indeed, he does own it all. Based upon that ownership he and he alone has the right to declare, “Gentlemen, it’s quitting time.”
The speaker is the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who comes accompanied not by some mere band but with the clouds of radiant glory. To Him belongs ownership of everything we see and even that which we cannot see. To Him belongs authority, even power, to fulfill His words, yea, even every promise. And to Him belongs the right, the ability and the wisdom to determine “quitting time.”
“Behold, He comes with the clouds.” He is indeed coming again. “So it is to be. Amen.”
”When all the great plants of our cities
Have turned out their last finished work;
When our merchants have made the last bargain
And dismissed the last tired clerk;
When our banks have raked in their last dollar
And have paid out the last dividend;
When the Judge of earth says,
‘Closed for the night!’
And asks for a balance—WHAT THEN?”
Jan 21, 2022 – “I’m busy!” “I’m too busy!” “My calendar is full!” “I’ll call you when I’m free!” “Can’t make it! Can’t be in two places at the same time!” “Can you find someone else? My schedule is full!” ”No time left for you, On my way to better things!”
Ajith Fernando offers this observation: “Sometimes we are so rushed that we do not think straight because we do not have time to think reflectively.”
This condition filters into our ministry also. Henri Nouwen cautions, “In a society in which entertainment and distraction are such important preoccupations, ministers are also tempted to join the ranks of those who consider it their primary task to keep other people busy.”
We perceive the youth to be people to be kept OFF the streets by giving them worthwhile activities. We perceive the elderly as people who need to be kept ON the streets…to be kept active for mental and physical reasons.
Then comes Nouwen’s conclusion: “Ministers frequently find themselves in fierce competition with people and institutions who offer something more exciting to do than they can do. OUR TASK IS THE OPPOSITE OF DISTRACTION.”
The issue for effective ministry is “how to KEEP THEM from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence.”
Moses spent 40 days alone with God. Paul spent time alone with God in Arabia. Even Jesus spent time alone with His heavenly Father. And you???
At its core the Christian life is about time knowing, enjoying, and conversing…with our Creator! If we remove the Creator from our life we have missed the core for our existence. Such a resulting hollowness can never be filled by anything or anyone else.
Do your best to “be still—not busy—and know that I am God.” Then help others to do the same…but you can’t effectively help others until you first help yourself.
Jan 20, 2022 – What is the difference between old age and young age? In many cases it is nothing but more days. In such cases the person changes in age but not in maturity, changes in appearance but not in wisdom.
But what SHOULD be the difference? Increased wisdom which, in turn, leads to maturity as demonstrated by an improved lifestyle and improved decisions…particularly wisdom gained by tried-and-true experience. This principle is true in Christian ministry, too. The farther we go the more we should know and the wiser we should become in our ministry.
Two Bible words illustrate this point regarding knowledge/wisdom. Both words appear in today’s text. The first Greek word “oida” is translated “knowest” in the King James Bible. Oida captures the idea of “fulness of knowledge,” quite often in the sense of classroom knowledge. The second Greek word “ginosko” expresses the idea of experiential knowledge or knowledge gained by experience. It is translated “know” in the latter part of the statement. Thus, the verse may be translated, “You do not understand or realize now but in the future you will fully grasp or fully comprehend on a very deep level.”
It is similar to the distinction we sometimes make between “head” knowledge and “heart” knowledge. The first is knowing, the second is REALLY knowing. You know by experience what I mean. It is similar to being told the oven burner is hot. But after you touch it you KNOW (ginosko) it is hot!
In many ways maturity is being described in the second part of the verse. Classroom knowledge only takes us so far and sometimes we do not even grasp it. But the knowledge gained by experience (including ministry) should grow us in more ways than we can count.
Today’s discussion is the basis for this song: “I’m so glad I LEARNED to trust Him, Precious Jesus, Savior, FRIEND; And I KNOW that He is with me, Will be with me to the end. Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve PROVED Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!”
I sang that song as a mere boy and I believed it. But now at age 66 I sing that song and I REALLY believe it…because I know Him by experience after experience after experience after experience, etc. Yes, I’ve PROVED Him o’er and o’er. I’ve truly LEARNED to trust Him…and I would do it again without hesitation.
Can you say the same? No matter our age such knowledge will increasingly become our experience as we walk with Him through this thing we call life. And we will be the much better for it!
Jan 19, 2022 – “They invested their lives in me.” Who would those people be for you? Would it be a short list? Would it be a long list? Would it ever be a complete list?
I was recently recruited to provide memories for my home church. My father kept his own diary about that church, using the term “beloved” to describe his relationship to the church. He also recorded videos of baptisms and homecoming dinners on the grounds (not inside a building) during the mid-1960’s. (Dad began pastoring elsewhere a short time later and the videos ceased.) All of those videos were about people…not things or goals but people.
During my “memory” work, it was the people that stood out over and over again. I re-lived being with people who have been gone for many years…but their impact upon me continues to this day.
I recalled the story of Pastor Dutch holding a very young me in the pulpit as he dismissed the Sunday evening service. I saw preachers who responded positively to God’s call, devoted their lives to study and prayer, and then taught me all about Jesus and the doctrines that would make me strong. I saw videos of two not-yet-called preachers (Cliff Hartley and John Hankins) who would later go away to a Baptist college and prepare for the ministry…in so doing they showed me the way to do the same. (Cliff is still investing his life in me.) I saw people who thronged to baptisms at the creek because they rejoiced in seeing others follow Jesus. I recalled being present when Ruth P. accepted Christ at the altar then walked back to her husband, took him by the hand, and brought him to Christ.
I re-lived a ton of experiences from my childhood. And I thanked God for those people investing their lives in me. Always building me…encouraging me…giving me their time though I was so very young. And later still doing the same when I, as a young preacher, would return to practice preaching on them!
They truly knew what it meant to minister and knew ministry is all about investing our lives in others. May you always keep that lesson front and center.
Jan 18, 2022 – “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, All the King’s horses and all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
What a shame! Various questions could be asked such as why was Humpty (though unstated Humpty is apparently an egg) in such a vulnerable position? Even a simpleton knows that eggs break when they fall. It would be similar to a hundred-year-old man climbing on top of a roof to clean out his gutters. It just doesn’t make sense. Then again, did Humpty ever investigate his own weaknesses? Did he know what he could safely do and not safely do? Did he consider the downside to taking such a position? Did he care? Was he simply responding to a spontaneous nature? Did anyone advise him not to do such a foolish thing? Could he have achieved the same purpose but in a safer way?
The above questions may seem frivolous to an egg but they are not frivolous when one considers they largely determine the outcome of our own life. Life is full of tragedies like Humpty. Beautiful children are born with so much potential. But so many of those lives are horribly scarred by the time they reach the age of thirty, let alone an older age.
I have often told our high school graduates, “Most people make their biggest mistakes in their twenties. I wish you could skip your twenties, arrive at age thirty but possess the wisdom gained from your twenties.” In my thinking such a wish would save them from many scars.
But that is not the way life works. I commented in a recent sermon, “Don’t moan to me about your baggage. Why not? EVERYONE has baggage. You must begin where you are and move on.”
Mistakes are made. Humpty crashes. People also crash. Scars are created, some of which can never be undone. Life’s sunshine becomes cloudy, dreams are shattered, troubles are added to troubles.
These people desperately need “you who are spiritual” to help them come to grips with this thing called life. Quite often, it is then that we have an open door for ministry because Humpty realizes he’s in trouble…and needs help. Your credibility as “one who is spiritual” will often allow you to walk through that open door and not only instruct but also demonstrate the power of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
At those times “who you are in Him” will speak louder than any words. “Who you are in Him” over time has resulted in less scars, less Humpty experiences, less troubles because you made a LIFE CHOICE to both KNOW Him and FOLLOW HIM. (“Lead us not into temptation” was part of your experience.) You aren’t perfect and, yes, you have your own baggage but life is different for you than the Humpty’s of this world.
If you aren’t yet to the level called “spiritual” you need to work on getting to that level by submitting to Him and allowing Him to change your life. If you are there, don’t take your eyes off the goal, become lazy and lose it. After all, Humpty needs you.
Jan 17, 2022 – At what point does a person lose impact? Probably never. How can that be? It is so because each one of us is continually sowing our lives, influence and testimony into other people. It’s like a spiritual DNA transfer. But does that transfer ever stop? No. The most “insignificant” of us will live on and on and on and will have a hand in shaping lives for generations to come, either for Christ or for the world and Satan.
Dr. B. R. Lakin was the Billy Graham before Billy Graham came on the scene. The Cadle Tabernacle (seating capacity of 10,000) in Indianapolis was founded by Howard Cadle and Lakin followed Cadle as pastor. The Sunday service was broadcast on WLW radio in Cincinnati. At that time WLW was capable of transmitting at an astonishing 500,000-watts. Its signal reached as far as Central America under ideal conditions. Lakin’s preaching reached more people than anyone before him.
Recently I posted a tribute to Lakin on our Facebook page for Tennessee Temple students of the 1970’s—more than FORTY years ago. (Lakin preached my graduation sermon from Temple way back in 1979.) I was stunned by the high number of positive, even enthusiastic responses. Many wrote tributes of a very personal nature. (The tributes were a blessing to me because Lakin was a personal friend of my father and of my father’s home church, Ice Creek Missionary Baptist.)
Today is 2022. 2022!!! Lakin, though, died in 1984. A LONG time ago. But his influence, as demonstrated in the Facebook response, did not die. Nor will your influence or impact die when you breathe your last breath. So run the race well that your impact will be a heavenward impact for generations to come.
Lakin’s last sermon was titled “If There Be No Resurrection” and was preached on February 26, 1984 at Thomas Road Baptist Church (Liberty University). He married a lady that was saved in his first revival! He is buried on Liberty Mountain on the Liberty campus.
Here are some quotes you might use from this man who still speaks…
His advice about dealing with enemies was, “Love them, pray for them, and outlive them.“
“No matter what may be the means or method that hour comes to me, if you read or hear on the news that I have died, don’t you believe it. That day will be Graduation Day, and I will have just begun to live. I will merely have changed my base of operation. I won’t be dead; I’ll just have moved out for repairs.”
“On my last visit to the Holy Land, I was at the Mount of Olives and someone asked, ‘Dr. Lakin, do you ever expect to come back here again?’ ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll be back but the next time I come I’ll be in the cavalry.”
Jan 15-16, 2022 – Would you do me and yourself a favor? I invite you to take five minutes from your schedule and listen closely to the song, “Born Again” by Sandi Patti (click here to play the song). It tells about a meeting between Nicodemus and Jesus in John chapter three. Jesus said, “Don’t be surprised, Nicodemus, that I say to you, ‘You must be born again.'”
The Christian life begins with the impartation of life…spiritual life rather than physical (soulish) life. Contrary to what is believed by the masses and even taught in many denominations, God’s required salvation for humanity is not based upon human reformation (turning over a new leaf, resolutions, Alcoholics Anonymous, drug rehab, etc,) but upon divine regeneration…the creation of something new from above that completely conforms with the holiness of God (2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 4:24).
Such regeneration is not done by the will or power of man but by the will or power of God. It is the creation of a new person (the image of Jesus Christ) in an individual that results in a changed life, changed ownership (we are no longer our own but we belong to Jesus Christ), changed eternal destiny (conformed forevermore to the holy image of Christ), changed eternal destination (heaven rather than hell), changed daily outlook (heavenward over earthward) …in brief, changed for the glory of God rather than the glory of man.
As this song ministers to you, put yourself in the shoes of Nicodemus and ask yourself, “Have I been born again?” Do not ask, “Have I been baptized? Do I attend church? Am I religious?” But ask, “Have I been born again?”
Here is what the Bible says: “But as many as received Him (Jesus Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
THANK GOD, YOU CAN BE BORN AGAIN!
My Personal Testimony may be read on the first page of this website.
Note: I will resume the normal Today’s Verse for a Better Ministry devotional on Monday.
Jan 12, 2021 – Many years ago there was a famous explorer known as Sir Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton spent much of his time in the Arctic. He was planning his very last expedition to the Arctic when this particular incident happened.
Shackleton was seated in his London office with a friend. The friend said, “I am surprised at the widespread publicity you have given to this new expedition of yours. It is not like you to seek publicity.”
Shackleton said, “I have a purpose in doing so. I want my colleague, Mr. Wild, to hear about my plans. He has gone to the heart of Africa and not left us with an address to contact him. I thought if I publicized the news that the news might somehow make it into the center of Africa and he might hear about it. And if Wild knows I am going he will come.”
As they continued their discussion, suddenly there was a noise in the doorway. They looked up and standing in the doorway was Mr. Wild. It was a dramatic moment as Shackleton ran to Wild and shook his hand.
Wild said, “I heard you were going. The news found its way into Africa. I dropped my gun, picked up my baggage, and made straight for home and here I am. Sir Shackleton, what are your orders?”
Total surrender…total devotion…total selflessness…total commitment…
“What are your orders?”
So, dear Jesus, what are Your orders for me? May that be our prayer today.
Jan 11, 2022 – The world emphasizes power is to be gained by one’s intellect, education, finances, connections, etc. We Christians are trained to think that way. However, God’s Word seeks to re-train us in the principles of another world: the spiritual world. Conquests and victory in the spiritual world for eternal results depends upon a superior power to those already mentioned. Indeed, all of those items are considered weak and impotent in the spiritual world.
A minister was being shown through a large plant where locomotives were built. The guide pointed at one completed locomotive and said, “This locomotive is the last word in engine building!”
The minister admiringly said, “It’s a beautiful thing!”
The guide continued, “Yes, but only if there are three things attending it. First, it must have power generated by internal combustion of crude oil. Second, it must be on the rails, for the power would bring destruction if it is derailed. Last, it must have a good engineer for it will run efficiently only when rightly handled.”
The Christian replied, “That’s just like a Christian. We are powerful and useful only when we are filled with the fulness of God, walking in His way and utterly under the Holy Spirit’s control.”
Amen! So let it be in my life today. How about yours?
Jan 10, 2022 – “You’re too old to have children.” So they said to Sarah at the age of 90 (her husband Abraham was 100 but who’s counting?). God promised, “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son whom you will name Isaac. My covenant will be with Isaac, not Ishmael through the handmaid Hagar” (Genesis 17:19).
But how? God said, “Is anything too hard for Jehovah?” (Genesis 18:14). And, sure enough, “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him” (Genesis 21:2).
What a story! But what does it mean for you and me?
First, God may call you to believe in the impossible. Sometimes life itself seems to be impossible. But God WILL make a way. It may not be your way but it will be His way and therefore the best and right way. Trust Him and listen to His voice. He still knows what He is doing.
Second, God may wait for you to reach the impossible stage before He intervenes. Remember: the birth of Isaac occurred 25 years after God’s first promise of a son. God purposely waited for the situation to deteriorate before He intervened.
Third, God may choose you to show the rest of us that He can still do anything He wants. So don’t count God short when you have problems!
Fourth, God may bless your golden years more than your younger years. Sarai’s name (Sarai means “contentious”) was changed to Sarah (means “princess”) because God had a different plan for her at the age of 90. There is a lot to be said for a mature ministry. So don’t retire on God but rather refire for God! Keep looking for opportunities to sow Jesus.
Fifth, God alone can decide when your fruit-bearing years come to an end. What is the age of 100 to an eternal God? Indeed, you may fall into that category of “he being dead yet speaks!” This pastor is still being motivated by saints that have preceded me to heaven. Maybe God will use you in the same way.
Just remember to have faith like a 90 year old woman.
Jan 8-9, 2022 – A better ministry is built upon “faith.” But many people try to gain God’s approval through other ways; we substitute other items for faith because those items are easier…only to eventually find those ways don’t really work.
Let these next words sink in: The Hebrews 11 saints gained approval from God because of their FAITH and because of NOTHING ELSE. For example, it wasn’t Noah’s ark that gained God’s approval. It was his faith and his faith motivated him to build the ark. Likewise, it wasn’t Abraham offering up Isaac that gained God’s approval. It was his faith and his faith motivated him to sacrifice Isaac in anticipation of a resurrection.
However, as mentioned before, we often try to gain God’s approval through substitutes. Let’s look at six common substitutes. Perhaps you may identify you’ve fallen innocently for a substitute.
Sacrifice – in 1 Samuel 15:22 King Saul offered a sacrifice instead of obedience. He knew the will of God but chose to follow his own path instead and try to satisfy God with a lesser act. Some Christians offer the sacrifice of a big check to the church treasury rather than give God their heart. Or work in some church activity or…get the picture? But God always wants it all, doesn’t He?
Emotion – We confuse feelings with faith and excitement with spirituality. What is the old saying? It’s not how high you jump that counts; it’s how straight you walk when you hit the ground. Yea, still waters run deep. Faith also runs deep. But feelings run shallow. You’ll never be a stable Christian if you walk by feelings. You must make a decision about which will rule your life: emotions or faith.
Signs – I am always amused by Christians who talk so much about faith but rely upon signs to confirm their faith. Question: How many signs did God give Noah? None. Many church people look at such items as church attendance or the size of the offerings to determine “success.” If those Christians had existed in Noah’s day, they would have fired Noah but yet God says Noah is one of the most successful Christians of all time. Amazingly, Noah ministered 120 years doing it God’s way before God ever gave him a sign (caused it to rain). So much for sign-watching!
Works – Cain brought a substitute (homegrown vegetables) to God and assumed that it was a legitimate substitute for faith in the shed blood. Wrong!
Reason – By faith Joshua “fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumblin’ down” then by human reasoning (leaving God out of the decision) Joshua attacked the little burb called Ai and suffered a humiliating defeat. I have grown to realize that, although I cannot pray about every single detail, by consciously walking submissively to the Holy Spirit that He has a way of prompting me when I am straying from faith into relying upon faulty reasoning. Something just doesn’t feel right!
Sight – Adam and Eve “saw” the tree was good for food. Well, it actually WAS good for food but it was a poor substitute for experiencing God. Beauty, though, is only skin deep. So is talent. So is an educational degree. So is a financial statement.
Bottom line: Watch for substitutes to creep into your Christian life. Then run from them as quickly as you can!
Jan 7, 2021 – Want to be a pastor? Want to be a teacher? Want to be a deacon or an usher or anything at all in God’s church? Let’s look at the #1 item that will make you or break you in your ministry.
First, take a few moments to read the verses after today’s verse. Read verses 2-7. Please don’t shortcut this devotional. Read the verses. You’ll be glad you did when we get to our third point.
Second, I count fifteen qualifications to be an overseer. (American denominations define an overseer as a pastor, bishop or elder. Today’s focus, though, is not on the title or even a specific ministry such as a pastor but upon all of us in whatever capacity we serve.)
Third, and here is today’s main point, only one of these fifteen qualifications has to do with ability (“able to teach”). The other fourteen qualifications have zero to do with ability. Zero! Instead, these fourteen qualifications address our character, reputation, maturity and family life. Amazing! Ajith Fernando concludes, “All these are qualities related to godliness.”
It is not a case of character, reputation, maturity and family life speaking louder than our words or our deeds but it is a case of them validating our words and our deeds. These items define the minister even before he attempts to minister. In many ways they serve as a letter of recommendation to the listeners. They provide genuine credibility to our ministry. This is critically important because people want a minister of substance, not a fake. They want genuineness, even deserve genuineness.
Take some time to evaluate your own focus. Is genuineness a concern to you? It not only should be a concern, but it must be a concern. Such genuineness predates anything we try. In short, it is not ministry that makes a minister. On the contrary, it is genuineness that makes a minister. Pray for genuineness.
Jan 6, 2021 – Do you know that ALL people have faith? We have faith that our automobile will start and we are surprised, even stunned if it does not start. People expect their Social Security check to be deposited on time and even write checks in anticipation of that deposit. We willingly put our life in the hands of a surgeon about whom we know very little.
However, faith is only as good as its object. For example, can the object do what we believe (faith) it will do? If not, our faith is vain and we are headed for a big letdown. Thankfully, the object of the Christian’s faith is the God of the Bible. But (and this is very important) our faith must be rooted in a correct view (i.e. biblical view) of God (Matthew 7:21-23). After all, some have faith that there is no hell; does the fact they have faith in their beliefs mean they are right? Of course not.
We live by faith and we need to be certain such faith is well founded….cannot disappoint.
Warren Wiersbe reminds us, “True Bible faith is not blind optimism or a manufactured ‘hope so’ feeling. True Bible faith is confident obedience to God’s Word in spite of circumstances and consequences.” (See Hebrews 11:35 for the consequences which the faithful may experience.)
Please note, biblical faith is NOT a leap into the dark; rather, faith is a leap into knowing God is already there awaiting your arrival. We read in Hebrews 11:8 that Abraham “went out not knowing where he went.” That statement sounds like a blind leap into the dark but compare those words with Genesis 12:1“unto a land I, the Lord, will show you!” “Unto a land I will show you!” is proof that God had a plan including a destination. Thus, we learn (and this is very, very important) Abraham went out not knowing where HE was going but KNOWING or FAITHING that GOD knew where he was going. What a lesson! You see, once you become convinced that this step of faith is God-directed you can confidently step into the dark.
Never forget: living by faith is not a leap into the dark but it is a leap into the revealed promises and guaranteed providence of God. Quite honestly, such living is even more certain than our automobile starting tomorrow morning!
Jan 5, 2021 – The American humorist Mark Twain said, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” Benjamin Franklin, though, wisely countered that philosophy with the words, “You may delay, but time will not.” Franklin, of course, is correct although Twain’s comment creates the most laughs. One of the most important qualities of successful people in any occupation is their management of time. They grasp the importance of making the most of time and have a way of turning all time into quality time.
In which day do you live? Yesterday? Today? Tomorrow? Could it be that tomorrow is your most important day of the week?
Let this poem from Edgar Guest challenge your heart:
He was going to be all that a mortal should be
No one should be kinder or braver than he
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
Who’d be glad of a lift and who needed it, too;
On him he would call and see what he could do
Each morning he stacked up the letters he’d write
And thought of the folks he would fill with delight
It was too bad, indeed, he was busy today,
And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way;
More time he would have to give others, he’d say
The greatest of workers this man would have been
The world would have known him, had he ever seen
But the fact is he died and he faded from view,
And all that he left here when living was through
Was a mountain of things he intended to do
Bottom line: Don’t allow tomorrow to control your calendar. Develop the discipline to turn ALL of your time into QUALITY time. In so doing, you will become a bigger blessing to others…and to yourself.
Jan 4, 2021 – What kind of disciple do you wish to be in 2022? Do I want to go with the flow or rise above the flow? Be mediocre with mediocre results or become a strong person of faith? Today’s Motivation provides a checklist that may give you a fresh perspective on who you are, your goals, and your deeper beliefs. The checklist appears below:
Jan 3, 2021 – We approach each new year with a sense of ___________. What is the word for you? God calls us to walk by faith. But what is it? Let’s do a vocabulary study today about Hebrews 11:1 that may help you grow past your feelings and into faith.
One of my readers recently emailed me and said, “I don’t know what the word believe means.” I responded, “Do you believe the sun will rise tomorrow?” The person answered, “Yes.” I continued, “Then you know what ‘believe’ means.” We plan for the sun to rise tomorrow because of faith!
Let’s take a deep, deep look at three key words. Faith (pistis, Gr.) – means to “believe, trust, put faith in, rely upon a person or thing.” Kindred Terms: The word translated “believe” is found 247 times in the New Testament, and the kindred term “faith” occurs 244 times, while “faithful,” which simply means “full of faith,” appears 67 times. The Greek word for “believe” means to “persuade, to give credit to, to trust, or confide in.” The Hebrew word for “believe” means “to stay, to support, and then, that which forms the stay, its foundation.”
Interestingly, it is from the Hebrew word that we derive the English term, Amen, signifying “of a truth,” or “so be it.” So when we read that Abraham believed God, he actually “amened” Him.
Substance (hupostasis, Gr.) – “that which stands under, a foundation.” It thus speaks of the ground on which one builds a hope. Moulton and Milligan report its use as a legal term. It stands for the “whole body of documents bearing on the ownership of a person’s property, deposited in archives, and forming the evidence of ownership.” They suggest the translation, “Faith is the title-deed of things hoped for.” The Holy Spirit-energized act of faith is the title deed which God places in our hands, guaranteeing to us the possession of the thing for which we trust Him! WOW!!!! This means ASSURANCE that God will do just exactly what He has said!
Evidence (elegchos, Gr.) – a legal term meaning “evidence that is accepted for conviction.” We might translate this verse “the conviction of things not seen as yet.” We may not yet have the physical proof in our hands (not seen as yet) but we act as if we do! We act upon it because it has already been proven and accepted to us. (For example, see Hebrews 11:7 “not seen as yet.” Noah had never seen rain when he built the ark.)
Conclusion: Are you ever mystified as to why some are so certain? Such certainty exists because faith has WEIGHT—it is not light as a feather but it is weighty….faith serves as an ANCHOR in their soul that keeps them steady when the storms and waves assault them. Such faith is rooted in God…and God’s promises are even more certain than the sun rising tomorrow. We believe and therefore we act!
May 2022 be a year of increasing faith for you!
Dec 30, 2021 – A sign in a muffler shop said, “No appointment necessary. We hear you coming.” Uggh! A sign on a plumber’s truck said, “We repair what your husband fixed.” Double uggh! A shoe repair shop advertised, “We will heel you, we will save your sole, we will even dye for you.” Very clever!
But the best…The optometrist sign said, “If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.” Yes! Today’s verse talks about the right place for the child of God: in God’s sanctuary!
Think back over the past year. Has it been a blockbuster year for you? Or a normal year? Or the worst year of your life? Well, regardless of your answer you have a spiritual oasis available to you in your church. Your church exists to help you “draw near to God.”
The #1 person you need to know is God your Creator who is also God the Sustainer, God the Savior, God the Guide, God the Author/Finisher of our faith, God the Comforter, God the Ruler of all, God the Prince of Peace, God in human flesh and…do you get the idea? Your church experience will include songs that direct your heart to who God is and what God has done. It may be the old hymns or the new praise worship but it will be about Him whom you need to know intimately.
If you’re in the right kind of church your pastor will open the Word of God and you will hear something from God. The pastor may be the best speaker in the country or just so-so. Every listener, including you, has his own style. But our own style is trumped by our need to hear what God says. And for an hour, perhaps two if you’re lucky, you’ll escape the rat race and be able to focus on Him and your spiritual needs. You are very blessed to have that opportunity. Try to make the most of it in your next visit.
Dec 29, 2021 – “What do you give the person who has everything?” If you’re a man, it’s probably more socks. If it’s a woman, that’s a more difficult issue but you had better get her something! Many of us are blessed to be in that situation.
Wonder what is ahead for God’s church in 2022? Or what is ahead for your family? Or what is ahead for our world? Could it be that 2022 will mark the next event on God’s prophetic calendar: the return of Jesus Christ (“I will come again and receive you unto Myself”)?
Someone wrote, “You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the birthday cake.” That is especially true when you consider the age of man. Based upon the Bible genealogies (the list may not be a complete list) we know mankind is at least 6,000 years old.
During the 20th century some thought the entire span of man’s existence would be 7,000 years. (“7” is considered God’s number in the Bible). Others emphasized 6,000 years (“6” is considered man’s number in the Bible and would leave room for another 1,000 years for God’s kingdom). Other ideas have percolated, too, but let us remember that such dates are without biblical foundation. Jesus says, “It is not for you to know the dates!” Why not? If we knew the dates, we would be fixated on the dates instead of our daily responsibilities.
The truth is this pastor does not know when Jesus is coming again, but I do know He is coming again! I do not know what 2022 holds for my church, my family, or this world but I do know my Jesus has set the universe in order (I Samuel 2:8). It seems to me that since Jesus can take care of the universe, He can surely take care of our churches, our families, and each one of us. Do you agree? So onward, upward into 2022!
Dec 27, 2021 – Faith! I grew up singing, “Living by faith in Jesus above, Trusting, confiding in His great love!” Living such a life is the hallmark of a successful Christian. But it is not easy because it often requires the believer to trust God in the dark times of life.
Let me share a story I heard in the 1970’s. This story got hold of me. I believed it then…I have never doubted it since the first time I heard it. I am quoting,
“In 1932, my grandfather, A.M. Overton, was a pastor of a church in Mississippi with a wife and three small children. His wife was pregnant with their fourth child but when it came time for delivery, there were complications and both she and the baby died. During the funeral service, the preacher officiating the service noticed my grandfather writing something on a piece of paper. After the service the minister asked him about it, and he handed him the paper with a poem he had just written which he titled, ‘He Maketh No Mistake’”. This is what the poem says:
My Father’s way may twist and turn, My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad I know, He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plans may go astray, My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead For He doth know the way.
