Saturday, December 26, 2009

VISITORS TO THE CHRIST CHILD



The shepherds
“hurried to the village
and found Mary and Joseph.
And there was the baby,
lying in the manger.”
Luke 2:16 NLT
~~~~


Though the birth of Jesus took place under such humble circumstances on earth; in heaven it was quite a different story. Angels of the Lord were dispatched to make the announcement and a special star appeared in the eastern sky.

On that historic night, hireling shepherds near Bethlehem were watching their sheep as usual; suddenly an angel of the Lord, in brilliant light, appeared to them. He announced “the Savior, Christ the Lord had just been born in Bethlehem.” He said they would recognize him when they saw a baby "wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger." Then the whole sky filled with angels, who were praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels were gone, the shepherds said, “We’ve got to check this out!” They did - and found exactly what they were told. Just plain hireling shepherds doing their menial task, and God had shown them such amazing favor! They told everyone about it, and kept on praising God as they went back to work.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The wise men
“entered the house and saw
the child with his mother, Mary,
and they bowed down
and worshiped him.”
Matthew 2:11 NLT
~~~~~~

The wise men came from the opposite spectrum of the social order. They were high ranking officials who studied the stars and advised the kings of the Medes. Somehow they came to know that a special star was announcing the birth of the Jewish messiah.
Two years after the star had first appeared they arrived in Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” They were told, “In Bethlehem in Judea.” Miraculously, the star reappeared over the house where the Christ Child now lived. “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh…. they returned to their own country by another route.”

Whether we find ourselves at the top - at the bottom - or somewhere in between - on the social ladder of life, God wants us to follow his leading to “the Savior, Christ the Lord!” May our Christmas experience this year have been life changing as it was for the shepherds and wise men.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

THE BIRTH OF JESUS

”She brought forth her firstborn son,
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger;
because there was no room
for them in the inn.”
Luke 2:7 KJV
~~~~

God has a unique way of doing things!

To begin with, he allowed unkind rumors to spread around Nazareth concerning Mary and Joseph – Mary had become pregnant during their engagement. People rolled their eyes when she told them, that it was “of the Holy Spirit.”

And just when Mary was getting close to delivery time, they had to go to Bethlehem like many other people, for the census, because that’s where their relatives lived. By the time Joseph’s donkey got them there, the homes of relatives were filled, and Mary was going into labor – there was no time to lose. They needed a place to stay!


Hospitality in that society was taken very seriously. They did everything possible to accommodate visitors, especially relatives in need. Many homes were two story structures. The upper part was where people lived and entertained guests. The lower room often was for livestock. (KJV translates "kataluma" in Luke 2:7 as “inn.” The same word is translated “guestchamber” in Mark 14:15 and Luke 22:12 so it’s very possible that the best lodging Joseph’s relatives could provide at the time was the stable below the “guestchamber.”)

Joseph and Mary made the best of it. There was no time to waste. The baby was coming! We don’t know if there was anyone to assist Mary aside from Joseph. Even if the stable had just been cleaned, it still was a dirty, smelly place. The baby came - they cleaned him up the best they could – and Mary “wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger.”

The creator of heaven and earth, in the most humble and lowly of circumstances had become one of us – so he could die - that we might live!!


"Oh love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall for-ever-more endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.”
F.M.L.

May you and yours HAVE A MOST BLESSED CHRISTMAS!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

THE PROMISED SAVIOR

“The passionate commitment
of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!”
Isaiah 9:7 NLT
~~~~~

The love of God goes beyond all human comprehension!! He created people in his own image to have fellowship with them. When they yielded to the serpent’s temptation and disobeyed God - even before they knew that they needed forgiveness, God promised a Savior who would make forgiveness possible. To the serpent he said: “I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 This is a prophesy of Satan’s final destruction and Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.

Another reference to the promised Savior is made to Abraham in Genesis 22:18 “Through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

900 years later God promised David: “I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong…..Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.” 2 Samuel 7:12, 16.

Isaiah 9:6,7 sees the promised Savior as clearly as if it had already happened. “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”

The promise of our Savior was not an afterthought – it was in the Father’s loving heart from all eternity and he made it happen!


During these days before Christmas, may we KEEP LOOKING UP beyond the tinsel and decorations to the true meaning of the season.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A GOD-PLEASING MINDSET

“Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.
Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT
~~~~~~~~~~~
Our mindset is our habitual mental attitude that determines how we will interpret and respond to situations. Our basic mindset is initially shaped by our family, friends, and the culture we grow up in. However, our mindset can be changed for the better or worse by what we focus our thoughts on.

As born again believers we always have reason to rejoice, no matter how many disappointments we may face. The fact that our sins are forgiven through Christ overshadows every negative thing we may be facing. So there is always reason to rejoice.

Our Father’s door is always open, and we can talk with him about whatever is on our heart, whether praise or a call for help. We can have a continuing mental or verbal conversation with him day and night no matter what we are doing.

All of us have things happen to us and we get into situations for which we are NOT thankful! But even in the midst of such painful and disturbing circumstances there are always reasons to be thankful because of the hope we have in Christ!!

God’s will for us is to make a habit of focusing on doing what pleases him in every situation. That will bring him glory, and a deep lasting peace to us.

WORK HARD AT DEVELOPING A GOD-PLEASING MINDSET and keep looking up!!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NOT WASTING LEFTOVERS

After everyone was full,
Jesus told his disciples,
“Now gather the leftovers,
so that nothing is wasted.”
John 6:12 NLT
~~~~~


Are you still eating Thanksgiving Leftovers? So are we, and enjoying them! Timothy Jones of the University of Arizona studies food loss; he told CBS radio that, “Americans waste 14 percent of their food purchases, including leftovers and stale dated products. Jones estimates that the average family of four tosses out close to $ 600 per year in fruit, meat, vegetables, and other unidentifiable substances at the bottom of the crisper drawer.”

Jesus instructed his disciples to gather the pieces of barley loaves and fish that hadn’t been eaten. Though he had provided more food than the five thousand needed, he didn’t want the leftovers to be wasted. That’s a principle that can be, and needs to be, applied to every area of life. The less we have, the greater the necessity to be saving. The more we have, the easier it becomes to be wasteful, but wastefulness is never pleasing to the Lord.

Are you pleased with how you are controlling waste around you?

