Thursday, June 27, 2013

"I Only Have Eyes For You"

  The founder of the Persian Empire was Cyrus. It was written that he once captured a prince and his family. When they were brought before him, the monarch asked the prince, "What will you give me if I were to release you?"
"I'll give half of my wealth!" the prince replied.
"And if I release your children?"
The prince responded, "Everything I possess!"
"And if I release your wife?"
"Your Majesty", humbly spoke the prince, "I will give myself!"
Cyrus was so moved by his devotion and attitude that he freed them all. As the prince and his family returned to their homeland, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn't Cyrus a handsome man?" With a look of gratitude and deep love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn't notice. I could only keep my eyes on you - the one who was willing to give himself for me!"
  This story and there are others similar are good reading but the point is what moved the heart of the people above anything else around. The death of Jesus should move each of us with love as we realize He is our substitute and sin bearer. You didn't bear your own sins. You didn't forgive yourself. You didn't bring life into your spiritually dead body. You didn't raise yourself to newness of life. Everything we are and have is the result of Jesus dying in our place and raising for our acquittal.
  Our lives are completely dependent on Jesus and Him crucified. Why do we look in so many places for strength and stability? Why do we play all the mind games to give us a positive day? "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Heb. 12:2) Jesus looked only one place because of the joy that was before Him. What about us? Where are you fixing your eyes? That alone will determine if we grow and move forward or sit stuck and slowly drifting backward.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"When Will We Learn?"

  It takes something tragic at times to get our attention, to get us to dwell on the things above as we should. Why is this? A sudden loss of a loved one or a great loss of life from some disaster and we start focusing on the eternal and brevity of life. Why at this time? I thought we are taught by the Lord to "keep seeking the things above, where Christ is"? I thought we are to "set our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth"? Why is it for you and me that the Scriptures from the mouth of God do not impact us and leap out to us daily rather than when there is a close loved who dies?
  Our lives go like this: we get up around the same time each morning. We get ready, head to work. We come home and eat. We pay bills. We sit and watch tv. We go to bed. We get up around the same time each morning. We get ready, head to work. We come home and eat. We pay bills. We sit and watch tv. We go to bed...In all this we become programed and almost robotically get caught up in daily routines and it makes me wonder if we are simply existing rather than seeking?
  It is true we need to work as the Lord commands. We need to eat, sleep and spend time with our families. These are necessities! It's not the necessities that seem to grab our time but more than necessities are consuming us.
  Sometimes we are living as if we are not going to pass from this life. This seems to reach to the soul and the things above impact us only at certain times of pain and distress rather than daily. Yet God speaks to us calling on our undivided attention to our lives on earth so we will seek and set our minds on things above. Eternity is just a breath away for each of us! Just listen:
"For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again." (II Sam. 14:14)
"For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off." (I Pet. 1:24)
"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." (Jam. 4:14)
"By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return." (Gen. 3:19)
"If He (God) should determine to do so, if He would gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust." (Job 34:14-15)
"For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." (Psa. 103:14)

  Do we get the picture? Putting things into perspective, when will we learn that we need to constantly be seeking the things above and setting our minds on the things above? What is most important in your life? Just look at your lifestyle and you will have your answer!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"What Jesus Didn't Do"

  There is no other name under heaven by which we will be saved...JESUS! There is no individual that will stand between your sins and God but...JESUS! There is no way to have your sins covered and forgiven except under...JESUS!
  When Jesus walked our earth among us, He was on a mission., a death mission and He knew it! While walking with us there were several things that He never did and we need to glean from Him:
(1) He didn't sin!
(2) He didn't plead with God into a good mood!
(3) He didn't strike deals with God if God would bail Him out or be kind to Him!
(4) He didn't come to wring His hands hoping things would turn out well!
(5) He didn't have a "I guess if I must" attitude!
(6) He didn't come with a "hope this turns out well" wishing!
(7) He didn't come with a "hope I can do something" spirit!
(8) He didn't come with a "if this doesn't work I'll try another way" attitude!
(9) He didn't come to teach that the God of the former covenant was different from this new covenant God!
(10) He didn't come to be conquered by evil!
(11) He didn't come to condemn the world!
(12) He didn't stay dead!
(13) He didn't come to turn us into vegetarians!
(14) He didn't come to question God!
   Why are we so fearful and chasing the wrong things?