Though night be dark and it may seem That day will never break;
I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him, He maketh no mistake.
There’s so much now I cannot see, My eyesight’s far too dim;
But come what may, I’ll simply trust And leave it all to Him.
For by and by the mist will lift And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, though dark to me, HE MADE NOT ONE MISTAKE.”
Hallelujah! God won’t make His first mistake with you either. So “come what may, I’ll simply trust, And leave it all to Him!” That is faith at its best!
Dec 23 – 24 – 25, 2021 – “What Child is this, who laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping?”
Some say He was just a good teacher, but good teachers don’t claim to be God.
Some say He was merely a good example, but good examples don’t mingle with prostitutes and sinners.
Some say He was a madman, but madmen don’t speak the way He spoke.
Some say He was a religious phony, but phonies don’t rise from the dead.
Some say He was only a phantom, but phantoms can’t give their flesh and blood.
Some say He was only a myth, but myths don’t set the calendar for history.
What say you? Ah, but there is only one opinion that truly matters. It is the opinion of the invisible God the Father whom no man has ever seen. He declared His opinion during Jesus’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration in Luke 9. “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, My Chosen One; listen to him!”
The instruction, even pleading, for us to “Listen to Him” is still ringing today. Are you listening?
Dec 22, 2021 – Little Derrick sat on the lap of the department store’s Santa Claus. Derrick shared his “want” list for Christmas, had his picture taken with Santa, and was given a peppermint candy cane.
His grandmother wanted to emphasize the importance of saying, “Thank you” so she said, “Now, Derrick, what do you say to Santa?”
Without hesitation, Derrick told Santa, “Charge it!”
When I was nine years of age I looked at the cross of Calvary and I said to the holy God of heaven, “Charge it! Charge my sins – all of them – to the cross of Jesus Christ.” I did not know everything there was to know, but I knew that Jesus wanted to take away my sin and save my soul.
What did God the Father do? God “laid upon Him the iniquity of Tom Swartzwelder” (Isaiah 53:6). God made “Him (Christ) who knew no sin to become my sin or my sin-bearer” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “Therefore, King David says of us who believe, ‘Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.’”
In brief, God charged my sin to the account of His Son Jesus Christ. “My sin, o the bliss of this glorious thought. My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, O my soul! It is well with my soul!”
God then charged the righteousness of His Son to my account and to the account of all of us who believe. The Apostle Paul explains it like this: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited or charged to him as righteousness” (Romans 4).
The theological terms for this account adjustment are justification and imputation. The simple man’s explanation, though, is that God has issued a ruling in His courtroom that I am as righteous as He Himself because He has charged His OWN righteousness to my account. Thank God, “the old account was settled long ago!”
I can enjoy every Christmas season because I know the status of my account with God. Can you say the same? Ah, you can!
Dec 21, 2021 – How much was Augustus Caesar worth when Jesus Christ entered the world?
Money magazine printed this item in 2017. “Not only was Augustus Caesar in charge of an empire that accounted for 25% to 30% of the world’s economic output, but Augustus at one point also held personal wealth equivalent to one-fifth of his empire’s economy, according to Stanford history professor Ian Morris. That fortune would be the equivalent of about $3.7 trillion in 2017. ‘For a while,’ Morris adds, Augustus ‘personally owned all of Egypt.’” (Note: trillion is the right word! He was worth more than Gates, Musk, and Bezos combined!)
So why did Augustus create a census to collect even more taxes? The short answer is God the Father had prophesied that His Son would be born in Bethlehem, not Nazareth. My father used to preach, “God nudged Augustus in the ribs and whispered, ‘Have you checked your bank account recently?’” Like an eager puppy, Caesar decided “enough is not really enough. I need more. Conduct a census so we can collect a higher amount of taxes.”
“So there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…and all went to be registered into his own city…and Joseph WENT TO Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David.”
Humanly speaking, Augustus issued the decree. But, in all honesty, it was God who issued the decree or arranged the decree. Say the previous sentence however you wish, but God proved once again that He is in charge of the affairs of men. It was such a simple thing for God to do…even a clever thing that would remain hidden to the masses but would be appreciated by God’s people with a knowledge of Micah 5:2.
Ah, isn’t our God grand? He is very much active all around us. Would to God we could always recognize His handiwork! Oh, my, but perhaps you might recognize His subtle handiwork around you this very week! Keep looking!
Dec 20, 2021 – Augustine of Hippo writes, “The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!” Constantly praising God!
You may not know this but the being we know as the devil was actually designed to be a doxology. Notice his original design (before he sinned and became the devil): “You were the signet or model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared” (Ezekiel 28:12-13).
This angelic being was not created as the devil but was instead created as the most marvelous of all of God’s creation as the angel Lucifer: God’s #1 created being. Far above man, far above any angel. Second only to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Amazingly, in his original condition he did not need a musical instrument to bring glory to God because he was a walking orchestra. He did not need a quartet of vocalists singing different parts because he was every note on the scale. He did not need to buy jewelry then put on jewelry because the jewelry was part of his being or his covering or his skin. He did not need to wear makeup to cover his blemishes or his wrinkles because he had no blemishes or wrinkles.
He did not even have to say anything to bring glory to God because he was a doxology by himself. That’s how unique he was in God’s original design.
Do you know such a goal is God’s goal for all of us? Quite obviously, we are not as glorious as Lucifer. Even Adam in his pre-sin state was less glorious than Lucifer. But we, along with all things, exist for His glory. All of creation can “praise ye the Lord” by fulfilling its original design.
Who do you praise the most with your life? The answer is simple: You offer the most praise to the one you deem the most worthy of praise, whether it be God, a spouse, a child, a job, a possession, etc. So how does God rank on your list of “praise”?
Dec 17, 2021 – Excuses! We hear them all the time. Benjamin Franklin said, “I never knew a man who was good at making excuses who was good at anything else.” Here are the top ten excuses:
1.That’s the way we’ve always done it.
2.I didn’t know you were in a hurry for it.
3.That’s not in my department.
4.No one told me to go ahead.
5.I’m waiting for an OK.
6.How did I know this was different?
7.That’s his job, not mine.
8.Wait till the boss comes back and ask him.
10.I didn’t think it was that important.
Today’s verse highlights a man who created a NEW excuse. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the excuse happens to be. The sad truth is anyone can create an excuse., even a bad excuse. Traffic cops hear bad excuses all the time. So do pastors and so does God.
The goal of a better ministry, though, requires God’s servants to rid themselves of excuses and to keep their eye on the ball of serving Christ. Paul testified, “This ONE thing I do” and that one thing did not allow for excuses. “Seeking first the kingdom of God” does not allow for excuses either.
Take the time to identify your own excuses. (All of us make excuses.) Perhaps write them down. Then work on eliminating one excuse. Practice eliminating that excuse. Ingrain it into your lifestyle for a month. Then take a shot at another excuse. Repeat the process for a month. It will unclutter your life and make you more valuable for the Master’s use.
Dec 14, 2021 – “Leadership does not have to do with status; it has to do with responsibility.” (Jesus Driven Ministry, pg. 161) Let’s continue yesterday’s discussion of our responsibility as a steward. As noted yesterday, a steward is “one to whose care is committed the management of the household.”
Luke 16:1 expresses the concept quite well: “There was a rich man whose manager or steward was accused of wasting his possessions.” In symbolic terms the rich man represents God. The possessions belong to God and have been lent to the steward for his wise investment. Of course, the manager or steward is us. God has committed to each one of us His truth, a ministry in His church, the Great Commission of world evangelization, plus the unique role as God’s personal ambassador to the people of planet earth. Thus, we have a great responsibility! That is why Jesus said, “To whom much is given much is required.”
Let’s zero in on one aspect of being a good steward or manager of what God has entrusted to us. That aspect is our attitude. Please notice the Apostle Paul’s attitude in today’s verse. Two words stand out. First, servant. That probably does not surprise you. Jesus’ concept of leadership has always been one of servanthood. “Whoever wishes to be great let him become the least.” “Jesus washed the apostles’ feet.” Indeed, the entire book of Mark presents Jesus as God’s servant.
The second word, though, may surprise you. It is the word that precedes “servant.” It is the word “your.” Most of us read too quickly and think it says, “ourselves GOD’S servants for Jesus’ sake.” But that is not what is said. “YOUR servants” means Paul sees himself as being the church’s servant, not being their boss. He does not show up to run things but to help wherever is necessary, even setting up tables or being a greeter. What an attitude! “I am here to serve!” Wow!
It reminds me of former President Jimmy Carter spending his retirement years helping build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Mr. Carter did not show up to supervise or get a publicity picture but to actually work: to work alongside common carpenters and jack-of-all-trade guys like you and me. What other former president has stooped so low as to build houses for poor people?
I can imagine Paul arriving on the scene and asking, “What do you need me to do? I’ll try anything!” Such a person is a diamond, is worth his weight in gold in any organization but especially in God’s work.
Is that how you approach God’s work and your church? Are you the person who wants to straighten out everyone and everything or are you able to submit to their needs and fill the holes? The need is greater than the number of workers with the right attitude. And in the long run our attitude speaks as loudly as anything we will ever do!
More on stewardship tomorrow…
Dec 13, 2021 – Our one-year old grandson was recently playing with the toy of his three-year-old sister. She spied his activity from afar, hastily ran over, snatched the toy from his hands and yelled, “Mine!” Sound familiar? YES! Question: Do we ever really change?
People commonly say, “It is my life. It is my time. It is my money. My house. My car. My church. My ministry. My desire. My retirement. My children.” The rich man in Luke 12 spoke of “my barns, my crops, and my goods.” One of the 10 Commandments even addresses the sin of coveting. What is coveting? It is wanting more of the pie for ME! What is the businessman taught? “It’s a dog-eat-dog world. So eat them and take from them before they do it to you.”
Much of this coveting emphasis has carried into our Christian lives…and soured us in many respects. It has poisoned how we view life in general…and people in specific.
Ajith Fernando writes about today’s verse: “If Jesus, the Lord of all creation, could speak as he did about the Father owning the children, how much more should this be true of us. We do not own anyone, even our own children. They belong to God, and they have been entrusted to our care for a time. So our relationship with them could be described as STEWARDSHIP rather than OWNERSHIP. “ (Jesus Driven Ministry, pg. 160)
What is a steward? “A steward is one to whose care is committed the management of the household.” Jesus devoted a lengthy parable to explain our role as stewards in the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:14-30). I encourage you to take three minutes to read that passage today.
Stewardship living (viewing everything as belonging to God rather than us) is a much different way of living than what is pushed by Western society…and swallowed by us. It is what I describe as vertical living (everything in my possession is borrowed for a short time from the hand of God) versus horizontal living (everything in my possession is mine and primarily for my distribution or enjoyment).
Wonder which will make us freer and less stressed? Stewardship living draws from God’s bank account called grace, lives by faith rather than sight or emotions, trusts and obeys in even the darkest hour, treats everything and everyone as God’s rather than ours, and brings everything and everyone in our personal universe into the right eternal perspective…that this world will soon pass away but he that does the will of God will abide forever…and part of doing the will of God is planting God in the lives of those around us. It is heavenly living in an earthly world.
Let us pray for more than a vocabulary change. Let us pray for an attitude change into that of a steward of our heavenly Father.
Dec 11, 2021 – “Tell me what jokes you laugh at and I will know your heart. Tell me what you watch on tv and what you read and I will know your heart.”
Those words were uttered by the evangelist during a revival meeting to a crowd of church going people who carried their Bibles to church, tithed, never missed a service…and when he said those words the place became as quiet as a tomb. Wonder why? Ah, you’re a great guesser! You should be on Jeopardy.
It is true there are no perfect Christians and even the best of us are inconsistent at times. That includes me…and you (if you disagree we could ask your spouse or kids).
However, today’s verse should call our attention again to a very important subject: our relationship with the wicked, worthless, unholy activities and temptations that exist in the world of darkness. David sang today’s verse, including the entire song, in the Lord’s sanctuary during a church service. It is a very powerful song that we ought to sing, too. The song offers a positive response to God’s call to a life of personal holiness, shunning sin, “avoiding even the appearance of sin”—doing so not with a legalistic attitude but with an attitude that such things will insult the indwelling Holy Spirit, hinder His work in us, and restrict God’s power in us for effective Christian ministry.
“Take the high road!” said the holy man of God to the new convert, “and you will enjoy the presence of God in a mighty way.” Another said, “Give me a clean drinking glass! God asks us to give Him the same: a clean heart for His service!”
Jonathan Edwards, often credited with preaching the greatest sermon in American history (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”) writes, “I went on with my eager pursuit after more holiness and conformity to Christ. The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness.”
Robert Murray McCheyne adds, “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.”
“Take the high road!” Can anyone go wrong by choosing the high road?
Dec 10, 2021 – What a beautiful story! Mark describes an unnamed woman anointing the head of Jesus with an expensive “fragrant oil of nard.” Opposition was immediately voiced by some in attendance such as, “What a waste! This oil has been wasted for no purpose.” “The critics even scolded her for her seeming insensitivity and ignorance.
Jesus, though, silenced the critics with these words: “Leave her alone. She has done a noble thing. She has done what she could. She has anointed my body in advance for burial.”
We will undoubtedly meet this woman in heaven, but may we also meet her today? She lives all around us. We minister with her at church. Perhaps at work also. She is the person who does what she can for the cause of Christ.
“She has done WHAT she could.” What, however, is the WHAT? Of course, the context defines the “what” as the perfume. However, Jesus says it in such a way (“what” rather than perfume) that it is left open-ended, perhaps so we can apply the word in many ways in our present day. Why? Because we too can be the woman!
Bengle appropriately notes regarding “what”: “An abbreviated mode of expression; i.e. What she had, she has freely bestowed; and what she could, she hath done; or else, what she had [it in her power] to do, she hath done.”
Two items stand out: 1) She worshipped Christ with all that was within her capability. Quite honestly, that was a lot. The fragrance was likely worth more than the combined bank accounts of the apostles and Jesus. It was an outstanding gift of worship. It is clear she felt Christ deserved her best. By contrast, the rich young ruler walked away and kept his best! Thus, this woman challenges me to look closer at my own life. Am I giving Him my best? He certainly deserves my best, but do I love Him enough to do so?
2) Even she was limited in what she could do. This is also true for you and me as ministers. One famous Hollywood movie reminds us, “A man has to know his limitations.” There are no perfect pastors, missionaries, evangelists, teachers, greeters, administrators, singers, musicians, helpers, or treasurers. There are just us…people that can do only what we can do. We need to embrace that fact as part of God’s design rather than frustrate ourselves trying to be someone that our design won’t allow. In addition, we need to cut people some slack, especially our dedicated workers who try so hard but sometimes fall short of what we hoped or expected. After all, they, too, are limited.
Each one of you has a God-given ministry of your own. Question: Is it really your ministry or have you surrendered that ministry back to the Lord and made it His ministry? Have you ever had a private dedication service of your own where you laid your ministry upon the altar of God? Where you prayed, “All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give, I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live”?
Here is why that is so significant: If the ministry now belongs to God, isn’t it God’s right to use that ministry as He decides best? Today’s text does not deny that these people had important ministries. But it does indicate they were not there to see the final result (“none of them received all that God had promised”).
These people were like the bottom floors in a 100-story skyscraper. One person’s ministry was to construct the first floor, someone else the fifth floor, but their ministries were long gone by the time the 100th floor was finished. They had a ministry but it was not the ministry that would exist when everything reached its fullest potential.
But could the ministry have reached its fullest potential without them? No. After all, can you have a 100th floor without a first floor or a second floor? Which floor then is the most important floor? Is it the floor when the project reaches its final stage? Or is it the floor when the project begins? Obviously, every floor is equally important because every floor builds upon the other floor.
Maybe your ministry doesn’t look like much right now. Ah, the issue is not what it looks like now but what it will look like when God brings it to its fullest potential somewhere down the road.
That ministry may reach its fullest potential while you are still involved with it. On the other hand it may reach its fullest potential after you are dead and gone.
Are you content to be a building block for someone else’s ministry? Will anyone be able to stand upon your own ministry?
Unfortunately, some people won’t do anything unless they can be in the finale and get the glory…they have not yet surrendered their ministry to God. Hebrews 11 indicates God is not concerned about who is on the 100th floor or the first floor; God is just interested in the ministry getting done.
Will your faith accomplish that for the glory of God?
Dec 7, 2021 – Let’s continue our study on what ministering in faith really means. Insight #2 -Obey when I don’t understand it.
A teacher asked his class, “What is faith?” A woman answered, “I’m ignorant, but I believe faith is taking God at His word.”
The Bible describes God as the “only wise God.” “Wise beyond measure!” That means God is the only Person who is wise enough to never make a single mistake. Rest assured, God is wise enough to not make His first mistake with you either.
Today’s verse says, “God called Abraham to a land which he should later receive as his inheritance and he obeyed and he went forth NOT KNOWING where God was leading him.” Abraham is a classic example of obeying when we don’t understand.
Abraham was about 75 years old at this time. One preacher said that God asked Abraham to give up all of his security at an age when he should have been getting Social Security! The really scary part is God gave Abraham no details. Here is how the conversation probably went.
God: “Abraham, I want you to pack your bags and go to a different land.” Abraham: “Where are we going?” God: “You’ve never heard of it so there’s no reason to tell you.” Abraham: “How long is it going to take?” God: “You’ll find out.” Abraham: “How will I know when I get there?” God: “I’ll let you know!”
Amazingly, Abraham was satisfied with that explanation. Abraham said, “Ok, Lord.” He then packed his bags and went out, not having any idea where he would end up!
Point: God is not nearly as interested in you understanding Him as He is in you obeying Him!
Has God called you into a ministry? Absolutely. Every born again child of God has been called to some sort of ministry. Have you identified that ministry? Are you being obedient to that ministry? Are you personally helping people to become more like Jesus?
You say, “I am trying but sometimes I feel like I am totally worthless!” My friend, remember this: Your ministry will always depend more on faith than on you! That’s why you need to obey God’s call for your life even though you may not understand it.
Dec 3, 2021 – Men who believe. Women who believe. Children who believe. Belief in God, belief in God’s Word, believe in God’s Savior, belief in God’s way is a life-changing belief. Do you ever wonder how different your life would be without such faith? The old axiom is true: You are what you believe. Each one of us is a product of what we truly believe.
If we lack the Christian graces it is because of what we believe, or, more appropriately, choose not to believe. If we are a strong Christian possessing a Christian worldview it is because of what we believe.
Hebrews 11 clearly demonstrates what faith produces in a person’s life. One’s gender does not matter nor does one’s age matter. Faith transforms instantaneously through the repentance aspect of salvation but also gradually through a lifetime of Christian growth or sanctification. We keep growing because we keep faithing or believing. Yes, it transforms like nothing else can do. And others take notice and are drawn to God by such faith.
Someone wrote this testimony about Charles Haddon Spurgeon a few weeks after his death:
“He believed. Everything was a reality. When he was in his study, when he went into the pulpit—everything was a reality. He stood as God’s representative to man and as man’s representative to God. The man who believes every word he says is a power. God works sometimes through narrow-minded men, sometimes through weak men, but always through men who believe.”
Let us believe, too. And may God use our belief to bring others to Him.
Dec 2, 2021 – For what and whom should I pray? Am I identifying the right items or missing some items? In his book Jesus Driven Ministry, Ajith Fernando points out the overall prayer pattern of the Apostle Paul. It might be beneficial to compare your prayer scheme with Paul’s.
1.One prayer request was very general in nature. “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25), i.e. “when you pray remember me!” Paul depended upon the prayers of others…as do you and I. We need prayer partners!
2.Paul asks five times for prayer for his deliverance from prison or from enemies (Rom. 15:31; 2 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 1:19; 2 Thess. 3:2; Philemon 22). Enemies often devote their time and energy to injuring us. Living for the cross stirs them up like stirring a hornet’s nest. Your prayer partners can lift the situation to the throne of heaven. Don’t hesitate in asking for their prayers!
3.Paul asks for prayer that words may be given him to fearlessly proclaim the gospel of Christ (Eph. 6:19-20). Boldness is essential to a good witness but the flesh is weak. We need empowered…and the prayers of others provide empowerment. The prayer to “Go forth in the power of God” is the best garment anyone can provide for a fellow minister.
4.Paul asks for clarity in proclaiming the message (Col. 4:4). Don’t forget: A clear understanding of the message is important, too. You can’t explain what you don’t understand. We should pray for the ability to articulate what we know…and ask others to pray about this, too. Paul said, “I would rather speak five words and be understood than a million words that leave everyone with a question mark.”
5.Paul asks for prayer help that he might experience open doors for evangelistic opportunity (Col. 4:3). Paul liked to go where no missionary had previously gone. Who had his back? Many prayer warriors!
6.Paul asks for believers to pray that the gospel may spread rapidly and be honored (2 Thess. 3:1). We should pray for God to water the gospel seed that you (and others) have sown in the hearts of people.
The power of prayer is the greatest power known to man. It is us calling upon our God because we recognize our strength is in Him. Paul knew that. I know that and so do you. Take a few moments to review the above six steps and integrate them into your prayer ministry.
Dec 1, 2021 – Why didn’t God do what I prayed? Ajith Fernando (“Jesus Driven Ministry”) has written a masterful analysis about faith praying that may help you understand why God sometimes overrides your requests. He writes,
“The key to our prayer requests should be asking in faith. Some people define faith as believing that God will give them everything they ask. I have heard people rebuke those who added, ‘if it is your will,’ to a prayer for the healing of a sick person. (Mine: See today’s verse…such people have problems with the Bible also saying “according to His will”) On the contrary, faith is wholeheartedly submitting to God’s will with the firm assurance that God knows what is best for us.
“When we demand something from God without at the same time asking whether our request is right or wrong, we are not asking in faith. Those who demand things from God in this way may get what they want, but they could harm themselves for they have defied the sovereignty of God. Those who ask in faith may not get what they ask for, but that does NOT DISTRESS THEM. They know that the sovereign God knows what is best, and he will answer their prayers in the best way possible. Even if they cannot understand why something is best, faith rests on the assurance that God knows what is best.”
I remember my grandfather’s words from nearly forty years ago. “Be careful, grandson, what you ask for. God may give it to you.” The unspoken thought was such an answer from God may actually hurt me in the long run. Indeed, there have been times when I would have strangled if God had said, “Yes.” Due to my immaturity, I would have been trying to drink water from a fire hose! Not good! Nor good for the people I may have brought with me into such a mess.
James cautions, “You ask and don’t receive because you ask wrongly…for the wrong motive that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure” (James 4:3).
Perhaps we should pray today a prayer of thanksgiving…thanking God for not always giving us our way. Then follow that prayer with a prayer of thanksgiving that He truly wants what is best for us to grow and be like Him!
Nov 30, 2021 – Thomas Ken was an Anglican bishop in the late 17th century. He was a man of strong beliefs and strong convictions. For example, he was imprisoned for refusing to publish documents in support of Roman Catholicism. He also refused to allow the king’s mistress, not the king’s wife but his mistress, to spend the night in his home. (Sounds like a good man to me!) Ken also refused to support the reign of King William. That decision cost him greatly; the authorities punished him by taking away his role as bishop. Ken died in poverty in 1711.
But Ken wrote something which has been sung by practically all of us. It was titled, “Awake, my soul, and with the sun.” A strange title. You say, “I have never sung the song, ‘Awake, my soul, and with the sun,” but I say that you have sung part of the song.
The last verse goes like this: “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” Thus, the Doxology was born.
Have you ever noticed victorious Christians are also praising Christians? The two seem joined at the hip. Perhaps that is because praising Christians know Who truly deserves the praise, the honor and the glory: ie. It is God. Thus, they live a life of praise…and victory results from their close, even intimate walk with God.
The Psalms express such an attitude. Today’s verse speaks of David’s confidence regarding the Whom that deserves praise. David happens to be the king of Israel but does he draw attention to himself or to any of his marvelous achievements? The answer is no. His heart is filled with complete confidence that his God deserves his praise, adoration, time, obedience, finances and service.
One of the reasons many Christians fail in the Christian life is they lack such confidence. How? Their lack of personal time with God leads to a lack of praise or heartfelt respect toward God which results in a lack of victory because they do not depend IN CONFIDENCE upon the strength of the Lord. Instead, they are like the automobile that is huffing and puffing on fumes…the fumes of their own accomplishments and ability.
How strong are you in your Christian life? Strength does not come from merely singing The Doxology. It comes from EXPERIENCING the Doxology and allowing that experience to permeate every part of your being. It is not merely acknowledging God is big, even really big, but living in His overwhelming presence and EXPERIENCING that He is really as big as He says. Take time to read the Psalms. Look at Who occupies David’s thoughts and the spirit in which David writes about the Who. And then take the time to let those words of adoration, worship and praise sink into your very being.
Nov 29, 2021 – The words appeared this morning: “Every woman faces one major challenge in life: either she is married to it or she gives birth to it.” Those humorous words caused my wife to laugh…and even me to chuckle though I am on the other end of the joke! But there is much truth in the words. Life presents an awesome series of challenges. And people, both male and female of all ages, represent a high percentage of those challenges.
The story of Joseph, son of Jacob, is an inspiring tale of a man who refused to be overcome by “people challenges.” His OWN brothers sold him into slavery. Oh, how they despised him! He was declared dead by the same flesh and blood…and they probably hoped he was dead! Joseph arrived in Egypt and became a steward in the house of a military officer known as Potiphar. Things began to look up! But not for long. Potiphar’s wife brought a false accusation of attempted rape against Joseph and he was sentenced to prison. Joseph later helped the king’s cupbearer…and was owed a favor in return but the cupbearer totally forgot him. The result: Joseph was still in prison.
These three challenges were caused by people. Quite honestly, some people are just difficult people and seemingly enjoy being difficult people. It is estimated that difficult people make up 20-40% of the adult population. That’s a bunch of people!
Someone defined difficult people as those who must stand on their head in order to smile. Ouch! Such difficult people have a way of making life difficult for the rest of us. Such difficulties led the comedian Victor Borge to say, “Santa Claus has the right idea—visit people only once a year!” Double ouch! Our church custodian once whispered to me, “Deacon so-and-so is grumbling about the grumblers.” Triple ouch!
Joseph’s greatest challenge in life was dealing with such people. He could have become bitter, withdrawn, resentful, arrogant, and actually a challenge himself. After all, he was human. But he drew near to God and God gave him a soft heart toward people. The story ends with Joseph graciously opening Egypt to care for the same family that sold him into slavery.
My father said to me as a young minister, “Keep a soft heart for as long as you can.” Dad knew ministry is not easy. We need help to minister to people. God’s cure is the filling, fulness and fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) to continually transform us.
Did someone ruffle your feathers today? Or yesterday? Well, join the club. We’ve all been there and done that…because ministry is to people. Jesus understands because He has been there, too. After all, people crucified Him. Yes, He thoroughly understands this part of ministry. Take Him by the hand and pray today for more grace to keep on keeping on. In so doing you can develop the qualities of a Joseph!!!
Nov 26, 2021 – How solid are you? Are you steadfast, always abounding in the work of the Lord? Can you be counted on? Do you run when trouble comes? Do you treasure depth of spirituality and character? Will your current habits make you a stronger Christian ten years from now?
Something strange is happening throughout Christianity that is very troubling to all of us who love God’s Word and God’s church. Steven Lawson says, “Too many choose a church by style over substance, drama over doctrine, and entertainment over exposition.” For instance, few choose a church after determining such a church will help them develop into a Great Commission Christian—God’s goal for each of His children (Matthew 28:18-20). Few choose a church based upon, “Hey! They major on what the Bible says in this church!”
An old woman toured one of the great cathedrals in Europe. The guide extolled the magnificent architecture and spoke of the many dignitaries buried on the church property. Finally, the tourist blurted, “That’s nice to know, sonny, but has anyone been saved around here lately?” She went to the heart of the matter: we exist to fulfill the Great Commission and bring the world to know Christ as Lord and Savior. Our ministry’s primary goal is to sow Christ!
How is your growth trajectory into that kind of Christian? Also, are you helping others grow into God’s goal for them? Both questions are good questions to help you accurately answer the questions in the first paragraph.