MAKE GOOD USE OF WHAT THE LORD HAS GIVEN YOU, and keep looking up!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

ENTER HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him
and praise his name.”
Psalm 100:4 NLT
~~~~~~


If we stop to consider how we pray, we may be surprised how little thanksgiving and praise our prayers contain. I have found at times my entire prayer has been basically nothing but requests. It’s helpful for me to start out with praise and thanksgiving and keep mixing it with my requests throughout my prayer. When I do that, it enables me to make my petitions with greater confidence and expectation. When I only ask, ask, ask, something vital is missing in my heart. That sort of ties in with what Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

What part does thanksgiving and praise play in your prayer life? This Thanksgiving Season may be an excellent time for us to start focusing on sprinkling our prayers with more thanksgiving and praise. It can make our prayer time an increasingly positive experience.

Have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING, and keep looking up!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

OPEN THE FLOODGATES OF HEAVEN

“I will bless my people…
And in the proper season
I will send the showers they need.
There will be showers of blessing.”
Ezekiel 34:26 NLT
~~~~~~

By the end of October, Missouri’s statewide rainfall average was more than 10 inches, making it the wettest October in 68 years and second only to 1941 which had 10.47 inches. Here in St. Louis we had 12.38 inches, setting a new record after 137 years. Two southeast counties recorded more than 15 inches of rain during October.

On the other hand, southeastern U.S. has been suffering the worst drought in over 100 years. At the end of October, Metro-Atlanta only had 120 days of usable drinking water left.

Spiritually, our entire nation is suffering a devastating drought which seems to be getting worse by the day. Actions and attitudes which were unthinkable a few decades ago have become common place.

Current divorce rate in the U.S. is between 41 and 50%. The trend is for singles to live together without getting married. Though abortion numbers have declined somewhat in recent years – 1,200,000 babies are still being aborted every year – that is almost 453,000 every day.

Approximately 14 million people in the U.S. are addicted to, or abuse alcohol. Nearly 2.5 million Americans have been said to have substance abuse problems, which is estimated to double to approximately 5 million, by the end of 2020. Violence and sex on TV is having a destructive effect on children and the younger generation. The Evening News is a constant stream of reports of lawlessness and perversion.

While approximately 1,350 successful churches are planted each year in the USA, about 3,750 churches close each year giving us a deficit total loss of 2,400 churches per year, 200 churches per month and 6.6 churches per day. Young people in there 20’s and 30’s are leaving various churches in droves.

It is obvious that we are in need of a soaking spiritual rain; a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit; a true revival in our churches that will have a positive effect on society all around us. Do we care enough to cry out to God with all our heart for the “showers of blessing” we so desperately need?

Let’s Pray-
O God, “Open the floodgates of Heaven, let it rain, let it rain!!”
In Jesus Name.
Amen


TURN UP YOUR SOUND AND JOIN MICHAEL W. SMITH @
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qttxhgc8d9E

LET IT RAIN
Let it rain, let it rain.

Open the floodgates of Heaven
Repeat
“The Lord reigns,
let the earth be glad.
Let the distance shores rejoiceClouds and thick darkness surround him.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
A fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world.
The earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord.
Before the Lord of all the earth.
The Heavens proclaim His righteousness.
And all peoples will see His Glory” (Psalm 97:1-6 NIV)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

JOY IN HEAVEN

“Count on it—
there's more joy in heaven
over one sinner's rescued life
than over ninety-nine good people
in no need of rescue.
Luke 15:7 The Message
~~~~~~~~

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were focused on the holiness of God and the demands of his laws and regulations. In addition to these laws and regulations, they burdened the people with hundreds of their own laws. They considered themselves more righteous than everyone else and looked with distain on outcasts of society.

On the other hand, Jesus came to reveal the grace and mercy of God and freely interacted with all sorts of people including the outcasts. In order to illustrate the loving and forgiving heart of God, Jesus told three stories which are recorded in Luke 15. You will recall them as, The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son. Each story highlights the rejoicing when the lost was found.

When the man finds his lost sheep, he lets his friends know and they rejoice together. “In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!”

When the woman finds her lost coin, she shares the good news with her friends and they rejoice together. “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

When the prodigal son repented, and came back home, his father was watching and waiting for him. ”Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him….. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.” What a moving insight into what happens in heaven when a sinner repents.

Heaven is a holy, sinless place. Therefore anything or anyone with the stain of sin is denied admittance. God’s throne is surrounded by worshiping and praising angels – celebrating who God is and what he has accomplished through the sacrifice of his Son – namely forgiveness for repentant sinners and consequently an open door to heaven. Every time another lost person repents, there is a new outburst of joy in heaven. Heaven is a joyous place! Hallelujah!!

Let’s Pray-
Father, we thank you that “you are not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Help us to do our part to find the lost and add to rejoicing here on earth and in heaven.
Amen

Saturday, October 31, 2009

MY FATHER’S HOUSE

“In my Father's house are many mansions: . .
I go to prepare a place for you. . .
I will come again,
and receive you unto myself;
that where I am,
there ye may be also.”
John 14:2-3 KJV
~~~~~~

I do not have a picture of the house I lived in as a child, but I do have a clear image of it in my mind. It was a small four room farm house with a lean-to on the north side and a tiny entryway on the south. It had a kitchen, a living room and two bedrooms. It also had a cellar which was just a hole in the ground under the kitchen and living room. We didn’t have electricity, or running water, but it did have a “thunder box” which was especially handy when it was 20 degrees below zero outside.

The kitchen had a dining table with several wooden chairs and a home made bench. It also had a cast iron cooking stove with its fire box, oven and a water heating tank. We used “cow chips,” corn cobs and lignite coal for fuel. Sponge baths were taken in a metal wash tub when everyone else was in bed.

The living room had a kerosene space heater which also heated the door-less bedrooms. It had a peddle sewing machine, a few wooden chairs and a little pump organ which my dad played with one finger.

The lean-to was an unheated storage area. This is where we separated milk every morning and evening with a hand cranked cream separator. I also remember several large wooden barrels with salt brine to preserve pork.

The cellar had home canned goods and raw vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beets, etc. Coal was also kept there. We got to the cellar through a trap door in the kitchen floor.

While my earthly father’s house doesn’t exist anymore, my Heavenly Father’s house exists eternally! That same Lord who spoke all of creation into being has been back at the Father’s house for 2000 years now, designing and preparing a special place for each believer. Paul, making reference to an O.T. passage, says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” I know this scripture is primarily speaking about God’s plan of salvation, but I think it can also be applied to the place Jesus is preparing for us in the Father’s house.

