Monday, October 31, 2011

"Sabbath Day"

The Lord gave Israel their Sabbath day but it was His Sabbath! "But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall surely observe My Sabbath's; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you many know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. Therefore you are to observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you." (Ex. 31:13-14a) The Sabbath was given to God's people as a gift but it was His Sabbath! Everything in time and life belongs to the Lord.
The Sabbath was a witness of the relationship between Jehovah and Israel. It was holy and day that the relationship was dwelt upon, prayers offered and the heart tuned with the One who had purchased them from bondage. Their prayers showed appreciation. Their readings spoke to their heart from the Almighty. Their day of rest was a reminder of the covenant given by Yahweh. That day drew people together in the power of fellowship. It reminded each one their relationship with Yahweh and the community they were in fellowship with.
What about us? Our community of believers begins at our immersion into Christ. At that time and moment, they begin to share their Lord in common. Cleansed, belonging to Jehovah God who purchased them with His blood. This community is marked out different than anyone else that exists. We know the blood of Christ speaking to us about our covenant (Heb. 8). We gather on God's holy day of rest. Our prayers show appreciation. The reading and teaching of God's word is from the Almighty. Our communing in the Supper expresses love not only for the Lord who purchased us but also for one another. It's a community! It what marks us different from any others on the face of this earth.
The Sabbath and it observance rang a message both in the heart of the people and love for the Lord's day of rest. They had their once a year Passover. Circumcision was a once-in-a-lifetime act. The Sabbatical Year was every seven years. But the Sabbath day was weekly and powerful. Maybe we need to take some time and read about the Sabbath that Jehovah God pronounced as holy to be observed and reflect on our part that we have something greater...the blood of Christ that purchased us. What are we doing each first day of the week, our Sabbath from the Lord?

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Over the years we have met people in Christ Jesus that are militant for "the truth", but are oblivious to the attitudes of "the spirit". Then there are those who are all about attitudes of "the spirit", but are just as flippant toward "the truth". Does that make us unable to worship "in spirit" and "in truth" at the same time?
Maybe it has to do with our genetic makeup? Is it that people are reacting to their upbringing and are living in opposition to parents who were too extreme one way or the other? Could it be that some people are like older son in the prodigal Jesus related in Luke 15 who stood in stiff judgment against a sinful (but repentant) brother? Maybe some people are like the sinful younger brother, who just wanted to find acceptance after foolishly wandering into his personal desires?
Is it that men are more logical and women are more nurturing? Could it be that folks from the period of the Great Depression and World War II have a different mindset from the baby-boomers and other sociological groups? Maybe it's the environment one grows up in? Maybe it's the inherited genetic characteristics that each one of us is born with? Or could it be the influences of astrological heavenly bodies? Maybe it's global warming? Or could it be that God has so designed us that it is impossible for us to obey His commands?
That's a lot of questions to ponder. That's a lot of reasons people explain things away. One more question: could it possibly be that those who cannot worship God in both spirit and truth are actually false worshippers? Listen to the very words of Jesus: "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers." (John 4:23) I wonder what God seeks?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"It's A Mess Sometimes"

We have recorded from Scripture that nations or people can get so far removed from God that it requires a complete overhaul. After Israel split into two kingdoms, the northern ten tribes known as Israel, consistently rebelled and had evil kings. The two southern tribes, known as Judah, remained more steadfast but still drifted. When things get so far from the Lord, the Lord will fix it! Many times the nations are just done away with.
His name was Josiah (II Kings 22). The nation had wandered from the Lord and Hilkiah the high priest found the book of the law from God. It apparently had been missing. Here's what Josiah did when the book was read in his presence:
(1) He destroyed Topheth, a shrine where people sacrificed their children in fire to the pagan god Molech.
(2) He removed all pagan symbols from the entrance to God's temple.
(3) He burned the chariots that were dedicated to the sun.
(4) He pulled down pagan altars that had been built on the roof and in the courtyard of the temple.
(5) He desecrated the high places of honor to pagan gods that Solomon had built for his wives many, many years earlier.
(6) He destroyed the unholy sacred stone and cut down the ungodly Asherah poles.
(7) He destroyed the altar at Bethel that king Jeroboam had built there centuries before.
(8) He took the bones from nearby tombs of the wicked and burned them on their pagan sites to defile the grounds.
(9) He slaughtered the priests who served the pagan god throughout the regions of Judah.
(10) He directed the people back to God and celebrated the holy day known as "Passover."