As time passes there will be less and less people that are solid enough to be counted on to do the work of God. But what about you? We need you, yea, desperately need you. And YOU need to be such a person just as much as we need you.
Take some time to think through who you are, your stage of faithfulness and development, and whether Lawson’s words may have application to you. (Note: It is a pitiful sign when the best attendance is at the church dinners, not the Bible teachings or prayer sessions.) Don’t allow yourself to drift with the tide. But become someone that is able to resist the tide, even push through the tide to become stronger, more reliable, and more useful for the Master’s service.
Nov 23, 2021 – On August 6, 1999 a major league baseball player stepped up to home plate in Montreal and made another out—the 5,113th out of his professional career. If a player made all of those outs consecutively and he averaged four bats per game, he would play eight seasons (1,278 games straight) without ever reaching first base.
Was the player discouraged by his performance? No. Earlier in the same game he reached a milestone that only twenty-one other people (at that time) in baseball had achieved. He had reached 3,000 base hits. His name? Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres, one of the purest hitters to ever play baseball.
But, lest we forget, Tony had also failed 5,113 times.
We fail, too. So did the Apostle Peter, the man who walked on water, proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, preached the great sermon on Pentecost, and opened the New Testament era to the Gentiles. That’s big stuff. Bigger than anything I have done or you will do. And yet God tells us of Peter’s failures, too. Peter is guilty of a great failure in today’s text. He denied knowing the Lord not once, not twice but three times then in humiliation left the proceedings and “wept bitterly.”
I wish life was filled with success after success, how about you? Pats on the back are much preferred over disapproving looks. But life is not like that. Sometimes we think about walking away but to where? More often than not we are responsible for our failure rather than our environment. We can try but we can never run from us. As long as we breathe we will have to deal with our failures.
Peter was still failing as late as Galatians chapter two. In that chapter Paul essentially labeled Peter a hypocrite…ouch! But, lest we forget, there are two books in the Bible named for Peter. And lots and lots of substantial successes.
It is true no one should ignore his failures. Such ignorance would only lead us to repeat the same failures over and over again. However, failures don’t mean the end…they’re simply another step in life…and ministry. 99.9999% of our failures will be followed by another opportunity for success. It may not be the same opportunity but there will be more opportunities.
So don’t quit. Don’t stop trying. Don’t give up on yourself or the ministry (surprise! perhaps God is bringing another person’s name to your mind at this time and that person needs today’s devotional). Just dust yourself off, take the matter to God and be thankful you get to try again. After all, God loves you enough to let you try again and to ultimately succeed again.
Nov 22, 2021 – Glutzon Borglum, the sculptor who carved Mount Rushmore, was asked if the giant faces were perfect. He replied that the nose of George Washington was a half inch too long, but he quickly added, “It will erode to exactly the right length in 10,000 years so be patient.”
One of the most important ingredients to a better ministry is patience. We live in a fly-by-night age when people, even God’s people, bounce here, there, back again then everywhere. Progress is measured in one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward and three steps back then… We are often disappointed by the apparent lack of steady progress in people. We think, “I’m growing but why aren’t they? They seem to be stuck in a rut and aren’t developing.”
It’s incredibly frustrating. That’s why God keeps reminding us that patience in ministry is a virtue. (It will also help preserve your sanity!)
The principle underlying the God’s Greenhouse ministry is 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, Matthew 13:18-23, Isaiah 55:11 and many other verses which stress the importance of patience…of sowing, watering then allowing God the necessary time to develop the seed. One teacher said, “Do not think grace will come to its full beauty in an hour.” How true!
But God’s Word WILL accomplish what He pleases. Just as it takes decades to build an oak tree so it takes decades on ALL people. The child that attends your Vacation Bible School may not receive Christ until becoming an old adult. The non-growing Christian may not put it all together and really grow until many years have passed. But your sowing effort will be part of God’s process to reach that person.
Are you discouraged? Read again today’s text. Then resolve to let God finish His work in YOU so He can then finish His work in OTHERS through you.
Nov 20, 2021 – Moses, at the age of 80, acknowledges in today’s verse that man at his best is still nothing but a man. Speaking for myself, I can compare myself with many things, including God, but in many ways the “Me Test” is the most disappointing evaluation of all.
The results in the “Me Test” prove I do not even measure up to my own expectations. I still make mistakes, even some mistakes that fall into the sin category. It is true that I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but it is also true that I have sinned, made mistakes, and fallen short of my own expectations. This knowledge humbles me greatly.
Am I alone in this knowledge? I don’t think so. I have failed, you have failed, and that means we both need to walk humbly, always cognizant of the Bible warning that, “whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The warning is appropriate because falling is very human.
My wife and I recently discussed a famous artist. (We were in a home which owned some of the artist’s works.) My wife researched the artist on the internet then reported, “According to this website that artist died from alcohol intoxication.” This one who was on top had come down . . . all the way down. The same cycle is repeated on a regular basis in life. No matter how important we may be, we are still apt to fail.
Someone wrote, “To be humble is also to recognize that you’re going to make mistakes, but that you can learn from those mistakes and do better. When you lose that humility, mistakes always become someone else’s fault.”
Life teaches all of us there will always be someone who can do it better than us.
So why try? Ah, we try because not only is God’s grace greater than our sin but also His power is greater than our weakness. Erring Peter grew into an understanding of that truth. So did Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Paul, and…can you add your name here?
Keep trying. It’s the stuff ministry is made of.
Nov 18, 2021 – Brother Lawrence writes, “I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the Presence of God.”
Yet many try that approach to life. Needless to say, they do not have an effective ministry because Jesus says, “Without Me you can accomplish nothing” (John 15:5). But you, dear reader, are probably not in their camp because they would not be interested in reading a devotional geared to a better ministry. They are seeking something else.
Perhaps we should ask, “How can I make sure I don’t become like them?” Re-read Brother Lawrence’s quote at the beginning of today’s devotional then ask yourself, “What is the key?” May I answer? The key is knowing the identity of whose Presence we seek. After all, He is not a normal person. He is the Creator, but yea, much more than the Creator. “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Lily of the Valley, Alpha and Omega, the Self-Existent One” plus so much more. Quite honestly, words fail to adequately describe Him.
In today’s verse Andrew has found someone uniquely special…someone special enough that he wants others to meet that person. Andrew tells Simon, “We have found…who? The Messiah! The long-anticipated Messiah of the Old Testament is now within reach! Not merely a prophet or a general or a king but the Messiah! God’s Anointed One is here!”
Can you imagine the joy, the excitement, the incredible enthusiasm associated with his discovery? I urge you to reread the verse. Andrew’s words are all-consuming and have captured all of his heart. Everything else is secondary. He is infatuated, overwhelmed with his discovery. He is like the town crier.
One way to refresh your ministry is to refresh your opinion of the One Whom you serve. And the best way to do so is to read about Him in one of the four gospels. No one can read the gospels without experiencing Him…hearing Him…watching Him…knowing Him. He is truly one of a kind and we need to be constantly reminded of that. Let me encourage you to read one of the gospel accounts in its entirety during the next week. (How about a lunch break at work?) Then another gospel. Last, add such a reading to your monthly calendar so you program such a reading into your schedule. You don’t want to lose sight of Him!
Nov 16, 2021 – John Chrysostom, an early church father, insists, “The root of all evil rests in ignorance and from imperfect acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures.”
For Christ, there is Antichrist. For true prophets, there are false prophets. For true apostles, there are false apostles. For wheat, there are tares. For the Holy Spirit, there are unclean spirits. For sheep, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing. How do we tell the genuine from the spurious? For this, we need the illumination ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Without question, we live in a world of ignorance and an imperfect acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures (Romans 10:3, Ephesians 4:18, 2 Peter 3:5). We must remember the Bible is a spiritual book with a spiritual Author communicating spiritual truth to the spiritual component of man. It exists on a higher level than man’s natural capability; therefore, man needs a higher teacher. Thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit—the One of whom Jesus promised “will teach you all things.”
One of my members often brought me questions on a sheet of paper for an after-church question-and-answer session. He encountered these questions during his Bible study. Things that were simple to me were difficult to him. We always had a great discussion; indeed, it was personally gratifying to me when the dawn of realization (aka, the lightbulb came on which is another way of saying illumination had occurred) crossed his face. I taught in words but the Holy Spirit did the real communicating.
Do the scriptures sometimes read like a foreign language to you? Read on! And pray on! Invite the Holy Spirit to come and teach you personally. EVERY Bible student encounters those moments when an oft-read scripture suddenly takes on a new life, not because the Bible reads differently but because the Holy Spirit has opened our mind to more of God’s truth. Despite our many hours of study, there are depths in the Bible which no person has ever plowed. Thus, you do the study, let God do the teaching, and the study will indeed become illuminating!
Nov 12, 2021 – “I will go to sleep down here and wake up in glory!” David said with perfect confidence, “I WILL see your face.” The question is not, will it happen for the believer but when will it happen?
For the first time in our lives, it will now be said: By God’s grace, we’ve made it! Truly made it! We’re finally home! The journey is over. Faith has now become sight. Hope has now become reality. The unknown has now become known. The confusion has now become clear.
Fear is gone, hurt is gone, pain is gone, rejection is gone, illness is gone, death is gone, the devil is gone, temptation is gone, confession of sin is gone, confusion is gone, war is gone, lusting is gone, crying and tears are gone, wickedness is gone, separation of friends is gone, failure is gone, hunger and thirst are gone, criticism is gone, night is gone, lies are gone, being alone and standing alone are gone. They are “no more.”
Instead, glory is here, peace is here, health is here, friends are here, the saints of old are here, Jesus Himself is here and is pleased to call us His brothers and sisters, holiness is here, rest for the soul is here, godliness is here, the fruit of the Spirit is here, Surely Goodness and Mercy are here, full obedience is here, the tree of life is here, unrestrained worship is here, a new name is here, everyone agreeing is here, the law of God reigns here, the truth is here, righteousness is here, life’s answers are here, acceptance is here, victory is here, a new heaven and new earth in which dwelleth righteousness are here. We are finally home!
Might I suggest you look at the “fear is gone” paragraph and identify two categories that you most want to be gone. Indeed, they will soon be gone. Then look at the “glory is here” paragraph and identify the two categories that you will most enjoy. Indeed, they will soon be here…be no longer a promise but a reality.
As for me I am sure I will be satisfied. How about you?
Nov 11, 2021 – John Maxwell taught us in a seminar, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” That truth was exemplified for us yesterday. We looked at buying a house close to our youngest daughter. The house had the correct footage and an acceptable lot but it sure lacked in the “tlc” category. It seemed the owner did not appreciate what he owned; therefore, the lack of proper maintenance will be a headache for the seller and, if any, buyer. We did not even consider placing a bid. The results would have been different, though, if the owner had shown proper care for the house.
Christians are often guilty of the same thing: We fail to appreciate what God has done for us and what He is currently doing for us and in us. Today’s verse applies to our 24 hour a day attitude but let’s zero in on how we approach a normal church service. Most churches, despite COVID, provide numerous opportunities for people to “enter the gates of God’s church with thanksgiving…with PRAISE” and have a life-transforming experience.
Imagine how blessed we are with the opportunity of even one church service. We, unlike those who never hear in certain parts of the world, have the awesome opportunity to learn the truth. The very Word of God—not the word of man or the preacher—will be shared with us. The Holy Spirit will move among us and speak to the hearts of INDIVIDUAL people including each one of us. We will lift our voices in song to our God, praise Him for His greatness, and celebrate His presence in our lives. We will receive encouragement from others of like beliefs and that encouragement will help us stand tall during the coming week. We will be part of a unified prayer experience, an experience wherein we can both share the concerns of our heart and hear the concerns of others. Thank God, we are not alone! Our financial giving will combine with the giving of others to help keep the lights on so the community has a place to meet God…and some of those funds will be directed to do the same in the uttermost parts of the earth.
Unfortunately, though, many people will not make the most of that church service or even give it a half-effort. One conservative pastor moaned to a friend, “I pastor a liberal church.” The friend was aghast because he knew the convictions of the pastor. The pastor explained, “I give everything I can to my people and they give it away…let it leak out. They don’t do anything with it. They just give it back.”
This writer is driven by a compulsion to make the most of every service. I try not to give a second-hand effort to my God or the people. I truly WANT my God to do something in my life and the lives of others in every service. After all, God is speaking in every service. Someone’s future may be hinging on that specific service. Can I therefore give it less than my best?
Every service can help me know Him better and serve Him better. That’s the kind of experience I need. What about you?
Nov 10, 2021 – One of the great church controversies occurred in A.D. 300. A man named Arius taught that Jesus was like God but was not actually God. Unfortunately, many people followed Arius in that heresy.
But there was another preacher who stood up to Arius. His name was Athanasius. Athanasius taught that Jesus is deity, is God in human flesh…is indeed the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
The people said to Athanasius, “The whole world is against you.”
Athanasius replied, “Then it is I, Athanasius, against the whole world.” He stood his ground and others stood with him.
The Council of Nicaea took place twenty-five years later and settled the issue once and for all that Jesus is God in human flesh. Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter what the Council of Nicaea says…it doesn’t matter what Swartzwelder says…it doesn’t matter what you say or anyone else says. All that matters is what God says. Let there be no doubt about it today: Jesus Christ is the Sovereign Lord…the Master of this entire universe.
Make Him the center of your ministry!
Nov 9, 2021 – Children have memorized today’s verse for generations. It is just as important for us adults, too! My pastor father taught me in my early days, “Preaching on hell will get the people’s attention, but preaching on the love of God will get their hearts.” He was right!
Driven by curiosity, I checked twenty-eight translations of 1 John 4:8; twenty-seven translations use the same three identical words, “God is love.” The fourth (Douay-Rheims Bible used in Catholic churches) uses a synonymous expression, “God is charity.” Charity, of course, is the old English word for love. The point is well taken: God is love. (The Greek word is “agape”—the highest form of love possible.)
Do we truly comprehend the meaning of those three words? No, despite all of our study, I fear we barely scratch the surface of their meaning. “God is love” expresses the very heartbeat of God. Many of the early religions depicted their deity as a God who abused, even tormented man, found great delight in creating misfortune and misery for all of creation. However, our God stands apart from those deities. Our God even loved us so much that He gave His precious Son to die for our awful sins in order to save us from the judgment to come. There is no better way to describe such a God than to say, “God is love.” And the best part of all is He loves me, my family and you.
A father and son stood on a hilltop. The father directed his son’s attention to the different landscape which existed in all four directions. He then waved his arm, turned completely around as if indicating everything in every direction, and said, “Son, God’s love is as big as all of that.”
The son immediately replied, “Then, Father, we must be in the middle of it!”
Where else would you rather be than in the middle of God’s love?
Nov 8, 2021 – Mosie Lister writes, “I woke up this morning feeling fine I woke up with heaven on my mind. I woke up with joy in my soul ’cause I knew my Lord had control.” Just curious: what were your FIRST thoughts this morning? “Good Lord, it’s morning!” or “Good morning, Lord!” or somewhere in between. For some of us the morning does not yet exist until we have been “awake” an hour, had our coffee or soft drink, showered, dressed and somehow dragged ourselves to work.
This pastor has always been more of a night owl than a morning sprinter. My wife is the opposite. But we have the same God because He is always available. “He who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps” (Ps. 121:4). God is not like me…nor you. God never takes a walk to clear His mind. God never takes a vacation to get away from caring for us. God never says, “Keep it down! I can’t hear Myself think!” God never gets sick and delegates His responsibilities to someone else. God won’t be laid aside by Covid, cancer, sleep deprivation, or flu. God has never even taken a Tums!
My God was present when I awoke this morning. He was awake with me a few nights ago when the rest of the world was asleep but I could not sleep. He’ll be with me when I visit a doctor later this week (He won’t be late either). In summary, my God is always there even if I am not wide awake…not mentally with it.
He will be there when I get old and cannot remember your name or face. He’ll be there when I come to muddy Jordan. And He will be there when I awaken in glory!
What were your first thoughts this morning? They may not have been about Him but He was there for you. Give Him praise today!
Nov 6, 2021 – I recall watching a much-advertised Oprah television show which dealt with the subject, “What is my purpose in life?” The show featured many so-called experts. They gabbed and gabbed (my jargon for “saying nothing meaningful”). After fifty-nine minutes of nothingness, Oprah finished with, “What is your purpose in life? You will need to figure it out on your own.”
Think through what she said. In other words, you will first have to develop your own process for determining your purpose. Then you’ll have to adjust your process based upon trial and error. Then you’ll . . . do you get the picture? Mankind’s reasoning is, “What works for you may not work for me!” The Greek language has a specific word for that line of reasoning. It is, Bologna! How foolish is such thinking!
By contrast, the Bible is described as a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105) The Apostle Paul said, “All, or every single scripture is given by inspiration of God with the result that it is suitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. By following the holy scriptures, the servant of God will be thoroughly and completely prepared to do God’s work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
I can conclude from those, and other, scriptures that the Bible gives me a proven process that will help me achieve God’s goal for my life. I don’t have to invent the process any more than I must invent the wheel. God has freely given the process in His Word! The process doesn’t need adjustment. After all, how can I improve on anything God says?
There may be times when the storms of life batter my soul and I nearly lose hope. I may not see the results that I want to see. The devil may even seem to have the upper hand. But in those desperate hours the Bible will still read the same; that means God’s process will still be the same.
Nov 5, 2021 – A man was struck by a bus on a busy New York City street. The dying man gasped, “A priest! Somebody get me a priest.”
A man stepped out of the crowd and said, “I’m not a priest. But for fifty years now I have lived behind St. Mary’s church and every night I have listened to the church. Maybe I can be of comfort to this man.”
The man then knelt down beside the dying man and said in a very solemn voice, “B – 4, I – 19, N –38, G –54, O – 72.” What was the man calling out? Bingo numbers!
That humorous story has quite a bit of truth in it. Today’s man (including yesterday’s man) seems focused on insignificant items and totally misses the significant items such as preparing for eternity, filling the spiritual void in one’s heart, embracing real and genuine truth, building a life of eternal value, etc. The old sage said, “People are majoring on minors and minoring on majors.” How true!
Today’s verse describes who we were prior to our receiving Christ as Savior and being born again or, in Paul’s terminology in Ephesians 2, undergoing a spiritual resurrection. According to the Bible there are three senses in which people can be dead:
1.Dead physically – buried in a cemetery.
2.Dead spiritually – their spiritual senses have been deadened to the point that they cannot know God or experience God in their daily lives. They need a born again experience or spiritual resurrection.
3.Dead eternally – “Whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Today’s verse focuses on Category #2 – dead spiritually. Those two words describe the unbeliever’s relationship with God. In brief, there is no relationship. That is why Jesus said, “I have come to seek and save that which is LOST.” Do you remember the day when you realized you were lost? Separated from God? Not a believer but actually an UNbeliever? Under God’s condemnation? Headed for a devil’s hell and eternal, unending death?
Take a few moments today to think about who you were…dead in your trespasses and sins. Think also about what would have happened if Jesus had not passed by your soul. Then thank Him again for His mercy and grace that “made you alive in Christ Jesus.”
Build your life around that truth…that reality. Keep it always in front of you: not only who you were but who you have now become and are still becoming. Share it with others in word, social media, etc. Support your church as a “life-giving station.” Support missionaries and be a missionary where God has placed you. Be a spiritual resurrection to others!
Nov 4, 2021 – What are we seeking to accomplish here? The overall purpose of these devotionals is to help you become a better minister of Jesus Christ. Some of that effort is internal—you learn more, apply more and thereby become more effective. I would hate to think I haven’t improved since my early days in 1976! But much of that effort is external—it is realizing you need God’s help and that God is willing to provide that help!
“Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world.” “Without Me, you can do nothing.” “With men this is impossible but with God all things are possible.” Do you recall Mary’s words to Gabriel? “How can this be?” He responded, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”
Look closely at today’s verse. The words in purple represent the assignment. That’s a lot to do! There is an old axiom for bosses: if you need something done quickly give it to the busiest person you have…i.e. that person knows how to get things done. The words in purple will certainly keep a person busy. And that axiom holds true in kingdom work, too. (The more you do the more people will ask you to do.) In this case, the person was Jesus. Jesus quotes this Old Testament passage about Himself. We could discuss why the ministry begins with the poor rather than the rich…perhaps because they will be more receptive…but it is obvious ministry is directed not to people that can do something for you but to people who are often unable to do anything for you. Never forget Christianity is about giving, not receiving.
But you will be busy. And we can talk about how busy we are. YES, WE CAN! “LOOK AT WHAT I DO!” Which is the exact opposite of what we should be focusing our attention upon.
Ministry does not work if it is us doing the ministry. We need outside enablement. Thus, the most important part of today’s verse is the words in green. Is the Holy Spirit ministering through us? Do we have His christening or anointing for service? Have we prepared for service by beginning with Him? The verse BEGINS with Him, not ends with Him.
Richard Foster writes in Celebration of Discipline, “Preaching or teaching that comes forth because the living Head has called it forth breathes life into worship. Preaching that is without divine unction falls like a frost on worship. Heart preaching enflames the spirit of worship; head preaching smothers the glowing embers. There is nothing more quickening than Spirit-inspired preaching, nothing more deadening than human-inspired preaching.” (pg. 166)
Take some time today and everyday to bring the Holy Spirit into your ministry. He will make the difference!
Nov 3, 2021 – Everyone knows how to build but not everyone has the discipline to build. A city salesman went out into the country and tried to sell some new farm equipment to a farmer. The salesman said, “If you will use this equipment, it will double your results.”
The farmer laughed and said, “I already know how to farm twice as good as I do.” That farmer is like many Christians who could have a powerful influence for the Lord but they lack the discipline to do so. For lack of a better word, they’re just lazy.
I wonder if Jude had someone in mind when he wrote, “Build yourselves constantly…how? By reading a cookbook. No. By watching the football game? No. Build yourself in your most holy faith.” It’s the same faith that was mentioned back in verse 3 where it has reference to the Christian faith. Not to your personal faith in God but to the body of doctrine or teachings that we believe. We use the word in that sense in the obituaries. Someone dies and the obituary says, “He was of the Baptist faith” or the “Methodist faith” or the “Pentecostal” faith. That statement tells us what the person believes. (Incidentally, you never read about anyone being of the “Atheist faith.” Isn’t that amazing?)
Notice it is a holy faith. Why? It is because it comes from a holy God. Above all, God has communicated to us what we are to believe. In other words, your daily faith for living is the result of THE CONTENT or FAITH SYSTEM you believe.
Never forget: You are what you believe and you act out what you really believe…not what you say you believe but what you really believe.
As for me I believe in a sovereign God. I believe in a wise God. I believe in a call to the ministry. I believe “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.” I believe “he that winneth souls is wise.” I believe in tithing. I believe in prayer. I believe in attending church. That is why I am what I am. The more I study the more convinced I become that all of those things are true and worth fighting for.
I am building up myself in my holy faith and I am stronger today than I was ten years ago or twenty years or thirty years ago.
Can you say the same?
Nov 2, 2021 – Have you ever met someone whom you tried to save from choosing the wrong road? During my recent sermon study I opened one of my reference books and was surprised to find a newspaper obituary from 1986. I met the individual only once. He was young, age 21, and quite popular on campus.
He attended the ordination service for a new deacon in my first pastorate. He was a schoolmate of the deacon’s son and spent quite a bit of time in the deacon’s house. They knew each other quite well. They would often play Trivial Pursuit together.
Our deacon practiced today’s verse seven days a week. He truly lived Christ as best he knew how. He was genuine. This young man saw that Spirit-filled attitude in our deacon. The deacon was a walking witness by not only what he said but also by his standards.
This young man attended the deacon’s ordination then trusted Christ as his Savior a few weeks later at another church in September,1986. He died on November 30, 1986 in a car wreck driving home one night from church. His death was a horrible jolt to the community.
It would be easy to say the ordination service made the difference for him. After all, God sometimes speaks through events, whether bad or good. But I suspect God spoke to him through a lengthy process. That process included the lifestyle of our deacon and his wife. The young man saw and saw and saw…and he saw not perfection but genuineness. There is no question their testimony helped him accept Christ…just four weeks before he got the biggest surprise of his life and entered eternity.
Never forget what you are to stand for. Someone will always be watching
Nov 1, 2021 – The libraries of this world have myriads of books on every subject imaginable. But what man needs the most of all is a reliable book that proclaims how sinful man can be made right with holy God.
We might contrast all the books in the library with the Bible in this manner. There once lived a man who had a passion for diamonds; he heard there were many precious diamonds beyond the desert. He elected to pursue his passion. However, he became disoriented in the desert, became lost, and was in danger of dying from thirst.
With his remaining strength, the man dragged himself to the peak of a sand dune; amazingly, he found a canteen half-buried in the sand. That canteen represented life! He uncorked the stopper and lifted the canteen to his mouth. But instead of being blessed with life-giving water, he was cursed with a stream of blue-white diamonds. In agony, he threw away the canteen, scattering those precious jewels over the burning sand, and soon died in desperation.
Those diamonds represent the books of this world, but the water represents the book of eternal life. Which of the two is more important to a man dying of thirst in a desert? Diamonds or water? God did not give us the Bible in order to give us diamonds; He gave us the Bible in order to give us life!
(Source: God Speaks—Today! (Released this Thanksgiving))
Oct 30, 2021 – Do your plans ever fail? Ever go astray? We emerge from our teenage years with great ambitions. A few achieve those great ambitions. Others fall immediately to the wayside and never recover. Most of us live in between those two outcomes.
This is also true in the area of ministry. For every David Jeremiah or Charles Stanley there are…well, the rest of us. Our expectations for ministry or the results of our ministry may far exceed the actual results…may even exceed what God planned for our ministry. Perhaps we can identify with the lyrics of James Taylor, “Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.”
How do we make sense of this? Simply this: we live by faith in serving God and we live by faith in God with our results, too. The Apostle Paul emphasizes that God “works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). By contrast, man may develop plans, but he cannot control the outcome of those plans. The results are always in the hands of God.
The rich fool planned for bigger barns and a lifestyle of “eat, drink, and be merry,” but God’s plans for him were much different: “This night your soul shall be required of you” (Luke 12:16-21).
The old saying, “Man proposes but God disposes,” is exemplified by Napoleon’s military failure in Russia. Napoleon foolishly set his military sights on Moscow; however, God stopped him with the simplest item in nature: the winter snowflake. Men, even powerful men, often propose, but it is always God who disposes! Likewise, the Titanic was deemed unsinkable by the experts of its day, but, alas, what an unthinkable loss!
Let us therefore live by faith and say with David, “For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:5-6). He reigns! He reigns in our results, too!
Oct 29, 2021 – A woman listened to an evangelist preach about being born again and became angry. She went to him and said, “You are not in agreement with the spirit of this age.”
He said, “You are right. I am not in agreement with the spirit of this age but I am in agreement with the Holy Spirit of God’s age.”
The importance of the Holy Spirit to our ministry cannot be overemphasized. He (not it) is critical! The Holy Spirit comes to live in the believer’s heart at the time he or she is born again. Indeed, the absence of the Holy Spirit from a life indicates that a person has NOT been born again (Romans 8:9, Jude 1:19). The Holy Spirit confirms the deity of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3), distributes a ministry to each of us (1 Corinthians 12), empowers us for ministry (Acts 1:8, Ephesians 5:16), guides us in the employment of our ministry, and shapes our character (Galatians 5:22). Plus much more.
Our charisma may take us far in life. Our physical talents may awe some. But only the Holy Spirit can do a spiritual ministry in the hearts of people.
Let’s illustrate. The Christian ministry is similar to visiting a doctor for an illness. We watch the entertainment on the television in the waiting room. But it does not solve the problem of the illness. But the doctor can do what we need. That is a picture of the Holy Spirit at work through us. What we bring to the table is skin deep like the “entertainment.” What He brings to the table is “problem solving.” The Holy Spirit has the ability to go to the deepest depths of the human heart and do what ONLY GOD CAN DO.
Learn to lean upon Him. HE, not your abilities, is the key to a successful ministry.
P.S. The skill of “listening to the Holy Spirit” is developed in great detail in the soon-to-be-released God Speaks—Today! book. It will be available around Thanksgiving.