Let’s Pray-
Jesus, we know our earthy father’s house, whether a shack or a multimillion dollar mansion, will be gone some day. But the place you are preparing for us is priceless and eternal, and what makes it most special, is that you will always be there!! Thank you for this precious hope!
Amen

Saturday, October 24, 2009

WHAT TO THINK ABOUT

“Fix your thoughts on what is true,
and honorable, and right, and pure,
and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are
excellent and worthy of praise.”
Philippians 4:8 NLT
~~~~~~

I read the other day that our brain, which weighs only about three pounds, has stored more information in it than the entire Library of Congress. Psychologists tell us that each person has about ten thousand thoughts per day. That’s incredible!

While some thoughts we have may be benign, most thoughts have a far reaching impact on our lives for good or harm. Our thoughts are seeds from which our words, emotions, and actions sprout. Good thoughts lead to positive feelings and actions, and a good outlook on life. On the other hand, habitual negative thoughts lead to self pity, depression, and even poor physical health.

Our mind is constantly bombarded by thoughts from our past, our present, from what we listen to, what we watch, and what we read. The society we live in effects our thinking and actions more than we would like to admit. If we are not careful, little by little we take on the values and ways of the world around us. Paul warns, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2

To the degree that we fill our mind with God’s Word and live by it, it will overcome the influence of the world around us and transform our thinking to agree with his. As Joshua says, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” 1:8

The mind of Jesus was filled with the Word of God, and he used it as a weapon to fight off the temptations of Satan. After he had fasted forty days in the desert, Satan put evil thoughts in his mind five times, and each time Jesus fought off the temptation with, “No! The Scriptures say,” and then quoted an appropriate passage. “Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.”

Our mind is the battle field where Satan attacks, but by standing on God’s Word we can drive off every evil thought – lust, greed, pride, dishonesty, unforgiveness , self-pity, etc., etc.

Let’s Pray-
Lord, help us to fill our minds with your truth and grace and not fall for the lies of the enemy.
Amen

Saturday, October 17, 2009

GETTING ON, AND STAYING ON, GOD’S WAY

“The sacrifice you desire
is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken
and repentant heart, O God.”
Psalm 51:17 NLT
~~~~



If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, like me, there came a time in your life when you became aware that you were a sinner – separated from God and heaven forever. You realized, to some degree, that you were deserving of God’s holy judgment. It was when you admitted your guilt, and believed that the death of Jesus was for your sin, that you were saved. Drawn by his matchless love, you changed from being an unbeliever to being a believer. The reality of that change of direction was demonstrated by your changed life. The direction you were heading was leading away from God, now you are on his way and he is walking with you. That U turn, was the best turn you and I have every made! It is called repentance.

Though you and I have made that fundamental direction change in our lives, I for one must admit that my every day life is not perfect, and most likely the same is true with you. We still find ourselves with wrong attitudes – thoughts – actions or inactions. If we make excuses for our sin – try to hide it or ignore it, we will become like some of the people in the churches John mentions in Revelation. Five out of seven of those churches were called upon to repent (turn around) because they were drifting off of God’s way. One no longer loved the Lord and other Christians like they did at the beginning. Two of them had gotten into unbiblical teachings. Another had the reputation of being alive, but in reality was spiritually asleep. The fifth one, once on fire, had become lukewarm – they thought they were rich when in reality they were in spiritual poverty. All five were warned if they continued down the wrong way, they would experience God’s judgment. On the other hand, if they changed directions and got back on track they were promised wonderful blessings.

1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Confession of sin and repentance (turning from sin to God) is the hallmark of Christians who are walking in close fellowship with their Lord. The moment they become aware that they have veered off course, they make the correction that brings them back in line.

Let’s Pray-
Lord, I’m not as on fire as I once was. Show me where I have drifted from your way, and help me to stay close to you.
Amen

Saturday, October 10, 2009

GOD IS NEAR AND KNOWS ALL ABOUT US

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!”
Psalm 139:17-18 NLT
~~~~~~
When we feel all alone and like no one knows what we’re going through – we need to read Psalm 139 again. (What follows is my rough paraphrase of this Psalm.)

We need to be reminded that he knows everything about us. He knows everything we are doing and thinking even when he seems far away. He sees us when we are driving down the highway or resting in our bed. He knows what we are going to say even before the first word comes out of our mouth.

We are not alone! He’s out in front of us - leading the way and at the same time he follows us with his hand of blessing on our head. How wonderful is that?! It’s really too big for us to fully grasp. We can never get beyond his presence. Even if we got on this world’s most powerful space ship and flew to the farthest end of space – he would be there. Or if we took the most sophisticated deep ocean craft to the bottom of the ocean he would be there ready to guide, strengthen and support us. We can never get away from his presence. No distance or darkness can ever hide us from him.

He knows all about us. After all, he created us. He delicately formed us in our mother’s womb, making us wonderfully complex and unique. He designed us to perfectly fulfill his purpose. We need to be thankful for how marvelously he has made us. He saw our entire life before we were born. Incredibly every day of our life was recorded in his book before we took our first breath. Even now he has precious thoughts about us – more than we could ever count – more than all the grains of sand in the whole world.

After considering Psalm 139 these past few moments, I trust we have gotten beyond feeling sorry for ourselves. If we still feel that way, we are missing something. We need to refocus on the truth that he has always had our eternal best at heart. Everything he has done and will ever do is for our good and his glory. He is always with us, and his mind is filled with countless precious thoughts about us. What can be more reassuring?

Let’s Pray-
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23 - 24 NLT
Amen

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

PRIDE OR HUMILITY – THE CHOICE IS OURS

“God opposes the proud
but favors the humble.
So humble yourselves
under the mighty power of God,
and at the right time
he will lift you up in honor.”
James 4:5-6 NLT
~~~~


Pride has been around for a long time. In fact it is older than the human race. Satan was the first creature to take credit for what God had done. God created him with “the perfection of wisdom and beauty”1 and he claimed it as his own accomplishment. He said, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.”2 For that pride God cast him down to become the prince of this world and Satan has been bringing the temptation of pride into every human life ever since - Adam and Eve being the first ones.