Josiah made a stand for the Lord Jehovah. It was extreme and drastic. He cleaned up the mess in one generation that had developed over many, many years. Josiah dies and the nation left God again. In 606 B.C., God sent the Babylon king Nebuchadnezzar to defeat Judah and enslave the people for 70 years. They had opportunities but their hearts would never remain firm.
Today, we have our nation pushing God out every time the opportunity is given. In the church across this nation, we have people who are making a mess of things for the Lord. It's heart-wrenching to watch. We need to preach the gospel message loud and clear. I pray we can get this mess cleaned up before the Lord steps in, don't you?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Deception is all around us. In fact, we can easily deceive ourselves. How? Just not believe the truth! It is easy to believe in something thinking it is true while it really isn't. This is stated well in Gal. 6:7: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." Let's think about this. How many "believe" they can go against God, believe as they want to believe and still be saved in the end? People sow in their lives to outbursts, harshness, lying, cheating and believe they will be saved in the end. God will never allow sinful man to ridicule Him or turn their nose up at Him. Man cannot and will not be allowed to impose upon God anything that is wrong. It is Jehovah who discerns the thought and intents of the heart.
What's the end result? You will reap back into your life exactly what you have given out. That's the determination of God. Man sows and reaps because God determines according to the heart. Years back while speaking in Tennessee, a fellow came and spoke with me about how angry he was with another person in the congregation. He went into details about what he believed was abuse by this other brother. The more he spoke, the more he revealed how his own life was coming unraveled. The heartache, the sleepless nights and finding little peace. I asked him to listen to what he was saying and look at the above verse. It was like a new revelation came to him. About a month after returning home, the man called me and thanked me because his heart had been abused for ten years and he realized it was him, not the other man who he thought was the problem. There is a God! He is alive! Our God makes promises and those promises will not be broken or violated by any man or woman.
We will reap what we sow! We sow what we believe! If what we believe is wrong either in attitude or concept, where do you think that will lead us? It blocks us from seeing the whole truth about God! God is serious. We will reap what we sow. That should keep all of us in a proper mind set, to be careful of our attitudes and hold tightly to the Lord who controls all things!

Monday, October 17, 2011

"The Paid Debt"

Fiorello LaGuardia was the mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and World War II. He was known as a man of colorful character. He would take entire orphanages to baseball games and, whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the funnies from past newpapers to kds that were listening. He loved children.
It was a bitterly cold night, January 1935. Mayor LaGuardia went to a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a worn out, beaten down elderly lady was brought before him, charaged with stealing a loaf of bread. She spoke in a shaky voice, telling Mayor LaGuardia that her daughter's husband had deserted her. Her daughter was sick and her grandchildren were starving. The storekeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. "It's a bad neighborhood, your Honor." the man spoke. "She's got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson!"
LaGuardia turned to the woman and said, "I have to be just and punish you! The law makes no exceptions - $10 or 10 days in jail!" Then the most incredible thing happened. The mayor stood up, reaching into his pocket, took out $10 and placed it into his famous sombrero. Then the following statement: "Here is your fine which I now remit! Furthermore, I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom 50 cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat! Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant!"
The following day, the New York City newspaper reported $47.50 was collected and turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread.
When read something like this, it reminds us all of God and His grace toward mankind. We are in debt beause of our sins (Rom. 6:23). God is just and righteous and His righteousness will not allow ANY sin over-looked! All sin must be punished. That's the righteous judgment of God. God reached deep into His heart and sent His Son on a death mission, to redeem us by paying the debt Himself (I Pet. 1:18-19).
Jesus demonstrated the grace of God and His love for us (Rom. 5:8-11). We didn't earn anything but death. His grace, His love should affect us to the deepest part of our beings! We should be a reflection of His grace in the way our lives are lived before others (Titus 2:11-14). We sing: "His grace reaches me!" Do we believe it?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Chewing The Cud"