Oct 27, 2021 – Thanksgiving! It may only happen once a year but we can somehow remember most of them. We remember the meal, the people, the desserts (especially the desserts), the decorations, the time of day, even the Detroit and Dallas football games. Recently this pastor found a picture of our first Thanksgiving meal in Chattanooga (1976). We could still remember it clearly! (Sadly or should it be thankfully, we had no tv to watch football.)
Thanksgiving is a man-made holiday (unlike God’s events at Christmas and Easter), but it is important that all of us pause on a regular basis to give thanks that “things are as well with us as they are.” One of the most familiar Thanksgiving paintings is that of the old man bowing his head and giving thanks for a loaf of bread…his entire meal! All of us have much more to be thankful for every single day that we live. Never forget that though you may have earned what you have, that, at the same time, God’s grace provided you the means to earn it. Your brain may be fuller than mine because you are smarter than me, but always remember that God could have blessed you with my brain or even a less capable brain, and if so, where would you now be?
One of the characteristics of heathendom is “unthankful” or “ungrateful” (2 Timothy 3:2). Such a characteristic is on full display at the local restaurant when the food is served. How few thank God for their food!
Don’t be like the fool (Luke 12) who said, “Look what I have done!” and was thankful for HIMSELF! Instead, recognize and appreciate that your God deserves to be called “the God of all grace.” Because He is exactly that! You have whatever you have because of His grace! Be thankful!
Oct 26, 2021 – What motivates you in Christian service? How about the ultimate victory that is ours in Christ! Enoch declared with great authority to his contemporaries, “Behold, the Lord comes!” Rest assured, He is indeed coming again! Consider with me what His coming will mean to our world.
Just when man is about to destroy the entire world, behold He comes!
Just when the Antichrist is worshipped by all, behold He comes!
Just when the sun refuses to shine and the moon turns to blood, behold He comes!
Just when men cry out for the mountains to fall upon them and cover them from the wrath of the Lamb, behold He comes!
Just when the plagues are out of control, behold He comes!
Just when it is right to do what is wrong, behold He comes!
Just when the funeral homes are full and running over and there is no room to bury the dead, behold He comes!
Just when the Jews flee for the mountains and face the greatest holocaust of all, behold He comes!
Just when the economic system falls into another Great Depression, behold He comes!
Just when God’s cup of wrath has been poured out in full, behold He comes!
Just when the governments of the world lose their power, behold He comes!
Just when everyone throws in the towel, when men everywhere lose hope, behold He comes!
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ’who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:7-8)
Someday soon King Jesus will return to break the back of the current world system. What a day it will be when King Jesus is revealed!!!!!!!
Oct 25, 2021 – The importance of faith in the Christian life can never be overemphasized. Practically everything is connected in some way to faith: salvation, prayer, ministry, witnessing, everyday decisions, child raising, finances and even death. We are actually called “BELIEVERS” rather than some other terms because “belief” or “faith” is our distinguishing mark.
But faith can be hard. Our faith may be stronger in some of the previously mentioned categories than other categories. There may be times when we struggle with our faith such as those times when God doesn’t do what we ask Him to do…and then He asks us to still believe! So we believe though sometimes with great difficulty and perhaps even reluctantly.
Faith is a blessed word. It is also a hard word. It is a word that will make us or break us in our Christian life.
Let me insert two quotes which my wife recently passed on to me. These quotes are worth keeping close at hand for regular review.
Charles Spurgeon says, “I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best.”
Augustine says, “If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you do not like, it is not the gospel you believe but yourself.”
As for me, I choose to believe in the God who has proven Himself again and again through the holy Scriptures rather than believe in myself. How about you?
Oct 23, 2021 – In preparation for ministry, how well do you worship? Assign proper value and respect to God? For example, do your prayers include a time of worship? David’s prayers included such a time. His Psalms are full of both praising God AND explaining why God deserves praise.
In addition, the Model Prayer (often called “The Lord’s Prayer”) begins with worship. This writer occasionally takes the opening worship principles of the Model Prayer and puts them into my own words, “Our Father who lives in His own palace or temple called heaven, far above mortal man, in a class of Your own, may Your name and everything about You always be valued as hallowed or holy or sacred. May Your kingdom, not mine, be extended throughout the earth; may Your holy will be done on earth and in my life as it is now done in heaven.”
Of course, I could quote the Model Prayer (and sometimes do) but I usually prefer to think it through by using other words…words that capture the meaning and allow me to express the desires of my heart. As I worship Him for His greatness, my spirit comes to rest in Him and it is a blessed time indeed to be alone with Him.
“And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own! And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known!”
William Temple offers these words of advice: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
In other words, worship encompasses our entire being. It is the foundation to our ministry.
Temple lists five areas that make up our being. Take a few moments to re-read his comment and rank the five areas with #1 being your strongest part of worship and #5 being your weakest part of worship. (Your rankings may vary from week to week.) It is possible you may identify a significant weakness in your walk with God…and, once identified, you can correct it.
Remember: Knowing Him always precedes ministry because knowing Him will convince you to put Him in charge of the ministry!
Oct 22, 2021 – Lyman Abbott (1835-1922) was traveling through a region that had been devastated by a large fire. The region was mostly populated by Puritans. There were many temporary log homes and shanties. But Abbott was surprised to see one large brick building that stood head and shoulders above the rest. He asked about the identity of the building and was proudly told, “That is our church.”
Abbott said, “What a miracle! The church was not destroyed by the fire.”
The person responded, “Oh, yes, the church was completely destroyed. That is the new church. We rebuilt God’s house before we rebuilt our own houses.”
The world would consider such an action frivolous, misinformed, and downright foolish. But to God’s people it was the right decision because the church is God’s primary agency in today’s world to show forth His glory and truth.
Though today’s church is battered and worn, we need to remember that Christ died for the church and, in so doing, He made it His church…yea, more than that, even His bride and wife. Yes, that church of yours with so many issues, frustrations, two steps forward followed by two steps back attitude. He DIED for that which we sometimes view with little respect. Sadly, we focus more on what the church is NOT doing than on what it is doing.
Perhaps it is time to take a fresh look at God’s church which truly is God’s possession, not ours. I first heard the gospel in an imperfect church for which Christ died. I was saved and baptized in that same imperfect church. I learned the basic doctrines in imperfect churches. I learned by watching the example of some saints in the imperfect churches. I got an appreciation for true worship…for the size and immensity of God in the imperfect churches. I grew up to pastor imperfect churches (yes, some more imperfect than others) for nearly four decades and wouldn’t trade it for a hundred million dollars. My first book (God’s Greenhouse) was not about real estate or investing or politics but about God’s church and how to become more of a Great Commission Church.
Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am today without God’s imperfect churches. Thankfully, they don’t expect perfection from me either! Next Sunday is coming…take the time to look around you at everything that is still a blessing…and be thankful God has provided an imperfect church for an imperfect person like you.
Oct 21, 2021 – What draws most of your focus? The negative or the positive? The bad or the good? The eternal or the temporal? Things that edify or things that criticize?
A second grade boy began his morning by falling off the school bus. He received three stiches to close the cut. Ouch!
During recess he collided with another boy. Two of his teeth were loosened. His lip was bruised. Double ouch!
During the afternoon he fell and injured his arm. What a day!
The principal drove the boy to his home. During the ride the principal noticed the boy was clutching something in his hand. He asked, “What do you have?”
The boy answered, “A whole quarter.”
“Where did you get it?”
“I found it today on the playground. You know, I never found a quarter before. THIS IS MY LUCKY DAY!”
Oct 20, 2021 – Sigmund Freud says, “Groups have never thirsted after truth. They demand illusions and cannot do without them.”
Interestingly, I found Freud’s quote in the latest issue of Forbes magazine. How ironic! After all, is anything more illusionary than materialism? Forbes serves as the unofficial calculator of the financial worth of the world’s richest people. The article states, “It has been a terrible year for many, but the good times keep rolling for American’s richest. The 400 wealthiest Americans saw their collective fortunes increase 40% over the past year to $4.5 trillion.” And yet all of that $4.5 trillion will soon go the way of the dodo bird when the world passes away.
By contrast, our mission is to present truth rather than illusion. Today’s world needs truth as much, if not more, than ever before. The vast majority of the world consists of one group: the people Jesus described as being on the BROAD road that leads to destruction. Jesus states there is a significantly smaller group on a different path…the NARROW road and Jesus explicitly states, “Few find that road.”
We are called to both LIVE the truth and SPEAK the truth. The truth is not communicated via today’s talk radio or the 24 hour a day news channels. Many churches even shun the truth because it is increasingly unpopular in most circles today.
I can’t change what others do but I can represent the TRUTH before today’s world. Jesus is the Person of truth and His Bible is the book of truth. I believe in both, how about you? I also believe that both are the #1 answer everyone around me needs, how about you?
Oct 19, 2021 – Do you remember the movie Ghostbusters? The theme song asked, “Who ya gonna call?” The answer was shouted, “Ghostbusters!”
Life, though, doesn’t work like that. Some folk call their parents in their time of trouble, but there’s no guarantee the parents have the answer or the means to provide a solution. Others go to a place like a beach or mountain in hope of escaping their problem. That philosophy assumes the problem will go away with time. Some call upon their religion. That happened in the famous case between God’s prophet Elijah and the false prophets of the Canaanite god (idol) named Baal. The false prophets called upon Baal for a lengthy time but Baal did not answer them.
David, though, had a personal knowledge of the God of heaven. A specific God. An all-powerful God. A God who knows all things about all things. Self-existent. Reveals Himself as a God of love, holiness, patience, understanding, and wisdom.
So David took this knowledge to the next level and did something with it. He called upon that God in the depths of his trouble. He may have discussed the man with some personal friends or advisors but his primary focus was in taking the troubles to the Lord. Wonder how long he discussed the matter with the Lord? Wonder if he called aloud or in silence? Wonder if he repeated himself often?
It is, for lack of a better word, refreshing to realize David experienced what I experience. I’d hate to think I am alone in experiencing trouble, how about you? David, a man after God’s own heart, suffered many troubles, some of his own making but others of which he was innocent. He knew heartache, pain both of the heart and body, betrayal, confusion, hunger, lack of shelter, etc. But none of that stopped him from crying to the Lord.
“And He, the LORD, answered me.” May you cry until He does the same for you.
Oct 18, 2021 – An elderly gentleman had a very serious hearing problem. He went to the doctor; the doctor fixed him a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman
to hear 100%. One month later the elderly gentleman went back for his checkup. The doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”
The gentleman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I want you to know I’ve changed my will three times!”
O, the damage caused by loose lips! Let’s put today’s verse in its context. James 3 begins with a caution to those who wish to teach the Word of God. He says, “Teachers must be wary!” James adheres to our Lord’s admonition that “to whom much is given much is required” (Luke 12:48) and emphasizes in verse 1 that “we who teach are subject to a higher standard…a higher judgment.” He then adds to the caution by stating “in many things we teachers offend people or cause them to stumble.” How? That brings us to today’s verse. James answers the “How?” by talking at great length about the power of the tongue to do great harm to the work of God. Verses 2-12 focus on the tongue…what we say before we teach, while we teach, and after we teach! (It is true even non-teachers need this passage but please note the discussion begins with teachers.)
It is interesting what James does not discuss. He does not discuss the depth of our Bible knowledge to be a teacher, our organizational skill, our oratory, etc. But he discusses the proper use of the tongue.
One preacher took James seriously. He prayed in the pulpit before reading his text, “Lord, help me to say what should be said and to leave unsaid what should not be said.”
The reason is obvious: sometimes the authority of being the teacher goes to our head! We see ourselves as having a captive audience…I am the teacher…that means I must know more than you, the student…so let me educate you…and here goes. We “air our beef’s” about subjects which really have nothing to do with the material. We take our “expert on the Bible” ability and assume that makes us an “expert on everything else.” And we show how dumb we are even though we don’t even realize it…but others realize it and, in so doing, our credibility suffers and the message suffers.
It is my experience that any Bible passage has enough material to absorb ALL of the teacher’s time…and leave the teacher with no time for his personal views. What do you think?
Oct 16, 2021 – “We’ve never done it that way before!” Ever heard that attitude in your ministry? It’s an entrenched value in many people…must be the 11th commandment. Israel probably said those very words at the Passover, Red Sea, Jericho, etc. Indeed, those words were said on the edge of the Promised Land. As a result, “God swore in His wrath, they will not enter into rest in the promised land of Canaan” (Hebrews 3:11). The Hebrews writer elaborates further by identifying that attitude as an “evil heart of unbelief” or “lack of faith.”
God is constantly making things new. He delights in making things new. “Behold, I make all things new!” is fully displayed throughout the Bible. God blesses His churches with the spiritual gift of “faith” to keep us from staying in the same rut year after year. Those people challenge us to get up and move. Some are great at starting and finishing a new project; others are great at starting and depend on others to join in and finish.
God’s truth never changes, but His techniques for revealing truth get upgraded like everything else. God is not behind the times. God even uses the internet, television and radio to reach people!
The North Carolina governor once complimented Thomas Edison on his inventive abilities but Edison denied that he was a great inventor. The governor countered, “But you have over a thousand patents to your credit!”
Edison replied, “Yes. But my only original invention is the phonograph. I am just a good sponge. I absorb ideas from every source I can, put them to practical use, and improve on them until they become of value. The ideas are mostly those of others who don’t develop them themselves.”
Please allow Israel’s failures and Edison’s successes to motivate you!
Oct 15, 2021 – Are you blessed? An accountant decided to open a journal with God. He intended to record everything that God gave him along with everything he gave God. He started keeping a debit and credit book with God.
If someone did him a favor, he put it down as God’s gift to him. He credited God with the sun, his food, his health, his friends and relatives, plus a thousand other benefits he received.
He also recorded everything he did for God. Finally, though, he gave up his effort. Why? He said, “It is impossible for me to balance the books. I find that God is indeed my creditor and what I have done for Him is next to nothing!”
God asks, yea, demands that our heart be yielded or totally surrendered to Him. If that were possible 24 hours a day we would be able to write volumes of books filled with items we have done for God. But even then how would our list compare with the number (and quality of that number) of what God has done, is doing, and will do for us? In heaven we will achieve that completely surrendered state of existence, but even then we will never ever be able to return to God even the slightest of what God is doing for us.
We are blessed. Tremendously blessed. Yes, “the One who knows me best, loves me most!”
Oct 14, 2021 – One night many years ago a small plane crashed into a Pennsylvania mountain near a seventy foot stainless steel cross which served as a sign for a Methodist training center. Six people perished in the crash. The Associated Press reported, “The cross has electric lights, but they were not turned on at the time.”
Some thought the plane’s pilot would have gone higher (and above the mountain) if he had seen the closeness of the lighted cross. But the cross was unlit…served no purpose in the blackness of night and six people entered eternity.
Does your church still preach the cross? How often? Many churches (and we should point out the church as a whole does things because the individuals in the church begin doing things) have either abandoned the cross or now minimize the cross…some intentionally but others unintentionally. It is easy to become focused on less important things, though they may be important things.
Perhaps you teach, preach or are just an individual who adds to the decisions of the overall church. Be sure to put the cross front and center in your ministry. Jesus promised, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to Me” (John 12:32). You can never go wrong explaining the cross to your people. Though you may think they have heard it enough (and it’s time to move on to something else), the reality is “The Old Rugged Cross” is still a favorite song. Wonder why? Obviously, many of us are not bored with the cross.
We live in an era when many do not truly comprehend the meaning of the cross and its associated teachings of sin, righteousness, substitution, the blood, the pure sacrifice, etc. Thus, we have many nominal Christians who think they are okay with God but have never actually been to Calvary.
Someone recently posted these words, “You may have been born in church, baptized in church, served in church, could have married in church, died in church and still end up in hell, because you were only in the church and not in Christ. It is necessary to be born again, take up our cross and follow Jesus. Many have religion, but have no relation to the living God!”
Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the cross. EVERYTHING FOR THE CHRISTIAN BEGINS AT THE CROSS…and that requires an understanding of the cross. Make sure your listeners understand what “Christ died for our sins” truly means.
Oct 13, 2021 – One of the all-time successful companies in the business world is Facebook. People, including politicians, criticize Facebook but it keeps marching on. What is Facebook’s reaction to these devotionals? Read on!
These Monday-Saturday devotionals appear in three viewing platforms: my website at godsgreenhouse.net, Linked-in (a Microsoft company), and Facebook. Facebook (along with Google, Amazon, Apple, etc.) has successfully created mathematical algorithms to target articles and advertisements to the viewer based upon his viewing habits. Their success rate in this practice is high; thus, they make more money than they can count.
So what does Facebook recommend to me today? Based upon the 100 Bible devotionals I have posted to the Facebook page titled “God’s Greenhouse,” Facebook sends me the following message: “This group is popular with users like you: SARCASMHUB.” One would have expected a recommendation like “Jesus Saves” or “Bible Believers” but “SarcasmHub”? Give me a break. It appears Facebook’s algorithm failed big-time in understanding little ol’ me and what I am doing for the Lord.
God, though, is not like Facebook. Today’s text indicates God knows His sheep inside and outside. Thoroughly. Without error. Never having to ask us for our thoughts. Knows us better than we know ourselves. Knows our plans and the outcome even before we try.
There are no algorithm failures with God, because He does not rely upon such man-made formulas. That means we can trust God in every facet of our lives. He KNOWS us!
Verse three says He identifies His sheep by their specific name. Uncle Sam likes my social security number, but I prefer being recognized by my name. Sometimes I call my daughters by another daughter’s name. Do you ever do that? Amazingly, God NEVER does that…not one single time. Double amazingly, He never even calls the wrong number!
God also knows how much we can carry. No one knows that weight until we encounter it, but God knows. He knows our abilities. Imagine if God had called you to do what God called Moses to do: lead an entire nation of grumblers. Could you have done it? Not me. God knows the round pegs and every other sort. He never mismatches. I mismatch (I recommended a church treasurer who, we learned later, could not balance her own checkbook! What a mess!) but God never mismatches.
Last, He knows even all of my negatives (yours, too) and He still gave His life for us. We may scare off some people but we will never scare off God. He’s determined to be with us through thick and thin.
That brings us to final words but not to a conclusion. Today’s devotional does not have to end. Perhaps you ought to write the next paragraph yourself. What else does God KNOW about you? Make a list of three items and then think through their implications. I guarantee you: none of you will write the same three items.
Oct 11, 2021 – Today’s devotional may seem like a salute to a person but, upon deeper reflection you will realize it is a salute to what MAKES the person. Evangelist Glenn Mathews and my father (now in heaven) were born within a few months of each other. I first met Glenn in the 1980’s; Dad, though, knew him as a youngster singing in our church. Glenn is an excellent preacher and, though now in his eighties, still has a clear mind and can out-preach 90% of us including me. Most importantly, he is best known for his consistency in character as well as ministry. To use the old expression, “he continues to deliver the mail.” Thank God, he doesn’t change.
But what makes people like him be like him? Recently I was with him in a service. He preached. Did a typical outstanding job making the Bible plain to us. But he then did something that gave me a glimpse into not only him but also ALL OF US. He closed his Bible and told us about being in the choir as a teenager, singing an old Stamps-Baxter song. He then quoted the song word for word. Quoted it. In other words, despite the many years between then and now, the song was still engrained in him. These are the words:
“If when you give the best of your service, Telling the world that the Saviour has come, Be not dismayed when men don’t believe you, He’ll understand and say ‘well done’“. The chorus says, “When I come to the end of my journey Weary of life and the battle is won, Carrying the staff and the cross of redemption, He’ll understand and say ‘well done.’”
It was evident those words were not only in his mind but also in his spirit. May I suggest you need a song for you, too? Songs are powerful. The word “psalm” means “song.” Obviously David sung a lot of songs…and his songs are read the most of any book in the Bible.
One song that is deep in my spirit is the fourth verse of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” It says, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small, Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
You need a song, too. Maybe two or three that drive you to be the best Christian you can be. What song(s) would it be for you? Don’t brush this idea off…you need a song. You really do. May God guide you to the right song for you.
Oct 9, 2021 – The promise and reality of heaven often becomes dearer as the follower of Christ becomes older. Sometimes the body fails. Unfortunately, sometimes the body becomes so frail the next step cannot be taken on earth…it will instead be taken on the streets of gold! Throughout my ministry I have met homebound then bedbound saints who asked, “Why am I still here? I can’t do anything…can’t even take care of myself. Why am I still here?”
They asked that question because they KNEW there was something which is FAR better. It is a question which is asked many, many times in the Bible.
For example, dying Stephen asked, “Why stay here? I see Jesus standing to welcome me.”
Abraham asked, “Why stay here? I am looking for a city whose architect and builder is God.”
David asked, “Why stay here? In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. I shall finally be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness.”
D. L. Moody asked, “Why stay here? I was born the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is the born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”
Elijah asked, “Why stay here? There is a chariot of fire coming for me.”
Paul asked, “Why stay here? There is a crown of righteousness waiting for me.”
Enoch asked, “Why stay here? I get to take an eternal walk with God.”
Take some time today to reflect upon your future. God promises, “It is FAR BETTER.”
Oct 8, 2021 – Today’s multiple verses are known as the “Beatitudes” or “heavenly joy” passage. Upon first glance, one would think the opposite. But upon detailed study one realizes God releases a much deeper joy (joy unspeakable or inexpressible) into the hearts of His yielded servants. It is more than a happy ha-ha-ha moment but a persistent attitude generated by a continuing upward look into the face of our heavenly Father. Heavenly communion produces more than an attitude change; it also produces a character change. The more we look upon Him the more we become like Him.
Many of today’s Christians are manufacturing “feelings” when they should be developing their faith. Do you want to rely upon your feelings or your faith? Hebrews 11 makes it clear God’s emphasis is faith, not feelings. Also, consider these words: Faith leads to joy; joy never leads to faith. Don’t put the cart before the horse!
Thus, we need to make a decision. Do we wish to chase feelings or develop faith? The Beatitudes are all about developing faith and out of that faith develops the “blessed” state of God’s joy.
Our former pastor Lee Roberson illustrated the difference in this manner. “My aunt and uncle moved out of their little farm into the city. Back on the farm my aunt had carried water from a well almost a quarter of a mile. It was for drinking, for bathing and for washing clothes. That job never seemed to end. When they moved to the city, she would walk into the kitchen, turn on the faucet, let the water run into the sink, look at it and marvel at its abundance.
“Oh, that we might cease from our trying and learn to rest on Him, to find in Him abundance of peace, joy and rest!” AMEN AND AMEN!
Oct 6, 2021 – Feeling down? The struggles becoming heavier? No answers on the horizon? Read again what Jesus has promised you…then consider what that means in these words below:
I sought a shelter from the storms
Of life, and as they beat
Upon my craft’s frail, trembling sides,
God whispered, “No retreat,
But rather strength to face the task,
To make your work complete.”
“But, Lord,” I cried, “it is too great
A job for me to do.”
And He agreed it was too much
FOR ONE, BUT NOT FOR TWO.
“Have faith,” He cried, “Have I not said
That I will see you through?
John W. Little
Oct 5, 2021 – (Editor’s note: As the country recovers from COVID, today’s devotional will take on even greater importance. It is critical that our churches quickly return to doing what only God’s church can do. Feel free to print this devotional in your church bulletin when the time is appropriate.)
Christmas rolls around only once a year; I’d hate to miss a Christmas! Easter rolls around only once a year; I’d hate to miss an Easter! And what about Thanksgiving…for us it’s a four day celebration with family members. But again, our Turkey celebration only comes once a year.
By contrast, Sunday rolls around once every week and with it comes the #1 corporate worship experience of the week. Sunday has “opportunity” written all over it and it possesses the power to get us from that Sunday to next Sunday. In so doing, God allows you one more opportunity to be part of what ought to be a special opportunity of worship and service. What a blessing to be treasured!
We need to realize how precious this opportunity is and make the most of it. Unlike us, many in this world do not even have one church in their region. They live in spiritual darkness with no knowledge such as you possess or have access to. Our particular area is known as the “Bible Belt” because of the large number of Bible preaching churches throughout this region. (It’s impossible to have too many churches because the majority of people do not attend any church. We need ALL the tools, even more tools, to reach them.)
During my childhood, I often heard the preacher say, “Hell will be hottest for the people in this area. That is because this area has more available opportunities than any other area.” There is much truth in that statement. Jesus said to the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida, “Woe to you! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21).
Lehman says, “One can present people with opportunities. One cannot make them equal to them.” That statement will be fulfilled throughout our country next Sunday and the Sunday after that and… The opportunity to be saved will be overlooked by many. The opportunity to know God better will be ignored by many. The opportunity to learn, to grow, to worship, to make the most of that day will be tossed to the side. What will you do with your next Sunday opportunity?
Oct 1, 2021 – Whom can God use? We have a tendency to emphasize “little is much in the hands of God” but we often overlook that God uses well educated people too. The point is that each person (based upon our uniqueness and potential development) fills a place in the body of Christ…in God’s work. Let’s consider these words from an old article:
“There are those who tell us, ‘Peter and John were “unlearned and ignorant men.”’ So they were. God by His grace mightily used them. There was, however, another apostle who, instead of being “unlearned and ignorant,” was one of the finest scholars of his age. And the influence of Paul, the greatest of all missionaries and the most intellectual of inspired writers, outruns them all.
“Nor is Paul the only instance of God’s use of consecrated intellect. Augustine, Luther, Edwards, Wesley—all were men of high education who loved learning and used their minds until their work was done. We give due honor to Moody and Spurgeon, who lacked formal education but who valued it so highly that they both founded schools.”
Schooling does not make a man any more than ignorance makes a man. But schooling does provide the tools that can develop people to a much higher level. I am very thankful for those Christian leaders who are smarter than me and have taught me what I would never have learned on my own. Much was indeed given to them and they came through for me!!! How about you?
Bottom line: No one should ever feel inferior or superior to any other member in the body of Christ based upon our skills. Each one of us has been uniquely prepared BY GOD for our moment in history. Use whatever you have for the glory of God. God will not compare you with anyone else; He will only evaluate if you have done what you can do!
Sep 30, 2021 – Are you growing in your faith…in your relationship with your Savior? Remarkedly, one of the keys to a deeper relationship is allowing (not rejecting) adversity to pressure us into becoming more like the One who endured to the death on the cross.
A man was seen dragging a rugged cross through the city streets to depict the walk of Christ to the cross. Someone suggested he pad the cross with something like velvet. It would be easier on his shoulder. He responded, “I cannot represent Christ with a velvet cross! There was no velvet on His cross!”
Warren Wiersbe points out, “You do not become patient and persevering by reading a book or listening to a lecture. You have to suffer!” Modern day Christians, though, have a tendency to reject that part of the gospel; their answer is, unfortunately, YES to the song, “Must I be carried to the sky on flowery beds of ease while others fight to win the prize and sailed through BLOODY seas?”
God, though, is not nearly as concerned about our level of comfort as we are. Verse 4 mentions persecutions or attacks from outside the person. We aren’t stoned like Stephen but the world expresses its distaste of our Christian convictions. Afflictions may be a reference to internal pressure that arises from the persecutions. But notice the result of this struggle: perseverance and faith!
Case in point: John Bunyan was sentenced to twelve years in Bedford jail for preaching Christ. But it was in prison that he accomplished his GREATEST work. He wrote the masterpiece, “PILGRIM’S PROGRESS.” Bunyan said, “I was at home in prison and I sat me down and wrote and wrote, for the joy did make me write.” He won! And all of us have benefited from his victory.
Are you struggling today? Hang in there! Someone in heaven is rooting for you!
Sep 29, 2021 – Everyone needs a better, stronger and more vibrant prayer life. Do you agree? A telephone lineman was listening to some Christians argue about the best position or place to pray. Finally, he interrupted and said, “Once I was on a pole when my feet slipped and I found myself hanging upside down. That’s where I prayed the best prayer I ever prayed!” But, in all honesty, the BEST place we can ever pray is “in the Holy Spirit.” That expression runs counter to praying “in our flesh.” “Praying in the Holy Spirit” is like moving into a new room with different furnishings, a different feel altogether. In so doing we leave other items (aka the flesh) behind, we enter Another’s presence, and we commune with Him (both receiving and giving) in something we call prayer.