Monday, June 24, 2013

"The Word of God"

  Let me give a word of encouragement to those who teach/preach, whether or not it is in a Bible class study or in the pulpit. We need to be strong in the preaching and teaching of God's word. It takes nothing more than looking at the OT or NT prophets and preachers. I do realize they were inspired of God but what is more interesting is they weren't psychologists, social workers or some other profession we see many working in today. They never spoke in terms of "in my opinion" or "we might want to try this approach". No, they never spoke in that way. Their backgrounds were varied with many having little education or holding a high plane socially. God sent them with His message and they stood up and spoke: "This is the word of the Lord!" or "This is what God says!" It was straight forward and they spoke what the Lord wanted spoken.
  I am not trying to say we are those prophets or NT preachers. What we are is to proclaim the word of the Lord. That was the simple charge brought to Timothy by an apostle. "Preach the word!" That should cause us each to humbly stand and speak: "Hear the word of the Lord!" Our preaching/teaching isn't about being an economist, psychologist, administrators, problem resolution experts or political pundits! The pulpit and Bible studies is not a place for guess-work or even confessing our ignorance because lack of preparation. It should be knowing we speak for God in the presence of God delivering His message to the heart of the hearers.
  I'm not speaking that one needs to be harsh or critical. I am speaking that we should speak for God as His servant, delivering His message. It's the word of the Lord, not mine. If anyone is going to be saved it will be by hearing His word, not mine. If we claim that Jesus is Lord and our Savior, should we not be proclaiming God's word? Should His message be muttered, analyzed or apologized for? Let's get out of the way so people can hear God!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Natural Evangelism"

  I call it natural evangelism. That's really what we need to be doing. There is nothing wrong with outreaches and planning for outreaches. I have been involved over the many years in many different  types of evangelistic efforts. From door knocking, to making calls, to nightly meetings and just about everything in between. But there is nothing like natural evangelism.
  As I look back over the many years of efforts and ideas the most effective way to reach others is just looking for opportunities every day. What may surprise many is the opportunities are there but many never realize it. Why? Because we aren't looking! Paul told the Colossian brethren they needed to respond in two ways: (1) Pray for him (Paul) for the Lord to open doors to speak about the Lord Jesus Christ to others. (2) Be wise in your own conduct toward those outside making the most of opportunities. (Col. 4:3-5) But there is one more element Paul brings in about dealing with reaching others. "Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving." (Col. 4:2) To reach out to others, we need to be praying and keeping alert! When you pray asking God for anything, are you looking? Are you alert? If not, how will you ever see and make the most of an opportunity that comes your way?
  We run into people daily and we need to be looking for doors open. That means our conduct should matter when we encounter others. Our attitudes, our speech and what we are involved in. We need alertness knowing that an opportunity to say something that would cause our friend, neighbor or even in our own household be stirred to want to know more of our Lord and Savior. This cannot be planned. It cannot be orchestrated. This is simply being devoted to prayer, using wisdom in our encounters with others making the most of the opportunity the Lord provides us with. Maybe that's why we seem to make so little progress. We might need to consider this natural evangelism approach.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


  The world around us is longing, looking to find joy and fulfillment. They turn to alcohol, drugs, pleasures of many kinds trying to bring joy in their lives. It is all temporary as something crops up difficult and those brief moments they think are joy are gone! Misery replaces their joy.
  Here we are in Christ Jesus, our sins blotted out before God and the righteousness of Jesus is ours. We possess salvation, not condemnation. What do many find? They reach just as the world reaches for joy in externals and physical means.
  Joy, real God given, spiritual joy belongs to those in Christ Jesus, at least it should! Joy is either with us presently or it is not with us at all! Real God given joy is not dependent upon circumstances or people but on being saved. Joy is not when things are going well for you today or your problems have been put to rest. It's not something that is pursued. You have it or you don't! It's not a feeling but a relationship with the Lord and knowing that relationship.
  John writes that "our joy may be made complete." (I John 1:4) John explains how this joy is maintained. Walking in the light. Loving the truth. Practicing the righteousness of God by submitting yourself under His care and teachings. If there is no walking the truth, no walking in the Light by whole submission to the Lord, there will be no joy. Truth is not debated or demanded but what you live in the Light of God. As one walks in the Light of the Lord, truth becomes all important, loving those God has called to Himself is prominent and the righteous of God is practiced which leads joy that comes only from Him. Joy is the fruit of walking with the Lord. It's a joy that is found in the most difficult of situations because the source is God.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Nothing To Say"