David speaks in Psa. 119 about meditating on the word (Psa. 119:148). Have you ever thought about the idea of meditate? First, David cries out to God with an honest heart and a willingness to observe His testimonies and statutes. If we are to make any progress, there must be an honest heart before the Lord. Secondly, David could not wait to hear the word of God. He had a zeal to want to hear and loved listening to God through His word. If we are going to move ahead spiritually, there must be a zeal, a desire to listen to God and His word. We cannot be stubborn or take a 'relaxed' attitude toward what God speaks.
Finally, David wants to meditate on God's word. What does it mean to meditate? It is calling to mind and thinking over, dwelling upon and actively applying God to your life situations. How many times do we really meditate on God's word? From the Hebrew word 'meditate' we get our English word "ruminate". It literally means 'to chew the cud'. It's like a cow that chews and re-chews the cud to extract all the nutrients from it. We need to approach God's word at times and chew the cud.
Recently while teaching one of my classes, I told the people instead of going over a section we quickly move through, we are going to slow down and chew the cud. It was helpful and insightful. What we must do is not measure ourselves by our abilities God has given us (but we need to use them for His service) or our knowledge of learned Bible verses we can quote but we need to measure ourselves by what goes on in our heart! Your heart is the seat of all your thinking and actions. It is the workshop of your being. If the heart allows corruption or self-seeking ways to be seated, misuse and corruption of God's teaching will abound. We need to give our hearts completely to the Lord, allowing God to have a complete and final say in our hearts while we sit quietly and chew the cud!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"I Don't Love Her!"

While speaking at a lectureship, a fellow about 45 yrs. of age, asked to speak with me personally to discuss some difficulties in his marriage. He opened the conversation with the words, "I am having a mid-life crisis!" He and his wife had been married for 23 yrs. and he began relating how their relationship had changed drastically and he was unfulfilled. His final statement was: "I just don't love her anymore! Am I free to move on with my life and be happy?" I knew what he was asking. I responded with the following: "Is she in Christ Jesus?" He said, "Yes!" I next asked, "That means she is your sister in Christ too. Would you love her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her?" He winced and said, "That's so hard with the way I feel." I continued, "Would you love her as your sister in Christ (I John 3:14-16)?" He looked down and said, "Why are you making things so difficult for me?" Once more I spoke, "If you don't love her anymore, and you see her as your enemy, would you love your enemy and pray for her (Matt. 5:44-45)?" Silence now ruled the conversation. His unhappiness had nothing to do with his wife but his relationship to the Lord.
Often I have heard married couples state they have "fallen out of love." God's will for us is to love on every level. The world speaks about happiness and find your soul mate. If one marriage doesn't work out, find one that will. God speaks to the husband to love their wife as Christ loves the church. God speaks the wife is to love her husband (Titus 2:4). These aren't just nice suggestions by God but a way of life for those living in relationship to Him.
Love is a choice! It's a sacrificial love that seeks the highest good of another more than itself. It's the same identical love that Jesus loves us (Eph. 5:2). Why do people fall out of love with one another? Because they fail to practice the love of God for one another. The one that does not love does not know God (I John 4:8). When a husband or wife finds themselves struggling with the other, if they will put on Christ Jesus and walk in His love, they will find the true love they were missing and desiring all those years. Happiness will be the result. If one refuses to practice the love of God for their mate, their lives will head down the road to more and more defeats and struggles that will eventually consume the heart and destroy the soul. God's ways are always the best and if we believe God, we will follow His will which leads us to life and godliness.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Jesus Asks For Entrance"

It is so easy to say we love the Lord. What's even easier is to believe we love while our hearts and lives show something else. Jesus is Lord are not some words penned down for us to agree on. When the gospel of Christ Jesus is preached, Jesus isn't just asking to let Him into your heart. The gospel speaks that Jesus is Lord no matter what anyone else believes! This King of kings and Lord of lords offers to us His fellowship. Just think, us, the weak and sometimes rebellious and He desires a relationship.
We must be willing to allow God complete entrance. God knows who He is and is calling us into a relationship with Him. God doesn't force Himself but gently through Jesus knocks on the doors of our hearts asking for entrance. What does that entrance look like?
It looks like Himself. The gentle, the merciful and lovingly loving others. To allow Christ entrance we see compassion and acceptance of one another. The Lordship of Jesus rebukes us when we have wandered into sin not because we are just sinful. He knows that! It is because we are rejecting His Lordship and He wants to maintain a relationship. But the Lord of heaven and earth won't demand of us entrance. We have to be humble, willing and tender in heart. We must be honest in every aspect of ourselves.
To many are wearing a cloak of looking good in the eyes of others while our hearts are filled with vile and ugliness. The heart is what the Lord wants. The heart is where Jesus asks for entrance. The heart is the most deceitful part of our being (Jer. 17:9). The heart must belong to the Lord or we are fooling ourselves. What does the entrance to the heart look like? JESUS!

