Thursday, June 26, 2014

"Every Hair, Every Throb, Every Drop"

  His name was Connell, an Irishman that was sentenced to death at Northampton in the year 1741. There was a minister by the name of Philip Doddridge that tried to helped Connell because Philip believed that Connell  was not guilty of the crime of which he had been convicted. It took a lot of time and money but Philip dug deeply into the case and proved beyond a doubt that Connell was a hundred and twenty miles away when the crime for which he was convicted happened. The sad part was the judgment in the case could not be reversed.
  Before setting out for the gallows, Connell was asked if he had any last requests. Immediately Connell asked as the procession headed to the gallows that they pause in front of Philip Doddridge's home. The request was granted and as the procession passed Philip's house, Connell knelt on the minister's doorstep and expressed a deep gratitude for the man who had tried to save him.
  "Mr. Doddridge, every hair on my head thanks you; every throb of my heart thanks you; every drop of my blood thanks you! You did your best to save me but you could not!", Connell cried out. 
  We too had the sentence of death, but not just any death. A complete separation from God for all eternity. And our death is deserving. We aren't innocent but guilty and our sins prove that. Yet Jesus came and at a great expense and trouble paid our debt taking our place. If we believe this with all our heart don't you want to express your gratitude? Do you find yourself with the words of Connell: "My Lord, My God, every hair of my head thanks you; every throb of my heart thanks you; every drop of my blood thanks you! You SAVED me from death by removing my sins in your death!" How do you really feel about the death of Jesus on your behalf? 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Lest We Forget God"

  It's one of the most seductive parts of our souls. We see it so many times and it's heart breaking. Israel was known for it over and over. The early church was warned about it and we see it happen. As we gain in knowledge or we become a little lazy and start embracing others and their ideas, whether through reading, listening to some broadcast or just friends. 
  God speaks to Moses in Deut. 8 telling them how the people are stubborn and they turn aside from listening to the voice of the Lord through His word. Moses said they turned aside quickly. We come to the Hebrew writer speaking warning us to not harden our hearts and provoke the Lord as they did back at that time (Heb. 3). When the Lord speaks there is only one of two things happening: (1) We heed with reverence and love moving us deeper into His things or (2) We harden our heart and not take things seriously moving away. Blessings from God can end up being our curse!! Why? Because we get too comfortable and in that comfort arrogance can set in. Here we find ourselves in great need of a Savior. Our hearts are humble seeking His presence. Salvation comes. We rejoice. Praying and listening to the word of the Lord is a top priority. Then something slowly begins to happen. As blessing flow and we are lifted completely out of the mire we take a nose dive! We start fading in our resolve. We allow other things around us to take our attention and love. Yet somehow we can't see what is happening. Our love for the Lord begins to wain and we take it easy. We don't admit that but then we just don't have that same fire, that same resolve. Our lives adopt other thinking and ways. It's all a slow process but we move that direction. 
  God wants our best as He has our best at heart. It's up to us to not get trapped in the thought processes of those around, of those we love. We must keep looking and listening to the Lord. The Hebrew writer was correct in his inspired letter that we must not provoke the Lord God by hardening our hearts when He speaks. Today, do you have the same commitment and fervor you once had? If not, take inventory quickly knowing that the road you are on could end in heartache. "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God." "For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"Past or Future?"

  Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. But when Lazarus falls sick and dies, Jesus says He was glad He wasn't there! (John 11:15) Jesus knew all along Lazarus was going to die and Jesus deliberately stayed away to show His disciples the glory of God. 
  Jesus approaches Bethany, the home of the family, and Martha comes to meet Him with these words: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus responds: "Your brother will rise again." Martha takes the conversation to the future: "I know he will rise again the resurrection on the last day." Jesus tries to teach that He is the resurrection and the life.
  Martha flees to Mary telling her "The Teacher" was there and Mary came and met Him with these words: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 
  We can see how people in situations feed off of one another. The words of these two sisters were identical in what they said and thought. We do the same today. We feed off of one another and many times what we say in situations is not the best. Here both sisters are stuck in their thinking about the past. Their minds draw off the past and when Jesus points to the present of Him being the resurrection and the life, Martha's mind set goes to the future. What do we learn? Too many times people either live the past or deal with what may lay in the future. The past creates pain. The future creates uncertainties. What many fail to do is live in the present. Lives become wasted. Too much past and too much future while very little present. "If I had only done..." becomes many thoughts when encountering something. "Next time I'll..." for the future. And standing right in front of us in the present is the Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life and we miss Him finding little help or comfort for our present need. We don't move forward today because we are stuck in mind-sets that aren't helping.
  When one reads John 11 account we find Jesus looking at the weeping Mary and Martha along with the rest of the Jews with them and it moved Him and troubled Him. Because of tears over the death of Lazarus? Not hardly! Jesus intentionally stayed away knowing Lazarus had died.  Jesus wept! What troubled Him so? Jesus arrives at the tomb and asks the stone removed. As Martha questions this decision, the words of Jesus penetrates to give us what troubled Him so and caused Him to weep: "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" Jesus was troubled and moved in spirit while weeping because no one was listening to what He was saying!!! Simply put, these sisters He loved did not believe His word.
  When we find ourselves in situations, we must stop dealing with "what if's"! And we must stop reaching to "Maybe someday"! We need to live in the "now" listening to the voice of Jesus today! There is where we will find rest for our souls and ability to make progress in the present. Yesterday is gone! Tomorrow will care for itself! Today is the day for us to walk with the Lord.

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Addressing God"

 I don't know if it bothers you but too many speak of God in terms that are demeaning. God should be exalted! Our Creator, Redeemer and Savior yet many a preacher/teacher make God out to be their "chum" or their "good buddy". Then goes the conversations they have with God their "pal". In this comes a dialogue that is less than reverent. It is almost a joking conversation to listen how some address and even speak to God.
  I once heard many years back a fellow addressed God in the assembly of the saints as "Heavenly Dad"! As it seems more and more are putting their own ideas into their approach to God, the less reverent we are becoming not realizing who He really is. He is not "the Big Man Upstairs"! It is time we do a little searching ourselves and see what is meant when we see our adoption as His children and crying out "Abba Father." (Rom. 8:15) Maybe our assemblies wouldn't be so "coffee" friendly!
  God's greatness and glory are so beyond anything we can ever realize. That should create within us a rejoicing with trembling. "Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling." (Psa. 2:11) The Hebrew writer reminds us that since "we received a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe." (Heb. 12:28) 
  To waltz into the presence of God with an attitude of a buddy system is out of order. At the same time we don't need to grovel into His presence either. One is an insult and the other is tragic ignorance. God is our Father who loves us so much and wants us with Him. For that we rejoice. But that's just it, He's our Father, not our pal! Rejoice in His love while enjoying His salvation. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil 2:12) 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Grace Is Greater"

  "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death. even so grace would reign though righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 5:20-21) 
What do you know about yourself? Feel like the Lord won't have you when you have struggled so much with sin? It makes us ashamed. It makes us down-trodden. It beats on our conscience and sets foot in our thoughts. We want to overcome but yet fail so miserably and often. You may find yourself thinking the Lord completely rejects you because you struggle against this power called sin. 
  Grab hold of Jesus with all your heart. Grace always outdoes sin!!! I didn't say that. The Lord said that and His grace will always outdo sin. Next time you sin and think about giving up, look to the Lord Jesus and find grace is greater. There is a reason to live for the Lord!!! There is a reason to confess. His name is Jesus, the giver of grace!

