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!