Monday, October 10, 2011

"You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!"

There must be something so impressive, too wonderful for words about going to the Lord for eternity. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter writes: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." (I Pet. 1:3-4) Looking around us with our physical eyes, hearing with our physical ears all the evil, turmoil and heartache that surrounds us make us wonder what really is to come? We just can't grasp what awaits. Aw, but can we?
Looking closely at the cross and the resurrected Christ, a message is sent. If we would just look and listen. A message and a hope starts coming into view. It's not obtained with the physical eyes or ears but seeing the unseen through a heart of faith. Jesus ascended, took His place in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24). Paul saw it! "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most pitied." (I Cor. 15:19)
The young die and we cry. The older ones die and we cry. Is this all life is about?  His life is the proof this is only the beginning, not the completion! Looking at the cross and resurrected Christ speaks to us: "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Looking At Love"

Jesus spoke: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." (Luke 6:32) We hear often about love. Christian people speak of love, loving their brother and just love, love, love. It is from God but let's examine the teaching of Jesus a little deeper.
As long as all goes well and everyone is getting along it's all love. "We love the brethren!" "We love this congregation!" "We love the preacher!" Something happens that mixes in our heart. Someone didn't shake my hand and walked right by me. Someone didn't acknowledge my struggles. No one thanked me for my efforts. Suddenly, the heart grasps hold of the hurt and what happens? A slow darkness begins to settle over us. Our attitudes toward an individual or congregation begin to change. It grows worse each time we see this individual or individuals and please, don't let them talk to me about being a Christian! Our disposition becomes sour. What's worse, it is such a subtle darkness that has taken hold that many can't recognize the darkness. John speaks this way: "But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (I John 2:11)
Jesus said if we love those who love us, His love makes little impact in our lives. Sinners, those separated from the Lord can love on that level. Godly love that comes from the Father into our hearts is a love that will not take any wrongs and let them fester! Love is not self-seeking or self-centered. True cross-bearing love reaches out even when we think we have been hurt. It takes on the heart of Christ Jesus and doesn't allow feelings to turn them another direction. They still promote selflessness, commitment to the best for others and not consider themselves. They won't allow hurts to be harbored and look for opportunities to do good to those who have hurt them. How do we gain such love? Through Christ Jesus our Lord. Didn't He do that to you?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"What Do We Say?"

We all know of people that are troubled in heart or bearing some difficulty. It pains us to see such and we want to do what we can to help them bear such a heavy load (Gal. 6:2). Many times I am asked, "What do you say to people that are so troubled in heart?" It's a great question that needs to be answered.
There is nothing wrong with telling someone you sympathize with them and will hold them in your prayers. That is a good response. They need to know you are taking them to the Father. We sometimes take a meal to help in their time of need and that too is good. It is a need of the moment. After the visit or the meal that was all so needed, what do we say that would stick with them? Something they could draw from when they face their pains alone?
Here comes Peter, writing to Jewish Christian's who are going through some terrible ordeals. They are being despised by society, suffering and more is to come. What did this inspired apostle say? Look closely at chapter 1:1-9. There we find the real substance, something they could draw from in their difficult lives. He points the mercy of God the Father and a living hope. He tells them of Christ's work on their behalf. They (we) have an inheritance that is so marvelous that is never fading and protected by God's power. They had a place reserved in the presence of God and it was not going away or be touched by anyone! What a lesson to hear. 
Peter doesn't deny the troubles but calls on their faith to rise above and see what God has done. But that's not all. In chapter 2 he reminds them who they are in God's sight. They were the chosen, the people of God's own possession, a mercy-received people. What news to the ears. Peter calls their faith to look at the accomplishment that is on their behalf.
Here we have brothers and sisters troubled. We have brethren around the world struggling, facing difficulties we would never face. What would you tell them? We should never forget they are troubled but don't they need to hear who they are and where they are headed? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"What Is Our Purpose?"