Ajith Fernando beautifully explains, “When we pray, we set our sails in the direction that will catch the wind of the Spirit so that we can be carried along in his stream. When we linger in his presence, we deepen our intimacy with him, and this means that we can represent him better when we minister. W. E. Sanger…describes unction as ‘that mystic plus in preaching which no one can define and no one with any spiritual sensitivity at all can mistake.’ He says, ‘Unction comes only of praying. Other things precious to a preacher come by prayer and something else. Unction comes only of praying. If nothing else revealed the poverty of our secret prayers, the absence of unction would. Able preaching can often reveal the cleverness of a man…Unction reveals the presence of God.’ (Jesus Driven Ministry, pg. 43)
Stanley Jones writes, “Someone asked me how I maintained my spiritual life—certain hours do not belong to the day—they’re out. They belong to getting strength for the day. If I let down these hours, the day lets down with them. I am better or worse as I pray more or less. The day sags if the prayer hour sags.”
Take time today to meet with Him…and talk to Him! He will be waiting.
Sep 28, 2021 – Do you enjoy the beauty of God’s four seasons? Which season excites you the most? Stanley Horowitz says, “Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” WOW!
Do you ever wonder how God does it? Paints a mosaic of them all! I remember when we had only sixteen colors of crayons. (My fav was black!) Now the number is much larger. Wonder how many colors God uses in the autumn season? Wonder if every color has a name? Thankfully, God did not make the world colorless (with a gray crayon) but rather colorful. Such a display bears even more testimony that God loves man and has created a wonderful world for His creation.
This pastor challenges you to set aside some time to actually view God’s color schemes. How long? Long enough to really appreciate what God does. Thirty years ago I pastored a church with some magnificent stained glass windows that were insured for a great sum of money. I was there more than four years but it was only in the last month that I really took the time to examine the windows…to appreciate their beauty and the story of Christ which was portrayed in the design of each window. It seemed I was too busy with everything else to study those windows for the first four years. What a shame!
Perhaps you’re busy, too, and missing out on what God is painting whether it is a tree, snow flake, ocean, sunset, or stream. Amazingly, God is always painting something new. His artwork is all around us. This would be a good year to change that busyness into wonderment!
Sep 27, 2021 – The author Theodore Reinking was sentenced to execution in 1646 because he had written a book that offended King Christian IV of Denmark. But he was offered freedom by that king IF he “ate the book.” The choice was clear: “Eat your words or you will be executed.” Reinking did not hesitate; he proceeded to tear his book into pieces, soak it in soup and began eating! In time he devoured the entire book. His life was spared.
Would to God we could eat our words, too! But once those words are said they become part of the public record, the everyday discourse, and heaven help us if someone filmed it with their I-phone and puts our comments on the internet.
The Christian needs to be cautious in what he says and to whom he says it. ALL of us have big mouths at the wrong time. We forget the old saying, “Loose lips sink ships.” Well, in our case they may not sink a ship but they can easily sink a Christian testimony.
Calvin Coolidge, though, urges a different course of action. He teaches, “I have never been cursed by the things I left unsaid.”
Many Christian testimonies have been shattered – totally destroyed – by saying inappropriate words, jokes or opinions. It is always appropriate to do a self-inventory of how we behave before others. The old adage, “Would Jesus say this?” is a good check on our speech. Perhaps you’ll do such a self-inventory today and discover a weakness that you can eliminate. Instead, season your speech not only with salt but with thanksgiving…always talking about God’s blessings upon your life. That should be easy…after all, you are very blessed!
Sep 25, 2021 – Whom do I serve? Is He a tyrant? Is He ruthless? Does He enjoy making my life miserable? Does He have any regard for me? Does He have a plan for my life?
The Presbyterian William Biederwolf preached a Christmas sermon titled, “The Wonderful Christ.” His outline was so simple: Jesus is wonderful in His teaching, wonderful in His works, wonderful in His influence, and wonderful in His personal claims. In summary, Jesus is the most wonderful person to ever walk the earth. Do you concur with that statement?
Zaccheus found him to be wonderful. The thief on the cross found him to be wonderful. Blind Bartimaeus found him to be wonderful. The centurion found him to be wonderful. Mary and Martha found him to be wonderful. The men on the way to Emmaus found him to be wonderful. So many more could be mentioned including the apostles, John the Baptist, the ones he healed and delivered from demons, even the 5,000 who forgot to bring their lunch!
People followed him for three years. They stayed with him through thick and thin. Problems came, confusion came, but they found something in him that encouraged them to stay with him.
So have I. I have found something in him that continues to encourage me to minister in his name. It is actually more than something (singular) but more like MANY things, more things than anyone else I know. He is truly WONDERFUL to me. It is no burden to minister for him, rather it is a joy!
“Jesus is all the world to me, my life my joy my all. He gives me strength from day to day, without him I would fall…Beautiful life with such a friend, beautiful life which has no end. Eternal life, eternal joy, He’s my friend!”
Sep 24, 2021 – How do you share the message of salvation with others? Through the years my churches have taught many strategies: Wordless Book, Evangelism Explosion, Romans Road, F.A.I.T.H, the Net, Saddleback’s Class 401, as well as a strategy of my own design. All of them work.
Indeed, EE’s big question remains the standout of all these classes, “Suppose you were to die tonight and stand before God and He were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ What would you say?” The advantage of that approach is it forces the hearer to give something other than a “Yes” or “No” answer. It’s a much better approach than to ask, “Are you a Christian?” because it’s always debatable how the hearer defines “Christian.” You don’t want to get tied up with a discussion of what the word “Christian” means. EE’s question is much, much better.
But there is another tried-and-proven approach and that is to use a picture from the Bible. The Passover (Exodus 12) is the best Old Testament passage to explain the doctrine of substitution (the innocent must die for the guilty). All the components are available for a successful presentation: the pure Lamb (Christ), the blood (death of the substitute), the application of the blood (the door represents the heart), and deliverance (“When I see the blood I will pass over you”). I have used this formula with adults AND children. Every age can grasp the key ingredients.
The best New Testament passage on substitution is the question of Pontius Pilate: “Whom shall I release unto you? Barabbas, a thief and a robber and an insurrectionist and a murderer (the lowest of the low), or Jesus?” Key question: Will the guilty die or the innocent die? The only way Barabbas goes free is if Jesus dies in His place. The late John McNeil said that, of all the people in Jerusalem, he thought Barabbas had the best idea of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I agree. Undoubtedly, Barabbas had given up hope. He was “without strength.” But the Bible says, “When we were without strength Christ died for (the Greek word “huper” means “in the place of”) the ungodly.” Someone had to die to pay the sin debt! Jesus died in place of Barabbas! The picture is universal: Jesus died in my place, your place, everyone’s place! The sin guilt of the ungodly was placed upon the innocent substitute and the just demand of righteousness was met.
Imagine Barabbas perhaps being one of those that passed by the cross of Jesus. He could have looked up and said, “That man is dying for me! He is dying in my place! Someone has to die for my sin and it is Him!”
What a picture! “To as many as received Him, He gave the power (the right) to become children of God!” Parents can share this story at home. Teachers can share this story at church. And all of us can share this story with anyone we meet.
Sep 23, 2021 – Do you ever stumble and fall in your Christian walk? Well, join the crowd. Todays’ verse provides hope for each one of us. The Lord (Jehovah) will be there for us when we fall or are overwhelmed.
The first word “fall” has the idea of stumbling, the walk being interrupted, and down we go. David writes about his many falls in this diary we call the Psalms. David, at times was a man after God’s own heart, but at other times he was a man after the devil’s heart. He did hideous things you and I have never done! Yet God did not desert David. The Lord reprimanded David many times and those reprimands were often harsh (God turned David into an example for the host of Israel.) But God then picked him up.
The same experience happened to poor “foot-in-my-mouth” Peter. Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus. How did he respond? He retreated and “wept bitterly.” But what did Jesus say immediately after His resurrection? “Go tell Peter that I am alive” (Mark 16:7). Sometime that day Jesus had a one-on-one meeting with Peter and picked up the fallen apostle. Peter, of course, then became the main speaker on the day of Pentecost and preached one of the greatest sermons ever preached (Acts 2). Based on this promise, we must conclude there is hope for us, too, when we fall and make a mess of things. The lesson is clear: DON’T GIVE UP ON YOURSELF BECAUSE GOD HAS NOT GIVEN UP ON YOU.
The second word “bowed” has the idea of “oppressed, broken down, or bent over.” The Lord’s words, “Come to me all of you who are weary, burdened, heavy laden…stooping because of the load” are the equivalent of this “bowed” concept. Jesus promises “rest” of soul to that person. It is similar to Psalm 23’s “He restores or refreshes my soul…renews my strength.” There is such a thing as weariness of the soul…that weariness is sometimes worse than weariness of the body because it goes to the heart or the will of the person. David sang, “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3). In other words, he would not have made it in his own strength. Likewise, Paul testified that no one stood with him during his first trial but no matter…”The Lord stood by my side and gave me strength” (2 Timothy 4:17).
How can we best respond to times such as these? Charles Spurgeon preaches, “Christians who are endowed with some divine strength, are attacked at times with a spiritual, universal decline. Just as we sometimes see a strong and healthy person growing pale and wan, losing appetite and falling into sickness, until he becomes a mere skeleton, because a general sapping and undermining of the constitution has come upon him: so have I seen it with Christians; they do not lose life, but they do lose all their energy, and become listless and lifeless…they can scarce walk, much less run, and mounting with wings as eagles were quite out of the question. Such persons will bear witness that the only way of recruiting their strength is by faith. They must come again to the first principles, and trust their souls anew with Jesus, believing over again with a novelty of energy the old doctrines of the gospel. They must go to God as to a real God in believing prayer, and they will not long remain weak. Out of weakness faith is sure to make us strong, and the change effected in us is equal to that which we see in a man who having been long confined to his couch at last returns to his labor showing no tokens whatever of disease.”
My prayer for you is “that out of the riches of His glory He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16).
I was walking down life’s highway a long time ago, One day I saw a sign that read ‘Heaven’s Grocery Store.’
As I got a little closer, the door came open wide And when I came to myself, I was standing inside.
I saw a host of angels, they were standing everywhere, One handed me a basket and said, “My child, shop with care.”
Everything a Christian needed was in that grocery store, And all you couldn’t carry, you could come back the next day for more.
First, I got some Patience, Love was in the same row, Further down was Understanding, you need that everywhere you go,
I got a box or two of Wisdom, a bag or two of Faith, I just couldn’t miss the Holy Ghost, for He was all over the place.
I stopped to get some Strength and Courage to help me run this race, By then my basket was getting full, but I remembered I needed some Grace.
I didn’t forget Salvation, for salvation was free, So I tried to get enough of that to save both you and me.
Then I started up to the counter to pay my grocery bill, For I thought I had everything to do my Master’s will.
As I went up the aisle, I saw Prayer and I just had to put that in, For I knew when I stepped outside, I would run right into sin.
Peace and Joy were plentiful, they were on the last shelf, Song and Praises were hanging near so I just helped myself.
Then I said to the angel, ‘Now how much do I owe?’ He just smiled and said, ‘Just take them everywhere you go.’
Again, I smiled at him and said, ‘How much do I really owe?’
He smiled again and said, ‘My child, Jesus paid your bill a long time ago.’
Sep 18, 2021 – How do we spend our lives? It is estimated that a life spanning seventy years will be spent in the following ways: three years in education, eight years in amusements, six years at the dinner table, five years in transportation, four years in conversation, fourteen years in work, three years in reading, twenty-four years in sleeping, and three years dealing with a health problem.
Notice, though, that something as basic as church attendance is not mentioned. There are two reasons. First, many people do not attend church. Second, even faithful church attendance does not absorb much time. The person who attends a ninety-minute service each Sunday and spends ten minutes a day in prayer will spend only ten months in such activities. Not even one year!
But “Come! Follow Me!” is good for three hundred sixty-five days a year for as long as we live. “Come! Follow Me!” is God’s goal for each one of His children. He calls us to be with Him in order that we might be like Him! The first (the cause) leads to the second (the effect) and the second always predates effective Christian ministry. However, we can accomplish nothing if we are not first with Him! “For without Me, you can do nothing!” (John 15:5).
“Come! Follow Me!”
Sep 17, 2021 – Without question, the Bible is a book of wonders! It is truly a miracle book which deserves to be handled with precious care.
It was written by many different writers arising from different cultures, centuries, backgrounds, and education. Luke was a physician, Paul was “college” educated, Matthew was a tax collector, Moses was educated in a foreign culture, Peter and John were mere fishermen, Nehemiah was a cupbearer, David and Solomon were exalted kings, Job was a rich farmer, Samuel was a priest and Amos was a shepherd.
It is often difficult to get individuals in the same family to agree on anything, but God used people separated by thousands of years from every conceivable background to create a Book with one central theme without any contradictions which has the power to save a man’s soul.
Evangelist B. R. Lakin reports, “No other book has survived the centuries unaltered as has the Bible. The very fact of its existence at all is the greatest proof of its being the Word of God. It has survived empires, kingdoms, civilizations, wars, the dark ages, the Renaissance, modernism, skepticism, the old deals, the new deals, and all of the raw deals that have been perpetrated against it.”
Yes, “The Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35). We can live it and teach it in confidence!
Sep 16, 2021 – Can anyone be too small for God to use? The answer is no. The history of Israel demonstrates God likes to use small people, small countries, and small churches. As we draw near the end of this current age, what draws our attention more and more? A little country in the Middle East named Israel.
The Old Testament records the rise of God’s chosen people: the Jewish race. Just a small group…but what better way for God/Logos to reveal Himself and demonstrate His power? “The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations” (Deuteronomy 7:7). So small and insignificant but yet a means for God to reveal Himself!
Someone reportedly asked Daniel Webster, “Can you give me one reason why you believe the Bible is the Word of God?”
Webster replied instantly, “The continued existence of the Jew!”
Somehow unknown to man but known to God’s people (the “somehow” is God’s providence) the Jew has maintained his racial identity through untold persecution. The Jew has remained distinct from the rest of humanity, unassimilated into the masses.
The Jew is a living testimony that God speaks through small people, small nations and small churches. Lesson: Don’t ever discount your own effort. God can and will use you, too.
Sep 15, 2021 – Where is God as we minister for Him? The reality soon sinks into our spirit that we are not alone in our role as God’s messenger. God is with us. God is alongside us in whatever we do as God’s messenger. Consider the biblical evidence.
Jehovah said to Moses, “Certainly I will be with thee” (Exodus 3:12).
God said to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not fail you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).
David was confident of this fact: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Paul informed Timothy, “At my first trial no man stood with me. All abandoned me. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:16-17).
The Lord promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
The Apostle John was imprisoned on the island known as Patmos. But he said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10).
Thank God, we never need to pray, “Lord, be with me today” because He is already with us. His presence encourages us. His power empowers us. His wisdom enlightens us. His gospel emboldens us because the gospel will work in every situation in every century in every culture. Therefore, the Apostle Paul was able to write in total confidence, “I am not ashamed of the gospel or good news associated with Jesus Christ: the good news of the cross is the power of God unto salvation to every person that believes” (Romans 1:16).
Hallelujah! The messenger of God is never alone!
Sep 14, 2021 – In the days before cell phones, we might need to borrow someone’s telephone. Perhaps we experienced car trouble away from home and needed to call a tow truck. We would knock on a stranger’s door and request to use their telephone. The kind owner would say, “You may use our telephone. It is in the living room.” One could go into the kitchen but he would not be close to the telephone. He could go to the bathroom, bedroom or study but he would not be able to make the telephone call. He could only access the telephone if he entered the living room.
The same is true for prayer. We cannot use the telephone called prayer to call our heavenly Father unless we are in the room where the telephone is located. God’s Word makes it plain that a person must pray IN the Holy Spirit. That is the opposite of praying in the room identified as THE FLESH.
That means we can’t drag our sin into His presence unless we come confessing our sin. After all, He is called the Holy Spirit for a reason. Nor can we pray “our will be done” in His presence. That would be the equivalent of praying on the front porch (in our flesh). We must instead approach Him with openness, willingness and honesty.
Lehman Strauss asks, “But what does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit? The superhuman task of praying according to the will of God demands more than mere human reasoning. It needs the wisdom and power which only the Holy Spirit can supply. Human wisdom and human desires can achieve human results, but praying in the Spirit produces divine results. In praying in the Holy Spirit, the child of God has the power and wisdom of God to offset the power and wisdom of the world, the flesh, and the devil.” (Sense and Nonsense about Prayer, pg. 31)
May you enter His room and His presence today!
Sep 13, 2021 – How valuable am I? Read on! One foolish sheep was lost. It had wandered far from the fold, because a sheep’s nature is to go astray. Once lost, a sheep cannot find its way home. If found, there was no assurance the sheep would not repeat such foolishness. After all, it was a sheep and a sheep’s wayward nature does not change.
Although the loss was a tragedy to the one lost sheep, it was not a tragedy for the shepherd. Thus, there were many reasons for the shepherd to ignore the one lost sheep. First, it was the one and only sheep that was lost. Second, ninety-nine other sheep were not lost. Third, the one lost sheep could easily be replaced. Fourth, who knows how much searching must be done? Fifth, was there any guarantee the sheep could even be found? Sixth, what are the odds that the defenseless sheep has survived the wolves and other dangers? Seventh, the shepherd’s time is limited.
And yet he went searching. How many hours did he search? We do not know. We only know he searched until he found the lost sheep.
The lost sheep pictures every human being in the history of the world. As a general rule, man does not place a high value upon man in generic terms; however, man does assign a higher value upon man in specific terms such as family and friends.
But God is not like normal man. God places a high value upon EVERY soul. That is why “Jesus tasted death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).
God help us to treasure every soul!
Sep 11, 2021 – When was the last time you really thanked God for what He has done for you and will soon do for you? May I share a few thoughts that came to me as I prayed today? First, thank you, Jesus, for not calling ten thousand angels to destroy the soldiers at your crucifixion. If You had done that there would have been no blood offering to cover my sins.
Second, thank you, Jesus, for searching for this one lost sheep. As far as I am concerned, the parable about the one lost sheep is not about those reading this devotional…it is all about me! I was that one lost sheep. Thank God, Jesus found me! That action has changed my entire life.
Third, thank you, Jesus, for giving me your Word. I am known as a preacher of the Word because I believe in the Word with all my heart. In my younger days I began my sermons with a question then said, “The answer is to be found in none other than the inspired, inerrant Word of God.” I still believe that. I thank God for giving me His Word as a source of truth.
Fourth, thank you, Jesus, for my ministry. It began 45 years ago. Like most preachers, I wish I had the ability of a Billy Graham to reach millions. That was God’s choice for Billy, but not for the rest of us. However, God’s ministry for me has allowed me to sow abundant gospel seed and to proclaim the cause of righteousness to an unrighteous world.
Fifth, thank you, Jesus, for my wife—my faithful ministry partner for all these years. I have never once doubted her loyalty to God. She has faithfully served in practically every capacity. I am most proud of her being the “soulwinner” for our AWANA program in one church. Everyone knew where to bring the seekers!
Sixth, thank you, Jesus, for always meeting our financial needs. We have been very fortunate. Even in our lean financial years we were able to pay all of our bills on time. I remember the day one member walked into my study and gave me his car keys. He had bought a new car. He gave me his old one. That car met a big need for us. We started in the ministry on faith. I want you to know God has always provided…just like He promised!
Seventh, thank you, Jesus, for the many friends You have brought my way. As my readers know, I now write books about Christian growth. I often think of special friends (now with the Lord) that I could have shared those books with: Paul Edwards, Paul Woods, Clyde Moore, Carl Holderby, my father, Carl Riggle, Calhoun Jackson, Bob Holbrook, Vern Davis, so many who have helped me along the way. They were very important to me.
Eighth, thank you Jesus, for someday making me like You! “We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is!” Maybe today! Yes, maybe today!
Perhaps today would be a great day for you to write down some of your blessings. In so doing, you will likely realize that God has turned you into a blessing to others, also.
Sep 10, 2021 – “Get to know my God.” David is turning over the reins (and the reign) to his son, Solomon. David will soon die. For all intents and purposes, his life and mission in life are both coming to an end. What does he discuss with Solomon? What wisdom does he impart? This text is a great text for a king’s ordination service…or for a pastor or deacon ordination service…or for you to impart your final words of instruction to your children. What is David’s admonition? It can be summarized in five words, “Get to know my God.” David says,
“Know Him. Know the God that I know. This God is the God of your father. He has been tested and proven throughout my life. He’s brought me through valley after valley. There is no one like my Shepherd. My songs (called Psalms) reflect my time with my God. We’ve enjoyed a personal relationship. I want it to be a personal relationship for you, too. So take the time to know Him.
“Serve Him. Your purpose in life is not to serve yourself or even serve the people of our great country. As King, you will be in position to be served by so many. If you’re not careful, you may become pompous and see yourself as the King. But you are not. You must acknowledge God as the King and you as His prince. Israel will still belong to Him after you follow me into the dust of the grave. Therefore, make Him your King and submit yourself before Him.
“Whole heart. Not half-hearted. Not a divided heart either. But a whole heart. Give Him your best, give Him your everything. “Bless the Lord, ALL of my soul and heart and being. Praise His name!”
“Willing mind. It will be easy for you, my son, to think you know it all because you’re incredibly smart. But you’re not smart enough. You need help. More help than you now know. Make your mind willing to listen to our God. Force your mind to be open to His direction. Don’t allow your strong will to go a separate direction. Concentrate your thoughts on Him. Acknowledge Him IN YOUR MIND as being wiser and smarter than you. Come before Him and say, ‘Teach me.’ Be teachable and you will be taught.”
So the old man David gives wise counsel to his own son. May we do the same for those we love.
Sep 9 2021 – Four huge beasts! That phrase may seem to run contrary to this devotional’s goal but read on! Daniel’s vision is about the power that will belong to the four most dominating Gentile powers in the history of the world. The fourth beast (probably a reference to Rome) is described as, “frightening and dreadful, and incredibly strong, with large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and it trampled with its feet whatever was left.” These beasts are described in nightmarish terms. Frightening! They are not household pets nor even zoo pets. But the world does not visualize them in that way.
One unknown preacher comments, “In these wild beasts we see that God does not see as man sees. When man looks at ‘the times or the reigns of the Gentiles,’ he sees great academic, industrial and military accomplishments; but when God looks at the ‘times of the Gentiles,’ He sees four wild beasts, with the fourth being dreadfully terrible. Man sees the concentration of wealth, majesty, and power; God sees a succession of ravenous wild beasts devouring one another.”
Here is the point: God sees the world much differently. His viewpoint is radically different.
In order to be better ministers, we must ask ourselves, “How do I see the world? Do I see it through the eyes of God or the eyes of the world? Am I somehow being deceived into accepting worldly values rather than heavenly values? Are my goals worldly or biblical? Are my affections set on things above or on things below?”
The best cure for seeing the world rightly is by rightly dividing the Word of TRUTH on a continual basis. The longer one spends time in God’s Word the more his mind will be renewed and he will begin to see things as God views them. Do not worry about God being too radical. God is not a nut nor a conspiracist who sees a demon behind every tree; rather God is honest. Let Him renew your mind that you may see more clearly!
Sep 8, 2021 – How should a Christian think about Bible passages that seem impossible? In ages past a young man went to a well-known philosopher and said, “I want to know all there is to know.”
The philosopher took him to the shore and instructed him to peer closely upon the ocean. He said, “Tell me about the ocean.”
The young man proceeded to tell him all that he SAW. The philosopher grunted and said, “Tell me about the ocean.”
The young man answered, “I just did. I told you about everything I see.”
The philosopher said, “Tell me, though, about the ocean you do not see.”
The young man struggled for a moment then confessed, “The ocean is too big for me to see all of it.” And it is. The would-be philosopher soon grasped not the ocean but the reality that the ocean was more than he could see, comprehend or grasp. It stretched before him to the curvature of the earth. It stretched on either side of him farther than he could see. And if he walked either right or left for a full day or a full month or a full year, he would see even more ocean and still have more to discover.
“Tell me, though, about the ocean you do not see.” Mortal man can only see what is before him but even much that can be seen cannot be truly seen or comprehended. The mighty ocean is just a tiny “microcosm” in this vast universe. If we struggle in comprehending the vastness and mysteries of the ocean, how can we ever comprehend the universe or the even greater Creator of the universe? We need help! Thank God, He has provided the help! That help is provided in the Bible. We believe the Bible record in full! Even the parts we do not understand (and who can understand today’s verse?).
John R. Rice says, “We would be wise to take the counsel of a dear saint of God to, ‘believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.’ What we do know makes us certain. What we do not know we take by faith.
(Excerpt from the upcoming book God Speaks—Today!)
Sep 6, 2021 – There is a story about a tavern that was being built in a small town. The Christians from the church opposed the tavern and began an all-night prayer meeting in which they asked God to intervene and stop the tavern from being completed. During the night a horrible storm came. Lightning struck the tavern and burned it to the ground. The tavern’s owner sued the church for damages. The church hired a lawyer; the lawyer claimed the church was not responsible. Both sides presented their argument to the court. The judge then said, “No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in the power of prayer and the Christians don’t.”
The greatest power in the universe is God. God manifests that power through His Word and prayer.
We know that prayer changes things because prayer, first and foremost, changes us when we pray. But, let’s be honest, it’s hard to pray. What did Jesus say? “The flesh is weak.” Sometimes it is as if we are praying with one hand tied behind our back. It’s not easy. It’s hard. That’s why so few succeed in prayer. And many don’t even try beyond a pitiful effort.
A pastor recently shared that it often takes him fifteen minutes of praying to get into a prayerful attitude. That is occasionally my experience, too. The mind MUST become uncluttered. Prayer is nigh impossible when our mind is engaged in multiple conversations or activities with either people or things. Jesus faced the same challenge and He shares His solution in today’s text. The Amplified Bible correctly captures the idea of an uncluttered mind with these expressions: “slip away” and “in seclusion.” It worked for Jesus; it will also work for you.
I encourage you to imitate Jesus at least twice a week. Set aside a block of time…how about thirty minutes to be alone with God, not in Bible study but in prayer? You may be thinking, “What would I talk about for thirty minutes?” Start by praising God for who He is and what He has done in your life. Count your blessings. Then begin talking to Him about people and situations. Call out people’s names to Him. What does each one of them need? Also, confess your sins and seek His will. “Bring your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.”
Learn to pray! It is a truly life-changing experience with Him.
Sep 4, 2021 Today’s Verse for a Better Ministry has two parts: a) what God does and b) what the believer does. The Apostle Paul begins his great doctrinal books (Romans, Ephesians) with what God does then, based on that foundation, discusses what the believer is to do. Let’s follow Paul’s order today.
First, God seals the believer at the moment the sinner places his or her faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. In Paul’s day a legal document or letter was normally sealed with soft wax. The king’s ring included his seal or insignia. The king would press his ring into the soft wax and embed a seal. The wax hardened, bearing imprint of the king’s seal. This act indicated the document belonged to the king. No one possessed higher authority that allowed him to break the seal! Thus, the seal indicated ownership.
God did it even better in saving our souls: His seal is Himself or, more specifically, the Holy Spirit. What a blessing to know that I, as a believer, am owned by Him! Claimed by Him! My salvation begins with Him and is maintained by Him! Yes, the saints of God are going to make it! So don’t fret!
Second, there WILL come a day of complete redemption for the believer. God’s plan is to finish what He has begun in each believer. The trump of God shall sound, the dead in Christ shall rise, and we who are still alive will be changed and caught up or raptured to meet the Lord in the air. Imagine yourself with a perfect soul AND a perfect body. That day is on God’s calendar. Might that day be today?
In light of all that God is doing for us, how, therefore, can we grieve His Holy Spirit? Have you ever grieved your spouse or a friend? Then you know how to do it. We believers can AND DO grieve the Holy Spirit as He tries to minister to others through us. The surrounding context of verse 30 cautions us about our speech, conduct, attitude, goals, anger, work habits, level of Christian service, etc. The Holy Spirit is leading us in the path of righteousness but we much too often are choosing the path of UNrighteousness. Instead of the Holy Spirit bubbling up like a spring in our souls, we rebel like backsliding Israel in the Old Testament and suppress the spring by placing our foot or some barrier over it. We choose to hurt His feelings just like we sometimes do with a spouse. Disharmony results…home no longer feels like home.
Answer this question: is the Holy Spirit bubbling in your life? Your answer should not be based on an emotion but on communion with God. Are you walking in His presence? Are you yielded to His will? Is your goal dedicated to giving Him glory in all that you do? Or is there rebellion…flesh-control?
Bottom line: My ministry is not really MY ministry. If what I do truly qualifies as a ministry, it will always be BECAUSE it is His ministry. Let’s be “waiting, YIELDED and still” under His control.