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Called To Faith"

  When will we learn that those in Christ Jesus are not in the same line as those outside! I avoid the usage of the term "Christian" many times because the word is so misused and distorted that everyone calls themselves a Christian. I like the term "in Christ Jesus" better because that's when and where we were united with Jesus and pointed to Jesus. To those in Christ Jesus there is not a program that's tailored to make society better. While it is true that those in Christ will make a difference in the lives of those around, it's not about a program or being nice. It's all about faith in Christ Jesus!
  When we speak of faith that the NT church had, it wasn't a faith of "praise the Lord" or "have a blessed day" or anything like that. I'm not trying to bash anyone who uses those phrases. I am trying to get those in Christ Jesus to focus on what faith is all about. It is about Jesus Christ Himself and nothing less. Jesus didn't walk around with those statements nor did His apostles. The NT church didn't go about speaking things like that. It was about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We aren't in the arena that social clubs, civic clubs and all these movements we see today are trying to do. It's not about making people kinder, gentler and less angry. While the world focuses on these issues and they can be socially useful, those in Christ Jesus focus becomes a true faith in Jesus and nowhere else.
  Take time and read through Hebrews 11. We call it the faith chapter but look carefully at how those listed lived by faith. Jesus hadn't come into the world while they lived but look carefully at where their faith was placed and what happened as a result. All their faith was shaped by the coming and promises of Jesus Christ! They intently listened and looked at their God who promised the coming One while leading them. These men and women committed to God in faith in terms of God's self-disclosure up to the point before Christ came but with the coming of Jesus God revealed Himself as never before. He called those Jews who were confronted with the word to commit to Jesus in a new way of faith. Listen, read carefully the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus and then pay attention to Acts 2-7 and see that the people were being called to faith while they claimed they already believed in God. They were called to faith through Jesus Christ!
  Too many speak of believing but are not living by faith in Jesus Christ. They live by what they believe is religious or some program that makes them better. Many work programs with the mind-set that the program is the life giver! Take away the program and listen to the discontentment start up. Where's their faith? That's not faith in Jesus but people try to tie it all together like that. Please, read those places I've mentioned and if you will pay close attention, you will begin to see that those in Christ Jesus live by faith in Christ Jesus and trust nothing else for their faith to rest upon. It's not just believing, it is being called to faith!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

."Beyond Fluff"

  Maybe it's just me. I'm not real sure people know what the true nature of being spiritual minded and walking by faith is all about. Maybe I've missed something and that could be possible. I've missed things before but when I read how Jesus made a difference in the lives of those with faith, they worked against the norm of the people just as Jesus did. 
  In John 5 we have the healing of a paralytic. Take some serious time and read the whole chapter but one thing is for sure, this man went against what the religious people around him thought and he sided completely with Jesus despite all the ridicule. 
  Have you ever felt like you have just messed up your life completely and accomplished little? Some people battle through life feeling as if they are going nowhere. Look back over your life from this moment. Is your life half done? Is your life 3/4 done? What has your life been about up to now? Those could be questions many think about but are afraid to ask. And here comes Sunday, the resurrection day. Someone is singing from their heart "Jesus!" There is a name above all others. 
  There is simply too much fluff and syrup today! Christmas and Easter are poured over as if life is about those days. We need to move beyond what the world uses as fluff and syrup twice a year. We get the fluff and syrup in sweet sentiments we read or someone forwards us something from the internet. It's this kind of stuff that thickens the heart that keeps us from perceiving the true nature of Jesus. Don't allow all the surface stuff to blind you to the truth of Jesus as you find in His word. Look at His life carefully and take His claims seriously. There you will see how much interest the Lord takes in us. All the syrup and fluff can be blinding to the real Savior and while feeding our fleshly desires.
  The world we live in is steeped in traditions. Jesus exposed He was not part of the traditions of men (Matt. 15). The humans God created are up to their eyes in injustices and sins. But it was because of all this that Jesus came to rescue us. We have messed things up badly in our personal lives sometimes. We have distorted and bent the world out of shape in regard to the true value of what it means to be spiritual. Jesus came to bring order to a world of chaos and in the lives of mankind. Too many with all the fluff they go after and all the syrup they pour on their lives get so bogged down you would think that walking with Jesus was some sort of magic wand. We go after this and 'poof' all is well with us! We move from story to story, from certain days as our renewal and think its all well. We need the real Jesus. We need to put our faith and trust in His teachings and listen more closely to what He desires. Our focus needs to be intently on Jesus alone and let all the other things go by. Maybe the movies are having a greater impact on us than Jesus!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"The Purpose of the Church"

