Saturday, January 13, 2018

Lord, Help Me improve

As we enter the third week of 2018 I’ll bet there are those who have already slipped away from some of their resolutions for the year. It’s easy to do once we get back into our “normal” routines, which we are so used to, after the dust has settled from the holidays. We make ourselves a lot of promises when we discover last year’s clothing didn’t fit like it used to and our stamina walking the malls and playing with the grand-children is waning due to the lack of daily exercise. The two most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and exercise more. Shamefully, most of us just can’t seem to fit physical fitness into our daily schedules. Fast food and automobiles have us all a little out of shape and our blood-work awry. It takes a change of mind to assert physical change and working on the spirit and adjusting the way we think about our self can bring about great change. Take charge and quit looking for excuses for why you can’t do it.

“Sick” by Shel Silverstein “I cannot go to school (church) today,” Said little Peggy Ann McKay. “I have the measles and the mumps, A gash, a rash and purple bumps. My mouth is wet, my throat is dry, I’m going blind in my right eye. My tonsils are as big as rocks, I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox And there’s one more - that’s seventeen. And don’t you think my face looks green? My leg is cut, my eyes are blue - It might be instamatic flu. I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke, I’m sure that my left leg is broke. My hip hurts  when I move my chin, My belly button’s caving in, My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained, My ’pendix pains each time it rains. My nose is cold, my toes are numb, I have a sliver in my thumb. My neck is stiff, my voice is weak, I hardly whisper when I speak. My tongue is filling up my mouth; I think my hair is falling out. My elbow's bent, my spine ain’t straight. My temperature is one-0-eight. My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear, There is a hole inside my ear. I have a hangnail, and my heart is - What? What's that?  What's that you say? You say today is Saturday? G’bye, I’m going to the mall today!” Is everything okay as long as it’s my way?

[Luke 14:27] “...anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” You must take charge of your spiritual life because - “You Can't Fool God” (by Grenville Klieser): You can fool the hapless public, You can be a subtle fraud, You can hide your little meanness, But you can't fool God! You can advertise your virtues, You can self achievement laud, You can load yourself with riches, But you can't fool God! You can criticize the Bible You can be a selfish clod, You can lie, swear, drink, and gamble, But you can't fool God! You can magnify your talent, You can hear the world applaud, You can boast yourself somebody, But you can't fool God! Resolve that during the year 2018 I will: Like Paul, forget those things which are behind and press forward (Philippians 3:12-14). Like David, lift up my eyes to the hills from which my help comes (Psalm 121:1-2). Like Abraham, trust my God implicitly (Hebrews 11:8). Like Enoch, walk in daily fellowship with my heavenly Father (Genesis 5:21-24). Like Moses, suffer rather than enjoy the pleasure of sin for a time (Hebrews 11:24-26). Like Job, be patient and faithful in all circumstances (James 5:11). Like Joseph, turn my back on all evil advances (Genesis 39:12). Like Gideon, advance even when my friends are few (Judges 6:14-16). Like Andrew, strive to lead my brother to Christ (John 1:40-42a). I pray you don’t give up your self-improvement. Ask the Lord daily to help improve you.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Consider Your Ways

It seems like yesterday that all the news for 1999 was directed at the computer and that all the computers of the world were going to crash at the stroke of midnight and the turn of the century. We were being warned our new-found fascination with the personal computer was in jeopardy and a world-wide panic was inevitable. Folks were storing up water and canned goods because the food industry was going to be unable to deliver goods to the retail markets. Y2K did present some concerns as to the function of computers not programmed for the turn of the century with the unrecognizable 2xxx year designation, but throughout the previous several years they had been updated to survive the stroke of midnight and the year 2000. Still, some wouldn’t listen and fretted over a problem that didn’t exist, that is unless preparations had not been taken before hand. New Year’s morning was awash with plenty of water and calmer minds prevailed. Now was the time to focus on that magical year of 2020. It seemed so far off and dreams of what it was going to be like were fabulous. Now its only two years away and the whole world seems to have introverted to a me society, and for many the magic of 2020 is all but gone.