  There was this unholy, cheating tax collector standing by himself. We have little insight to what a tax collector was and did in the days of Jesus. That sort of person is foreign to us but he was known as a low life cheater.
  While I was in Nigeria, I got first had taste of what a tax collector might be like. As we traveled from Abuja to Jos, about 100 mile journey, we came to check points with soldiers and at some, tax collectors. These men, holding rods in case anyone dare to be combative, would throw two boards filled with nails under the tires. We were stuck. They began asking for tax money to travel the road. The amount they wanted was extremely high. There would be several men surround the vehicle until the tax was paid. Threatening and waving their long rods, you would pay one way or the other. It made me realize why tax collectors were so hated by the people.
  This tax collector was standing by himself and would not lift up his eyes to heaven. As he smote his breast, he implored God to be merciful as he knew he was a sinner. This man had nothing to say for himself. There were no explanations, no denials, no excuses, no extenuating circumstances or sob stories. He had no bitter recriminations or long list of good deeds done that might be taken into consideration. When face to face with God, he had nothing to say for himself. (Luke 18:9-14)
  Here we are thinking in terms of our goodness. "We are good hearted!" or "I am a really good person!" seems to be our response at times. We speak to God as if we have goodness within and the goodness out-weighs the bad. Yet we find ourselves struggling to find life, the life of God. Sometimes our connection seems to be missing and there we stand on our goodness and life accomplishments in that goodness but the power and forgiveness evades us. When will we learn there is none righteous, not even one! We read it but do we believe it? Paul even spoke there was nothing good in his flesh (Rom. 7:18). Sin dwelt in him!
  God wants to share His life with us. Why would this holy and righteous God share anything of His eternal nature with us? Sometimes we treat forgiveness like someone buying our lunch. A simple thanks and go to the next thing. We aren't motivated by it. We will never appreciate God's gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ much less grasp it on the level intended until we see our sin as God sees sin and that's something we can't fully do. When the impact of our sinfulness coupled with the love of God and His forgiving grace hits our hearts, we will have nothing to say for ourselves. The only words that will pass our lips: "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!"

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Let First Be First"

  He was a lawyer and came to Jesus asking Him, to test Him: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" We might expect such a question from a lawyer! But there is more than meets the eye and ear here. The answer Jesus gave must have astounded this man. This wasn't what he was expecting to hear but before we speak of that we need to see something else.
  At the center of  the nation of Israel was a tabernacle. The heart of Jerusalem was tied to the temple. We see God at the center. The worshiping of His name and recognition of His mercy toward His people was the heart beat. The center of the camp of God was a house where God was worshiped and adored. Worship of God is so vital to the heart and growth of His people. It always has been. The approach to God's name to worship could be in vain and void because the worshipers could be selfish, sinful or just going through empty motions. Just read through Isaiah 1 and see God's attitude toward such. They were completely rejected.
  Here we are today and it seems less and less that people place on worship. More emphasis on man. Excuses fly right and left. The heart of some of the "called out" have become insensitive and dull. As Jesus answered the lawyers question  He didn't give the second greatest first!! Too many today are giving first place to what Jesus said was second: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." I'm not trying to put less emphasis on the words of Jesus but He did say this was the second. We must not give first place to the second. First should always be first: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matt. 22:37-39) Let's keep our priorities in the proper place. We need to be concerned about how we relate and live with one another. We need to to know what it means to love one another as God is love (I John 4:7-8). But Jesus said the first and foremost concern had to be how each one of us stands in relation to God!! The Church must make certain the involvement is around God and loving Him with all our being or things start getting out of whack. If God isn't given His rightful place in the heart and soul of man, the human family won't enjoy His blessings (Phil. 2:5-8)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Have We Outgrown God?"