  It seems the church is missing something. While everyone is caught up in different ideas of the church and its worship of God, something has slowly been pushed to the side and many do not even realize it. I've gotten three different emails over the last week stating the idea that the church is a hospital for the sick, not the well. That's not true. The church is the saved! The church is the body of Jesus directed by Him being the head. It is made up of people who once were enveloped by sin and death but now are free from condemnation and sin. The church is sanctified. The church is made up of saints. I see no sickness here. That's why we assemble to worship to praise Him who delivered us and made us whole. The church is the 'gospelized'!
  In all this we see that as long as people are abused in this world, people are lonely, families are crushed and destroyed, people sense that nothing will ever change, no matter what governments say, no matter who has the greatest armies, no matter how many laws are enacted, as long as there are such in this world the church needs to be preaching the gospel of salvation. That's what we've lost. People are caught up in having fairs for the neighborhood children, feeding, clothing everyone to show we care (and yet we need to show we care) but it's the gospel that will truly change the lives and thinking of people! The gospel we should be proclaiming is about a Person, our Savior! The truth of the gospel is true even if one has been born into a prison-like society where predators suppress the truth by evil and vile means. Even if the gospel is met with rejection and not believed upon, it's still God's power and true!
  Listen church, a day will come when all wrongs will be righted!! When are we going to believe that? We can feed, cloth and let ever child laugh for a day but that will not help them one bit eternally. (I want you to know I am not saying we aren't to help the downtrodden. We put emphasis on the wrong side of things!) It's the gospel the church is failing to teach. It's the gospel those apostles were sent into the world to share with others. It's the gospel that the church preached when persecutions hit in that first century. It's the gospel that will bring people into fellowship with their Creator and that's for eternity. When Jesus set foot on this planet, He could have feed, clothed and healed every single person He came in contact with but He didn't. Why? He came to save!
  We are to uphold the Lord Jesus Christ in His gospel. Only the NT Church has that message!!! As long as there is a world in awful need there will be the need for submitting to the Lordship of Jesus telling His redemptive story to each one we possibly can. As people come to believe that gospel, people from all walks of life, in difficulties or gain, they will gather with all the saints and worship the One who bought them and will be thankful for the gospel message. CHURCH, WE NEED TO GOSPEL PEOPLE!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Want To Quit?"

  Don't you get tired of failing? You know, the struggles with sin and temptation in your life that keep rearing it's head over and over again? Someday's you feel like quitting. Those times when you think you've overcome and then 'bang' it tempts you back again and the dejection, the heartache and disappointment you might be to yourself and others. Is it all worth it? Are we alone in our battles?  We want to say 'no' but are we just saying words because that's what we are suppose to say? Others may not know what we struggle with and if makes us feel isolated.
  He lied! Not once but at least twice and who knows, maybe more. Another was drunk and exposed before his children. Then there was that one who was an adulterer. You can hear the world today, "Once an adulterer always an adulterer!" What about the one who was quick to speak his mind and tell the Lord the way things were going to be? Such arrogance and know it all pride only to fall flat on his face. These are just a few but I point them out as we know them as Abraham, Noah, David and the apostle Peter. Men of God yet failures. Men upon whom the ages have been written about from God to show us the grace of God and the love of God for the humble 'struggler'. You see, it's not about them or us. It's all about God! There were many men and women that the ages were written about that struggled and failed yet found themselves standing on holy ground with a holy God. He worked out their salvation as they trustingly placed themselves under His guidance and assurance from His word. They failed but they trusted in the Lord not themselves!
  Jesus enters the picture for us. Sin was dealt a death blow through Him. Sin no longer would be the master of those who belong to Him. We will fail and stumble, maybe badly at times, but instead of looking at us in our failure, we need to look to Him as a Savior! OUR SAVIOR! Sin wants its way with you but Jesus will have none of that. Don't let sin pound you into the ground. Be humble, repentant (that's what all these that we find written in God's word were) and move by faith to Jesus. The sinfulness of us will be cleansed by His blood. The failing of us He will be faithful to forgive completely. You see, it's all about Him not us. Do you feel overwhelmed with your sins? Your "Sin-Bearer" is waiting for  you to come and yoke up with Him and let Him take you all the way to the end. Do you trust Him? Maybe its because you don't trust you. We must stop looking at us. It's not about us. It's about the Lord Jesus who overcame sin and its power.  Never, never give up! God doesn't nor His Son. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