[Haggai 1:2-11] ...Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” The beginning of a new year is a good time to pause and consider the direction of our lives. It is easy to get into ruts and routines (even extremely hectic ones) and thus never stop to consider where we are going or where we should be going. After the children of Israel had returned home from Babylonian captivity, the people soon became careless in their faith and devotion to Almighty God. Their focus shifted from God to self. So God sent them a prophet by the name of Haggai with a stinging rebuke and warning. He told them to give careful thought to what they were doing. According to Haggai 1:6, they try and try to please themselves but nothing is working! They are working really hard, but what they are doing isn’t accomplishing anything! Do you ever feel that way? God is saying, “Do what will glorify ME! You want your life to matter and be satisfying and fulfilling and all that it can be? Glorify me!” With this event in mind, let us stop and consider our ways. Here are some serious spiritual questions (thanks to Donald Whitney) that will help us consider our ways and see if we are seeking to glorify God or self. • What is the single most important thing I can do to improve the quality of my family life this year? • What is the single biggest time-waster in my life, and what will I do about it this year? • What is the most helpful new way I could strengthen my congregation? • For whom will I pray most fervently this year? • Who is the person(s) that I most want to encourage this year? • What is the one thing I could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy that I will leave to my children and grandchildren? • What single thing that I plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity? • What is the one thing I most regret about last year, and what will I do about it this year? We must plan for spiritual greatness. It won’t happen by accident. Let us consider our ways. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking At The New Year

Twenty-eighteen is upon us and we have no idea what lies ahead. Everyone will look at the new year in many different ways. • A day yet to dawn. • A battle yet to be fought. • A mountain yet to be climbed. • A journey yet to be begun. • A chapter yet to be written. • A book yet to be read. • A blank sheet yet to be filled. • A new territory yet to be explored. • A meal yet to be consumed. • A race yet to be run. • A game yet to be played. • A task yet to be undertaken. • A present yet to be opened. • A sea yet to be crossed. • A story yet to be told. • A conversation yet to unfold. • A sermon yet to be preached. • A plan yet to be set in motion. • A walk yet to be taken. • A building yet to be constructed. Seize it; live it well! May the Lord bless you and grant you peace throughout this year.

The new year doesn’t have to end the joy of gift giving. Her are some gifts anyone can give to anybody throughout the year: THE GIFT OF PRAISE - Appropriate mention right in front of the other fellow, of superior qualities or of jobs and deeds well done. THE GIFT OF CONSIDERATION - Putting yourself in the other’s shoes, providing genuine understanding of his side of the case. THE GIFT OF CONCESSION - Humbly saying at just the right point, “I am sorry, you are right, and l am wrong.” THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE - Never forgetting to say “thank you,” and never failing to mean it. THE GIFT OF ATTENTION - When the other fellow speaks listen attentively. If directed to you personally, meet his eye squarely. THE GIFT OF INSPIRATION - Plant seeds of courage and action in the other person’s heart. THE GIFT OF PERSONAL PRESENCE - In sickness, in trouble, or in great joy, there is nothing quite equal to your personal expression of sympathy or congratulations. Resolve to give these gifts each day. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you will receive in return.

[Deuteronomy 30:19-20] After Moses had spoken to the people of their renewal of their covenant with God and what entering into the promised land should mean to them he said: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life...” Entering this new year we too should take time to renew our covenant with God and study his words of grace more closely: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Jesus told His disciples, just before His death, when they were afraid, “...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In this world each one of us has trouble, trials, and temptation. We will never be without these things, in this world, and we never know how difficult the next thing we face can be. We cannot remove all the tribulations of this world from the lives of people we love. What can we do? We can offer our brothers and sisters a word of kindness, appreciation, and encouragement. When we do this, we are carrying out a very valuable (even priceless, if you will) part of God’s purpose in us. The timely word, the silent prayer, The look of love that’s all too rare, The open heart willing to share - These things matter. A promise kept, the accepting smile, The will to go the extra mile, Desire to forgive and reconcile - These things matter. Eternal life, before we die, On God, by faith, we fully rely, To do his will, and never deny - These things matter. (J. Randal Matheny) Happy New Year! – “Live long and prosper.”

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Twas The Night Jesus Came

Merry Christmas everyone! Blessings to you and your family. May you all know the joy of the true reason for this season – the Savior who is Christ the Lord.

