Saturday, January 12, 2019

Who Guides You?

In 1992, Dennis Lee Curtis was arrested for armed robbery in Rapid City, South Dakota. In his wallet, police found a list of rules Curtis had written for himself -guidelines for his robberies. For example, he wrote: * “I will not kill anyone unless I have to.” * “I will take cash and food stamps - no checks.” * “I will not rob mini-marts.” * “If I get chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.” * “I will rob only seven months out of the year.” * “I will enjoy robbing from the rich to give to the poor.” This may seem odd, but Dennis Lee Curtis was a thief with some standards. But when he stood before the court, the judge did not consult Curtis’ list of rules. He pulled out the laws of the state by which to judge him, by which to convict him. In the same way, when we stand before God, He won’t consult man-made rules and standards. He will judge us by His unchanging Word, the Bible.

Think about a boat on the river with no one in it just going with the flow; side to side, bank to bank, and not knowing where its journey will end. It could end up stuck next to the bank with branches all around it and not able to move any farther. It could end up at a waterfall, going over, and being broken into pieces. Without someone guiding the boat it has no hope. That is how we are without God: no hope, no direction, just walking around, just like that boat that no one is guiding. Jesus came to guide us and to save the lost (Luke19:10). God loves us and he doesn’t want us to be like that boat (John 3:16). Jesus is coming back; “...I am going there to prepare a place for you. ...I will come back and take you to be with me” (John 14:1-6); and he wants us all to be saved. We need to be going in the right direction, toward heaven, because tomorrow might just be too late.

[Psalm 16:11] “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Don’t let the devil get you caught up in the world. The devil is like a roaring lion that walks about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t be in that boat that no one is guiding and go over the falls. Jesus said, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day” (John 12:48). Observe: by God’s standards we are ALL guilty of sin. “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’ …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). But the GOOD NEWS is that God is not only willing to forgive us, He has made a costly Provision for our salvation from sin. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). On the cross, Jesus, the Son of God, paid the price for our redemption from sin. “He is the atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins, and not for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Those who accept His offer of salvation through obedience, will receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life; “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7); “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Let’s be sure to live by God’s standards, not our own. For God’s Word is THE standard of judgment. Let Jesus be your guide! “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior...” (Psalm 25:5)

Saturday, January 05, 2019

A New Year's Plan

The start of a new year is an ideal time to reflect on the past, take account of your Christian walk, and consider the direction God may want to lead you in the coming days. Set aside some time to pause and evaluate your spiritual condition as you seek God's presence with this prayerful collection of poems for Christians.

** A New Year's Plan - Christian New Year's Poem - by  Mary Fairchild > I tried to think of a clever new phrase – A slogan to inspire the next 365 days, A motto to live by this coming New Year, But the  catchy words fell flat to my ear. And then I heard His still small voice, Saying, "Consider this simple, daily choice: With each new dawn and close of day, Make new your resolve to trust and obey. Don't look back caught in regret, Or dwell on the sorrow of dreams unmet; Don't stare forward anchored by fear, No, live in this moment, for I am here. I am all you need. Everything. I Am. You are held secure by my strong hand. Give me this one thing – your all in all; Into my grace, let yourself fall." So, at last, I'm ready; I see the way. It's to daily follow, trust, and obey. I enter the New Year armed with a plan, To give him my everything. All that I am.

** The New Year --Martha Snell Nicholson > Dear Lord, as this new year is born, I give it to Thy hand, Content to walk by faith what paths I cannot understand. Whatever coming days may bring, Of bitter loss, or gain, Or every crown of happiness; Should sorrow come, or pain, Or, Lord, if all unknown to me, Thine angel hovers near, To bear me to that farther shore, Before another year, It matters not — my hand in Thine, Thy light upon my face, Thy boundless strength when I am weak, Thy love and saving grace! I only ask, loose not my hand, Grip fast my soul, and be, My guiding light upon the path, Till, blind no more, I see! ** Dear Master for this coming year, Just one request I bring: I do not pray  for happiness, Or any earthly thing -- I do not ask to understand, The way You’re leading me, But this I ask: Teach me to do, The thing that pleases You. I want to know Your guiding voice, To walk with You each day. Dear Master make me swift to hear, And ready to obey. And thus the year I now begin, A happy year will be — If I am seeking just to do, The thing that pleases You. --Unknown Author

[Psalm 51:10-13] “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.” ** His Unfailing Presence > Another year I enter, Its history unknown; Oh, how my feet would tremble, To tread its paths alone! But I have heard a whisper, I know I shall be blest; "My presence shall go with you, And I will give you rest." What will the New Year bring me? I may not, must not know; Will it be love and rapture, Or loneliness and woe? Hush! Hush! I hear His whisper; I surely shall be blest; "My presence shall go with you, And I will give you rest." --Unknown Author ** There’s hope for tomorrow, even when things look dim. There’s hope for tomorrow, when you put trust in Him. Though darkness surrounds you, He’s always there. With arms that will hold you in His loving care. Just when you thought you had lost everything, He’s right there beside you, with comfort to bring. And you’ll know with assurance, He’ll never depart, For He’s dwelling inside you, right there in your heart. I pray God’s blessings for you in 2019, and God bless America!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Ready or Not ...2019

Can you believe another year is in the books? Time marches relentlessly onward without asking for either our consent or approval. 2018 isn’t even cold yet and 2019 is already relentlessly marching for­ward. Nothing you or I do will ever get that time back. With each passing day we creep closer towards time’s end. Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will be passed to someone else. Your wealth, fame and temporal powers will shrivel to irrelevance. It won’t matter what you owned or what you were owed. Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear. So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire. The wins and loses that once seemed so important will fade away. It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end. It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant. So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured? What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.