"What Do You Hear?"

  The streets were filled with people and noise. The horns honking, people talking loudly, multiple cars, tires squealing around. This is a normal day near Times Square, New York. In the midst of the noise, a Native American and his friend were walking in this area when suddenly, the Native American stopped and said, "I heard a cricket!" His friend was astounded saying, "What? You hear a cricket? How can you hear a cricket in the midst of all this noise?" "No, I'm sure of it!", responded the Native American. Listening carefully, they walked across the street to where some shrubs were growing. The Native American looked into the bushes and sure enough, he located the small cricket and his friend was utterly amazed.
  "That's absolutely incredible," said his friend. "You must have super-human ears!" "No," replied the Native American. "My ears are no different than yours!" The man responded, "That can't be! I could never hear a cricket in this noise." The Native American nodded his head yes and said, "Let me show you something." He reached in his pocket and pulled out a few coins, dropping them on the sidewalk. With all the noise of the street still the same, instantly several came over picking up the coins they heard fall on the concrete. The Native American smiled and said, "It all depends on what you train your ears to listen for and what you listen for is what is important to you."
  Jesus warned his disciples: "So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him." (Luke 8:18) How you listen is vital. Some listen to what they want to hear and they establish their whole thought process on what they want to hear. We need to hear the voice of the Lord through His word and nothing else. Some have trained the ears of their heart to hear only the bad or what they think is bad. No matter what is said, they will turn it to how they have trained themselves to listen. Learning to listen to the word of the Lord and listen with the intent of gain will be the difference between gaining spiritual insight or having spiritual gain taken away. And some wonder why they never seem to advance very far spiritually? 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Looking Back"

  It was rather incredible. On May 6, 1954 a fellow named  Roger Bannister became the first man in  history to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Within two months, John Landy eclipsed the record by 1.4 seconds. On Aug. 7, 1954 the two met for a historic race. As they moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. He was in position to win the race but as he neared the finish he was wondering where Bannister was. As he turned to look back, Bannister passed him quickly on the opposite side he looked. The race was lost by Landy. After the race Landy told a magazine reporter, "If I hadn't looked back, I would have won!"
  As I reflected on this, too many people live their lives in the past. They look at what has happened or how they were raised. Yes, things of our past history can have an affect on us but too many allow those things to make them who they are today. It affects marriages, relationships and even how you raise your own children. 
  Do you recall the day you were baptized into Christ? What was that about? You and Jesus coming together as one (Rom. 6). You being raised with Jesus in the working of God (Col. 2:12). You trustingly put yourself under Him burying your old self that was tied to sin in death. That means your past, all your past was laid to rest and you now belong to Jesus and you have a different Father! Why do many continue to live in their dead past?
  No one had more pain and did more harm to people than the apostle Paul. "Even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief."  (I Tim. 1:13) Because of the mercy of God extended, Paul became Christ's. What he was in his past was dead in his past and he found grace, faith and love in Christ Jesus (I Tim. 1:14). What did he do with his life? He didn't deny his past but he embraced his present with Jesus. "But 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." (Phil. 3:13-14) His life was pressing forward! His goal was with God and Christ Jesus. His past was buried and forgiven.
  One can't grow in faith and love while looking back! Your past was buried with Jesus. Let Him deal with the things that are hurtful and sinful. Your present is to move forward and you can only do that by looking to Jesus and grasping His life knowing your heavenly Father will bring you safely home. Are you dwelling on your past sins or the sins others did to you? If you don't give them up to Jesus, you will die in your sins. Jesus gives us life and life abundantly. Grab hold by faith today!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"A Thorn"