“Pride in our achievements and possessions, these are not from the Father, but are from this world.”5 So we may be good looking – be talented - have all sorts of degrees and titles – live in a dream house – drive the most expensive car – wear the latest designer clothes, etc., etc. Who has made all these things possible? A prideful attitude will say, “I have acquired these things by my own skills and efforts.” Our key scripture tells us “God opposes the proud.” Another passage states “he keeps his distance from the proud.”6 That’s not a good relationship to have with God.

The other option is to choose humility which is a much better choice. “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”3 “Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor.”4 “Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”7 The choice is ours – pride or humility. Humility brings God’s blessings – pride brings his judgment. It’s not difficult to figure out which is the wiser choice.

Pride comes naturally without any effort on our part, but how do we humble ourselves? It seems to me humility begins with admitting that pride is sin - and then repent of it (turn from it). We further need to acknowledge that God is absolutely sovereign and that we owe him absolute obedience. It means we sincerely acknowledge to him and people around us that all we are and have is the results of his gracious work in our lives. It’s all a gift from him!

Let’s Pray-
Father we confess that pride creeps into our lives. Please forgive us and help us to humbly recognize and submit to your sovereign Lordship so that “at the right time you will lift us up in honor.”
Amen

Foot Notes:
1. Ezekiel 28:12; 2. Isaiah 14:13; 3. Proverbs 11:2; 4. Proverbs 18:12; 5. 1 John 2:16; 6. Psalm 138:6; 7. Matthew 23:12

Saturday, September 19, 2009

THAT WHICH NEVER FADES AWAY

“The grass withers and the flowers fade
beneath the breath of the Lord.
And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever.”
Isaiah 40:7-8 NLT
~~~~~~

I picked some tomatoes and peppers from our garden the other week. They are still doing O.K., but the rest of the garden is done for the season. There was a head of cabbage left (which probably should have been harvested long ago). And there were a few beans that are all dried up. The Brown Eyed Susans and Cone Flowers have turned brown, but I think I’ll save them for a while longer and let the Gold Finch feed on them.

The prophet Isaiah says, “The grass withers and the flowers fade . . . And so it is with people.” Have you ever looked at the old family picture album and found it hard to believe that the teenager on those pages was really you? How the grass has withered and the flower faded. We are reminded of that every morning as we look into the mirror. But we are more than just a physical body that is growing older by the day. We are also a spiritual being which is nourished and built up by God’s word which never loses its vitality. “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever. God’s word will never wear out and fade away.


“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” 1 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

We may have received an inheritance from our parents or some relative (which by the way most likely has lost some value recently) and some day we will pass what’s left to someone else. However, in Christ “we have a priceless inheritance” which we will never have to give up. This inheritance is kept in God’s eternal safety deposit box reserved in our name, “pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” It will never fade away!

James 1 mentions the withering grass and fading flower of human riches and achievements, then adds in verse 12 “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Another precious and eternal gift from God which will never lose its’ value or fade away.

Let’s Pray-
Father There is no one like you!! Your gifts are priceless and eternal, with the reassuring promise that they will never fade away. May we never forget to be truly grateful.
Amen

Saturday, September 12, 2009

WHAT ABOUT GIVING TO THE POOR?

“If you have two shirts,
give one to the poor.
If you have food,
share it with those who are hungry.”
Luke 3:11 NLT
~~~~~
Like many of you, I am reading through the Bible again this year. I have been struck with how often the subject of “the poor” comes up. Mainly two issues are dealt with –we are to protect them against injustice, and help them out materially. In this post today we will just consider giving to the poor.

I’m sure you have noticed the Lord’s instruction to the farmers to not harvest the corners of their fields, but to leave them for the poor. The olive and grape growers were not to pick all the fruit, but leave some for the poor. There are many references both in the Old and the New Testament calling on people of every level of income to give to the poor. In fact John the Baptist said, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” That standard doesn’t leave any of us out.

O.T. passages tell us to give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, and God will bless us in everything we dorescue us when we are in troublerepay uswe will lack nothing. In the N.T. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” In Acts Luke tells the story of Cornelius who gave generously to the poor and regularly prayed to God. An angel appeared to him and said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!”

Our giving to the poor is something God definitely takes note of and blesses when it is done with the right motive. While God promises good things to us for giving to the poor, that must not be our primary reason for giving. Paul reminds us “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

As Jesus said, “you will always have the poor with you.” There are countless individuals and agencies we could be giving to, but we can’t be giving to everyone. We need the guidance of the Lord to know whom we are to help. “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”

Let’s Pray-
Father you make provision for the poor through those who obey your word. Help us to be sensitive to your Spirit so we will faithfully give to those whom you have chosen to bless through us.
Amen

Saturday, September 5, 2009

SATISFIED WITH WHAT WE HAVE

Don’t love money;
be satisfied with what you have.
For God has said,
“I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.”
Hebrews 13:5 NLT
~~~~~~~

The old saying is “Money Makes The World Go Round.” Indeed we need money or some form of exchange of property or services to make a living. Money spells power. It enables us to acquire food - houses and land – services and gadgets - stuff and more stuff. The amount of wealth we have determines how much we can buy and do. One thing becomes obvious early on. The natural inclination is to always want more.

There is nothing intrinsically evil about wealth. Moses reminds us that “the Lord your God is the one who gives you power to be successful.” (Deuteronomy 8:18) Some great Bible characters like Abraham, Job and Solomon were very wealthy people. What makes money either good or bad is our attitude towards it. The more wealth we accumulate, the easier it becomes to put our trust in it rather than in the Lord. Moses warned about that. “When your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 8:13-14)

If that happens to us, we will find ourselves preoccupied with material things and spiritual matters will be less and less important to us. We have fallen in love with money and the power it gives us and we will crave more and more. That is a BIG RED FLAG!! “People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

Love of money opens the door to all sorts of dark thoughts and activities – ungratefulness – suspicions – cheating – lying – stealing - bad business deals - gambling – marital problems, etc. etc. No wonder it leads some people to wandering from the faith. The writer of Proverbs prayed, “Give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)

The right attitude toward money is to take the opportunities the Lord provides us to make a living, and then be thankful for, and satisfied with, however he blesses us. He promises, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” That’s good to know especially during this economic downturn.

Let’s Pray-
Father please pour out your grace upon us that we may always love you above all else, whether our lot in life is to have enough – more than enough - or poverty. We choose to be satisfied with what we have.
Amen

Saturday, August 22, 2009

THE BENEFIT COMES IN OBEYING

“Don’t just listen to God’s word.
You must do what it says.
Otherwise, you are only
fooling yourselves.”
James 1:22 NLT
~~~~~~


I have been studying and sharing the Scriptures, in one way or another, for more than fifty years. It has been a wonderful God-given privilege. It has transformed my life and the lives of many who received the teaching. But I have a confession to make. In studying the Word, I often saw passages as something other people needed to hear and obey. And to be perfectly frank, my mindset is still somewhat that way. I read a passage in the Bible or an article in a Christian magazine or website, and right off I see how it applies to someone else, and then only later realize – hey, I need to apply that to my life! Does that ever happen to you, or am I the only one who does that?