“Twas the Night Jesus Came” by Pepper D. Basham (©2009): Twas the night Jesus came and all through the town, Not a person would guess, The Messiah came down,. The earth gave no warning to speak God’s intent, But this magical night I would never forget. The streets were all busy with strangers from far; No time to hear singing or see the bright star. As my young friends and I kept our watch o’er the flock, We had no idea we’d soon get a shock. When out of the darkness there rose such a light, I sprang from the hilltop to gaze at the sight. An angel came shining as bright as noon-day, More fearsome and brilliant than I’ve words to say. At first he said, softly, “There’s no need to fear.” Which I found hard to do since this host first appeared; But he said, “Be of Joy! I bring you great news! Your Savior is born, there is no time to lose. This babe wrapped in cloths has no crib for his bed, But rests his sweet head in a feed-trough instead.” And then other angels, more than I can know, Rejoiced through the dark with their songs and their glow. Like millions of stars dancing down to the earth, They lifted their voices in praise of his birth-Singing, “Glory to God” Through the stillness of night “and peace to all men,” then they flew out of sight. It didn’t take long to break out of our shock, We ran down the hill leaving our field and flock, And found the sweet baby inside a damp cave, But could this be Christ – the whole world to save? The donkeys and horses had left a foul smell. The straw was all muddy, the manger as well. But everything was as the angel had said, A babe wrapped in cloths in a crude manger bed. Then I know – it was clear. Where else would he be? The Teacher and Healer to make the blind see. The Savior who’d carry the sins of us all, Where else would show love than an old cattle stall? This baby, The Christ, would clean up all our messes. He’d take on our curses and give us His blessings. So as I adored Him, God’s Son, the true Light, God seemed to be whisp’ring to all a ‘good night’.” Jesus, the gift of unequaled quality and value for everyone.

[Isaiah 53] We have no physical record of what our Lord looked like as a human walking this earth. All the paintings and pictures we see of Jesus, from birth to death, are of ones imaginative interpretation. The only recorded descriptions of our Lord are found in the book of Isaiah (v. 1-3): “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” and in Philippians 2:7-8 “...made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man...” and Hebrews 2:14-18 “...he had to be made like his brothers in every way...” also Hebrews 4:14-15 “ who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” God is Love (1 John 4:16) and perfect love is sinless. God so loved the world (you and me) he gave us his Son (John 3:16)! Why? Now we have no excuse for our sinfulness (John 15:22) and strive to become like Jesus (love); plus we now have a loving God who understands our iniquities for He also has suffered the pains and temptations of life. Human love and compassion translates grace and peace.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

God's Perfect Days

It’s December! For many, especially children, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” God’s Word speaks of it as a perfect time. “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). As the expression goes, “Hind-sight is 20/20” and obviously, God, as the Master Strategist, selected the moment He did to send His Son into the world to redeem us and make us His own for His most excellent reasons. We can only examine the instant the angel announced the good news of great joy to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night and ask - why then? Of course, history from that point, if God had never been born a man to die for man’s sin, would have been entirely different. If Jesus were to come today, into this postmodern climate, he would have found little to no faith at all on the earth and the quirky religion of the ancient Hebrews forgotten. No, the time was perfect, but before the time could fully come, God needed to establish a promise through Abraham, a people through Israel, and a placeholder through Moses. Through the Remnant had to arise synagogues, the Greeks - a language, and the Romans - roads, the Pax Romana (a time of peace under Roman rule), and the cruel execution method of crucifixion. Do you know that His plan was purposeful and planned for you before creation? (Ephesians 1:3-7)

[Psalm 32] It is also the time of the year when we hear the slogan, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” How do you feel about that slogan? I take issue! Jesus is not only “the reason for the season” but for devoted Christians, Jesus is “the reason for all of life” – our spiritual lives! Paul reminds us that we “died” and “were raised with Christ,” an allusion to our repentance and baptism (Colossians 2:11-12). We should “seek those things which are above” and our minds set “on things above.” Our lives are “hidden with Christ in God.” Christ is “our life” (Colossians 3:1-4). A “season” may be long enough for those of a secular mindset, for those who give a little thought to Jesus this time of the year. But to God’s faithful a “lifetime” is not long enough to serve the Lord we love! He is not “the reason for our season” - He is “the reason for our surrender.” We should rejoice every day that God sent His Son into the world to save us - the story of His birth being a part of that grander scheme. Many are enamored with the story of Jesus’ birth because a babe in a manger makes no demand upon their lives. They can have God without obligation. They can talk about His birth, sing a carol or two and then walk away! The emphasis of the gospel, however, is on the Lordship of Christ, not the birth of Christ. In the first sermon to the Jews, Peter declared that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). In the first sermon to the Gentiles he declared that Jesus is “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). His birth is only the beginning of the story! The ultimate “perfect day” will be the day of redemption that is prepared for the righteous. The path that has the small gate and  narrow road is the only way that leads to “life” and few are looking for it (Matthew 7:14). The plan for man’s salvation from sin has been made complete by God through Jesus and his atoning sacrifice of life for the redemption of our sins. Paul walked the walk and looking forward to his reward encourages all who do the same will be rewarded on that “perfect day” (2 Timothy 4:8). Surrendering to Him as Lord is the story! Wise men still seek Him! Wise men surrender to Him as Lord! Is Jesus your Lord and Savior today?