  I once had a friend telling me about his encounter with a dog. The dog snarled at him and had that look of attack. My friend was always attracted to dogs so he decided he would try to pet him but knew in order to do that he had to do something to disable his ability to attack. He drew close as the dog began to bark and show his teeth. Suddenly he grabbed hold of the dog, taking him off his feet while wrapping his arms completely around him. The dog struggled but could not free himself from the grasp. The dog calmed down and upon examination my friend found a thorn lodged in the dogs front paw. It had to be removed. The dog was not going to allow this to be easy and began his struggle and snarling again. The thorn was removed. The dog became calmer and settled down allowing my friend to pet him. 
  As I listened to this it reminded me of what I have seen over and over in the lives of people. It seems when people are involved in sin or guilty of sin, they become this agitated, negative person and will turn on their loved ones in a second! Sin is a thorn which grows and festers and the longer it stays in your life, it begins to consume you. Those caught in sin do not see this. 
  David said long ago: "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer." (Psa. 32:3-4) David found himself suffering, wasting away, hard to accomplish daily tasks and was doing a lot of groaning. Why? He refused to acknowledge his sin to the Lord! 
  The longer one stays in their sins, the more this thorn hurts and the more miserable one becomes. When people are trapped in sin, they accuse the innocent of the very things they themselves are practicing. They trust no one because they know themselves as untrustworthy. They are on edge because they live on the edge of being caught or discovered. It has been this way from the beginning. Sin will take one down!
  But there is another way. David spoke the remedy: "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord'; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psa. 32:5) 
  The longer one walks in their guilt, the worse their state of mind becomes and the agitation of their life continues to grow but when one turns to the Lord, willing to forsake their sin and confess, there one finds forgiveness (I John 1:9)!
 What about you? When is the last time you and the Lord had a heart to heart encounter and you were honest with Him? Until the thorn is removed, there will be no life, no peace and no relief from guilt. Jesus is waiting!

Monday, June 2, 2014

"No Distractions"

  We must beware that we can easily forget our purpose and focus. It's easy to get led into distractions if we aren't careful. We read from the teachings of Jesus about a rich fool that was so focused on his success that he continually focused on himself and forgot about his soul. The words came from God: "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you..." (Luke 12:20) 
  The things of this world come from all different angles. The evil one is at work, trying to get our attention here and there and he works diligently to get us looking at all the different elements surrounding us. In this, we can easily lose our love for God if we are distracted by the things in the world. We do not know that moment the words are spoken: "This very night your soul is required of you!"
 What are we to do? We need to proceed with a commitment in our heart to the Lord. We need to always know that our lives are headed beyond this earthly environment. We know that but believing that to keep our commitment is another story. We need to focus on what Paul's focus was: "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but 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." (Phil. 3:13-14) 
  To the Hebrew brethren these words were written: "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Heb. 12:3) These are for us as well.
   Walk with Jesus each day. Make certain your heart is set on the things above and you keep seeking the things above where Christ is seated. Don't allow this world and the things of this world that the evil one uses to distract you from your purpose. Grow in your love for the Lord. Grow in your faith and trust in the Lord. Seek the goal that Jesus died to get you to. There is nothing on earth that is worth our souls!