Most of us who go to church regularly love to hear good teaching and preaching of the Word. While it is comforting and reassuring, it also informs us of what we should and should not be doing. In Psalm 119:105 David says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” God’s Word reveals dangerous obstacles so we can avoid them, and it clearly illumines the right path to take. However, seeing what to do is not the same as doing it. As this week’s Word from God says, “You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” Wow, that really hits us where we live. The greater understanding we have of the Word , the more responsible we are to live by it.

Jesus says, “Why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:46-49) The part of our life which doesn’t obey the Lord suffers ruin. I see that as applying to my life as well as yours.

“When we walk with the Lord
in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Refrain:
Trust and obey,
for there’s no other wayTo be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey.”
John H. Sammis

Let’s Pray-
Thank you Lord for the light of your Word.
Help us to obediently apply it to our lives first
before trying to apply it to others.
Amen

Saturday, August 15, 2009

PRAISE THE LORD FOR ALL HE HAS DONE

“Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget
the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.”
Psalm 103:2-3 NLT
~~~~~~
Over a hundred years ago Johnson Oatman wrote these familiar lines,
“When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
It is always beneficial to recall “the good things” with which God has blessed us, but it is especially helpful when we are down and feeling sorry for ourselves.

Three thousand years ago King David was praising the Lord as he counted his blessings. In the process he challenges himself: “may I never forget the good things he does for me.” And as he pondered the good things the Lord brought into his life, two rose to the top of the list.
”He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.”

Forgiveness of sin is God’s most incredible gift! Without it we are eternally separated from him, which is what hell is – separation from God and every form of his blessing. No one, we or any other human or angelic being, can grant us forgiveness of sin! Only God can, and in mercy and grace he offers that forgiveness making it possible for us to be united with him eternally (which is heaven). How can we every praise him enough for his forgiveness?! May we never take it for granted, rather in gratefulness live a life which brings him honor and glory.

The second blessing at the top of David’s list was: “he heals all my diseases.” Without question, for believers, God is the healer of every disease, whether in time or eternity. All of us have experienced his healing, sometimes in answer to prayer, other times through medical means, still other times God just sovereignly touched us. All healing is from God, which like forgiveness of sin, is for his glory.

Obviously, God does not always heal. Why, because of sin or lack of faith? Possibly, but that certainly isn’t always the reason. Often the Lord holds back or delays healing to teach us to trust him as we “walk through the darkest valley.” It’s always meant for our best and his glory!

Revelation 21:4 assures us that perfect and eternal healing is reserved for every believer. “
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Let’s Pray-
Oh Lord, “You were pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. You were beaten so we could be whole. You were whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
“Let all that I am praise you Lord; may I never forget the good things you do for me.”
Amen

Saturday, August 8, 2009

YOU ARE WORTH EVERYTHING TO GOD

I will be your God
throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.
Isaiah 46:4 NLT
~~~~~
Do we have worth beyond the years we can make a meaningful contribution to society? What about that phase of life when others may consider us just an inconvenience or an expense to be avoided, will we still have worth?

“1.3 million abortions are performed in the US each year.”(1) The motivations for those abortions, no doubt, are varied. But without question, for many, inconvenience and/or the expense of raising the child, was a deciding factor. The child was considered not worth it.

On the other end of the life cycle “there are about 16,500 nursing homes certified to provide Medicare and/or Medicaid care in the United States, with approximately 1.8 million total beds. About 3.5 million people will live in a nursing home in the course of a year.”(2)

Go to any nursing home and you will find people who go weeks and months without a visitor. Aren’t they worth the effort? At times even their children find themselves “too busy” with their own families to stop by for a visit. Some are even scheming how they can end this drain on their inheritance.

But I am sure there are many nursing home residents whose loved ones would do anything to bless them. I know an elderly gentleman (let’s call him Carl) whose wife had Alzheimer’s. When he couldn’t take care of her at home any more, he admitted her to a nursing home. He drove miles to visit her regularly even when she didn’t know him any more. When she had to be spoon fed, Carl was there every day to lovingly feed her. This went on for over a year until the Lord took her Home. For Carl this wasn’t too inconvenient or time consuming. She was more than worth it all!

We live in a world where the unwanted unborn, the severely impaired, and the elderly are increasingly seen as a liability rather than an asset to society. The reasoning is - why spend time, energy, and money on something which will not yield an economic return.

Our heavenly father has a different set of values. He says, “I saw you as having infinite worth when I formed you in your mother’s womb. The cross shows how much worth you are to me, whether you are a youth, a helpless invalid, or in your white haired 80’s or 90’s. You are worth everything to me, that’s why I sacrificed my Son to save you.”(3)

Let’s Pray –
Thank you Father, that you consider us precious, even if others may not consider us worth their effort. We are so grateful that “Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue us all the days of our life.”(4)
Amen

Footnote:
(1) (Source: Finer LB and Henshaw SK, Estimates of U.S. Abortion Incidence in 2001 and 2002, Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2005)
(2) McKnight’s Long-Term Care News & Assisted Living
(3) Paraphrase of various scriptures
(4)Psalm 23:6 NLT