[John 10:1-17] The year 2019 will bring with it days of defeat and success. 2019 will bring with it both sadness and great joy. 2019 will bring days of suffering bal­anced with days of healing. 2019 will bring with it days of loss and others of enrichment. For some 2019 will bring with it a day of finality. But, as always, with Jesus there is good news, for there will not be a single day in 2019 that you will have to encounter alone! We have One who can lift us up from de­feat, comfort us in sadness and sustain us through suffering. There is One who can truly place momentary loss into eternal perspective. And not to be forgotten, we have each other, charged with the duty of sharing in life’s highs and lows (Romans 12:12-15) and with bearing “one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). While you are powerless to keep time from sifting through your life like sand through your fingers, you can do something about how you spend it. What will matter in how you spend your fleeting moment in time is not your success, but your significance. What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught. What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example. What will matter is not your confidence, but your character. What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone. What will matter are not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what. Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters. While much time will fall wasted at the feet of humanity, as a follower of Christ you can use your time to God’s glory and time will ultimately deposit you in His timeless glory. Moses said of the Lord’s commands, “This day I call the heavens and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing 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, and he will give you many years...” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a,b). “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Rejoice Anyway

Once again Christmas-time is upon us. It’s the season when familiar sights, sounds and smells are all around us. It’s also the time of year when the secular progressives of the world turn their attention more sharply to anything and everything decidedly “Christian”. It’s the season when municipalities ban, or attempt to ban, nativity scenes, Christmas trees, and Christmas lights – not only on public property, but in private businesses as well. It’s the time of year when the long beloved greeting of “Merry Christmas” is replaced by the corporate mandated, “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings.” Tis the season when the smallest minority of the country, atheists, get a great deal of air time to attack Christianity and Christians from our openly anti-Christian, liberal media outlets. It’s the time of year when it’s most clear that liberal organizations interpret the words “freedom of religion” to mean “freedom from the Christian religion.” It’s the time of year when public school administrators have to walk on eggs in fear of reprimand or reprisal for allowing too much Christianity onto their campuses. Tis the season when the words, “separation of church and state” are twisted, misapplied, and perverted beyond anything our founding fathers had in mind. Tis the season to wake up and realize that we are at war with the ideologies of the god of this world. Tis the season for Christians to take a stand against the devil who is attempting to eradicate everything Christian from our cities, our states and our country. Our God-fearing moral nation is at risk, and freedom is not free.

[Ephesians 6:11-12] Ever wonder what causes the angels in heaven to shout for joy? There are several instances of angels proclaiming joy, and they all seem to have a common thread. The first instance of the heavenly host expressing joy is during the creation of the heavens and the earth. Recounting the incident, God tells Job that when it happened, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:1-7). Most Bible scholars agree that the morning stars and sons of God are in reference to angels, who apparently were created prior to the earth. So in this instance, we see the angels being joyous because of God using His creative powers to make something that had never existed before. Let’s look at another instance of the angels showing joy. When the proper time came (Galatians 4:4), God sent His Son to be born of the human race. It is at this time in announcing the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds that angels proclaimed it a time of “great joy” (Luke 2:8-14). So here the angels express praise and joy at the coming of the Christ-child, the God-Man, Jesus. As in the creation, they are expressing joy over something that had never before existed. There is one more instance I can find in the Bible of the angels expressing joy – and this one directly involves us. In Luke 15:10 we are told that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Seeing a sinner come to God and becoming a new creation brings great joy to the angels. From these three instances, I think we can clearly see that angels get excited over new creations. Think about it: when we have our lives made new through baptism into Christ and we continue to live each day renewed in the Spirit, the angels rejoice over us. What an encouraging thought! “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!” (Revelation 12:11-12a). Tis the season for spiritual warfare. To God be the glory and rejoice with the angels on high.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Clean From The Inside Out

There’s a lot of talk about giving this month. Even the retail stores, who have separated themselves from the reason for the season, have not moved away from this concept. It is a time to “give to everyone on your list” and “we’re only here to help you with this task …‘cause we have better sales!” But, the reason so many Millennial’s are abandoning Christmas for Halloween as the biggest holiday is because when the “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:8-14) is cut off, crass commercialism and greed are not enough reason to sustain it. Giving to others only makes sense to an increasingly selfish world when it realizes that God gave first …and the most. The expression is true: “we can’t out-give God.” But do we try? Truly understanding and appreciating His gift is the first step for us to pull our focus from our self-absorption and give to others from gratitude to Him.

The story is told of an old man who lived on a farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky with his young grandson. Each morning, Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading from his old, worn out Bible. His grandson who wanted to be just like him tried to imitate him in any way he could. One day, the grandson asked, “Papa, I try to read the Bible just like you but I don’t understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading the Bible do?” The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and said, “Take this coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water.” The boy did as he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back to the house. The grandfather laughed and said, “You will have to move a little faster next time,” and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again. This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was impossible to carry water in a basket, and he went to get a bucket instead. The old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You can do this. You’re just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again. At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got far at all. The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, “See Papa, it’s useless!” “So you think it is useless?” the old man said. “Look at the basket.” The boy looked at the basket and for the first time he realized that the basket looked different. Instead of a dirty old coal basket, it was clean. “Son, that’s what happens when you read the Bible. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will change you from the inside out.”

[James 1:17-18] Thus, we must; “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-11). “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Are you being cleaned from the inside out?