Why do we exist? Have you ever thought about that? Why are we here? People seem to have many different ideas to answer that. Let's look at this briefly.
In God creating this world, the animals were created from the dust of the ground just as man. The difference between man and animal is that animals possess only "animal life." They have no soul, no eternal part within them to exist forever. Animals were simply created from the earth (Gen. 2:19). We as humans were given a soul, a life living, eternal soul. Man was created in the image of God while animals weren't. (That kind of destroys the notion of evolution!)
To be created in the image of God is a great act of love and kindness. When we love someone, we try to impress upon them how much we care for them and so it is with God. He wants man to take His love and have a loving, living relationship with Him. God walked with man created in His image in the garden. Talking, showing and sharing in a close relationship that no animal on the face of the earth ever shared in. God created man to spend time with, to share in life together extending fellowship. Can you imaging God wanting to have fellowship with us, desiring us? Here came sin, the very enemy of God. It marred the relationship and pushed God to the side. God drove man from His presence because of sin (Gen. 3:24). From that day to present, man began his existence separated from His Creator and our eternal soul was doomed. The very soul God created!
God wanted fellowship with man and still does to this day. He grieved over man's condition. He longed for the closeness with man. He called Moses to deliver His people from bondage. A tabernacle was constructed in the middle of the people so the Creator could be with them and dwell among them. Solomon came onto the scene and he built a temple for the same reason. God lived in the presence of man. But this wasn't enough. God sent His Son, His only begotten in the form of man and He lived among us showing how much God cares. Christ died because man was hostile. That's what sin does! Jesus Christ raised and ascended back to the Father. Out of the death and resurrection of our Lord came into existence of a spiritual body called "the church. Through this body of Jesus, God reaches out among men and women separated from Himself. Christ's body does not exist for itself, to promote itself but it is the extension of the love of God reaching out to man saying, "I want a relationship with you." The love of God for mankind is seen or should be seen in the church.
Why do we exist? What is really our purpose? To bring a gospel message to those unreconciled, separated from the Lord that it doesn't have to be that way. You can live forever, eternally with God. In our existence, we bring glory to God (Eph. 1:6) because the grace of God is trying to save those created in the image of God!

Monday, October 3, 2011


It can happen so easily. Bitterness can start in the heart, put down roots and grow. Before you know it, one day when the right circumstances arise, out it comes. I have seen it over and over in marriages where a mate was injured in the past and when the time is right, they release that pinned up bitterness and let it out. It is destructive and the Lord cannot work in a heart where any bitterness dwells. The Lord cannot co-exist with sinful attitudes!
The Greek term "pikria" is the word for bitterness. It is used in Acts 8:23 where Peter calls Simon, "For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity." Simon wanted and could not obtain so it created bitterness in his heart which allowed iniquity to enslave him.
In Ephesians 4:31, Paul addresses each member of the church to put away all  bitterness, wrath and anger. It seems that bitterness keeps company with wrath and anger! Bitterness has no part of God. Bitterness results in what someone believes to be accumulative hurts. Those hurts are held to and before long, one is laid upon another until wrath and anger result. The solution? Being tender-hearted and forgiving each other just as God has done for us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:32) If anyone could have been bitter at us, it would be Jesus. Look at all the hurts we have caused Him, piled upon Him yet what do we find when we turn with all our heart? Forgiveness and compassion. Should we not lay that as a base in our heart?
Recently while dealing with a dear friend of mine in which he faces false accusations for something he did not do, we spoke about bitterness working its way into the heart. He shared with me how he had to keep it from his heart. As a result, his eyes were opened to all the good the Lord was doing and how things were being helped in his life. Thankfulness resulted instead of bitterness. A heart of faith started emerging instead of a heart of bitterness.
The Hebrew writer speaks that a root of bitterness in the heart, as it takes hold and grows can spring up causing trouble and defile others (Heb. 12:15). The worst part is it will keep one from the grace of God! Again, God does not co-exist with sinful attitudes in the heart. When bitterness takes root, suddenly it springs up and sends its pain to anyone that will listen. Now the innocent are defiled. Bitterness never helped one person but drives people into unloving and hurtful practices. It's impossible to find the Lord in that! Just look to the cross, see our debt paid and ask, "What if the Lord dealt with me the way I deal with others?"