Saturday, August 1, 2009

SELF-CONTROL ~ THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“Think clearly and exercise self-control….
You must live as God’s obedient children.
Don’t slip back into your old ways
of living to satisfy your own desires.”
Peter 1:13-14 NLT
~~~~~~

“Self” is that part of us which is in rebellion against God. It is our sinful nature which does not want to, indeed can not, obey God. It will dominate our life unless we allow the power of the Holy Spirit to bring it under control.

To the degree that we allow self to control us, it will really mess up our lives and the lives of the people around us. Paul refers to this in Galatians 5:19-21 just before he mentions the fruit of the Spirit.
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

What a sickening list. You may or may not be struggling with some of these gross sins. But some of these sins in their “refined” forms may invade our thought life. Jesus taught that lustful glances and fantasies are the same as carrying out the act itself. Then there is that whole area of excesses of good things – eating –drinking – leisure – pleasure - clothing – spending etc., etc. What about - uncontrolled anger – profanity – critical spirit – selfishness - gossip - "and other sins like these."

I don’t know about you, but I have to admit there are areas in my life that need help with self control. The good news is that God has made a way to bring self under control. “Dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.(Romans 8:12,13) Self-control is at the heart of all the facets of the fruit of the Spirit. To the degree that we allow the Spirit to bring our sinful nature under control, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness” will all flourish in our lives. The secret is to be filled (controlled by) the Holy Spirit.

Let’s Pray-
Father, self is in control in our lives too much of the time. We need the power of your Holy Spirit to be in control of self. We desperately need a fresh infilling of your Spirit! Please bring it about, whether in answer to pleading prayers, or by sovereignly touching our lives. Cause your Spirit to fill us once again!!
We ask it in Jesus name.
Amen

Saturday, July 25, 2009

GENTLENESS ~ THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“Since God chose you
to be the holy people he loves,
you must clothe yourselves with
tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility,
gentleness, and patience.”
Colossians 3:12 NLT
~~~~~~

Newer translations use the word “gentleness” rather than “meekness” to convey the meaning of the Greek word (prautes). The reason is - in today’s culture the word “meek” brings to mind someone who is sort of withdrawn, timid and shy - a “milk toasty” personality. The word originally conveyed the idea of strength. Classical Greek also used (prautes) of animals that were powerful, yet tamed and under control. In other words gentleness is power under control. That is why many present day translations use the word “gentle” instead of “meek” to convey the meaning of (prautes).

In Matthew 11:29 Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle (prautes) at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus had been given all power and authority in heaven and on earth, and yet refers to himself as “gentle.” That is power under control.

As parents we need to guard ourselves when we discipline our children. In times of frustration we can easily vent our anger on them and turn them against us and God. Paul warns about this in Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Gentleness is power under control.

“Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.” (Colossians 3:19) In other words, always treat your wife gently – that’s power under control.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” (Galatians 6:1) When a fellow Christian falls into sin, we can easily be judgmental and tell ourselves, “we would never do that.” Gentleness has the power to overcome such an attitude and enable us to help the fallen Christian back on track with the Lord.

In the business world, some people have the idea that they have to be cold and stern to show others who is in charge. The reality is, this is a sign of weakness. The strong person is “tenderhearted, merciful, kind, humble, gentle, and patient.” Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength. -- Ralph Sockman

Let’s Pray-
Oh Holy Spirit, show us what hinders your work in our lives. Help us to be truly repentant, so the fruit of gentleness may mature in us.
Amen

Saturday, July 18, 2009

FAITHFULNESS ~ THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness
continues to each generation.”
Psalm 100:5 NLT
~~~~~~

Faithfulness – what a beautiful word! It brings all sorts of comforting and reassuring thoughts to mind. A faithful person keeps his promises – is reliable - trustworthy – loyal – never stops loving, no matter what the cost. As wonderful as that sounds, in all honesty we have to admit there are times when we have been less than totally reliable or trustworthy. We haven’t always kept the promises we’ve made. We have let people and God down. There is room for us to grow in faithfulness.

God has always been perfectly faithful, in every regard, all the time, and he sent his Son to personify what true faithfulness looks like in human form. When Jesus’ earthly parents missed him on the way home from the Passover festival, after searching, they found him at the temple asking questions of the religious leaders. Luke (2:48-49,51) says, his parents asked him “why have you done this to us?” And his response was “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” “Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” Jesus clearly was totally faithful to his heavenly Father and to his earthly parents.

As an adult, Jesus chose 12 disciples to proclaim his teaching after he was gone. They disappointed him repeatedly with their lack of faith and their squabbling over who would be number one. Even when they forsook him, he remained faithful to them. He prayed to the Father, “During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.” (John 17:12) Jesus remained faithful to them.

Even when it meant facing the cross, he was faithful to the Father. Mark tells us that Jesus fell to the ground and “cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (14:36) He was faithful to the point of suffering the penalty for our sins.

As we yield to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we grow in faithfulness to God. And faithfulness to God translates into faithfulness to our marriage partner – family members – friends – and everyone with whom we have a relationship. Being unfaithful to anyone is unfaithfulness to God, and calls for repentance. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9) God has made every provision to help us grow in faithfulness.

Let’s Pray-
Thank you Father, for giving us the Holy Spirit, to produce the fruit of faithfulness in our lives.
Amen

Saturday, July 11, 2009

GOODNESS ~ THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“For the Kingdom of God
is not a matter of what we eat or drink,
but of living a life
of goodness
and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 14:17 NLT
~~~~~~
What does it mean for something to be good? The word is used in all sorts of ways – good car– a good reason – good eyesight – good deal – good fortune – good person, etc., etc. From the way we commonly use the word, there seem to be three aspects to it.

First, something is called good when it fulfills its intended purpose or meets expectations. The first use of the word in scripture is concerning creation. At the end of each day’s work, God concluded that what he had done “was good.” At the end of the sixth day he “looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” Creation fulfilled God’s intended purpose for the natural world; it met his expectations, and that’s why he called it good.

A second kind of goodness is called morality. God created heaven and earth and everything that exists. He has all knowledge, power and authority, and so he is the one who determined what is morally right or wrong. Everything he says and does is governed by his own eternal moral law. He is absolutely righteous and just. He is the personification of love, mercy and grace. He is eternal truth and He never changes. Everything he does is good. The scripture bears abundant witness to that reality. Over and over it admonishes us to “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Goodness is his nature and the heart of his character - he always does what is right. Through man’s disobedience the seed of death entered the human race, ruining man’s moral goodness. But God in infinite goodness made a way for us to become “a new creation” through Christ. Now as born again children of God, his Holy Spirit is able to cause his moral goodness to grow in our lives.