Sep 3, 2021 – George Mueller, known for operating his orphanages on faith, retired to do evangelistic work at the age of seventy. He continued in the ministry until he was eighty-seven years old. During those seventeen years he traveled 200,000 miles and ministered in forty-two countries. (He ministered before the airplane.)
Mueller was asked about the secret of his long ministry. He provided three reasons that have great importance to us. The second reason was the joy of knowing and serving God. The third reason was “the refreshment he received from the Scriptures and the constant recuperative power they exercised upon his being.” (Ajith Fernando) The first reason is quoted in today’s scripture. Quoting Fernando: Mueller “was alluding to Paul’s statement to Felix. The word (‘askeo’) translated ‘exercise’ (KJV) or ‘take pains’ (ESV) means ‘to apply oneself with commitment to some activity.’ This practice is something we do with great dedication. It is a huge burden to go through life with unsettled spiritual business. The burden of guilt drains us of our energies and leaves us debilitated and devoid of the fulness of the Spirit.” In other words, God blesses the ministry that keeps a clean slate with Him!
However, Paul’s attitude of keeping a clean slate toward God is missing in many areas of Christianity…in all denominations. Fernando’s conclusion is startling but likely on the mark. What do you think? He concludes, “I fear that the behavior of the present generation of Christian leaders is such that we are going to give the next generation a very poor example of godliness. If we do not arrest this trend, we could be responsible for an outbreak of cynicism in the younger generation, where doctrines are not honored anymore because the leaders of the earlier generation did not adorn the doctrine with holy lives (Tit. 2:10).” (Jesus Driven Ministry, pg. 36) IMPORTANT: This book was written not yesterday but in 2001. It is this writer’s opinion we are now seeing his “prophecy” fulfilled all around us.
Do you have a clean slate toward God? Paul and Mueller both confirm its importance. We need to treat it with the same level of importance.
Sep 2, 2021 – Let me begin with the most important statement in today’s devotional, a statement which also contains much needed words of caution for any minister. “Our life will catch up with our ministry.” This statement captures the decline of Samson from a man of spiritual power to a man so empty of power that he did not even know the power of the Holy Spirit was gone from his life. Samson’s immorality and shameful conduct ruined his ministry. Samson never recovered from this debacle; his life ended in a tragic way, cut short because of his disobedience.
Samson’s decline into ruin needs to be considered by every minister. Why? Today’s Christianity is driving at one hundred miles an hour to do something without first BEING something. Church after church is facing the same problem: low quality character in many staff members including denominational leaders, megachurch pastors, local pastors and deacons along with Sunday School teachers and Vacation Bible School workers. Having been in the ministry more than forty-five years I can attest this trend is not decelerating but accelerating. We are in the midst of a character decline across the board.
Sometimes the community recognizes the true character of the people better than the pastor does. They work with them, eat with them, see them at the school events, rub shoulders with them and see the real them…which falls far short of what they pretend to be or attempt to be in their ministry. Few of them read articles like “Today’s Verse for a Better Ministry” because they are not truly seeking a BETTER ministry; they are satisfied with their current character and level of ministry.
So in many ways today’s article is not addressed to “them” because they will never see these words. Hence, today’s article is addressed to the rest of us as a cautionary warning as to what can happen to our ministry. Many of us would rather lose our right arm, even die than lose our ministry. Right? Our life IS the ministry. But each one of us is a potential Samson. God knows our true character and whether we “practice behind the stage what we preach on the stage.”
God has also ordained the principle of sowing and reaping. In other words, God has established the principle that our life will catch up with our ministry. It’s another way of saying, “your sins will find you out.”
Don’t be a Samson. Build a life of Christian character that God can use to authenticate your ministry.
Sep 1, 2021 – What does it mean to meditate? Everyone knows! Just ask the high school student. Cramming for a school test is a form of meditation or concentrated thinking. Working on a difficult problem for the boss is another form of meditation or concentrated thinking. Worrying is perhaps the best example of all. Worry consumes us in the same way that meditation does.
Arguments often lead to undesired meditation. Two men disagreed on a mundane subject; the disagreement turned into a vicious argument. Afterward, one man said about the other, “I am now living rent free in his head.” The expression, “Get out of my mind” is an affirmation that such a condition exists for many.
Richard Foster explains biblical meditation in this manner: “My suggestion is you take a single event, or a parable, or a few verses, or even a single word and allow it to take root in you. Seek to live the experience, remembering the encouragement of Ignatius of Loyola to apply all our senses to our task. Smell the sea. Hear the lap of water along the shore. See the crowd. Feel the sun on your head and the hunger in your stomach. Taste the salt in the air. Touch the hem of his garment.
“…Always remember that we enter the story not as passive observers, but as active participants. Also remember that Christ is truly with us to teach us, to heal us, to forgive us. Alexander Whyte declares, ‘with your imagination anointed with holy oil, you again open your New Testament. At one time, you are the publican: at another time, you are the prodigal…at another time, you are Mary Magdalene: at another time, Peter in the porch…Till your whole New Testament is all over autobiographic of you.’” (Celebration of Discipline, pp. 29-30)
Who will you be in today’s meditation? Where will you be? What will happen to you? And, last, NOT HOW will the story end but how SHOULD the story end if God receives glory from your story?
Aug 31, 2021 – The teacher asked, “I teach the Bible but how confident can I be in what it says?” One key is this big word “inspiration.” The theological concept of inspiration is taken from 2 Timothy 3:16. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
The phrase “inspired by God” is translated from the Greek word “theopneustos.” This compound word consists of “theos” or “God” and “pneustos” meaning “spirit, breath, or air.” The term theology means “word about God.” A pneumatic tool runs on “pneuma” or “air.” Therefore, it is quite sensible that the most common definition for “theopneustos” is “God-breathed.”
The ESV translation actually defines the word for us. It reads, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
This verse makes it clear that the holy Scriptures do not originate within man but within God. We might conclude, “Man breathed in what God breathed out.” Technically, and to be clear, the text does not speak of inspired writers but of inspired writings. The actual written content is God-breathed. The words you and I teach made it from God, through the mind and hand of a writer, onto paper. Therefore, we can teach with confidence…it truly is God’s Word to man!
August 30, 2021 – What is the need of today’s Christianity? Richard Foster writes, “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for DEEP people.”
Do you remember singing as a child, “The house built on the rock”? The house built on the sand went S-P-L-A-T! But the house built on the rock survived and prospered despite facing the same hurricane. Luke’s version of the story contains an interesting expression: “a man built his house and dug DEEP and laid the foundation on a rock.” He dug deep. We read so fast nowadays that we would probably miss that word, but it was an important word to the builder…and to the God who gave us this text. He dug deep. He was not a shallow man. Whimsical? Not on your life. Cheap? No way. He believed in quality, doing things right, making sure that whatever he did survived to his dying day.
What kind of person do you want to be? An airhead? Just bouncing from here to there? No purpose for life? Living for only the moment? Wrapped up only in self?
The choice is ours. The choice is not made by government decree nor by parental discipline nor by an employer nor by a spouse nor by some crazy advertising scheme. The choice is ours. Ours alone. No one gets to the “deep” stage by accident but by deliberate choice. Schedule some time to think through who you want to be. In so doing, you won’t arrive at your final destination by accident.
Aug 28, 2021 – Psalm 5 is traditionally regarded as a morning prayer. John Phillips points out that Psalms 3, 4 and 5 “stand together in the Hebrew hymnbook…In Psalm 5 David was going forth to face treacherous and powerful foes, and he prepared for such a day with prayer. The psalm should thus speak to our own hearts for, as G. Campbell Morgan reminds us, we face no day which is not filled with danger.” The danger may be outside us or inside us…but each day does indeed have its own challenge. Thus, David resolved that “in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly…why? Because YOU HEAR MY VOICE.” God hears…because David calls! But if David does not call, God has nothing to hear. God cannot hear what is not said.
Which is your bigger problem? Is it what you say to God or the fact that you don’t say it to God? That’s item #1 in today’s devotional.
Item #2 – How do you begin the day? Some begin by moaning, “Good Lord, it’s morning!” while others triumphantly begin, “Good morning, Lord!” The difference is monumental. The new day has many fresh hours to both know and serve our God…to sow our God in the hearts of the people we meet including some that we treasure very dearly.
Richard J. Foster writes in Celebration of Discipline, “The first act of submission is to the Triune God. At the beginning of the day we wait, in the words of the hymn writer, ‘yielded and still’ before Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The first words of our day form the prayer of Thomas a Kempis, ‘As thou wilt; what thou wilt; when thou wilt.’ We yield our body, mind and spirit for his purposes. Likewise, the day is lived in deeds of submission…As the first words of the morning are of submission, so are the last words of the night. We surrender our body, mind and spirit into the hands of God to do with us as he pleases through the long darkness.”
Think about your own approach to every day. How difficult is it to get the day started right? Starting the day right includes starting it with God in the day’s first few hours. It’s not hard. It just takes discipline. And you can do it as easily as David.
Aug 27, 2021 – A millionaire owned a house on a large hill. The millionaire’s chauffeur died and the millionaire needed to hire a new driver. He interviewed several people. The millionaire asked one important question in each interview. He asked, “How close will you drive to the edge of the road without going over the edge?”
The first candidate said, “I can drive two inches from the edge without going over.”
The second candidate bragged, “I can drive with the tire on the very edge without going over.”
The third candidate said, “I will drive as far FROM the edge as I possibly can.”
The owner said to the third candidate, “You’re hired!”
Imagine the monster called sin is one inch off the edge of the road…hanging out in mere space like happens in the edge of a cliff. How close do you like to drive to the edge without going over the edge into the danger zone? Could it be you’re teetering dangerously on the edge at this very time in your life? Think…what are the consequences if you go over the edge? Will it affect someone you love? Will it affect your Christian testimony? Will it affect your church? Will it grieve the Holy Spirit? Will it put a barrier between God and you in your prayer life?
Joseph is known for many things, but today’s verse is the #1 item I associate with Joseph. He faced a great temptation. No one would have known if he went over the edge…except Joseph and, most importantly, God. Perhaps no one will know if you go over the edge, too…except you and, most importantly, God—the same God who has decreed we reap what we sow. Ask yourself, is going over the edge really worth it? I mean, REALLY worth it?
Aug 24, 2021 – A little girl in Boston became critically ill. She was visited by Pastor Phillips Brooks whose Sunday School she attended. Standing at her bedside he noticed how uncomfortable she appeared as she lay propped up in the bed. The pillow was sagging and the sheets were wrinkled.
Pastor Brooks said, “Little girl, let me lift you clear off your bed while your mother smooths the sheets and pillow and makes it more comfortable for you.” He did exactly that. The mother quickly adjusted the bedding and Brooks gently laid down the little girl. She soon fell asleep.
When the little girl awakened, she said to her mother, “Oh, how good it felt to have someone lift me who is strong enough to feel no strain when he lifts!”
That night the nurse read this Bible verse to the little girl. “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
The little girl said excitedly, “I know now what that verse means. Dr. Brooks acted out its meaning when he visited me.”
May you act out those words in someone’s life today.
Aug 23, 2021 – Do you ever lose sight of your purpose? Purpose is our reason for existence. The person with no purpose is like the blind man who shot an arrow into the sky and where it landed he did not know…but he proudly announced to one and all, “I hit the Bull’s eye!” One can think of many ways to describe that activity but, “I hit the Bull’s eye” is not one of them.
Today’s verse provides an example of the Christian’s primary purpose in life: producing disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “disciple” means “learner” or “one who learns by following.” You may not know much Bible but even non-Bible readers are aware of Peter…his many up’s and down’s…his successes and failures including his denial of Jesus during Jesus’ trials but, oh, how God used Peter in the book of Acts!
Here is the key: The reason we read of Peter is because of what he, IN TIME, became. Peter would probably have been no more than a footnote in Scripture if he had failed to develop. His immature stage is pictured in his earthly name of “Simon”; his mature stage is pictured in his spiritual name of “Cephas” (the Aramaic word for “Peter”). This somewhat arrogant fisherman actually became someone special for Jesus.
Wonder if Jesus can do the same with you? Wonder also if Jesus can use you to develop another Simon into a Cephas? You are surrounded by Simon’s today, but not so surrounded by Cephas’s. The former exists in abundance; the latter exists in a much smaller number. Do you see those Simon’s as an assignment? Do you make an effort to rub off on them? To improve their Christian character and skills?
Our task is not an easy task. Indeed, our task can be very frustrating at times. Kentucky church specialist Paul Badgett says, “People do what they want to do and I can’t change what they want to do.” How true! We can’t force people into becoming disciples. Becoming a disciple requires an act of the will—the will has to willingly submit to the disciplines (hence, the word “disciple”) of Jesus Christ. By so doing a person enters the first stage of discipleship.
Your church may not be able to FORCE disciples, but it can provide tools to help people become disciples. That’s why your church is open for business!!! It exists to help people know God the Son and deepen that relationship into full-fledged discipleship. You contribute to that effort by praying for the Simon’s, educating them in the Christian graces, being their Christian friend, encouraging them in good times and difficult times. That process even applies to my own ministry. If this writer’s ministry blesses you, it is because some people dedicated themselves to developing me despite all of my Simon-like defects. The same is undoubtedly true of you. Let’s return the favor by blessing the Simon’s around us.
Aug 21, 2021 – The story is told of a rich woman who was visiting heaven. She passed a modest cottage, scoffed at it, and asked Peter, “Whose tiny place is this?” Peter answered, “It is yours.” She was shocked. They continued their walk.
They came to a large estate, a beautiful place. The woman was impressed. She asked, “Whose is this?
Peter replied, “That estate belongs to Harry Smith.”
The woman gasped, “Harry Smith is the name of my chauffeur.”
Peter said, “That’s right. It belongs to your chauffeur. You see, we can only build with the materials you send us from earth. That material represents everything you gave to God in your Christian service. It includes your time, your money, your effort, your prayers, your witnessing, your church devotion—in other words, everything you gave to God. This estate represents what Harry Smith sent to us. The cottage represents what you sent to us.”
The woman then awoke from her dream.
Perhaps all of us need to experience such a dream! There is much truth in this story. We need to focus on laying up treasures in the right place: in heaven. God help us to focus on the right things AND the right place!
Aug 20, 2021 – The power of faith or trust is incredible. Every Bible student is challenged and encouraged by reading the Bible stories about the faith of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, and the apostles. My friend Glenn Mathews has written a powerful book titled “Adventuring with Abraham – A Faith that Believes to See.” The title is biblically accurate: Faith sees. It really does. It does not guess, although there are times we may not see very far. But it does see…it is not a shot in the dark. In other words, there IS a basis for faith. Paul writes, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Is such faith limited to only Bible characters? No. Look around you today and you will easily identify people who are still in their Christian journey because of one reason: faith. They have met Christ, become convinced of His person, and commenced a lifelong journey with Him who is invisible yet lives vibrantly in their hearts. Ask them to explain it and they may stammer then say, “But it’s real. They know. They see.”
Let me share what was written about the great English preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, shortly before his death.
“He believed. Everything was a reality. When he was in his study, when we went into the pulpit—everything was a reality. He stood as God’s representative to man and as man’s representative to God. The man who believes every word he says is a power. God works sometimes through narrow-minded men, sometimes through weak men, but always through men who believe.”
If you are an old saint, you might say, “Those words describe me, too.” If you are a young saint, you might say, “I want those words to describe me.” I assure you those words can indeed be said about you…IF you truly believe. The more time you spend with Him, the more you will become convinced that He is more real than any teacher can ever explain. God help you to see Him as He is!
Aug 19, 2021 – I enjoy reading/hearing the testimony of how people came to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Their stories encourage me! The Bible records the story of many including Zaccheus, the woman at the well (and her village), Paul, the Philippian jailer, plus more. The circumstances may have been different but all of them possess one commonality: they turned from their sin and received Christ! “He that has (or possesses) the Son has life!” That life, of course, is eternal life…the born again life which is as eternal and pure in quality as God Himself.
Let’s examine the salvation experience of Martin Luther. “I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God,’ because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore, I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon, I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.”
Luther’s life was changed from trusting in things for salvation (note he described himself as an impeccable monk though having no confidence in such merit) to trusting or faithing in a Person for salvation. He said, “God justifies (declares us righteous in the courtroom of heaven) through faith!” FAITH! FAITH! FAITH! “That whosoever believes in Him (Christ) shall be saved!”
Had salvation come by money the cost would have been too high for any to be saved. But God has good news for you: salvation does not come by money!
Instead we sing, “By grace and grace alone, through faith and faith alone, to God and God alone be the glory!” Amen! I hope you can say the same.
Aug 18, 2021 – How important is the Bible? Why do we make it the central part of our church services? And build our lives upon such an ancient book?
Boice answers, “Jesus intended that we should recognize God’s existence and power through nature. But nature is not enough. For one thing, no one has ever come to an obedient faith in the God of creation through nature. For another, the revelation of God in nature is not specific in terms of God’s plans, and it is not personal…Men may recognize the power of God, but if they would know His plans, they must consult the Bible.” (The Gospel of John, pg. 35)
The central theme of the Bible is one of redemption, that is, revealing the way of salvation to sinful man. The Bible is not a scientific book although it contains truths oriented to science. The Bible is not an economics book although it provides excellent advice oriented to finance and materialism. The Bible is not a medical book although it contains many healthy instructions.
But ask the Bible, “Show me a passage about redemption,” and the Bible will answer, “Which page would you like to see?” “The Scarlet Thread of Redemption” weaves itself from the Garden of Eden through the Old Testament historical section, through the Poetry books and into the Prophets’ chamber, through the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, and finishes in the glorious Apocalypse with the saints singing around the throne about what? the blood of the Lamb which secured their salvation!
Spurgeon said, “I take any text but I then make a beeline for the cross!”
Make the cross the center point of your ministry. After all, it is the center point of the Bible, too.
Aug 17, 2021 – The Old Testament records the rise of God’s chosen people: the Jewish race. Just a small group…beginning with a fellow with a heathen background by the name of Abraham. But what better way for God to reveal Himself and demonstrate His power? Through God’s providence the Jews are still here! God told Israel, “The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors ” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Ah, guess what? God is STILL keeping His oath four thousand years later. That may surprise the world, but not the believer in Christ. We already know by the Word and by personal experience that God keeps His word. That’s one reason we can sleep at night!!!
Someone asked Daniel Webster, “Can you give me one reason why you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God?”
Webster replied instantly, “The continued existence of the Jew!”
Somehow unknown to man but known to God’s people (the “somehow” is God’s providence) the Jew has maintained his racial identity through untold persecution. The Jew has remained distinct from the rest of humanity, unassimilated into the masses. God’s message is unchanged: The Jew is here to stay!
Today’s verse further confirms our belief in the Bible. “God said it and that settles it!” Let’s act like it!
Aug 16, 2021 – The believer in Jesus Christ thinks differently than others. The believer does not know what will happen tomorrow, but, by faith, he believes in One who holds tomorrow in the palm on His hand. Let’s reflect on the level of our certainty.
Consider these words carefully: History does not revolve around man nor around the universe but around God’s plan for the ages. Quite simply, God appoints the times (Genesis 18:14, Galatians 4:4, Ephesians 1:10) as well as determines the final end of all things. Though simplistic to say, it is nevertheless true that powerless man is simply along for the ride.
Let’s look at an example. The Old Testament prophet Daniel (540 B.C.) recorded world history years before it happened (Daniel 2:31-45). Based upon that particular revelation, prophecy scholar John Walvoord wrote in 1955 (note the date) with conviction and certainty a chapter titled, “The Future of Communism According to the Bible.” (The complete volume The Return of the Lord is available for free reading at Walvoord.com. It is one of the first books I bought.) Walvoord confidently wrote in 1955, “If you want the inside story on Communism, turn to the inside of your Bible…The Scriptures allow for no other world empire than those already mentioned. Russia as a military power can never gain control of all the world. There is nothing in the Word of God which would lead us to the conclusion that Russia will be able to create a world power.”
The same can be said about the mistaken idea that the United States can build an empire, too. Or that China, though powerful, can build an empire. The next empire will be that of the Antichrist followed by our Lord’s Millennial Empire.
The talking heads may talk. They may even think they have enough power to implement their will. But the child of God knows different. This is another reason why we trust Him!
Aug 14, 2021 – “Our Father…” A Roman emperor was entering Rome after a triumphant battle. The entire city turned out for the victory parade. A small child suddenly jumped between the cordon of soldiers and headed for the emperor’s carriage. One of the soldiers grabbed the child and thundered, “That is the emperor!” The child, though, broke loose from his grasp and shouted, “Your emperor but my father!”
Ron Dunn has written one of the best books on the subject of intercessory prayer. He writes: “Robert Murray McCheyene said, ‘What a man is in his prayer closet is what he is.’ No Christian is greater than his prayer life, and his prayer life can be no greater than his personal life…It is possible to preach without being right with God (I know—I’ve done it). Preaching is a person-to-person encounter. We can teach a Sunday School class or even witness to a lost person without being right with God. These are person-to-person encounters. Prayer, however, is a person-to-God encounter. It is an audience with one to whom all things are open and naked. We can’t fake it with Him. What we are when we are alone with God is what we are. It is ‘the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man” that avails much (James 5:16). (Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something, pg. 132)
Come before Him today with an open heart. Talk to Him but also take the time to listen to Him! He may be in heaven but He is as close as anyone could ever be.
Aug 13, 2021 – Henry Varney told a young D. L. Moody, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is totally yielded to Him.” Moody replied, “I will do my best to be that man.” Moody devoted his heart to being that man and history gives us the results.
Emerson once said, “They conquer who believe they can.” Henry Ford said, “If you think you can, you are right. If you think you can’t, you are right again; you won’t be able to.” The Bible says. “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The Apostle Paul could have “amened” all of those statements because he experienced the power of Christ in his life. He never quit. He never gave up on what God called him to do.
But notice how Paul lived such an outstanding life. Today’s verse does not end with the first five words, “I can do all things” but it emphasizes much more the power of Christ. Every genuine minister (preacher, teacher, parent) is deeply conscious of his or her own weakness to do the work of the ministry. We often echo the words of Moses, “Who am I?” But we must remember the ministry does not depend upon our own power but upon His power. More than anything, we simply bring our willingness to the table…quite honestly, we may as well leave our ability at home.
We must remember the work of God is indeed the work of God, not the work of man. The power is in the cross, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, the resurrected Christ—each of those is supernatural and beyond human measurement. Let’s keep them front and center today.
Aug 12, 2021 – How did the critics respond? Peter and John would never be recognized for their outstanding education nor for their training, but they were recognizable because of their association with Jesus. They had not only been with Jesus, heard Jesus, listened to Jesus but they had also been changed by Jesus. No one, including the Sanhedrin Court, could deny the evidence that was produced in their lives by listening to Jesus.
James Boice asks, “Do you spend time with Jesus? Nothing can be a substitute for that. We know that this is true even in secular terms, for there is not a judge in the country who will accept ‘hearsay evidence’ in his court. Hearsay evidence is secondhand evidence, the kind that begins, ‘Well, I was not there, but I heard Mr. Smith say that…’ No judge in the country will accept such evidence. And neither will the unbeliever, if you are attempting to provide hearsay evidence in place of your own personal witness to Jesus Christ.
“However, if you have been spending time with Jesus, then you will be able to say, ‘He has spoken to me. He has ordered my life. He satisfies my longings. Won’t you allow Him to do the same things for you?’ If you can do that, then you will be a witness as well as be giving one, and the one who is not yet a Christian will know that your witness rings true.”
It is another example of who you are will speak louder than what you say.
May your time with Jesus become more precious with every passing day!
Aug 11, 2021 – The man said, “I’m so far down the only direction I can look is up.” That experience happens to Christians, too. Poor Joseph, the man who had it all including the coat of many colors, has fallen as far as any person can fall. He has now been forgotten in prison. There is nothing he can do about it…except look up and, in reality, is there any better direction to look? Theologian John Piper reminds us, “Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don’t. You are in good company… You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope.”
How about you? Ever feel down? Here is a prayer for such days. “Let endurance produce character in me, and character produce hope – such a hope that does not put me to shame” (Romans 5:4-5). “Through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures, let me have hope” (Romans 15:4) and “be saved by hope” (Romans 8:24). “Let the God of Jacob be my help, and my hope always be in the LORD my God” (Psalm 146:5). “Let me be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3) and “let that hope be to me as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, entering into the inner place behind the curtain, where the Forerunner has gone on my behalf” (Hebrews 6:19-20). Let me have “Christ in me, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) and never be shifting from “the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23) but enable me to show earnestness to “have the full assurance of hope until the end” (Hebrews 6:11). In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Aug 10, 2021 – What is our work? What is God’s work? And what is the listener’s work? The Christian sower wants results. That is why he sows the seed of the gospel. He can sometimes become frustrated because he wants more than he can do. Unfortunately, he cannot cause the seed to grow or reach maturity. Therefore, what is the process for reaching the world for Jesus?
First, our work is to go and tell. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person” (Mark 16:15). “They cannot believe unless they first hear.” Our job is to tell and to disciple them to the point of placing their faith in Christ as the one and only Savior. In addition, we give financially to this cause. Our church currently gives 10% of our offerings and tithes to this cause. Plus we receive special offerings for the same purpose. Your church probably does the same and hopefully more.
Second, God’s work is to convince or convict the sinner about his condition and the solution for his condition, namely the cross of Jesus Christ. Lee Roberson says, “One of the greatest needs of the present day in sacred work is conviction of sin. Let us remember that this conviction must be done by the Holy Spirit. We cannot convict people. The telling of stories and the singing of sentimental songs may bring tears, but there is a difference between tears of emotion and conviction of sin. We must use the Word of God and point men to the Lamb of God and let the Holy Spirit do His work.”
Third, the listener’s work is to “humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). We cannot believe for the listener nor will God believe for the listener. It must be a personal decision by the listener. What will the listener do with Christ?
We believers can pray for the listener and keep sharing Jesus with the listener. The Holy Spirit can continue His convincing work in the listener’s life. But in the end, the decision belongs to the listener. Which listener comes to your mind right now? Perhaps it is a good time to pray for that person’s soul. And to keep sowing Jesus…because the next listener might say, “Yes” to Jesus!
Aug 9, 2021 – A mirror reveals things as they really are. The Word of God does the same. Many years ago in east Tennessee a mountaineer came across some tourists who had camped in the mountains near his cabin. This mountaineer had never been to the big city nor had he been around many tourists. When the tourists left, this mountaineer checked their campsite to see if they had left anything. Sure enough, he found a mirror. He had never seen a mirror before. He held up the mirror and said, “I never knew my father had his picture took!” He became very sentimental about his “father’s picture” and took it home. He slipped into the house, climbed into the loft and hid the mirror.
His wife saw his activity but did not say anything. He later went outside. The wife quickly went up the ladder to see what her husband had hidden. She found the mirror, looked closely at it and said in disgust, “So that’s the old hag he’s been running around with!”
It is easy to read the Bible and apply it to someone else. I recall preaching a particular sermon; one of my people said, “I wish so-and-so had been here tonight.” I thought to myself, “Oh, my! So-and-so was here tonight and did not recognize it.”
It has been my experience that I should not worry about so-and-so but about me. The Bible presents a picture of me. It presents a picture of you. That picture is accurate. It is to our benefit to look intently into its pages and let it speak to us. “Open my eyes, Lord! Help me to see what needs to be seen!”
Aug 7, 2021 – This writer was a very small boy when I learned the most important part of being God’s messenger. What did I learn? I learned never to be a Jonah and refuse to deliver God’s message. This particular story happened when I was very young. I had just graduated from the “crawling around under the church pews” stage. (Some of you don’t know this but crawling under the church pews was an Olympic sport in my day.) Our pastor, Vern Davis, preached one Sunday night on Jonah. The Bible says, “The Lord spoke unto the fish and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” But that’s not the way Vern preached it. He said, “The Lord spoke unto the fish and the fish spit out Jonah upon the dry land.”
I may have been young but I knew Vern hadn’t told the story right. I went to him after church and said, “Pastor, you didn’t preach that right. The Bible says the fish vomited out Jonah upon the dry land, not spit him out.” Vern put his arm around me and said, “Tommy, some of these women have weak stomachs and I was afraid it might upset them if I said vomit.” I said, “If the Bible says it, then you ought to preach it.” Vern was still telling that story fifty years later!