  We seem to be outgrowing God! Man has always done that. Look no more than Israel and their golden calf they made as their god! The mighty hand of God had led them out of their captivity, rescued their lives from misery and here they were, His own people, exchanging their Savior for an idol made from their hands.
  We seem to be outgrowing God! Not us today. We are sophisticated, enlightened and have so much more technology today. We don't worship golden calves, the stars or bow down to a stump. No sir. We have progressed in deeper relationship to God. That's what we want to believe. It makes me wonder if we have created a god in the image of man?
  We seem to be outgrowing God! If we could free those under Communism so they could chose their own destinies, that's what is needed. It happened. Look at those people today. So much deterioration and destruction. Civil war and strife. But what we needed in this country is advancement to end diseases, loneliness and understanding ourselves by loving ourselves in a deeper way. That's our goal. We began our social searches and behavioral patterns. More and more input on how we think and what makes for a good home. These to many have become gods we can control and use. Books fly off the shelf at record rates with something new to  help us cope. They have become gods we can control and use, gods who are predictable, created by brilliant people and completely dependent upon us. These gods even put us at the center of our worship all to make us feel good about ourselves.
  We seem to be outgrowing God! If all the things we call advancement and understanding and they are all so adequate, why are people failing so miserably turning to medications to solve behavioral issues while we feel badly? Why are so many battling loneliness? Why are so many empty without answers and direction? If our modern medicine and approaches to life are so advanced from the nation of Israel past, why are we failing so much in our homes and lives? Why we have created the "after morning" pill to free us! Maybe we need to humble ourselves and seek the only God that we need now and forever knowing He alone is the only answer and hope in a world worshipping idols! And some of those idols are finding their way into the minds and heart of the church!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Being Reverant and Obedient"

  We speak little of reverence anymore. It seems to be a missing link in approach to God and understanding about God. Reverence is showing respect and deference to God. It carries an idea of caution and expresses sacredness (another word we don't hear often).
  When that large multitude of people stood at the base of that mountain that quaked, it was something they had not witnessed before as far as we know. From this scene before them thundered the voice of God. There was no form but only the sound of words. God declared to His people His covenant! God called His people to this place not only to receive instruction but to revere His name as long as they lived. This reverence and instruction was to be passed on to their children (Deut. 4:9-14).
  Reverence for God and obedience to God's word work hand in hand. Each attitude and desire requires the other in order to make its way into our lives. When Solomon was drawing near to the end of his life, he summarized the duty of man in these words: "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person." (Eccl. 12:13) Fearing God has reverence in the attitude and keeping His commandments is where the fear of the Lord, reverence for His name will take one. The devil tries to get man to separate the two concepts.
  People can push the commandments of the Lord but have little reverence for His name. When that happens you have removed the power and substance of His words to form lives and boldness enters. All one has to do is look at the Scribes and Pharisees in the days of Jesus. They knew the Law! But that knowledge alone pushed them into self-reliance, self-confidence and standing on their own righteousness with little thought of reverence for God. They could argue and debate Scriptures but failed in being acceptable to God (Luke 18:9-14). They had no reverence for God or who He is!
  Both reverence and obedience are needed. Reverence is what will allow us to defer ourselves under the mighty hand of God. That keeps people from launching out on their own thinking. Obedience to God's word is what gives expression to our reverence. Both together will lead one into a spiritually healthy life that will lead you all the way to God in the end.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Called To Unity"

  Maybe we need to rethink our position about the church and what the Lord's intention for us in our attachment to Him is about. When Paul penned by the Holy Spirit the words that we need to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, part of that 'worthiness' is being called to walk in humility. We know what humility speaks and teaches us, yet some simply refuse their calling by Jesus to walk worthy of the worth He has brought to us. Humility is love that refuses to strut it stuff and to give on behalf of others freely. That's a calling for us all. Tied to this humility is gentleness (Eph. 4:2). A quality we strive for to keep our rights under control instead of pressing them. When rights are proclaimed, humility exits and unity is not possible. We are called to forbear with one another. Forbearance is the calling by the Lord to help those who are in constant opposition instead of fight them. 
  In all, the things we are called by the Lord Jesus to use these things to promote and proclaim His life. We aren't called to be just nice as long as things go well or they agree with us. We are called to be imitators of God (Eph 5:1). These virtues of unity are the very life of God. As God has called us to Himself, we are to called to show His willing and wanting desire to live with each of us, in spite of our weaknesses and failures. When are we going to learn that? We are so failing in the eyes of this holy and righteous Father, yet He reaches with humility, patience, gentleness and forbearing with us in His love. That's the mark of each of those who belong to Him. It would be great if all went well continually in the body of the Lord called the church. It would be so wonderful if everyone was strong, dedicated and working properly. But that's not the case. We have at many times weak and failing people (I'm one of those) that God tries to help move down the road rather than separate Himself and throw them all aside as so many seem to do in the name of the Lord. Little forbearance, patience, gentleness and humility seem to be found in some because the true nature of love as shown by Jesus to us is missing. 
  Our purpose is not only to proclaim a life saving gospel to the lost but the truth of the Father as seen in unity  by possessing the qualities that He Himself possesses. Unity is created and shaped by the One who calls each of us to Himself showing us the calling by which we have been called.