Thirdly, we call something good when it brings some sort of benefit. While salvation is by God’s grace alone, “living a life of goodness” as revealed in his Word definitely brings benefits. It makes God’s goodness visible to people around us and gives them a desire to know him. It makes us better marriage partners, better parents, better employers, employees or citizens. Above all, it makes us more Christ-like and so brings glory to God. As a bonus, it brings us “peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Let’s Pray –
Father we thank you for being so good and giving us your Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of goodness in our lives. Help us to repent of anything that hinders the growth of that fruit in us.
Amen

Saturday, July 4, 2009

KINDNESS ~ THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“Be kind to each other, tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
just as God through Christ
has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32 NLT
~~~~~~~

The dictionary defines kindness as: “the quality of being warm-hearted and considerate and humane and sympathetic.” To be on the receiving end of kindness is a gratifying experience. It leaves us with a positive feeling towards those who have shown us kindness.

Kindness is one of the virtues of God. “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7 NLT He also gives us the Holy Spirit to produce his fruit in us which includes “kindness.”

Our natural self-centeredness makes it a challenge to show true kindness.
Have you ever caught yourself showing “kindness,” for the benefit it would bring you or because someone was watching and you wanted to make an impression? True kindness is shown because it is the right thing to do regardless of the response. That’s how God shows kindness. He gave his Son for the salvation of sinful humanity regardless of our response. But of course, it’s only those of us who believe on his Son who benefit from his kindness.

The nine facets of the fruit of the Spirit begin with love because the other eight flow from it. Without God’s love in our heart, we are unable to have true lasting joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But with God’s love in us, these virtues will not only be present in our lives but grow and flourish to the degree that we love and obey him.

Opportunities to show kindness are all around us wherever and whenever our lives touch other people. It can be as simple as a genuine smile, or as demanding as forgiving someone who has seriously wronged us. In between these two extremes, the rest of life falls. Holding the door for a handicapped person – taking a meal to a shut-in – giving a deserved complement – baby sitting for a frazzled mom – visiting the sick - helping the poor - husbands helping around the house etc., etc.

Though we should never show kindness just because it may bring us some good in return: Jesus did say, “Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:37, 38 NLT

Let’s Pray-
Father, your immeasurable kindness surrounds us every day. May your Spirit increasingly produce that virtue in our lives.
Amen

Saturday, June 27, 2009

PATIENCE ~ THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“We also pray that you will
be strengthened
with all his glorious power
so you will have all the endurance
and patience you need.”
Colossians 1:11 NLT
~~~~~

As we pointed out at the outset of the study on the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, there are nine facets to this fruit. The first three: Love, Joy and Peace basically deal with our thought life; especially in our relationship with God. Today we start with the second set of three: Patience, Kindness and Goodness which primarily have to do with our thoughts and actions towards people and our attitude during trials.

According to the dictionary, patience basically means “good-natured tolerance of delay, or incompetence.” Most of us get irritated when people cut in line in front of us, especially when we are in a hurry and have been in line for some time. We may mutter under our breath, or loud enough for the perpetrator and everyone else to hear. That certainly would not be an expression of patience.

Some people look at patience as “passive waiting or gentle tolerance.” But the words translated “patience” in scripture, are active, robust words. For example Hebrews 12:1 “let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Patience includes the idea of endurance and not only putting up with people who irritate us.

If we had our way, life would pretty much be without trouble or trials, and if we did have problems, we would want God to fix them in a hurry. But we know that’s not what life is like. There are wayward children who keep going down the wrong road, no matter what we say or do. There are medical problems that daily worsen, and God doesn’t heal, no matter how hard we pray. Why does God allow these trials to come into our lives, and why doesn’t he answer our prayers immediately? “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance (patience) has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4

No matter how long it takes for our prayer to be answered, or when answered is not what we asked for, the Holy Spirit will cause the fruit of patience to grow in us - if we keep on trusting the Lord!

Let’s Pray-
Thank you Father for making provision for our growth, even as we go through trying times. By your Spirit cause the fruit of patience to flourish in us, making us “perfect and complete.”
Amen

Saturday, June 20, 2009

PEACE ~ THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“I am leaving you with a gift—
peace of mind and heart.
And the peace I give
is a gift the world cannot give.
So don’t be troubled or afraid.
John 14:27 NLT
~~~~~~

The gift of peace which Jesus gives, and the fruit which the Holy Spirit produces in us, is not dependent on the circumstances we face in this world. We can be in good health – be financially well off – have good marital and family relationships and still not have true peace of heart and mind.

We naturally are not at “peace with God,” and no matter how “good” life may be going for us, it cannot change the hostility we have toward God. Even neglecting him is a form of hostility because he requires our allegiance. The good news is that, “Our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies.”
Romans 5:10 By faith in Christ we have “peace with God” and no longer are his enemies.

As believers we not only have “peace with God” but we also are able to experience the “peace of God.” The Holy Spirit produces a tranquility of soul, even in stressful and frightening times. Paul writes: “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 It is incredible, but even in times of devastating news from the doctor’s office, a foreclosure notice, the death of a loved one, or being served divorce papers; the fruit of the Spirit makes it possible for us to “experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand," as we “Tell God what we need, and thank him for all he has done.”

We cannot manufacture the “peace of God;” it is produced in our hearts by the Holy Spirit as we trust and obey God. However, all of us have had times when the “peace of God” eluded us; our hearts were troubled and we were aware that God was not pleased with us. What causes that sort of situation? When we neglect prayer and time in the Word, it doesn’t take long before we find ourselves thinking and doing things that dishonor God. And in faithfulness the Holy Spirit holds back God’s peace to alert us to the fact that we are displeasing him and need to repent. Sin will rob us of the “peace of God” every time! But praise God, when we acknowledge our shortcomings and repent, God forgives and his peace is restored!! The closer we walk with God, the fuller we will experience his peace.

Let’s Pray-
Thank you Father for the Holy Spirit who causes the fruit of peace to grow in our “hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus.”
Amen

Saturday, June 13, 2009

JOY ~ THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sins are put out of sight.
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.”
Romans 4:7-8 NLT
~~~~~~

Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably. But happiness is usually associated with pleasing experiences such as material gain – success or when things turn out to our liking. On the other hand, joy (as related to The Fruit of the Spirit) is the product of the Holy Spirit’s work in our inner life.

The first experience of that divine joy came when we accepted Jesus as our savior, and the Holy Spirit assured us that our sins were forgiven. “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven.” Do you remember? How could you forget? “Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.” There is no joy that can compare with knowing we are right with God. All blessings (present and future) flow from that relationship! Having our sins forgiven is so incredible that “there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

The Holy Spirit produces joy in us even in times of trouble and trials, because by faith we know the Lord is going to bring good out of it. That is why James tell us, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” The way in which our society is heading, it is very possible that Christians, in the not too distant future, may have to endure costly persecution for our faith. Like Jesus, who “endured the cross, for the joy awaiting him,” the Holy Spirit will produce joy in our hearts as he enables us to see beyond the abuse to the reward that awaits the faithful.