The story still brings a smile to me but it also reminds me that God’s Word preaches itself if we allow it to do so. My third book “Sanctification: How God Creates Saints out of Sinners” is dedicated “To the many voices (of the ‘One Above All’) crying in today’s wilderness: Keep sowing Jesus!” The reality is that God’s messenger is not the message but rather the voice proclaiming the message. The voice’s identity is unimportant in the big scheme of things; he simply exists to make the message known…to deliver what the Author wants declared. The voice fails if he alters the message or fails to deliver the message. But he succeeds when he delivers the message…that success does not depend upon whether the message is accepted or rejected.
The same is true for you and me. We are not the message nor should we ever allow the message to become us. We exist to present God’s message. Sometimes the message will be positive but sometimes it will be negative. It is much easier to be positive than negative but we must never shun from declaring the whole counsel of God. Never forget it is God’s message. God wants to speak to man. Please allow Him to use you as His voice!
Aug 6, 2021 – One foolish sheep was lost. It had wandered far from the fold, because a sheep’s nature is to go astray. Once lost, a sheep cannot find its way home. If found, there is no assurance the sheep will not repeat such foolishness. After all, it is a sheep and a sheep’s wayward nature does not change.
Although the loss was a tragedy to the one lost sheep, it was not a tragedy for the shepherd. Thus, there were many reasons for the shepherd to ignore the one lost sheep. First, it was the one and only sheep that was lost. Second, ninety-nine other sheep were not lost. Third, the one lost sheep could easily be replaced. Fourth, who knows how much searching must be done? Fifth, was there any guarantee the sheep could even be found? Sixth, what are the odds that the defenseless sheep has survived the wolves and other dangers? Seventh, the shepherd’s time is limited.
And yet he went searching. How many hours did he search? We do not know. We only know he searched until he found the lost sheep.
The lost sheep pictures every human being in the history of the world. As a general rule, man does not place a high value upon man in generic terms; however, man does assign a higher value upon man in specific terms such as family and friends.
But God is not like normal man. God places a high value upon every soul. “Jesus tasted death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11).
Are you the one lost sheep? Yes. But can you also say, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see”?
Aug 5, 2021 – How big is the One whom we serve? The answer is “really big!” Based upon better understanding of the rules in Greek language (the language of the New Testament) all of the modern translations have identified this text as one of the clearest references to the Deity of Jesus Christ. Jude refers to Jesus as Master or some translations use “Sovereign Lord.” The Greek word is “despotes” (des-pot-es). What exactly is a despot? A person with unlimited power. That power can be used for good or evil but the despot has absolute power to do whatever he wishes.
That means no one can tell him (the despot) what to do. That is exactly who Jesus is. That also means no one can overthrow him. That is exactly who Jesus is. That means no one can undermine him. That is exactly who Jesus is. That means no one can change his laws, no one can defeat his purpose, and no one can cause him to change his mind.
My friend, that is exactly who Jesus is! Jesus is more than man – He is “despotes!” He is the true Master or Sovereign of the Universe. That is the reason why the Creator has the right to tell the creation what to do. It is because the creation is His creation. The cattle on a thousand hills are His cattle. The stars in the night sky are His stars. The mountains and oceans are His mountains and oceans. The air that you breathe is His air. The food that you eat is His food. Jesus Christ is Sovereign over all of it. He determines when you are born; He determines when you will die. He determines your I.Q. He determines your century, your continent, your color and your civilization.
That is why every knee shall someday bow and every tongue shall someday confess that Jesus Christ AND HIM ALONE is Lord to the glory of God the Father! I confess those words today, how about you? Let us therefore sing, “Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all!” Jesus Christ truly is Lord of all!
Aug 4, 2021 – We used to call them Kodak moments…that precious time when you were able to take a picture of something fabulous—something you just had to keep forever. I enjoyed a Kodak moment recently with my three year old granddaughter. We had played hard for 24 hours…we were tired and taking a break. We each had our snack in a bowl. We were seated on the couch watching television. Emmaline snuggled up close to grandpa and we watched the golf tournament together. She did not understand golf. But she somehow got excited with the game. Grandma came by and Emmy excitedly said, “Look, grandma! Golf! They’re hitting a ball and watch it go!” My wife did what grandma’s do: she filmed us watching golf.
Do you know children are imitators? Do you know adults are also imitators? Even we preachers are imitators. During my Bible college days, our pastor Lee Roberson popularized the wearing of double-breasted jackets. His biography is appropriately titled “Double-Breasted.” A nearby clothing store sold an abundance of double-breasted jackets because many of our preacher students wanted to be like Lee Roberson. Of course, it took more than a double-breasted jacket to lead and preach like Lee Roberson!
The Apostle Paul understood the “imitation” principle. It is natural to imitate others, specifically people we respect. Little Emmy was imitating me, the young preachers were imitating Dr. Roberson, and what about you and me? We have imitated others at times. We did so after deciding that person was worth imitating…and that we would be pleased if we duplicated the lifestyle of the other person. Therefore, we need to be careful, especially careful, whom we choose to imitate. The Apostle Paul challenged people to imitate his lifestyle because it was reflective of Jesus Christ. Indeed, all of us would be better people if we imitated a follower of Christ such as Paul. But, in addition, we need to understand someone may be imitating us. Little Emmy imitated me. Suppose she imitates me for the next twenty years. What kind of person will she be? Look around you today. Someone may very well be imitating you. What kind of person will they be by patterning themselves after you?
August 3, 2021 – Sing with me: “The Lord is good, tell it wherever you go. The Lord is good, Tell it that others may know. Tell of His blessings and tell of His love, Tell how He’s coming from heaven above. The Lord is good, Tell it wherever you go.” (Al Smith)
Someone said, “If you don’t accept that God exists, then you live on a dead-end street.” In so many ways, that statement seems to epitomize the current world system. But all of creation was good in its original state! Righteousness (defined as “doing what is right”) had unlimited opportunity to rule. The diabolos (Satan) did not exist in his current fallen state. The earth’s environment was undisturbed and untarnished. Marital conflict did not exist; on the contrary, Adam and Eve’s marriage existed on the highest possible plane yet known to man. Sin had not yet entered the picture and man existed in an unfallen state. The animal life was at peace with itself. The ground yielded abundant fruit in an uncursed state. The farming environment was unlimited by weather or poor irrigation. The weather was tranquil and nothing to be feared. And, best of all, man could experience God on a level which can only be theorized in this present hour…but will be realized when the believer is no longer “present in the body but is present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Who made such a world? Our God! God specializes in making things right, by repairing what was broken, lifting up the fallen, saving the sinner, giving hope to the hopeless, light to those in darkness, guidance to the lost, wisdom to the foolish, and comfort to the comfortless. That is more than you or I can do. We both have our strengths but those strengths are few in number. That’s why we exalt Christ rather than ourselves. One of our VBS theme songs of years past (no longer available but it should be!) was, “Christ is the answer to all of our problems, He holds the key to the whole world’s peace, If we receive Him, if we believe Him, Christ is the answer to all our needs!” He is limitless and is the #1 Person everyone needs. Let’s lift Him up today and watch Him make something or someone very good.
August 2, 2021 – How does God evaluate people? The Bible reveals God’s evaluation is different from the world’s evaluation. The world tends to emphasize what a person possesses such as finances, houses, automobiles, education, fame, appearance and personality. For example, athletes and entertainers “make the big bucks” whereas the White House person over world-destroying nuclear weapons makes a paltry sum in comparison. Educators prepare our children for the entirety of life but their paycheck is little in comparison to many Wall Street bankers. Clearly, the world is confused in its reward system, in how it evaluates people and their work.
God emphasizes humility (James 4:10); the world emphasizes self-promotion (Acts 12:23). God emphasizes “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33); the world emphasizes “seek first your own kingdom” (Daniel 4:30). God emphasizes that which will last forever (1 John 2:17); the world emphasizes living for today (James 4:13). God emphasizes the needs of the soul (Psalm 63:1); the world emphasizes the needs of the flesh (Matthew 6:31-32). God emphasizes riches in heaven (Matthew 6:20); the world emphasizes riches in the bank (Matthew 19:22). God emphasizes a heavenly mindset (Colossians 3:1); the world emphasizes a fleshly mindset (Ephesians 2:2). God emphasizes the worth of a soul (Matthew 16:26); the world emphasizes the worth of things (Genesis 19:26). God emphasizes spiritual growth (2 Peter 3:18); the world emphasizes mental growth (Ecclesiastes 12:12). God emphasizes forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-22); the world emphasizes revenge (Genesis 4:24). God emphasizes a future judgment (Romans 14:12); the world emphasizes no judgment is to be feared (Ecclesiastes 14:11). God emphasizes salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7); the world emphasizes the goodness of man (Matthew 19:20). How, though, do you think?
Jul 31, 2021 – The first words of Satan have served as his most effective words since the beginning of time. “Yea, hath God said?”
John R. Rice declares, “Unbelief and sin always start with a question about the Word of God, some denial of God’s authority. Did God really say it? Is the Bible really the infallible Word of God? Mark you, when you hear anybody questioning the Word of God, you should listen for the hiss of the serpent…All Christianity stands or falls with the Bible.”
Jesus spoke of the devil’s opposition in the Parable of the Sower. “The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts” (Matthew 13:19). The evil one attends every presentation of the Bible, because he knows the power of the holy Scriptures in the hands of the Holy Spirit!
One must wonder: If the Scriptures are false (as the critics claim), why does the devil and the world spend so much time attacking them? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that there is no devil. That leaves us, though, with the reaction of the world to the scriptures. Why does the world wish to destroy the Bible but not the Koran, the Shruti (Hindu Bible), Papal Bulls (Roman Catholic decrees), the Book of Mormon, the writings of Ellen G. White, etc. Occasionally a government (based upon an ideology such as atheism) tries to eradicate all religion but that is an isolated event. However, the attack upon the Bible is a worldwide event which has persisted for millennia. Why? Maybe they don’t like what the Bible says…or what we teach since we teach the Bible.
Ah, but have no fear! “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)
The Bible survives but the critics do not! Keep sowing Jesus!
Jul 30, 2021 – What a miracle! The resurrection of Lazarus is located midway through the Gospel of John, is given 44 verses of coverage, and provides a thorough look at many, many issues in life. During your church experience you have probably heard much discussion on those issues. However, let’s look at an issue which is very rarely discussed. It is the outcome of this tremendous miracle.
Actually, there were three outcomes. The first outcome states, “Many of the Jews saw the things done by Jesus and believed on Him” (John 11:45). The second outcome was the unbelieving Jews plotting, “It is necessary that this one man, Jesus, die for the sake of the nation so the entire nation does not follow Him and we suffer punishment at the hands of the Romans” (John 11:50). The third outcome was an assassination plot directed specifically against the resurrected Lazarus. A large crowd “came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, the one he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests had decided to kill Lazarus also, because he was the reason many of the Jews were deserting them and believing in Jesus” (John 12:9-11).
These devotionals are purposely designed to help you develop a better ministry. The development of such a ministry requires us to both understand and accept there will be different outcomes to our ministry. There are times when we hit the ball out of the ballpark and do a fantastic job. There are times, though, when we hit only a single, and still other times when we strike out. At least, that is the way we think…but it is often “when we are weak that God makes us strong” and the supposedly weak effort is actually blessed by God more than the very satisfying effort. Whereas the home run may be very satisfying to us (we sometimes need all the help we can get!) it is always God that gives the increase.
Second, we must also expect different outcomes. That expectation needs to be more than just an act of the mind; it must also be accepted AND expected by our heart. The resurrection of Lazarus should have blessed everyone. But it did not. The best effort of Jesus went for naught with many people. If we allow ourselves to concentrate only on the “naughters” we will become very discouraged…perhaps even quit ministering. But God has blessed you and me with some in the first outcome…people that enjoy the things of God. They make ministry special! Count them among your greatest blessings! They may be even more of a blessing to you than you are to them.
Jul 29, 2021 – The Bible closes with a book whose title is appropriate as a title for the entire Bible. The Greek word “apokalupsis” means “the unveiling” or “the revelation.” Imagine attending a school play. The top of the hour arrives and the curtain is opened; suddenly, that which has been hidden behind the curtain is unveiled or revealed. The unknown or the unknowable has now become known! The ultimate revelation, of course, is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”—quite appropriately, it is John’s title for the final book in the Bible. Indeed, Jesus (Savior) Christ (Messiah or Anointed One) is the central person in world history. History is actually HIS-STORY. The universe revolves around Him!
Accordingly, we are not surprised to learn He will be the central person at the conclusion of world history. “Behold, I saw heaven opened and a rider upon a white horse…He has a name written on His robe and on His thigh—King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19). Wiersbe writes, “The title speaks of Christ’s sovereignty, for all kings and lords must submit to Him. No matter who was on the throne of the Roman Empire, Jesus Christ was his King and Lord!”
“God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Thank God, I know Him! And I am happy to serve Him as my King and someday this world’s King! How about you?
Jul 28, 2021 – A man from Leeds, England visited his doctor to have his hearing checked. The doctor removed the man’s hearing aid and the patient’s hearing immediately improved. He had been wearing the hearing aid in the wrong ear for over twenty years! The same thing happens spiritually, too. An evangelist asked a pastor, “Do you have a deaf ministry in your church?” The pastor replied, “There are times when I thing the whole church needs a deaf ministry—they just don’t seem to hear me.”
There is a big difference between listening and really hearing. Just ask my wife! She is extra kind but she has many opportunities to quote Jesus in our marriage: “He that has ears to hear, let him HEAR!”
Note the phrase in today’s verse: “as at other times.” The sense is that God called…called again…called again but Samuel missed God’s call. How unfortunate for Samuel! How unfortunate for us (and our ministry) when we too miss God’s call. God wants to communicate His will to us but we are not really listening. Sometimes our lack of attention costs us. God must hit us with a 2×4 to get our attention, to cause us to stop and listen. Sometimes our lack of time hinders us. We think we are too busy to listen. We rush here and we rush there; we live merely to survive the day. It’s hard to really hear anyone when we’re rushing. Our lack of focus is another factor. We become really zeroed in on something…and everything else fades to the background.
A “better ministry” depends upon us putting ourselves in a position to hear our Master. That is why we emphasize a quiet time each day with the Lord in His word, in prayer, and in contemplation. It is the reason these God’s Greenhouse devotionals exist: to give you opportunity to reflect upon something that is important enough to be included in the Word of God. These “Better Ministry” devotionals are longer than what is commonly printed in devotional books. First, I am longer winded than others. But, more importantly, you’re unlikely to have a better ministry if you are doing it in a sixty second “tv commercial” way. That way just doesn’t work for a better ministry. It has been said, “The hardest ministry becomes a much easier ministry after spending time with God. He brings all things into perspective, most importantly, me!”
The old song concurs. It says, “Take Time To Be Holy, the world rushes on. Spend much time in secret With Jesus alone. By looking to Jesus Like Him thou shalt be. Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see. Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul. Each thought and each motive Beneath His control. Thus, led by His Spirit To fountains of love, Thou soon shall be fitted For Service above.” Are you listening?
Jul 27, 2021 – Does the name Daniel Webster ring a bell? Someone asked Daniel, “What is the greatest thought to ever enter your mind?” Daniel Webster broke down in tears and answered, “It is my responsibility to God.” Can anyone say it better?
Someone gave this pastor an article by Don Hillis titled, “Ten Questions God Won’t Ask.” “When you go to heaven God won’t ask you:
- How well you fed your cat, dog, or horse. But He may ask why you didn’t spend more money to give the Bread of Life to lost men;
- How many cokes and other beverages you consumed on earth. But He may remind you that you could have used that money to provide the Living Water for thirty souls in foreign lands.
- How many hours you spent in your boat. But He may ask how much time you spend stilling the waves in the storm-tossed souls of your neighbors;
- Whether you toured the world and “walked where Jesus walked” in Palestine. But He may ask how many footsteps you took for Jesus’ sake in your own town or city;
- To tell Him how many hours of television you watched. But He may ask why you couldn’t find more time for prayer;
- How much time and money you spent beautifying your yard. But He may ask how much time you spent edifying fellow Christians;
- How outspoken you were about politics, sports, or the weather. But He may invite you to explain why you were so hesitant to speak a word for Him;
- How often you sang, “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” But He may ask whether that love ever made a concrete effort to reach people;
- How much time you spent with your magazine or newspaper. But He may ask why you couldn’t find time to study His Word;
- How strongly you professed to believe in soulwinning. But He may ask how many souls you won to him.
So let’s stay at it till Jesus comes!
Jul 26, 2021 – Someone compared modern day preaching with the preaching of long ago and said, “Apparently hell is not as hot as it used to be.” That statement typifies the lackadaisical attitude in most churches regarding the work of world evangelization. One of the old-timers said, “We have been rocked to sleep in the cradle of grace.” As a result, we are so satisfied with what God has done for us that we are not concerned with the need of others. But is that opening statement really true? Is hell less hot today than it used to be? Let’s make it personal. How you would feel if someone said, “That mass growing within you isn’t as threatening as it once was, or that heart pain isn’t a threat any more. Ignore it!” You would probably think, “That’s easy for you to say! You don’t have the cancer or the heart pain.”
The Bible truth, though, is that hell is still hot; people are dying every day and going to its awful torments. Do you know the Bible says more about hell than it does about heaven? One source says, “hell is mentioned fifty-four times in the Bible: thirty-one times in the Old Testament and twenty-three times in the New Testament.”
Here are some of those passages. Prov. 5:5 – “Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.” Prov. 9:18 – “her guests are in the depths of hell.” Matthew 10:28 – “Do not fear those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both the soul and body in hell.” Luke 16:22 – “the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments…”
This pastor believes very strongly in the reality of hell! Since Jesus Himself believed in a literal hell, it must be true. That means I (and you) have a great responsibility to warn others about hell and to inform them that Jesus alone can save them from their sins! May God open the door today for you to share your testimony!
Jul 24, 2021 – As a child I often sang, “Little is much IF GOD IS IN IT.” That is much different than singing, “Little is much if education is in it” or “Little is much if Bible knowledge is in it” or “Little is much if human talent is in it.” The work of God must truly be a work OF God if it is to succeed. The Apostle Paul was a very smart man with excellent background but he discarded those items, indeed, even treated them as loss, that he might experience the fulness of the Holy Spirit in personal living and Christian service. So it must be in our own ministry in order for it to be not only a better ministry but any ministry at all. Again, consider the words: The work of God must be a work OF God if it is to succeed.
Charles Spurgeon said, “If we do not have the Spirit of God, it were better to shut the churches, to nail up the doors, to put a black cross upon them and say, ‘God have mercy upon us!’ If you ministers have not the Spirit of God, you had better not preach and your people had better stay at home. If you don’t have the Spirit of God, you stand in somebody’s way. You are a tree bearing no fruit, standing where a fruitful tree might grow.”
We must begin with the question, “Do I want the Holy Spirit to minister through me?” The question is not about His willingness (He is willing) but about our willingness. If the answer is yes, start with giving the ministry to Him. Be conscious of that commitment. Perhaps write it on paper…”this ministry belongs to You!” Above all, the ministry must be the work OF God! Place yourself at His disposal. “Here am I, Lord” is the prayer of such a committed person. Also, get any sin out and the Holy Spirit in. The black slave in the deep south said it like this: “I don’t know much about what the anointing is but I sure do know what it ain’t!” That was his way of saying, “I know the difference between me ministering and the Holy Spirit ministering. The ministry is fruitless if the Spirit is not doing the ministry!” God help us to be a walking demonstration of the Spirit’s power!
Jul 23, 2021 – Life! Spiritual life! One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of Christianity is that Jesus Christ gives eternal life to those who trust in Him. The Bible says, “Christ is our life” (Colossians 3:4). “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). “Whoever believes in Him has (the present tense emphasizes it is happening now) eternal or everlasting life” (John 3:15-16). That spiritual life becomes ours at the very moment our rebellious will repents or turns from its sinful lifestyle and receives the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That’s why we sing, “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought Since Jesus came into my heart.” Indeed, the born again experience is a life-changing experience of such radical quality that it is described as a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). That’s why we can confidently share the gospel with others. It is because the gospel works!
The good news of being born again is accompanied by the presence of the life-changing Christ. Let me add the words of our former pastor, Lee Roberson: “I have a reason to question the salvation of anyone who does not specifically say that he came into his salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Too many people in this age ‘get religion.’ It is not religion we need, but Christ. In the Gospel of John, the word ‘life appears forty-four times and the word ‘religion’ not once.” C. I. Scofield once told a young preacher that he did not believe the young preacher had ever been born again. The young man said, “I got religion ten years ago at such a place.” Scofield said, “That’s interesting. While you were getting religion, why didn’t you get saved?” The confused young man asked, “Isn’t getting religion getting saved? Didn’t Jesus come to bring religion?” Scofield replied, “No. Jesus Himself tells why He came: ‘I have come that they might have LIFE!’” The young man soon saw his need, discarded his religion and received the living Christ as his Savior. Conclusion: our ministry is about life…spiritual life…the born again new nature that changes an individual’s life. The gospel works because it has the power of God in it! Keep sowing the gospel…it contains the life that people need!
Jul 22, 2021 – Consider these startling words: Every gospel-preaching church in your community is only one generation from extinction. History supports that statement. For instance, preaching the gospel in Europe was once a common thing, but now it is an uncommon thing. We currently send missionaries TO Europe, the very continent that originally sent the gospel to us. The same decline is coming to your community…unless you and others “agonizingly contend for the faith.” The word faith in today’s text does not refer to the faith that saves (for example, “The just shall live by faith”) but to the system of belief that makes a person a Christian. It is a comprehensive system that includes such items as inspiration (accepting God’s Word about us as truth), creation (we have an accountable relationship to a Creator), the Trinity (1 John 2:22), the substitutionary death of Christ, salvation by faith (not works), a future judgment, heaven and hell, etc. This system of belief or faith is what all genuine Christians believe. If we fail to preserve this system of faith, our community will become like Europe, India, China, etc. It must be stressed the only hope for the next generation is what we pass on to that generation. My contending or lack of contending will have an impact for generations of my offspring. As for me, I want my church to be a gospel station. The world does not need more religion; it needs the truth and my church proclaims the truth of God’s Word! I must join those saints in contending for the faith against all worldly pressures. I must give it my best! I cannot fail! The Nazarene preacher, Uncle Bud Robinson, prayed such a prayer: “O Lord, give me a backbone as big as a sawlog and ribs like sleepers under the church floor; put iron shoes on me and galvanized breeches and hang a wagon load of determination in the gable-end of my soul, and help me to sign the contract to fight the devil as long as I have a vision and bite him as long as I have a tooth, and then gum him till I die. Amen.” That’s not the prayer of a quitter. That’s the prayer of a contender. Can you pray that prayer?
Jul 21, 2021 – Look out the window and you will see the bird after the worm, the cat after the bird, and the dog after the cat. That gives you a little better understanding of how our world operates. It’s the merry-go-round effect of rush-rush-rush to the same destination which, in many cases, is nowhere. One comedian said, “When I was five years old, I was on a merry-go-round. There was a gunshot nearby. The horses stampeded. There I was galloping down the street on a purple wooden horse!” That joke is quite real, though, to many people. Singer Neil Diamond cautions, “When you’re on the merry-go-round you miss a lot of the scenery.” However, contrast the world’s frantic attitude with God’s peace. A. T. Pierson describes God’s peace as “that eternal calm which lies far too deep in the praying, trusting soul to be reached by any external disturbances.” Such peace is based upon one’s confidence in God. Period. It is not the same as the fatalistic assumption that “what will be will be”; rather it is doing our best but knowing God’s best is better than our best. How does it begin? Perhaps the best advice of all is this: “Keep a soft heart toward God.” That soft heart will become yours by spending time with Him, listening to Him and talking to Him. “You, God, will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is concentrated or focused on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Through such concentration, our own faith is strengthened…our own heart is settled…and others notice and benefit. May you pursue God’s peace today…and every day!
Jul 20, 2021 – The experience of “Christ in you” (“the Anointed One in you”) touches all of our being, including our attitude. It does not “force” a new attitude in the sense of Marine boot camp training but rather creates a spontaneous attitude rooted deep within a person. A little girl was asked, “Why do you like Miss Siewerth so well?” She answered, “It’s because her eyes twinkle just as if she is laughing inside her all the time!” Her joy was noticeable…and enjoyed by others. With whom would you rather spend your time? A person of gloom or a person of joy? The evangelist Billy Graham was once criticized for laughing too much. The critic said, “Jesus never laughed. Why do you?” Graham did not argue; he answered, “Well, Jesus sure fixed me up so I can laugh!” And Jesus did the same for you and me, too! No matter what comes our way, the joy of the Lord can be our strength. Our God delivers us from “idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thes. 1:9), provides godly instructors (2:1-11), gives us backbone to stand firm during persecution and difficult times (2:14), motivates us to holy living (4:3), helps us love people (4:9), and someday is coming again for us (4:16). We are blessed! Let’s say those words again because they are so true: WE ARE BLESSED! Who deserves to rejoice more or celebrate more than us? Thus, Martin Luther declares, “The devil is a chronic grumbler. The Christian ought to be a living doxology”….a living hymn of praise. Hiebert writes, “Christian joy is not dependent upon external circumstances; it springs out of the fact that the believer is ‘in Christ’ and is rooted in the unfathomable blessings flowing from that union.” It is like a spring welling up in your soul that bubbles to the surface regardless of circumstances, that exists on a much higher level than mere ha-ha happiness moments that fade after the event, that sustains itself because it is the product of a life being lived by faith. Remember: to know Him is to know more than about Him. It is also to enter His presence in faith believing and “in His presence is fulness of joy.”
Jul 19, 2021 – Do you ever wonder how people can be so smart and yet so dumb at the same time? Abraham Lincoln wrote, “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.” This pastor concurs. Looking down reveals a mess, but looking up reveals a very organized splendor…something so amazing that our dismay from looking down is replaced with amazement at looking up. Maybe that is because man has not yet had a chance to mess up that which is UP! One of the best things about winter is the cold Canadian air which leaves us with crystal clear nights to observe the stars. It seems the colder the night, the more sparkling the stars! And guess who owns it all? Our God who is also our Father, Savior, Protector and Sustainer. Imagine being so superior to everyone else that it is a simple thing to “pitch a tent big enough to house something as big as the sun.” Our God is indeed mighty! The Bible says, “By Him all things consist, or, more literally, are held together.” Our future, along with the future of the universe, is tied to Him. It reminds me of the little boy who knelt by the bed for his bedtime prayer and prayed, “Lord, be sure to take care of Yourself, because if anything ever happens to You, we’re all in a heap of trouble!” Amen! Be sure to think for a moment about Who is really in charge of this universe! Remember: Your God is also in charge of today, too. So put your hand in His hand and face today…and tomorrow…and the rest of your days in confidence.
Jul 17, 2021 – Can a person pray too much? In the 1980’s this pastor preached at the organizational meeting of a new association of churches in West Virginia. I preached in the morning, we ate a noon meal, then returned for an afternoon session. The moderator had to be away for the opening of the afternoon session. I was asked to open the service with music and fill in until the moderator returned. My first song was the Baptist anthem, “Victory in Jesus.” Preachers like that song! I then asked missionary Don Smith to lead in prayer. The choir sang one song…just one because the moderator returned during that song, resumed leadership, and promptly called on someone to pray. Guess who? Don Smith! Don Smith prayed twice within ten minutes. I recall thinking during his second prayer, “Can we pray too much?” The answer is no. “Pray without ceasing…be in a continual attitude or mood of prayer” is a biblical instruction. (The Amplified Bible says, “be unceasing and persistent in prayer.”) But can we pray too little? Yes, yes, yes! Evangelist John R. Rice says, “All our failures are prayer failures. We fail to pray.” Those words may be too simplistic to cover every failure, but they certainly have a lot of truth in them! God says, “You receive not because you ask not” (James 4:2). A. B. Simpson counsels, “Our God has boundless resources. The only limit is in us. Our asking, our thinking, our praying are too small. Our expectations are too limited.” Let today’s verse challenge you to pray more and be more cognizant of God’s presence during the day. As you pray, how about praying for me? And pray often for me! As well as for yourself, your family and friends, your brothers and sisters in Christ, and as many lost people as you know. Pray!