The Bible says that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” It’s the strength we need to live a life that encourages others to turn to Christ. It’s the strength we need to “not grow weary in well doing.” It’s the strength we need to face our final hour without fear. C.S.Lewis reminds us “It is not so much the joy of the Lord that we are seeking as the Lord of Joy himself.” It’s when we seek him with all our heart that the Holy Spirit produces divine joy in us.

It reminds me of the little chorus we used to sing years ago.
“Joy, Joy, my heart is full of Joy.
Joy, Joy, my heart is full of Joy.
My savior dear is always near,
That’s the reason why my heart is full of Joy!”

Let’s Pray –
Father, thank you for the joy your Holy Spirit produces in us. Help us to turn from anything that stunts the growth of that divine fruit.
Amen

Saturday, June 6, 2009

LOVE ~ THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“Love never gives up,
never loses faith, is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance.”
1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT
~~~~~~~

The fruit of the Spirit has many facets. Over the next weeks (the Lord willing) I will attempt to look at the nine facets recorded in Galatians 5:22.

All true believers have the Holy Spirit living in them. The fruit of the Spirit are the Godly qualities that grow in us to the degree that we are yielding to the Spirit’s control.

The word love is used in many ways in today’s society. “I love my wife – my cell phone – coffee – springtime – etc.” “Making love” is another expression. But the love we’re talking about today is unconditional divine love, the love that was demonstrated in the life of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 13 tells us this kind of “Love is patient and kind.” It endures mistreatment and hardships without grumbling and complaining. It has the capacity to return good for evil, and to pray for those who persecute us! This love enables us to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven us.

“Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.” If we feel bitter and unhappy because of other people’s advantages, or possessions, we are not displaying God’s love. The same is true if we get “the big head” and brag to appear better – richer etc. than others.

“Love is not rude.” It is not ill-mannered - disagreeable or discourteous in manner or action. Instead, it is polite and treats others as it desires to be treated.

“Love does not demand its own way.” Demanding our way is pure selfishness and it will destroy any relationship in a hurry.

“Love is not irritable.” What a sobering thought, whenever I get irritated or annoyed, I am not showing love.
“Love doesn’t keep a record of being wronged.” It’s ready to forgive and move on. "It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.” It’s always on the side of what is right.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” It’s not the nature for Godly love to give up, because Love is who God is!

Let’s Pray –
Father, Jesus perfectly lived your unconditional love even to the point of dying on the cross for us. Help us to fully yield to your Spirit so his fruit will fully mature in our lives.
Amen

Saturday, May 30, 2009

PENTECOST

“But you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.
And you will be my witnesses,
telling people about me everywhere—
in Jerusalem, throughout Judea,
in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8 NLT
~~~~~


Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost simply means “fiftieth.” It marks the day when “the Holy Spirit came upon” the 120 believers, as Jesus promised he would. It happened on the 50th day after the resurrection. Associated with that outpouring of the Holy Spirit is “speaking in tongues” which seems “scary” to some people who are not Pentecostal.

When I was 9 or 10, some Pentecostals tried to rent our rural church to hold meetings. They weren’t allowed to use the church, but were offered the church barn – where they conducted meetings for several weeks. During those meetings my oldest brother and my three sisters became Pentecostals. In those days they were mockingly referred to as “Holy Rollers” by some non Pentecostals

After I became a Christian (at 21) I soon responded to God’s call to enter the ministry. My graduating thesis from seminary was entitled, “The Various Views of The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” I entered the research with a closed mind and basically tried to show that the Pentecostal experience was not meant for today.

Well, that changed for me during the Charismatic Movement which swept this nation and much of the world in the 1970’s. I too, became a Pentecostal, and it transformed my life and ministry in a positive way.

But the point I wish to make today is when Jesus announced to his disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,” he didn’t make “speaking in tongues” the issue. Instead he said, “You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—” that was the main issue then and still is today.

When we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit and allow him to control our lives he fills us with himself and a glorious joy floods our heart - we lose our inhibitions and fears and have a burning desire to tell others about Jesus. Being filled with the Spirit doesn’t mean that we have more of the Holy Spirit, rather it means that he has more of us! We need to turn from, and empty ourselves of, all that is displeasing to God in order to give him full access to every part of us – body – mind and soul.

Let’s Pray –
Father, help us to repent of every sin – the wrong we have done and the good we failed to do. Holy Spirit, in the best way we know how, we invite you to fill us once again and rule every part of our being so that others may see Jesus in us.
Amen

Saturday, May 16, 2009

OUR ASCENDED LORD

“He was taken up into a cloud
while they were watching, ---
but someday he will return
from heaven in the same way
you saw him go!”
Acts 1:9,11 NLT
~~~~~


The general public is fairly familiar with the idea that Jesus came into this world as a newborn babe at Christmas. But how he left, that is a different story. Even in many churches the Ascension of Jesus is a neglected part of the Gospel story. In 1 Timothy 3:16 Paul shows that it is a vital part of our faith. “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory.”

For forty days after the resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples numerous times. While his body seemed normal and he ate food like anyone else, it had supernatural qualities – it could pass through walls, appear and disappear. On ascension day, he was telling his disciples about receiving the power of the Holy Spirit and all of a sudden “he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching.” Angels appeared to them and said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:9,11

So what is Jesus doing between his ascension and his coming again? That would be too much to cover here, but let me mention some things.

· Having accomplished our salvation through his death and resurrection, he is exalted at the right hand of the Father, and the Father has given him a name that is above every name.
· While he was in his human body, he could only be at one place at a time - now since he sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, he indwells all believers.
· He is the head of the Church which is his body on earth, and he gives apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip God’s people to do his work.
· He is our great High Priest and ever lives to make intercession for us.
· He is preparing a place for us, that where he is we may be also.
· When he returns, the graves will open and the dead in Christ will rise first and then those who are alive will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so will be with him forever.

Let’s Pray-
Thank you, Jesus, for all you are doing to build your church here on earth and getting her ready to meet you in the air and spend eternity with you.
Amen