Jul 16, 2021 – How does God deal with people? There is no established pattern except one: Take the opportunity God has placed before you! The story of God’s judgment against King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the world at that time, is one of the most familiar Bible stories (Daniel 4). God elected to bring down Nebuchadnezzar but not destroy him. God destroyed the successor, Belshazzar, but, for His own reason, demonstrated enormous patience toward Nebuchadnezzar. God told him what would happen…that he would become insane and live like an animal for “seven periods of time.” The kingdom would be returned to him when he acknowledged that, “the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms, and he gives them to anyone he wants.” Interestingly, this judgment did not immediately happen. Judgment did not fall until twelve months had elapsed. Those twelve months indicate that God is often, but not always, “longsuffering and patient,” providing additional opportunity for a sinner to come to the cross and be saved. Do you ever thank God for His patience toward you? This pastor heard the gospel as a little boy. The Holy Spirit drove those truths into my heart at the ages of 7 & 8. But I said, “No, Spirit, go Thy way, Some more convenient day On Thee I’ll call.” But, thank God, He persisted. Did He persist with you or did He go away for a season? For some people He goes away and stays away! This pastor received Jesus Christ at the age of 9. I often thank God that He allowed me to live to the age of 9 (many do not) and have that one more opportunity to receive Christ on January 14, 1965 …and I did. I shudder to think of where I would be today if God’s patience hadn’t allowed me to get to January 14. That’s why the Bible emphasizes, “Today is the day of salvation!” Have you accepted Jesus Christ as the ONE AND ONLY way of salvation? Are you sure? YOU CAN BE SURE!
Jul 15, 2021 – Whom do we trust with our eternal soul? Whom do we serve? Whom do we seek in our prayers? In whom is our faith? “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7). Others trust in religion or even in themselves. The Christian’s faith, though, is in God the Son whom we also know as Jesus Christ. What is His identity? The cults try to reduce Him to “a” god or an “evolving” god but the Scriptures present Him as co-eternal, co-equal and co-existent with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. In other words, we are trusting in the eternal God that became man (flesh through the miracle of the incarnation) to die for our sins. God, because He is a perfect God, does not mess anything up. That means Jesus doesn’t and won’t mess anything up including our salvation or the details in our everyday lives. He can be trusted with all that we possess including our souls. What does this mean doctrinally or theologically? Charles Ryrie: “Though the word ‘incarnation’ does not appear in Scripture, its components (‘in’ and ‘flesh’) do. John wrote the Word became flesh (John 1:14). He also wrote of Jesus coming in the flesh (1 Jn 4:2, 2 Jn 7). By this he meant that the eternal second Person of the Trinity took on Himself humanity. He did not possess humanity until the birth since the Lord became (Gr. egento) flesh…The Incarnation, once accomplished is a lasting state for our Lord. It began at His birth and continues (albeit in a resurrection body now) forever.” Someday we shall see Him in glorified flesh or a glorified body. That flesh will remind us throughout eternity of God becoming man for us!
Jul 14, 2021 – Do you ever wonder how many “once more’s” you will have? Napoleon Hill wrote, “Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” Where are you now? Though often unrecognized and neglected, you are on this very day living in an opportunity to have a spiritual encounter which:
1. Can result in your salvation from the wrath of God and the hell to come. How much thought will you give to your soul in the next hour? Wouldn’t it be sad if you by-passed that opportunity because of something on your cell phone?
2.Can help you deal with an important decision. Perhaps in today’s verse the choice will become clear; the resolve may finally exist to choose God’s direction for your life. You will then be able to sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.”
3.Can give you motivation to face tomorrow. Tomorrow may not look very promising from today’s perspective. Maybe someone will say something that causes you to look up, up and away instead of down…to realize “the joy of the Lord can be your strength.” Don’t let that moment pass you by!
4.Can strengthen your faith or belief system. One of the Apostle Paul’s goals was that we “Be not blown around with every wind of false doctrine/teaching.” What can you believe with certainty? Or do you even care about certainty? Remember, “the scriptures are able to make you wise unto salvation” and also to make “you thoroughly equipped in every good work.”
5.Can remove your feelings of despair and loneliness. Your church experience surrounds you with people of like emotions, like beliefs, and like values. Surprise! None of us have life figured out fully. We struggle, too. But we can struggle together in our church fellowship. After all, what is fellowship but two fellows in the same ship?
Ah, the power of today! Let us never forget today is a gift from God; after all, that’s why they call it the PRESENT!
Jul 13, 2021 – May I have two verses today? This pastor recently taught about the contrasts between Lot and Daniel. Both occupied a societal position called “sitting in the gate.” That expression means they possessed a powerful, executive position/example which greatly influenced others. Lot became one of the worst examples of all time whereas Daniel became a resolute, purposeful person who set a very high standard for all. That study caused me to reflect upon the kind of example I have set for others, especially my children. I did a self-evaluation. If my children followed MY example, they
- Would be in every church service. Would that hurt them?
- Would be close friends with Jesus. Would that hurt them?
- Would be faithful to their spouse and marriage vows. Would that hurt them?
- Would live for God’s kingdom and seek first the kingdom of God. Would that hurt them?
- Would tithe their income to the Lord. Would that hurt them?
- Won’t curse. Would that hurt them?
- Won’t gamble or become a gambling addict. Would that hurt them?
- Won’t do drugs or drink alcohol or smoke. Would that hurt them?
- Will be honest. Would that hurt them?
- Will know how to save money and invest money. Would that hurt them?
- Won’t discriminate or neglect the poor. Would that hurt them?
- Won’t cheat their fellow man. Would that hurt them?
- Will live within their means and pay their bills on time. Would that hurt them?
- Will be in control of their money instead of being controlled by their money. Would that hurt them?
Remember: your standards can never be too high but they can be too low. I don’t want people to fail because they followed a bad example. How about you?
Jul 11, 2021 – “What do you give the person who has everything?” If you’re a man, it’s probably more socks. If it’s a woman, that’s a more difficult issue but you had better get her something! Many of us are blessed to be in that situation. But what do you give the person who has nothing? Unfortunately, far too many are in that very situation. Our local city mission provided a place to sleep 38,000 times last year. I never needed that kind of shelter, did you? They provided 120,000 meals during that time. I never needed such a meal, did you? But many did. What do you give the person that has nothing? From God’s perspective that person is actually all of us. Thus, “when we were without strength, yes, even helpless, so far down we could only look up, Christ died for the ungodly…for us.” “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Thus, from God’s viewpoint the situation is this: “For God so loved the person who has nothing that He gave His only begotten Son…” Thank God for the gift of Himself! The person who has Jesus is rich beyond measure in the things that count. No matter the difficulty, for this situation, too, I always have Jesus! Jesus is my #1 gift of all time! Can you say the same?
Jul 10, 2021 – HE HAS COME TO THE EARTH ONCE…WILL HE COME A SECOND TIME? Yer can bet yer bottom dollar the answer is yes, yea, and yeah! What a first coming! And what a second coming, too! Jesus arrived as a babe two thousand years ago and what a difference he brought! “Never has man spoken like this man.” “What manner of man is this that even the wind and the sea obey His voice?” “Who has ever made the blind to see or the lame to walk?” Jesus brought change into the world—so much change that the world could not handle Him. He will bring even more change when He establishes His future kingdom and rules in absolute righteousness. We, too, live in a changing world. 90% of the items in today’s supermarket did not exist ten years ago. Half of college graduates are going to jobs that didn’t exist when they were born. One man said, “My great-grandfather rode a horse, but he was afraid of a train. My grandfather rode a train, but he was afraid of a car. My father rode in a car, but he was afraid of an airplane. I ride in an airplane, but I’m afraid of a horse!” In that family’s case, change has come full circle. But the greatest change of all is the result of the indwelling Christ being at “home” in the believer. The word “dwell” in today’s verse has the idea of “being at home.” Such an experience in normal life means one is comfortable in the setting, the activities, the culture, the entertainment, and so on. Let’s think of the word in a spiritual context. Wonder if Jesus is comfortable in your heart? Comfortable with the setting, the activities, the culture, the entertainment and so on. The reality is Jesus brings change wherever He goes (including our lives) and sometimes that change can be too radical for us…just like it was too radical in His first coming. Has Jesus truly changed your life? He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10), that we might be delivered from darkness into His awesome light, that our address could change from the flames of hell to the perfections of heaven. May your heart be a home to Him today!
July 9, 2021 – The television preacher Charles Stanley said, “Today is the father of tomorrow. What we are today is the result of what we have been thinking and the way we have lived in the past.” We have heard the old saying, “You made your bed, now sleep in it!” Again, “You reap what you sow.” Unfortunately, life is full of shipwrecks: people whose lives have been broken on the rocks by sailing where they should not have sailed, when they should not have sailed, how they should not have sailed, and with whom they should not have sailed. So many people view life as a dartboard. They throw their darts and whatever happens, happens. They have no plan on where to go or how to get there. Jesus and His followers are just the opposite. They have the Bible as their technical manual, the Holy Spirit as their Guide, the church as their equipper, and the world as their mission field. How wisely are you investing your life? If things continue as they are, will the results of your life be what you desire? Or will you discover your life has been tragically wasted on trivialities? Pastor Pierce Harris spoke one day in a prison. A prisoner introduced him by saying, “Several years ago two boys lived in a town in north Georgia. They went to the same school, played together, and attended the same Sunday School. One dropped out of Sunday School and said it was ‘sissy stuff.’ The other boy kept going. One boy rejected Christ; the other boy accepted Christ. The boy who rejected Christ is making this introduction. The boy who received Christ is today’s honored speaker.” Oh, heed the words of the old song, “Wasted years, wasted years! Oh how foolish! As you walk on in darkness and in fears, Turn around, turn around, God is calling! He’s calling you from a life of wasted years!”
Jul 8, 2021 – A man was deeply discouraged, even to the point of death. He wandered restlessly one evening along a city street then wearily sat down beside a hedge. Two women were talking on the other side of the hedge about church and their pastor’s sermon. One said, “The pastor’s sermon gave me hope and encouragement.” The other asked, “What part?” The reply came, “The world always says you make your own bed and you must lie in it, but One greater than the world has said, ‘Take up your bed and walk! Your sins are forgiven!’” The man’s heart leaped at those words of hope. He then called upon the sinner’s friend, Jesus, and was forgiven of his sin. And his life was changed! Today’s verse reminds us of the power of the cross! Our world may minimize the cross but let us never forget that God maximizes the cross. Let’s get a better appreciation of the cross’ meaning. “Redemption” means “redeem and set free by paying a price.” As a result, guilt no longer has a claim or a hold on the believer. The debt has been paid in full. The believer has been set free to live in righteousness and obedience to his Lord and Savior. “His Blood” does not refer to lowly animal blood but refers to Jesus’ personal sacrifice on the cross as payment for our redemption. No check of monetary value would suffice; the price for our redemption demanded the ultimate payment. Yes, our salvation requires a gruesome sacrifice…the sacrifice of the innocent Lamb of God. That is why Spurgeon’s motto for life consisted of the four words, “Christ died for me!” And He did! “Forgiveness” means “sending away” or “carried away” as in the sense the sin (trespass) debt has been discharged, sent away or released from our account, never again to be brought against us. Wiersbe writes, “No written accusation stands against us because our sins have been taken away. Sin made us poor, but grace makes us rich.” Perhaps the devil may visit you today; if so, wave the cross of Calvary at him! The devil is no match for the cross. The devil no longer owns us nor has any right to control us. Therefore, let us sing in triumph, “Oh, What a Savior! O hallelujah! His heart was broken on Calvary. His hands were nail scarred, His side was riven, He gave His life’s blood for even me.” Yes, what a Savior!!! Can you say “Amen?
Jul 7, 2021 – “I have found His grace is all complete, He supplieth every need; While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet, I am free, yes, free indeed. It is joy unspeakable and full of glory, Oh, the half has never yet been told.” I learned Warren’s song as a little boy; sixty years later that song still expresses the longing of my heart. To know Him is to know real joy! For instance, the joy of eternal salvation from a devil’s hell, hearing the voice of God in His Word, praying in the Holy Spirit and touching the hem of God, knowing I am walking in truth, serving as God’s ambassador to a lost world, even anticipating a day of “being absent from the body and present with the Lord!” Question: Would you trade knowing Him for something else? I think not! The joy of the Christian life is not self-made joy but His joy! He told the apostles in today’s text, “that My joy may be in you.” Such joy is deep, abiding, and abounding and not easily quenched. There once was a Christian cobbler in Germany who worked outside the door of his little cobbler shop. He would often sing with joy about his God. One day a man walked by, heard the man singing and asked, “Why are you so happy?” The cobbler said, “The reason I have joy is that I am the King’s son.” He said nothing more and the man walked away thinking, “This fellow is crazy. If he were the King’s son, he wouldn’t be working in a cobbler’s shop but living in prosperity.” The cobbler realized he should have offered a more complete explanation. When the man passed by on the next day, the cobbler said, “I explained that my joy was because I was the King’s son, but did not explain to you who the King was.” He presented the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible teaching regarding salvation. That man promptly accepted the true King as his King and experienced the joy of the Lord! May you dwell in His presence today and experience that same joy!
Jul 6, 2021 – A better ministry begins with the absolute conviction that one has been saved or delivered from the hell to come. It is nigh impossible to move forward in the Christian life if one is still confused about salvation. Such an experience is like piling books on top of a kitchen chair then stepping on top of those wobbly books to get something from the highest cabinet! One does not know if it is safe to even breathe because that might topple everything! Today’s verse, though, highlights that everyone can know and know for certain that his salvation is secure in Christ. Jesus and Jesus alone has finished or completed what was necessary for our salvation. “It is finished!” does not mean 90% finished but 100% finished. The sacrifice for sins has been slain…once and for all (Hebrews 10:14). This means the ONE sacrifice that takes away sin has been made in full, and, in so doing, our sin debt has been paid in full. Evangelist D. L. Moody said, “An old man got up in one of my meetings and said, ‘I have been 42 years learning three things.’ Moody said, I pricked up my eyes at that. I thought that if I could find out in three minutes what a man had learned in 42 years I would be doing something. The first thing that he said he had learned was that he could do nothing toward his salvation. Moody thought, ‘Well, that’s worth learning.’ The second thing he found out was that God did not require him to do anything. Moody thought, ‘Well, that was worth finding out, too.’ And the third thing was that Jesus Christ had done it ALL. That salvation was FINISHED, and all he had to do was take it.” The man had it right! The way of salvation has been made complete for you and it is yours to take. The door of salvation is open to receive you. Are you depending upon the finished work of Christ? Indeed, are you satisfied with the cross? God is the only Judge that counts and He is fully satisfied with the cross (Romans 4:25). But unbelievers stumble at the cross (1 Corinthians 1) because they insist on adding something to the cross. However, what can one add if it is finished? God the Father’s righteous demands have been met by God the Son. Therefore, we can sing, “Now we are free, there’s no condemnation, Jesus provides a perfect salvation; ‘Come unto Me,’ oh, hear His sweet call, Come, and He saves us once for all.” Can you say “Amen” to the cross?
Jul 5, 2021 – The Communion service is one of the richest services in the church calendar. It is a time of communion with our Lord and one another as we remember the Lord’s death until He comes. Have you been saved from your sin and sinful lifestyle by trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If the answer is yes, the communion service should have a great impact upon you. Jesus told us, “Do this in remembrance of Me…of what I have done for you.” During my root canal experience with a bad tooth, I was reminded of the Old Testament penalty which can be summarized as an eye for an eye, and a TOOTH for a tooth (Exodus 21:24). In other words, if someone knocked out your tooth you had the opportunity to reciprocate and force him to experience the same loss (and pain). Communion, though, reminds us that Christ provides a salvation which is not based upon a tooth for tooth experience but rather upon a grace for sin experience. It was our sins that caused Jesus to undergo such a violent beating and death, but none of us have suffered in the same way for our sins. Our sins caused the nails to pierce His flesh but none of us have experienced those nails in our own flesh. Our sins caused the horrors of the crucifixion and the sacrifice of the innocent Lamb of God, and, in turn, we go free? Yes, we do indeed go free. That’s why salvation is an act of grace! “For by grace are you saved through faith and this salvation is not of yourselves lest any man should boast!” Let us never forget that it was “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a _______ like me!” “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!” “For where sin abounded, God’s grace did much more abound!” “And when before God’s throne, I stand in Him complete, Jesus died my soul to save, my lips shall still repeat!” Amen! Center your mind on these thoughts BEFORE the next Communion service and you will enjoy true communion with our God!
Jul 3, 2021 – Let’s probe a difficult, disturbing question: What is the most boring part of a church service? Every poll shows the same result: the preaching or teaching of the Word of God. That is the opposite of what one would expect, because we emphasize the Bible as the world’s most important book. Yet people often want something else. How ironic! Perhaps it is because many people come to church for a reason other than to hear the Word of God. The Bible-loving teacher wishes he/she had more time to share the treasures of God’s Word but too many listeners have a different expectation or desire. W. A. Criswell, the well known pastor of First Baptist in Dallas, once had a woman ask him to visit her husband and urge him to become a member of the church. Criswell obliged. The man said, “I will not join your church, because I do not like to hear you preach.” Criswell asked, “I would like to know the reason why.” The man said, “I have been to your church several times with my wife. You preached the Bible EVERY one of those times. I have never heard you preach anything else.” Criswell responded, “That is true. What do you want me to preach?” The man continued, “When I go to church, I would like the minister to enlarge my field of interest, expounding on the political scene, on our economic dilemma, on current events, or about the latest and finest literature. I get tired of listening to you just preach the Bible.” The man never joined the church, because Criswell never quit preaching the Bible. Criswell concluded, “It seems to me that once in a while a man would like to know what God has to say. If God does say anything, who else but the preacher—God’s spokesman—will tell us what God says? I am convinced this is the assignment of the preacher—to stand in the pulpit, to open the Word of the living Lord, and to tell us how our souls can be saved and how we can enjoy the blessings of God in our lives.” Today’s text is about people that “would like to know what God has to say.” They crowded Jesus so they would not miss a single word. Their souls were hungry for spiritual truth. And that hunger was evidenced by their listening. God help us to concentrate on meeting their need! And God help our people to WANT to know what God has to say! Our job is to keep preaching, keep teaching, keep sowing! And wait on God to give the increase. Rest assured, someone is listening! Give the listeners your best effort.
Jul 2, 2021 – IT’S ANOTHER GOOD DAY TO PRAISE THE LORD! “O, taste of the Lord and see that He is good!” In the days of old, the people imagined their god(s) was not good; hence, they feared their god even to the point of offering human sacrifices to their god. Such a god was viewed in malevolent terms…vicious, hateful, vengeful, delighting in pouring out wrath upon weak humans. But that description is not true of our God. “God’s mercy endureth forever!” “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me ALL the days of my life.” Many years ago my father (also a pastor) taught me, “Some will be saved by preaching on hell but more will respond to preaching on the love of God.” My father’s words are true. Think about the guy holding up a sign at the basketball game behind the basket. What Bible verse appears on the sign? John 3:16. (That is not a verse about hell.) How does it begin? You know! “For God so loved…” The greatest message I can hear is that God loves…me! God loves enough to send a Savior, to warn me of the consequences without the Savior, to be my friend and companion during life’s journey, to prepare a home for me in His own house, to furnish guides (the Bible and Holy Spirit), and to give me strength for the task at hand. Is it any wonder I wish to praise the Lord today? Great things He hath done, and great things He will continue to do!
Jul 1, 2021 – How much can one know? The amount of knowledge doubled in the 1800’s, was doubling every twenty-five years by 1950, and is now doubling every year. IBM recently shared that the build-out of the “internet of things” will soon lead to the doubling of knowledge every twelve hours. This writer cannot comprehend such a rate of increase. Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher, popularized those unforgettable and very true words, “Knowledge is power.” For example, suppose Japan or Germany had first developed the nuclear bomb in World War 2. Would today’s world be different? Undoubtedly! Today’s verse urges us to expand our universe by continually acquiring further knowledge. In other words, never stop learning! Never stop growing! Keep refreshing yourself! This is true in every category of your life: spiritually, socially, financially, culturally, vocationally, medically, etc. (Scientific study even reveals that a growing mind is a formidable weapon against dementia.) No man knows it all although some may think so! There are still “worlds to conquer” and much more to be learned. Indeed, these are very exciting times. Yes, these current days are disappointing in many regards, but they also represent days of great opportunity, including expanded opportunities to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world. Interestingly, someday man’s potential for knowledge will be more fully realized…perhaps by leaps and bounds above what we know today. Daniel 12:4 looks at a future time (perhaps the Millennium when Jesus rules for 1,000 years) and says, “knowledge will increase.” That is supported by Isaiah 11:1-2, 9, 41:19-20, 54:13 and Habakkuk 2:14. Long term thinker/investor/optimist John Templeton often talked about a coming “golden age” for mankind with longevity restored, cures for our diseases, ease of transportation and communication, an abundant and increasing food supply, etc. He felt it would begin in this current century, and he may very well turn out to be right. After all, the promised Millennial Kingdom (and its amazing leap forward in knowledge) may be as close as seven years away. It may appear childish to say so, but sometimes I wonder if the world of Elroy Jetson and Astro will soon be a reality rather than a cartoon! So take today to refresh yourself…and learn something new!
Jun 30, 2021 – How powerful is our witness for Christ? We know the answer by personal experience! Warren Wiersbe wrote, “You are a Christian today because somebody cared. Now it is your turn.” Jonathan Hayashi suggests (any one of) seven bridge questions to open the door to a gospel conversation: “Are you a religious person? How interested are you in spiritual things? What do you think it takes to get to heaven? In your opinion, what is a Christian? Anything you want me to pray? Do you believe in God? What do you believe about Jesus?” It is an easy transition from one of those questions to asking, “May I share what Jesus has done for me?” 90% of the responses will be, “Yes.” That response will open the door to sharing your own testimony of how Jesus changed your life. This type of humble approach will create an intelligent conversation in which your heart speaks to the other person’s heart about why you have become a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is possible your testimony will conclude with the individual wanting to receive Christ as Savior. The person may say, “I want what you have!” Some Christians immediately lead the sinner in a prayer of repentance and faith in Christ. I suggest sharing two verses of scripture prior to that prayer. John 1:12 emphasizes the two concepts of, first, personally receiving/appropriating Christ and, second, believing on Christ for salvation. The second verse, Revelation 3:20, paints a vivid picture of the “receiving” part of salvation. It is easy to visualize Jesus knocking upon a person’s door/heart and asking for admittance. The moment of salvation comes when the human will relents/repents and opens the door! One of the great invitation hymns concludes with the words, “Let Jesus come in, He will save you from sin, But you must open the door!” May God use your testimony to bring others to Him!
Jun 29, 2021 – What is happening in our world? The world has changed so much since my ministry began in 1976. Church experts anticipate this change will accelerate over the next two decades as the baby boomers’ generation enters its decline. Here is what is coming. “Gen Z, those born between 1995 and 2015, is the largest generation in modern history. Influential and largely unreligious, only 59% identify with some sort of theistic religion and a mere 4% embrace a biblical worldview. They’re in our homes and our schools but oftentimes absent from our churches. The oldest members of Gen Z are now age 26.” Jonathan Clark, regional campus minister at Murray State University, identifies apathy as a barrier leaders frequently face when ministering to Gen Z. “Many simply don’t care about spiritual things,” he said. The intersection of biblical truth and cultural norms also impedes the communication of the gospel on college campuses. “The culture constantly paints true biblical Christianity as oppressive, sexist, intolerant, homophobic, and other things that many people in Gen Z don’t want to be labeled as. When they see the church as simply against those things without having a full understanding of Christians approaching life with a biblical worldview, they often see it as ‘us versus them.’” Yes, the world is changing, but one basic truth has not changed: The best ministry meets people where they are. Jesus demonstrates that principle throughout His ministry. He met people in their own unique situation: the woman at the well, Zaccheus in a tree, a thief on the cross, the apostles in their fishing boat, Martha in her grief, and Nicodemus in his confusion (typified by the dark of night). Jesus understood them; that fact improved His ministry to them. He knew His audience better than any preacher before or after Him! Most important: Jesus knew His audience both in terms of their generational characteristics and their individual characteristics. Look around you today. Zero in on two or three people. Write down something very basic about them. (Writing requires thinking.) Then pray about that person’s need. Perhaps the Lord will open the door soon for you to ask, “Will you give me a drink?”
Jun 28, 2021 – The foundation for a successful ministry begins with our absolute conviction that the Bible is a book of TRUTH. Many people today have never found such a foundation, or, for that matter, ANY foundation for their lives. They simply don’t know anything for certain. Their dilemma is evidenced in how they live their lives. Sadly, they simply don’t know for certain if they are right! But that situation does not have to be! Josh Billings says, “I’d rather know a few things for certain than be sure of a lot of things that just ain’t so.” The Bible will help any Christian of any intellect to know at least a few things for certain! The Apostle Paul describes the Bible as “the Word of truth” and guides Timothy to build his entire life upon its teachings. Those teachings not only made Timothy “wise unto salvation” (3:15) but also established a rock-solid foundation that gave him confidence to deal with the many struggles of life and ministry. No man can ever be wrong or go wrong by following the Word of God’s truth! Furthermore, Paul urges Timothy to “rightly divide” or “cut straight” as in the sense of plowing a straight furrow or sewing a straight seam. Quite honestly, the Word of God cannot be improved. Therefore, it should be declared for what it is: God’s truth for wayward souls. Samuel Rutherford encourages us to, “Believe God’s Word more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.” The truth never changes! It is constant. A man can confidently stand on God’s truth and know he is right even if the rest of the world says he is wrong. William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury, provides the only logical conclusion, “Christianity is not a drug which suits some complaints and not others. It is either sheer illusion or it is the truth. But it if is the truth, if the universe happens to be constituted in this way, the question is not whether the God of Christianity suits us, but whether we suit Him.” I encourage you to choose truth – God’s truth – for your foundation!
Jun 26, 2021 – For what do you pray? Everyone would benefit by taking an inventory of their prayer life. Most people have such a short prayer life they do not need to take inventory. One fellow was asked, “Do you pray?” He answered, “Yes.” “Then prove it. Quote the Lord’s Prayer.” He immediately began, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my Soul to keep, If I should die before I ‘wake, I pray the Lord my Soul to take.” Many people fall into that disappointing category. But other people only pray about material needs or whatever the need of the day happens to be. However, the prayers in the Bible are of a different, and considerably higher, nature. Today’s verse is an example of a “higher” prayer. Paul prays for his readers to know God on a higher and more intimate level. Such knowledge, of course, is the highest knowledge possible. Paul expressed his personal desire in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know HIM – not merely His Bible or His church or His people but HIM!” Wiersbe writes, “Paul has met God in the person of Jesus Christ, and he knows that a man cannot understand much of anything else without a knowledge of God.” “That the eyes of your heart” – not merely mind where we think but heart (Greek: kardia – the very core of our innermost being like the inner sanctum) where we feel and love. It’s where “wow” experiences occur that affect all of our being like seeing that newborn for the first time. You realize that this little one is someone you want to know more than you know yourself. Pray for that experience for yourself…and for others! Pray for your children, friends, Sunday School class members, etc. that they might know Him! Turn your prayer life into one of introducing people to Him. “Lord, may they know You!”
Jun 25, 2021 – It is time for Israel to enter the promised land known as Canaan. There will be many enemies to fight. Israel is fearful. The people know, “The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.” But they need to be reminded “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). We tend to overestimate our own power, skills, and knowledge but minimize our need for God’s power, skills, and knowledge. Evangelist John R. Rice often said, “All of our failures are prayer failures.” That is likely so because prayer reflects our dependence upon God’s power, skills, and knowledge rather than our own. With that in mind, how should we face the conflicts of life? There are three items we need to keep in mind. First, the Lord goes before you. He has not abandoned you. He sees the battlefield before you, even has a plan for dealing with the enemy. Give Him the opportunity to lead. Second, the Lord Jehovah shall be part of the conflict. “He shall fight for you.” He even gives you His own armor to wear in the conflict (Ephesians 6). David told Goliath, “this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s. He will hand you over to us” (1 Sam. 17:47). Third, encourage yourself by remembering how God has given you victories in the past. In today’s verse God reminded Israel of His prior deeds and power. Egypt was a great adversary to Israel but not to God. Pharaoh met his match in Jehovah! The battle in Egypt was bigger than the flesh could handle, but everything changed when God came on the scene. Isn’t it good to know He is with you? That’s why we can sing, “From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.”
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!